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The End of Repetition? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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It is man who gives things their identities and directs the course of events with his ambitions and fears behind him and with all that remains in his conscience of beliefs. Paradoxically, man always repeats the same actions and then complains about them. By man here, we mean the one capable of influencing public affairs, politicians and economists, and people of faiths and ideologies and the rest of their affiliates.

Let us leave this generalization and try to be more precise. Arabs are gathering today in Riyadh in a summit held in a bleak atmosphere of war and projects of wars and tension, each arriving with their own concerns. Each of them came, hoping that the Arab summit would endorse his agenda. Syria wants unconditional support, Palestinians came with the Arab peace initiative of King Abdullah ahead of them; this time and after many wasted years, the initiative has been granted greater support. Iraqis now seek Arab support, after all plans have failed and bombs have overwhelmed even the Green Zone and have flown over the head of the UN Secretary General.

Undoubtedly, these are “ordeals” and difficult issues. However, the question that remained unanswered for decades is why has the same error been repeated every time. Furthermore, the same complaint is repeated as well; the same solutions are put forward each time and then distorted, the same distortion every time.

Haven’t Arabs tired of going round in circles? Haven’t they run out of energy for fallacy? Is it not time for a moment of calmness and facing oneself?

The issue is not confined to solving the Palestinian problem, despite the fact that the Arab peace initiative explicitly states that all Arabs will normalize relations with Israel in exchange for Israeli withdrawal from the territories that it has occupied since 1967. This is in addition to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and settling the issue of Palestinian refugees. Such language is clear, bold and responsible and certainly it will be accused of treachery or will face obstructive tactics; but does anyone have any real solution other than this?

As we had said, the issue is not confined to the Palestinian cause and the challenge of supporting Palestinians especially when the leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, is said to have vowed in his recent visit to Riyadh to approve the initiative. This in turn indicates Hamas’ approval of a “final” Palestinian state to be established based on the 1967 borders. This is quite an important issue, yet this is not the right time for it.

There are complex and heated problems; the most depressing of all is the Iraqi issue and how the destructive conflict between Iraqis could be brought to an end, how to stop Iran from its own dangerous frivolity, how to get the Americans to leave and how to keep Iraq united after all the hatred, sectarian bloodshed and crimes between all parties? A few days ago, the Haswa area north of the Hillah province witnessed a typical example of the complex crimes committed in Iraq. A group believed to be affiliated to Al Qaeda bombed a Shia shrine that belonged to Muqtada al-Sadr’s group. During the burial of the victims of the bombing, another attack had taken place on the funeral procession as well as on the headquarters of the Iraqi Islamic Party in this region as a result of accusations cast by some Sunni extremists of the party acting against them, that is against Al Qaeda and those who favour its “fundamentalist” suggestions for solution. And so, the wheel of hatred turns and the bloodshed and carnage continues, bringing the killers and victims together as portrayed in one of the drawings by the late Mahmoud Kahil in which all the Arab characters are walking one behind another stabbing the person in front of him whilst being stabbed in the back!

In the same tragic circle came the suicide attack on Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Salam Al Zobaie carried out by one of his own guards whom Al Zobaie himself had recently released from prison after having been accused of affiliation to Al Qaeda. Al Zobaie made him join his security team but it was not long before the guard blew himself up within close proximity to his boss and benefactor in an absurd incident that summarizes the condition of Iraq. In Iraq, the murderer does not know why he has killed others, nor do the victims know why they have been killed, apart from the silly words that are uttered to the murderer by the leaders of assassins and the instigators of suicide attacks including politicians in Iraq and from its neighbouring countries.

These plagues, statements and slogans that call for the shedding of blood are the same as those that attracted their ancestors before them where any dreams of development and peace have been shattered.

