Monday, July 25, 2005

From Bishkek to Baghdad, the Caliphate's time has come

By Simon Jones

Uzbekistan's unending tragedy - 15 years of unremitting repression of its Muslims (OK, make that a century) - has reached a critical impasse. With the massacre of up to a 1000 innocents in Andijan, the mood in the country is set against Karimov: there is no graceful exit for this once wily balancer of clan greed, untempered by any basis in Islamic principles of social justice and public service.

But K and Uz are not alone. A recent analysis of Tunisia (Le Monde 6/5) describes the poverty and anomy of life under its repressive, secular, pro-US dictator Ben Ali, with his playtime democracy, prohibition of all Islamic parties and general discouragement of Islam, and above all the fear to make even the mildest public criticisms. We can say “Ditto” more or less for Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia... Then there are such embarrassments as Dubai, which is building a high tech Disney-style archipelago replica of the world for the super-rich, or the Emirates, which imports Russian and Uzbek women as sex slaves. It is very hard to find a Muslim country which reflects the austere social justice of the Koran. But then it is hard to find a Muslim country which is not a US-client state. Malaysia and Iran come to mind, and in their own very different ways, they offer some hope.

In his July 4th speech this year, Bush hailed the new era of democracy, the result of US battles “from Bunker Hill to Baghdad”. Leaving aside Bunker Hill and what's left of the American Revolution, we can already see the democracy that the US is bringing to Baghdad and Kabul - the kind where the living envy the dead, of which there are hundreds more with each passing day. No. The call should be: 'From Bishkek to Baghdad, the Caliphate's time has come.' And ironically, though Karimov loudly proclaims himself its greatest enemy, he is unwittingly one of its greatest assets, constantly raising its specter in justification of his persecution of Uzbek Muslims. Irony: never has the Muslim world been so enslaved to kufr (anti-Islamic) countries and leaders, and yet never has it been so demonized and despised by them. While western media construct fantasies to the contrary, this is the sad, tragic reality.

K's contribution to the Caliphate

K's relationship with Islam is complex. In 1990, when he was campaigning for president in Uzbekistan's only relatively free election, he addressed an Islamic meeting of 40,000 in Namangan organized by the religious movement Adolat (Justice), even praying on stage, to the delight of the demonstrators, and promised its charismatic leader Tahir Yuldashev, the future founder of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, that he would build lots of mosques and let Islam flower, that "the road should be opened to become friends with and get help from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and Turkey, so that we can become a united Muslim state."*

Coincidentally, after securing his election, he also promised his secular nationalist rival Mahammad Salih of Erk, who had come a respectable 2nd, that he would be a strong nationalist leader and allow the flowering of secular democracy. Apparently he was convincing, as both leaders were taken in and initially supported him. Of course, he reneged on both these incompatible promises and proceeded to issue death sentences on both his nemeses. (The heroic Yuldashev died fighting to overthrow K; the wily Salih lives comfortably in Norway and recently met with Secretary of State Rice.)

US choices

Now that the US willingly or unwillingly has chosen to bring on another of its CIS velvet revolutions, what are its alternatives? It looks like the pressure is on to allow the legal operation of only pro-US, pro-market nationalist parties Birlik, headed by Pulatov (living in exile in US), and Erk, headed by Salih (living in exile in Norway), plus Hidoyatova’s Free Peasants party and Umarov’s Party of Agrarians and Entrepreneurs. [Update: the business leaders associated with the unofficial opposition 'Sunshine Coalition' are now being persecuted and some are fleeing the country. One of Umarov's sons Guliambek was poisoned but survived and the other Sardorbek fled the country.] Recently a Congress of Democratic Uzbekistan was set up in the US by these and other US-sponsored Uzbek dissidents, bringing its favorite sons together in one happy, politically correct opposition force much like Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress.

In short, a mirror image of the phony independent parties set up by K to give a semblance of democracy (National Democratic, Patriots, etc). Not a word about religious parties or greater freedom for Muslims to organize, and certainly no intention of promoting Muslim unity.

Stalin without socialism

By obsessively condemning the idea of Islam as the formative principle of Uzbek society, K takes his direction from an earlier dictator who ruled over Uzbekistan. And I don’t mean Amir Temur. His style and methods are chillingly like those of Stalin in everything except Stalin's concern for basic economic standards for the masses. There is no social security net anymore, and Stalin (oops, K) can't seem to understand that his self-exaltation and cold-blooded disdain for his people is his nemesis, that violence will now increase until a full-blown crisis, including international isolation and possibly intervention, is reached.

