Dec 27, 2011

The realm of God

Hasan Al-Banna’s ascendancy in the region is about to become equal to Turkey’s Atatürk or beyond.

Abdulla Hawez
When a 22 young preacher found the society of Muslim brothers, just four  years after the end of Islamic Ottoman empire, he never thought his legacy will spread all over the Muslim world such as numerous as today; look across the Arab world today and political Islam has jumped to the fore.  Hasan AlBanna, lived for 42 years, is the Godfather of all political Islamic movements in the world. Al-Banna's Brotherhood founded in 1928, hounded by all governments despite professing a fairly moderate version of Islam; this relatively mild-mannered movement is known for its political savvy that bases its message on the texts of Islam as well as its pliability and discipline. A question rises regarding Al-Banna’s legacy and whether it’s a nasty one that threatens democracy? Also, are the skeptics who said that Arabs would inevitably elect malicious people, and could not handle democracy being proven unpleasantly right?
Let’s first take a glance on how brotherhood and other parties of a similar stripe are performing, according to the come outs so far; brothers are the first winners of the Arab Spring. In Egypt’s first and second round of voting, Brotherhood is winning the three-stage election to parliament by a wider margin than analysts predicted, with more than 40% of the seats. In North Africa Islamists of a similar school to the Brotherhood wins elections by a landslide in their countries, Tunisia’s Al-Nahda and Morocco’s Justice and Development party are just live-fresh examples, while Libya and Mauritania highly expected to do so too, in the elections in the upcoming year.
Similarly, in the other part of the Arab world, same scene expected to happen. In Syria, with every day that passes, President Bashar Al-Assad's grip on power seems to weaken; while Brotherhood is prominent in the strong opposition front that may displace Bashar Al-Assad eventually. In chaotic Yemen, Brotherhood’s political wing, AlIslah party already has a strong position in the interim government, as the party is pacing straightforward to come out a winner in the next elections according to pundits and questionnaires. Furthermore, Nobel peace prize winner, Tawakel Karman, is one of the leaders of AlIslah. That’s despite Palestine’s Hamas, which is a branch of Brotherhood. Moreover, in Sudan, Hassan Al-Basher is ideologically based on Brotherhood school, while in Jordan Muslim brothers have a strong voice, and Qatar is a Brotherhood friendly state. Whereas the other countries in the Middle East are under the sway of governments with an Islamist label as well, even though they have different hues.
Al-Banna tried to have new interpretations for the Islamic concepts which were controversial, hence he faced strong opponent from the local religious élite. He always claimed to uphold the call to Islam, not to impose it on people. He preached in coffeehouses, which were then a novelty and were generally viewed as morally suspect. Al-Banna, compared to religious views at his era, was a religious reformist, who was seeking the renewal of religion to fit with the current needs. Dr. Abdel Moneim Abul Futuh, former member of the executive bureau of the Muslim Brotherhood who was expelled from the long-banned party for choosing to join Egypt’s presidency race, once said that if Al-Banna was still a life, he will never allow Brotherhood to engage in politics such as today, because he hadn’t intended to develop the movement to become a political party, rather following the fail of the Ottoman Islamic empire, he wanted to relive the Islamic norms in the society. That augments doubts that succeeds have had veered his message and become more radical instead.
Some months ago, I talked with Dr. Essam Al-Arian, the spokesperson of the Muslim Brotherhood after the fail of Mubarak, he never gave a positive sign to adopt a model close to Turkey’s AKP one. Furthermore, half of Brotherhood’s members are women, yet they failed to arrive in the higher positions inside the movement, which raises questions on the women’s role in Egypt’s Brotherhood. However, Al-Arian said that they will uphold the rights of women and religious minorities in the next government which will be dominated by Brothers and other more radical Islamists.
Some western observers and internal liberal rivals see the Brotherhood as a mysterious society, pretending moderation and democracy in public while in private embracing a radical, authoritarian, anti-western agenda. Nevertheless, it widely believed that they will not enforce the veil or immediately ban alcohol, because they understand that people don’t vote for them because they seek Saudi or Iranian style of religious repression. Rather because of their hatred of corruption, the curse of secular dictatorships all through the region, and their promotion of justice and dignity.
Consequently, it can’t be proved instantly, whether Islamists will overturn the democratic process of election to entrenchment their power and impose their ideological beliefs or will protect the individual rights. The only incontrovertible thing, apparently, is the emergence of a realm in the Arab world that leads by the legacy of Hassan Al-Banna.

*Iraqi Kurdish freelance journalist writes about current Political issues in the Middle East.

