One day after his suggestion to Western capitals to move closer to Iran, instead of excluding it, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad now alleges that the Western world was involved in an effort to sow dissent in Muslim countries, by encouraging factionalism and ethnic tensions.
He predicted internal dissensions could spread in several Asian states, including Turkey and Saudi Arabia. He said this while addressing a crowd in Tabrez, on Sunday. His statements can be interpreted to read as a fanning of the flames of paranoia already found in most Muslim populations; but also, perhaps as a simple call for Muslim countries to exist in unity.
However, the Muslim regimes he was talking about lack the kind of sense and sobriety needed to carry out the task. Not only are Muslim countries, particularly Arab ones, ruled by unrepresentative regimes, and thus lack public support, but their populations also lack the kind of education that is needed to carry out the task of intellectual rigour and debate, which would lead to Muslims being represented at the world stage.
The Muslim world consists of more than a billion people, mostly young persons, who feel keenly a sense of exclusion and misunderstanding aimed towards them and their religion, as a result of world events in the past few years. Much of the energy that the Muslim world could have been channelled into building these societies along scientific and modern lines and hence equipping them with the wherewithal to stand up for their rights has been sapped in futile ventures such as insurgencies and violence. Portraying this personal flaw as a conspiracy against Muslim countries is to relinquish responsibility for Muslims’ own responsibility in maintaining their image and strength in the world.
Iran itself has been plunged into an economic crisis by the sanctions applied to it for an atomic programme it says it does not have. As sanctions tighten, Ahmedinejad tries to open negotiations with the US while trying to maintain face. An election in Iran looms with Ahmedinjead’s successor taking office in August this year. The Iranian president’s call for unity is a purely pragmatic move, with Iran trying to ensure sympathetic and diversified markets which it can rely on for support. In Iran’s immediate neighbourhood, the Arab Spring, now in its second year, is not yet over, not with Syria still unsettled. Iran has still to come to terms with the changes in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, and does not know what to do about Syria. The reference to Saudi Arabia and Turkey brings into focus the two closest US allies in the region, and perhaps to their Shia and Kurd minorities respectively. It is almost as if he is warning them that Iran will not have caused any trouble that might occur in future, but there is the trouble in Balochistan to contend with before this can be believed. Indeed, unity will only be in the interest of Muslim countries themselves, but for this to happen they themselves have to step up and be responsible, not blame others for their own failure to enforce discipline in their ranks.
By The Nation
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