Because Stalin could point to the solid socialist achievements of his ruthless reign ('Islam without Allah'), and because he had control over a huge territory, his rule was safe as long as his terror apparatus was in tact. Thus, the 1920-30s movement for a united Turkestan was easily repressed and indeed forgotten as the SU consolidated itself as a political system without meaningful internal borders, and ancient Turkestan was carved up into competing, dysfunctional Central Asian 'republics'. Furthermore, the pressure for a modern-day caliphate was not so great where all Muslims could interact in work and culture, and where basic social needs were met.

Logic of the Caliphate

But 'caliphate'? Yes! By first promising the idea, and then ruthlessly suppressing even the normal practice of Islam, let alone any mention of some hare-brained caliphate, Mr K has made himself captive to it, and like Lady Macbeth, must wash and wash and wash again the guilt for his political intrigues from his bloodied hands. By continually harping about Hizb ut Tahrir and its program of trying to revive the political unity of Muslims, he merely provides greater legitimacy to the idea. A unique feature of this part of the Muslim world is that it has experienced both socialism and capitalism and knows first hand the weaknesses of both, so the argument in a nutshell, to paraphrase Lenin, would be something like "the 21st c Caliphate = communism + the Koran."

An Islamic explanation would take the following form:
Muslims base their identity first and foremost on Islam, and Islam being a universal religion, they naturally will overcome kufr nationalism and work together to realize the ideal state, based on the Koran's detailed and surprisingly robust program. The very concept of nationalism is a western one and became the predominant political force surprisingly late, only with the triumph of capitalism and the ascendancy of secularism in the 19th c. It reached its most criminal form in Nazi Germany and today in Israel. It must be abandoned in favor of the unity of all Muslims, rejecting the nationalist regimes sponsored by imperialism - first British and now American - to keep Muslims divided.

This politics, once reversed throughout the Muslim world, would of course lead to all Islamic countries working together. Yes, Mr K, that's what the dreaded caliphate is all about. And what's so wrong with it? Why shouldn't Muslim countries throw off their western masters and use their immense clout to fight the real sources of terrorism - USrael and its secular quislings like you?

History of the Caliphate

The Caliphate refers to the first great flowering of Islam and its rapid spread to form a mighty spiritually-based empire with various centers from the 7-14th cc in the Middle East and Central Asia. The Caliph is the leader of the Ummah (community of Islam). The word caliph (khalifa) is Arabic for stewardship of nature and family, a key obligation of all Muslims (vs the Old Testament "dominion over nature"). The Caliphate was unquestionably far more civilized than feudal Europe, despite a near death blow from invasions by the Mongols (who were NOT Muslim) and the Europeans in the 10-12th c.

For a while in the 8th c it even looked like Christianity reconcile with this latest monotheism, but Rome suppressed its revisionists and eventually the disastrous Crusades turned ecumenism back a 1000 years (just as Bush's present Crusade is ensuring that no compromise is possible with the Muslim world). It was only with the rise of capitalism and imperialism that the Ottoman Caliphate was overpowered by a now secular, materialist monolith and destroyed by the ‘winners’ of WWI, the spoils divided among the Judeo-Christian empires of Britain, France and later the US and Israel.

In reality, the present war against Islam began in the late 19th c and has continued ever since. While Jewish and Christian cultures embraced the soulless materialism of capitalism, Islam remained and still remains unwilling to reform itself to suit the needs of Mammon. However, the onslaught by the capitalist powers and the ex-Soviet Union has had its toll on the Muslim world, setting up small malleable states with secular governments now dominated by the US. The aim is to continue to westernize Muslim societies, by seduction or force if necessary, to make them willingly accept US (make that USraeli) imperialism. But the final count is not in.

Present Nadir and rebirth

Islam has shown incredible resilience in the face of this unremitting attack, which has increased exponentially since the collapse of the SU, or rather, because of it and the blow that dealt the left in the West. Since then, it's been full steam ahead for the USraeli imperial project, leaving Muslims (plus Cuba's communists and Venezuela's Bolivarians) as the only significant countervailing force.

"The triumph of Islam will most likely come after severe crisis - social, economic and ecological - leading to the military abandoning the kufr regime [Uzbekistan looks like a case in point] and through a coup d'etat proposing a pro-Islamic system to stabilize the society now bankrupt and suffering economic collapse."*** Think Nasser or Chavez.

There is the distinct possibility that soon the international order will collapse, along with the US $ as world currency, and bank-created fiat money, with or without the 'peak oil' wildcard. So this scenario is not as far-fetched as you might think. Look for more about Iran and Malaysia's gold dinar as the $ continues to sink. Funny how capitalism's physical nemesis - oil - is found predominantly in Muslim countries, along with its spiritual nemesis - the Islamic ban on fiat money and usury and other (wise) restraints on economic activity. Funny how precisely the Muslim world holds all these keys to the world's economic salvation. Perhaps Allah really does exist.