Dec 22, 2011

What’s really going on in Iraq?

This week’s coordinated bombings in Baghdad are only the latest instance of growing sectarian tension in Iraq. The tone has been set by competition at the very heart of government, between Shi’ite Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki on the one hand and, on the other, Maliki’s deputy Salih Mutlaq and Vice-President Tariq Al-Hashimi, who are both Sunni. Their competition increasingly refracts regional tensions between Iran and Turkey on how to deal with the Syrian conflict.
Maliki is closely connected to the Iranian leaders, a fact that is increasingly relevant considering Iraq’s stated desire to mediate between the Syrian government and anti-Assad forces. An Iraqi delegation visited Damascus recently, ostensibly for this purpose. On the other hand, Iraqi Sunnis have strong ties with Turkey. Tariq Al-Hashimi particularly has a special relation with the leaders of Turkey’s AKP government – this year alone he has conducted several meetings with representatives of Erdogan’s government from Ankara.
Recent tensions between Iran and Turkey, on the Syrian issue and Nato missile defense, are affecting co-operation between Iraqi leaders, and Iran’s efforts to shift attention from Syria to Iraq is likely to exacerbate those challenges further.
The aspiration of the predominantly Sunni provinces of Salahadeen, Anbar and, more recently, Dyala to become more autonomous, if not independent of the central Iraqi governing authority, reportedly with Saudi-Turkish support, is another source of sectarian tension. Shi’ites accuse Sunnis of trying to divide Iraq, accusations that led Muqtada Al-Sadr’s Mahdi militia to intervene in Diyala, a province with a 20 per cent Shi’ite population.
All these developments are accelerating a situation of intense speculation. For example, following a recent trip to London by Jordan’s King Abdullah, rumors began circulating of a scenario in which closer ties are being forged between Jordan and Iraq’s restive Sunni regions in the west.
It’s also on the rumor mill that Mosul province, currently dominated by Iraq’s Sunni speaker of parliament Osama al-Nujeifi, will become a federal region under Turkish supervision. Arabs will leave Kirkuk, only Kurds and Turkmen will remain, and both Kurdistan and Turkey will share the oil revenues. Far-fetched as these ideas may be, they are exacerbating simmering sectarianism.
Paul Bremer once refered to Al-Maliki as the Saddam of Shiites, his autocratic approach to Iraqi politics is fueling the tensions of recent days. With meagre success in reducing violence during his early years as Prime Minister, Al-Maliki has in recent years strengthened his control over the government and security forces.
Now Al-Maliki is expanding his reach. Only one day after the United States’ official withdrawal from Iraq, he accused Tariq Al-Hashimi of being behind terrorist attacks in Iraq and officially dismissed Salih Mutlaq from his position as deputy Prime Minister following an interview with CNN in which Mutlaq described Al-Maliki as a new bad dictator while Saddam was a good dictator.
A source close to Tariq Al-Hashimi told me that he claims to have proof that Al-Maliki is the one who has used terrorism to strengthen his political hold, but that is holding on to that evidence for now.
Anxieties are surfacing among politicians in Iraq that Al-Maliki is trying to erase his rivals, including his Shiite allies. Al-Maliki denies the rumors saying that he supports a diverse Iraq with a wide range of parties in parliament. Time will tell if his strong hand in politics will advance a stable state or threaten it.
Kurds for now are trying to show themselves as a neutral party but, in reality, they are not. Historically, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan has strong ties with Iran, including frequent visits to Iran. After the accusations against Al-Hashimi surfaced, he tried to meet with Talabani, but according to a source close to the president, Talabani refused.
Paradoxically, the other Kurdish leader, Masoud Barzani, President of the Kurdistan region, met with Al-Hashimi and refused to surrender him to the Iraqi authorities in Baghdad. Barzani has strong ties with Turkey, including hosting Recep Tayyip in Barzani’s stronghold, the Kurdistan region’s de facto capital Erbil last year. Erdogan is the most senior Turkish official to have ever has visited Kurdistan, creating a regional game that even divides the Kurdish leaders in Iraq.
A radical political dilemma is looming in Iraq; the recent standoff appears to be just the beginning. This political dilemma might be either the warning bell of a bloody internal war with consequences unknown, or simply political jockeying in the wake of the US departure. Let’s see!

This piece has been publish with some editing first on The Majalla:
This piece has published on Global Politician:
This piece has published on Middle East Youth:
This piece has republished on Dimpool - Web Based Policy Center:
This piece has republished on Kurdistan Tribune:
This piece has republished on