Only two days separated the commemoration of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination and the day on which Khaled Meshaal, member of the Hamas political bureau, spoke about Hamas’ upcoming steps, in the wake of its sweeping victory in the Palestinian legislative elections.
On 30 January 1948 , the preacher of non-violence and the leader of Indian resistance, Mahatma Gandhi, was killed when a Hindu extremist broke through the ranks of supporters and killed him. His final words were “Hai Ram” or, “Oh God”.
Last week, on January 28, during a press conference held in Damascus in the wake of the Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections, Khaled Meshaal indicated that his movement sought to “protect the resistance which has made us and given us all this glory”.
Meshaal told an Arabic TV station in March last year that weapons were at the heart of the Islamic resistance’s program, adding that “It has been proven that the point of view of those who promote peaceful means is futile.”
In India , the British colonizers left and a rich political life followed in a giant country in terms of its area, population, religions and languages… as well as poverty. The leader of the resistance and its conscience was the godfather of peaceful resistance or “Satiagraha. This philosophy was not restricted to civil disobedience but also included a quiet quest for the truth. Gandhi pointed out that non-violence was not weakness, cowardice or submissiveness.
Perhaps some readers might view this discussion as belittling the pain and suffering suffered by the Palestinians under the oppressive Israeli occupation or a mystical debate that is “useless”.
The above criticisms are part of the global ascendancy of rightist ideologies, as if the world was listening to a joint announcement, “Turn to the right!”
This is especially the case in the Muslim world which has brought to power Mahdi Akef and his Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt , Mahmoud al Zahar and Hamas in the Palestinian territories and Abdulaziz al Hakim and Muqtada al Sadr in Iraq .
Upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that the rise of the above mentioned groups will affect other fundamentalist Islamic groups in the Muslim world. In Jordan , for example, the head of the Muslim Brotherhood told the London-based Al Hayat newspaper last month that his group is ready for government.
But, irrespective of my personal opinions about this philosophy, the political program of armed fundamentalist groups, whether local, regional or international, is based- for the time being at least- on military confrontation. In the case of Hamas, the aim is to end the Israeli occupation, the same goes for Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon (who claim the Shebaa farms are still occupied). As for al Qaeda, the enemy is the entire world, especially the US and its allies.
This is the temporary military objective. The core aim, however, is the re-establishment of an Islamic state and way of life. For example, Hamas after it repels the occupiers, seek to establish an Islamic state in Palestine akin to the Islamic Caliphate.
If Hamas were to succeed and liberate the land, we will not ask Meshaal, as the Palestinian Saeb Erakat did, “What land? The land within the 1967 borders or the land from the sea until the river Jordan ?” Will Hamas’ military program end after it liberates the land within the 1967 borders? Or will this signal the beginning of a drive to expel the Jews into the sea?
Let us suppose that Hamas mobilized all the capabilities of the Palestinians and of its ally Iran, (On a visit to Tehran in December, Meshaal said, “If Israel attacks Iran , we will escalate and expand our attacks”), what will happen next?
Supporters of the fundamentalist camp or the anti-western camp are rubbing their hands with glee and saying, “Don’t you support democracy? Accept it then,” echoing Meshaal’s statements during his press conference in Damascus .
In my estimation, if I were in their shoes, I would have ridiculed others as well.
In truth, however, the problem is more complicated than the issue of voting and ballot boxes. The real issue is how to remove the conditions that obstruct the development of critical thinking and a proper intellectual education. These conditions should precede democracy, whereby constitutional guarantees and the creation of an intellectual atmosphere that supports the rotation of power, political institutions and basic principles such as the relativity of the truth and freedom of expression.
So far, the discussion appears to include a concealed protest that democracy did not bring to power those we wish but those who will increase the Arab and Muslim self-absorption.
Perhaps it is so, but the discussion mirrors the convictions of the writer who believes that many contemporary Arab reforms are distracted by talk of democracy while they do not know on which grounds they are moving! Then, they scream in astonishment when the likes of Mahdi Akef or al Zahar come to power through the ballot box!
Some might think this unfavorable analysis of democratic practices is an indication that despotic and corrupt Arab regimes are here to stay…in fact, I have sought to de-legitimize these quasi-secular regimes which pretend to have adopted modernity while never internalizing it; they are partly responsible for the militarization of our culture.
In conclusion, I will not congratulate Hamas or the Brotherhood in Egypt because I am not happy at their electoral success. With respect to their figures, I do not feel the need to fake my feelings but I am trying to consider the glass half full. I hope their victory will bring about a truly modern Islamic system.
I doubt this will take place in the near future. However, we ought to wait and see.