Darfur: Anti-Arab prejudice and oil make a difference

The atrocities taking place in Darfur are inexcusable and Muslim countries must take a lead in condemning this and putting pressure on Sudan to stop the mayhem. We must also be aware how certain special interest groups are taking advantage of this tragedy to portray this tragedy as a Arab vs. African issue.

In a remote corner of Africa, millions of civilians have been slaughtered in a conflict fuelled by an almost genocidal ferocity that has no end in sight. Victims have been targeted because of their ethnicity and entire ethnic groups destroyed - but the outside world has turned its back, doing little to save people from the wrath of the various government and rebel militias. You could be forgiven for thinking that this is a depiction of the Sudanese province of Darfur, racked by four years of bitter fighting. But it describes the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has received a fraction of the media attention devoted to Darfur.

The UN estimates that 3 million to 4 million Congolese have been killed, compared with the estimated 200,000 civilian deaths in Darfur. A peace deal agreed in December 2002 has never been adhered to, and atrocities have been particularly well documented in the province of Kivu - carried out by paramilitary organisations with strong governmental links. In the last month alone, thousands of civilians have been killed in heavy fighting between rebel and government forces vying for control of an area north of Goma, and the UN reckons that another 50,000 have been made refugees.

How curious, then, that so much more attention has been focused on Darfur than Congo. There are no pressure groups of any note that draw attention to the Congolese situation. In the media there is barely a word. The politicians are silent. Yet if ever there were a case for the outside world to intervene on humanitarian grounds alone - "liberal interventionism" - then surely this is it.

The key difference between the two situations lies in the racial and ethnic composition of the perceived victims and perpetrators. In Congo, black Africans are killing other black Africans in a way that is difficult for outsiders to identify with. The turmoil there can in that sense be regarded as a narrowly African affair.

In Darfur the fighting is portrayed as a war between black Africans, rightly or wrongly regarded as the victims, and "Arabs", widely regarded as the perpetrators of the killings. In practice these neat racial categories are highly indistinct, but it is through such a prism that the conflict is generally viewed.

It is not hard to imagine why some in the west have found this perception so alluring, for there are numerous people who want to portray "the Arabs" in these terms. In the United States and elsewhere those who have spearheaded the case for foreign intervention in Darfur are largely the people who regard the Arabs as the root cause of the Israel-Palestine dispute. From this viewpoint, the events in Darfur form just one part of a much wider picture of Arab malice and cruelty.

Nor is it any coincidence that the moral frenzy about intervention in Sudan has coincided with the growing military debacle in Iraq - for as allied casualties in Iraq have mounted, so has indignation about the situation in Darfur. It is always easier for a losing side to demonise an enemy than to blame itself for a glaring military defeat, and the Darfur situation therefore offers some people a certain sense of catharsis.

Humanitarian concern among policymakers in Washington is ultimately self-interested. The United States is willing to impose new sanctions on the Sudan government if the latter refuses to accept a United Nations peacekeeping force, but it is no coincidence that Sudan, unlike Congo, has oil - lots of it - and strong links with China, a country the US regards as a strategic rival in the struggle for Africa's natural resources; only last week Amnesty International reported that Beijing has illicitly supplied Khartoum with large quantities of arms.

Nor has the bloodshed in Congo ever struck the same powerful chord as recent events in Somalia, where a new round of bitter fighting has recently erupted. At the end of last year the US backed an Ethiopian invasion of Somalia to topple an Islamic regime that the White House perceived as a possible sponsor of anti-American "terrorists".

The contrasting perceptions of events in Congo and Sudan are ultimately both cause and effect of particular prejudices. Those who argue for liberal intervention, to impose "rights, freedom and democracy", ultimately speak only of their own interests. To view their role in such altruistic terms always leaves them open to well-founded accusations of double standards that damage the international standing of the intervening power and play into the hands of its enemies.

By seeing foreign conflicts through the prism of their own prejudices, interventionists also convince themselves that others see the world in the same terms. This allows them to obscure uncomfortable truths, such as the nationalist resentment that their interference can provoke. This was the case with the Washington hawks who once assured us that the Iraqi people would be "dancing on the rooftops" to welcome the US invasion force that would be bringing everyone "freedom".

Highly seductive though the rhetoric of liberal interventionism may be, it is always towards hubris and disaster that it leads its willing partners.

Roger Howard is the author of What's Wrong with Liberal Interventionism [email protected]

Related Suggestions

The opinions expressed herein, through this post or comments, contain positions and viewpoints that are not necessarily those of IslamiCity. These are offered as a means for IslamiCity to stimulate dialogue and discussion in our continuing mission of being an educational organization. The IslamiCity site may occasionally contain copyrighted material the use of which may not always have been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. IslamiCity is making such material available in its effort to advance understanding of humanitarian, education, democracy, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, and such (and all) material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