A few days ago, a friend of mine in Saudi Arabia asked me, “Do you remember so-and-so?” I said, “Yes, I remember him”. He then asked, “Do you remember his son?” I replied, “Yes I remember him and what a polite and smart boy he was”. My friend added sadly, “Well, the young boy grew up, became a teenager and bid his mother farewell a week ago on the pretext of going to a picnic. Then he disappeared for several days and called his mother and told her: I am in Iraq, and I will be in heaven shortly. I just wanted to bid you farewell. Then he ended the call with his mother’s heart filled with anguish. In the end, she received the final and expected call: We congratulate you! Your son carried out a martyrdom operation!” The boy had not even reached 17 years of age.

It is one sad example of the many examples of what is inflicted upon all parties because of the Iraqi fire that has burnt an innocent mother’s heart in the depths of Saudi Arabia. She was tormented by the death of her son who was told “Burn your body for the sake of Jihad”, and so he did, burning his mother’s heart along the way and burning a dream of a successful man who could have done well for himself and his society.

At this time, Iraqis are meeting, including those who talk about jihad and sing its praises, and they shall make peace with each other. Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, who declared himself the emir of the Islamic state in Anbar, will fail and al-Hakim and al-Sadr (the fugitive) will never be able to establish their Shia state, but the young men who sacrificed themselves in the slaughterhouses of both parties will not realize this until they lose their lives for projects that had not been and will not be realized.

I do not blame the sheikhs of violence and incitement or the channels that provoke hatred and books of sedition. I don’t even blame countries that send or allow the messengers of death and flocks of suicide bombers to pass through [their borders] for their own limited interests. I do not blame any of them, as their crimes deserve far more than just blame. What deserves to be tackled however is this high capacity of Arab and Islamic societies to be part of futile projects every time. It is as though they have a larger propensity to a deeper desire for annihilation that arises whenever the opportunity presents itself and when the religious and non-religious slogans are raised in invitation to those willing to join this banquet of death.

In Afghanistan, the Arab youth were told, “Fight and die. It is worth it,” yet they died and it was not worth it. These very words were said in Eritrea, and today Eritrea, after all the bloodshed of its youth, is still not an Islamic state. Somalia, which was praised by Bin Laden, was abandoned and only gathered mutilated bodies of youth in its deserts who wished to join the heroic salvation projects. Bosnia was presented to the young people as a springboard for the invasion of Europe the crusader! However, it turned out to be a different story.

And now, here is Iraq which is presented as a catalyst for the establishment of the promised Islamic state. Who is responsible for the devastating repetition of this story of death and suicidal options? Is it the inability to break the cycle of stereotypical thinking that is prevailing among Arabs and Muslims? Aren’t we in need of courageous men who can change this inverted image and tell the people in question the situation as it really is?

What more do we need to convince us that it is imperative to bury the old discourse and establish a new discourse that loves life? When will this “terrible” education that is prevailing in the Arab world come to an end? In this regards, I refer to “weak” Arab education, which is a calmer description than that given by Amr Mousa who, before the summit, stated that it is “rubbish”.

What we are saying is far more difficult than what will be presented at the recent summit. Arabs have said that they “finally” support the undisputable Arab initiative but will their acceptance of this realistic and unconventional initiative reflect a “minor” step towards breaking the narrow and repeated way of thinking that always affects resolving Arab problems and that has lasted for almost one century?

We hope that this is the case and that each party’s agenda does not become a pretext to obstruct any natural growth in realistic and practical thinking. This is unless some Arab countries, such as Syria of “Arab nationalism” or regional powers such as “Islamic” Iran will benefit from the survival of the Palestinian and Iraqi dilemmas more than they will benefit from their solution.

Mshari Al-Zaydi

Mshari Al-Zaydi

Mshari Al-Zaydi is a Saudi journalist and expert on Islamic movements and Islamic fundamentalism, as well as on Saudi affairs. He is Asharq Al-Awsat’s opinion page editor. Mr. Zaydi has worked for the local Saudi press, and has been a guest on numerous news and current affairs programs as an expert on Islamic extremism.

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