This summit meeting in Kuala Lumpur, the first to be held in the new century, indeed the new millennium, is taking place at a most crucial time. The world now lives in fear. We are afraid of everything.
We are afraid of flying, afraid of certain countries; afraid of bearded Asian men, afraid of the shoes airline passengers wear; of letters and parcels, of white powder. The countries allegedly harboring terrorists, their people, innocent or otherwise, are afraid too. They are afraid of war, of being killed and maimed by bombs being dropped on them, by missiles fired from hundreds of miles away by unseen forces. They are afraid because they would become the collaterals to be killed because they get in the way of the destruction of their countries.
The preparations and the measures taken to ensure security go on frantically. Trillions of dollars are spent by the world for new weapons, new technology, new strategy; the deployment of forces and inspectors worldwide. Those who cannot afford these security measures must simply await their fate and trust in God. Yet, despite all these, terrorist attacks have taken place where they are least expected, killing collaterals again. There is still no guarantee that the well-dressed, clean shaven family man next door might not become another hijacker, crashing his aircraft into buildings and killing collaterals.
In the meantime the economy of the world has slowed down and in some instances has been reversed, with huge deficits burdening countries. Jobs are lost and poverty is increasing even in the rich countries. No new investments in foreign countries or at home. With the threat of war oil prices have shot up, increasing further the economic and social burdens of the poor countries.
Aid for the poor has practically stopped and loans are not available as the poor countries defaulted and defaulted again.
Truly the world is in a terrible mess, a state that is worse than during the East-West confrontation, during the cold war. All the great hopes following the end of the cold war have vanished. And with the terrorists and the anti-terrorists fumbling blindly in their fight against each other, normality will not return for quite a long while.
Surely at some stage we must ask ourselves why this is happening to the world. Why is there terrorism? Is it true that the Muslims are born terrorists because of the teachings of a prophet who was a terrorist? How do we explain the pogroms, the inquisitions and the Holocaust which characterized Christian Europe for almost 2,000 years? Why did the Jews choose to seek haven in Muslim countries whenever Christian Europeans persecuted them? Do people seek safety in the land of terrorists? Does not sound very likely.
The Christians too were terrorized, not by Muslims but by fellow Christians who condemned them as heretics. They were persecuted, tortured, burnt at the stakes for their beliefs and forced to migrate. Seems that, the Muslims did not have a monopoly of terrorism, certainly not on the scale of the Holocaust, the pogroms and the inquisitions.
So it cannot be that Muslims are the sole cause of all these problems. If they are not then is it a clash of civilizations, a clash of the Muslim civilization against the Judea-Christian civilization, that is responsible.
Frankly I do not think so. Frankly I think it is because of a revival of the old European trait of wanting to dominate the world. And the expression of this trait invariably involves injustice and oppression of people of other ethnic origins and colors.
If we care to think back, there was no systematic campaign of terror outside Europe until the Europeans and the Jews created a Jewish state out of Palestinian land. Incidentally, terrorism was first used by the Haganah and the Irgun Zvai Leumi to persuade the British to set up Israel. The Palestinians were actually ejected from their homes and their country and forced to live in miserable refugee camps for more than 50 years now.
It is the struggle of the Palestinians to regain their land that has precipitated, first conventional wars, then civil protest and eventually violent demonstrations. The Israelis demanded European support to atone for European crimes against them in the past.
In desperation the Palestinians finally resorted to what is described as acts of terror. Rightly, this is condemned by the world. But the world does not condemn as acts of terror the more terrifying acts of the Israelis; the massacres in Sabra and Shatila, the shooting and killing of children, the use of depleted uranium-coated bullets, the bulldozing of Palestinian homes while the occupants are still in them, the helicopter gun-ships, etc. And Israel is now threatening to use nuclear weapons.
This blatant double standards is what infuriate Muslims, infuriate them to the extent of launching their own terror attacks. If Iraq is linked to Al Qaeda, is it not more logical to link the expropriation of Palestinian land and the persecution and oppression of the Palestinians with September 11? It is not religious differences that angered the attackers of the World Trade Center.
It is simply sympathy and anger over the expropriation of Palestinian land, over the injustice and the oppression of the Palestinians and Muslims everywhere. If the innocent people who died in the attacks on Afghanistan, and those who have been dying from lack of food and medical care in Iraq, are considered collaterals, are not the 3,000 who died in New York and the 200 in Bali also just collaterals whose deaths were necessary for the operations to succeed?
Actually the life of any human being is sacred, no matter if the person is a friend or an enemy. That is why war is not a solution. A contest based on who can kill more people in order to establish who is the victor and who the loser, in order to determine who is right and who is wrong is primitive and does not speak well of the so-called high level of civilization we have achieved.
The greatness of a nation should be based on a culture that values high moral qualities, aesthetics, learning and advancements in the sciences. Unfortunately thousands of years after the stone age we still measure the greatness of a nation by the capacity to slaughter the greatest number of people.
But the oppression and injustice is not confined to waging war and killing people; there is oppression in ideological propagation. We are now allowed only a democratic system of government. We admit it is by far the best system of government. But applying sanctions, starving people, denying access to medicine in order to force the acceptance of democracy hardly seem to be democratic. Actually, millions have died because they have not converted to this new religion. And millions more are suffering because they are unable to make democracy work, because of the resulting anarchy.
Relieved of the need to compete with the Communists, the capitalist free traders have ceased to show a friendly face. Their greed knows no bounds. They want countries which had fought hard to gain independence, to give up that independence, to do away with their borders, to allow the capitalists free access to do what they like to the economies of these countries. They call this free competition. As they merge and acquire each other, they become monstrous giants against whom the small businesses in the developing countries will not be able to compete. What is the meaning of competition if you cannot win at all. In the end a few of these monsters will control the economy of the whole world.
The sad thing is that they are not above cheating and corruption. And we know they can fail. We have seen how spectacularly they fail, losing 100 billion dollars in one year. And that is only one corporation.
Then there are the rogue currency traders who destroyed the economies of half the world, threw tens of millions out of work, bankrupted banks and thousands of businesses, caused the collapse of governments and precipitated anarchy - all so that half a dozen individuals can make billions for themselves.
Now the rich give no more aid. They do not lend either. And all the time the international agencies they control try to strangle the debt-laden poor countries which had been attacked by their greedy market manipulators.
The disparities between rich and poor widen daily. The rich have per capita incomes of more than 30,000 dollars, the poor only 300 US Dollars. Still the rich want to squeeze out literally the last drop of blood from the poor.
It is this which plagues the word today, this oppression of the poor by the rich; this injustice, this inequality. To rub salt into the wounds, the poor are always being told that they lack transparency and good governance, they don't respect human rights, they don't uphold freedom of speech, freedom of the press and so on and so forth, when in fact it is the rich who lack transparency, who do not respect human rights, who curb our rights to speak the truth about what they are doing, who use their media to hide their misdeeds and spread lies. How else can we interpret the operations of the hedge funds and the currency traders, sanctions and the systematic bombings of certain countries, the impoverishment of the already poor, and the censorship of news as well as distorted and fabricated reports about the South?
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