Older Comments:
African continent is too unstable to fall under an imperial expedition such as "Saving Exxon" (Dad's Business) in Iraq. The cost of such an expedition would outweigh the benefits to the current de facto (I do underscore de facto) Aristocratic House Bush--Chaney (with the national budget in trillions and 'my' US Army wanting to increase her numbers "Queen of the Battle: Infantry"--comes from the game of chess, there is no cost that the country of US could not sustain with, but a little, if any harm to its economic well being).
The only way that Sudan will get 'invaded' is if the Sudanese will commit the same error, as did the Al-Quida and the so-called self-named Taliban regime of Afghanistan. If not for our invasion of Iraq, the Iran would have most likely remained helpful in the dismantling of the Taliban - Iranian Guards of Revolution (300,000 troops) were ready to destroy the Taliban on their own before the Iranian Intelligence stole our diplomatic cipher and learned that the US troops were coming to remove the garbage for them (reason: about half a dozen Iranian diplomats and clergy were decapitated by the Taliban when they tried to tell them that there is no excuse for their actions neither in the Honorable Qur'an, nor in the most and more reliable Hadith / Sunnah--"what goes around comes around").
There is one more issue or many issues that must be addressed in the world of Islam.
One of them is Racism in spite of that Honorable Qur'an explicitly forbids it, and even more deeply rooted tribalism or Sicilian--like style (or rather vice versa: the Sicilian clan warfare originates from the North African / Arabic Tribalism / Clan Division as well as from similar division amongst the Vikings: one enforced the other--the imprint of both invaders on the Sicilian culture has remained well until the present) clan division.
Well - the Islamic Brotherhood has been too often a self--imposed self--deception, since the struggle for power, first in word, later in

Any where in the world if there is Govt governed by Islamic law you
will find very soon that country will get into some problem created
by the bested interest. But who is to be blamed, I am sure we are to
be blamed for lack of unity and understanding amongst the Muslim
countries. I wouldn't say Cheikh is wrong. No doubt the external
force is very strong.

Its like a breath of fresh air to read an intelligent, balanced and honest statement of facts. Thank you Roger Howard, and I look forward to more such truthful journalism from you and your likes in the future too.

I'm muslim like you. Please let us stop blaming the WEST for everything. Darfur is a genocide and the arabs are not doing anything to stop this murderous behaviour.

This is the best article I have read about this conflict. Most of these people just hate Islam, Arabs and they act as if they care about Africa. these same people supported apartheid in south africa and now are acting as if they care. where are they when people are starving for food?

Salam Alaikum,
I agree with some of what the author has written. However, if Dafur was of light skinned people, then everyone would be shouting, stop the killing!!! I think that it is a shame that the Muslims, from all over the world, are silent about Muslims killing Muslims. Despite the color, and the ethnicity, this is a crime.
Yet, we talk about others killing us, for example, the Isrealis and the Palestanian war, but what about our own? I do agree with the author that some people who hate Arabs will exploit this situation. Thats just the way America works. The reality is, we have got to go back to the deen and stop the foolishness. Muslims killing eachother is just plain wrong to me, no matter who they are. How can we expect others to respect us if we do not respect and love ourselves?

Salam Alaikum

Unfortunately, international 'humanitarian' interventions make the situation worse, especially the intervention by major powers; however, the intervention by minor powers have no effect. Just look at Kosovo; it is still amess. Israel/Palestine is still a mess (EU has been pumping money for over 50 years in Palestinian territories). Lebanon -- another mess. So is Somalia.

Darfur and Congo will have to solve its own problems. If they cannot, they will suffer, and the world cannot save them. Thw world (especially US) have no intellectual capacity to solve problems of tribal warfate, religious warfare; they don't understand the issues.

Muslims are silent on Darfur, even though it is muslim killing muslim (thouth the article refers it to Arab & African conflict; it should be Arab muslim & African muslim conflict). Why muslims are silent? Because no Jews are involved there.

If you want a bigger mess in Darfur and Congo, just let US/EU intervene there.

So, I will say, solve your own problems; if you can't, then it is your suffering, not somebody else's -- this is the harsh reality. I don't know even God can solve their problems.

I am against all kinds of propaganda broadcasts.
via radio, newspaper, ipods, and mainly television.
This is the real challenge of 21st century. As Al Gore puts it.


The author makes some interesting points. I feel that it is very possible for humanity to address multiple situation concurrently. That is not to mean that there will not be occasion when certain events take precedent over others, but I would like to point out that sometimes we get sidetracked by thinking "oh this event is far more pressing because of X" and at the same time lose all consciousness about other dilemmas plaguing the world. In reference to the ethnicity of the "perpetrator" and the "victim", I think it is irrelevant at this point. The situation is wrong and must stop. I guess some people use labels to put things in to context and that is okay Quran" O men! Behold, We have created you all out of a male and a female,and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another.

My point is at this time in this particular conflict, should it make a difference who the "perpetrators" and "victims" happen to be?

We must end this injustice and as many injustices as we can, Allahu A'lim.


The anti-Muslim and anti-Arab mind set has been assiduously and deliberately entrenched by American political and Hollywood figures, hitherto erroneously credited with acts of compassion and conscience, who now shamelessly trumpet and highlight the massive deception and outright lie that the issue is an Arab vs. African problem, with the Arabs being the bad guys. You see in the simple child like minds of the Americans, it's all black and white. They dare not, or care not to think or investigate for themselves. So their media, their movie stars and their clownish leaders do their thinking for them. The only reason for this sudden portrayal of Africans as victims is because the American black vote is almost overwhelmingly neutral or democrat. African-Americans subject to years of humiliation, racism and marginalisation, have expressed theirs frustration with the unjust American system which sees them as second-class citizens, or barely human, by simply not voting at all because they know who ever wins, will make no difference to their plight. They have even been let down by celebrities of colour like Oprah Winfrey who use their power and money only to further their own interest and black nationalism but never ever to pursue the truth or even have the shame and courage to challenge the government and the system. All of a sudden the black and Latino vote counts. What better way to galvanize both blacks and Latinos than by creating the threat of a common enemy - the Arab Muslim. Amazingly these monsters of lies and deception never mention that the Muslims in Sudan or Darfur for the matter are Black Muslims and not ethnic Arabs. But the average dumb lazy American couch potato munching his crisps and finishing his umpteenth beer is more complacent and happy with idiot reasoning and short impromptu answers simply because he does not have to think. In America you see thinking is a crime just as is dissent.