No doubt Marx would chuckle if he were to be told that "Yes, world capitalism is doomed to collapse, but so is socialism, and it is ancient Islam that will survive to rebuild economic relations built on stewardship of nature, social justice, the gold standard and prayer."

Central Asia as a crucial link in the logic

Just as the secular attempts at pan-Arabism by Gaddafi, Nasser and Hussein failed, Kemal Ataturk's earlier flirting with pan-Turkish nationalism in Central Asia collapsed as the Soviets consolidated their grip in the 1920s and replaced Islam as a binding force with socialism. However, with the collapse of the SU, the pressure or desire for such a union of all Muslim Central Asian states is much more compelling, and with the revival of Islam in Turkey, it is in a position to dispense with its wanabe fascination with secular Europe and turn to embrace the Muslim world to the east. The only solution to the 'Kurdish' problem is to base society on its one common denominator: Islam. Already Afghanistan and Iraq, with their US-controlled governments, have formulated constitutions based on Islamic law and Iraq has begun to work closely with Iran. And the only way to hold Iraq together and to end the stand-off in Afghanistan is (excuse the mantra) to appeal to the one common denominator: Islam.

The pseudo-nationalism promoted by Central Asian leaders to secure their power and state theft has meant that they are all pathetic backwaters, unable to create a meaningful common economic space. Borders, visas, customs, etc. are all used to fill corrupt officials’ pockets, hindering any rational economic revival. The blatant maneuverings here of Europe, USrael, China, and Russia, each with its own anti-Muslim, anti-Central Asian agenda, makes it especially urgent that Central Asia unite.

Interestingly, even in the present state of political disarray, both Kyrgyzstan, with its 'tulip revolution' and Uzbekistan with its ruthless pro-US (oops, anti-US) dictator, are trying to close their US bases, suggesting there's a compelling logic to resist US hegemony, even without that unity. Ironically, the very suppression now of Islam throughout the region only adds fuel to the desire to rebuild society without Big Brothers imposing their secular fantasies.

Once Islamic-based parties such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir are allowed to organize openly, honest citizens will be able to criticize the horrendous mess here. This is what ‘democracy’ should be about. It would also empty the jails of many thousands of devout Muslims in Uzbekistan. So what if an Islamic party comes to power and Central Asia becomes greater Turkestan? So what if women wear headscarves? I suspect local Russians (i.e., everyone) would be much better off than under the present clan-based mafias and the ever-present specter of official or opposition violence. Of course, it would mean a drastic reduction in prostitution and restricted alcohol sales. And a big move away from the trashy American culture that floods the TV and airwaves here. A small loss IMHO.

Long-term scenario

The focus of Central Asian politics should be to unite the 60+m Central Asians, with their rich resources and ethnically close peoples, as a political and economic block to resist the various imperial agendas, to ensure the dignity and livelihood of the largely Muslim, Turkic peoples living here. Combined with Turkey's 70 million, Iran's 70 million, Pakistan's 140m and the Middle East, and we can see a superpower in the making second only to China, but one based on social justice, not greed and violence.

This will be the first step in uniting all Muslims from Morocco to the Philippines. Once the Central Asian states shake off the western imperial yoke, including their erstwhile 'friend' Russia, and join with their Turkish cousins, their example will inspire the Arabs to the west and the Asians to the east. Whereas once upon a time, the Caliphate emanated from Mecca, now it will be renewed from the home of the medieval Islamic renaissance, the home of Biruni, Avicenna and Ulugbek.

Yes, the time for reconstituting the Caliphate, uniting Muslims throughout the Middle East and Central Asia, has come. The free ride that British and US imperialism (OK and the Soviet Union) have had, training and propping up secular political leaders (fluent in English or Russian and trained in the UK, US or Moscow), is over. The SU pushed too far in trying to incorporate Afghanistan into the socialist fold, and the US has gone one better (i.e., worse) with its invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and its attempts at soft landings for other Muslim states-in-trouble are not panning out. Uzbekistan is a fine example of this.

There is no way out except by turning to Islam as the only force capable of overriding the greed and downright evil of secular politics. This is not an easy road. Imperialism will not give up without a fight, and just as it ably assisted in destroying the SU, it is hard at work undermining any Islamic alternative. We can only thank Allah (and maybe his Catholic and secular fellow travelers in Latin America) that there is still a light at the end of the long, dark tunnel.

*Mir Kaligulaev, "The road to death is greater than death," Black Quadrat UK 2005
**HuT, "The method to re-establish the Khalifah," UK 2000
***Abid Ullah,
"Approaching the actual end of history" 3/6/5



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