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Middle East situation like India before Independence

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New Delhi: Middle east region expert Vali Nasr compared the existing situation in the region to the situation of Indian sub continent before independence. He said this situation is because of sectarianism and legacies of colonialism.

“Colonialism not only decided maps of the modern Middle East, but also fostered sectarianism in the internal structures it set up the Alawites in Syria, the Christians in Lebanon under the French, and so on.

“Colonialism and sectarianism conflicted with secular nationalism… sectarianism in the Middle East was like communalism in India during its freedom struggle and can be understood the same way… the issue of majority and minority rights,” Nasr, the dean of the School of Advanced International Studies at US’ Johns Hopkins University, said in an interview during his India visit for the Jaipur Literature Festival.

“The violence in Iraq is similar to the violence seen during the Partition of India,” he said.

Nasr, a Foreign Policy advisor to the Barack Obama regime (2009-11) and a scholar on politics and Islamic activism in the Arab world, as well as Iran and Pakistan, and sectarian identity in Middle East politics, notes sectarianism, between Sunnis and Shias, was not on points of theology but on distribution of power.

This was especially relevant in countries like Iraq and Bahrain which had Shia majorities but without any power, he noted, adding the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 and then the Arab Spring further opened the door to sectarianism.

“The Arab Spring began a demand for democracy but what after that? That is the key issue,” said Nasr, citing another parallel with the Indian subcontinent’s example where the struggle against British rule also saw a bitter contest between the Congress and the Muslim League on the shape and nature of the political dispensation to follow.

The author of “The Shia Revival How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future” (2006) when the community seemed to be on an upswing with huge political gains in Iraq after Saddam Hussein’s overthrow, Nasr contends rise of groups like the Islamic State is among attempts by Sunni hardliners to reverse Shia Iran’s gains in Iraq. But this comes at a time when Iran, long seen by the western world as the source of instability in the Middle East, is now being needed to manage the same instability, he said.

This image of Iran stemmed from the historic Shia-Sunni conflict, which however took shape of a proxy war after the 1979 Iranian Revolution raised a Shia threat for Sunni powers, especially Saudi Arabia which has had a relationship with the US, predating the US-Israel alliance.

“This proxy war between Shias and Sunnis, or between Iran and Saudi Arabia, even extended to south Asia and is still going on in Pakistan,” said Nasr, who also spent some time in the sub-continent in the late 1970s and experienced the sectarian hostility as far away in Lucknow, considered a bastion of Shia culture and faith.

Nasr, who also wrote “Mawdudi and the Making of Islamic Revivalism” (1996), noted the founder of the Jamaat-e-Islami and a proponent of propagating “true” Islam was not violent himself, but his “children have become more intolerant”.

On Iraq, he noted Shias and Sunnis look on its post-2003 politics differently the former see it as the first modern Shia Arab state, but the latter were disturbed at the loss of a country that contained the Shia “threat” and through the US, seen as their reliable ally against Khomeini’s Iran.

Matters were further complicated by the Arab Spring “which did to several Arab states what the US Army had done to Iraq broke down the state”, he said, noting the implosion in several authoritarian Sunni states, taken to its logical conclusion of democracy and elections would have disturbing consequences for Sunnis, especially in places like Bahrain given Iraq’s example.

“That is why the IS, which is trying to roll back Iranian gains in Iraq, and wrest Syria for the Sunnis, has struck a political resonance with its goal of a Sunni caliphate,” said Nasr.(IANS)(image: thesimmonsreview.com)

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President Ram Nath Kovind Pays His Condolences to Former UN Chief Kofi Annan

Annan was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with the UN in 2001 "for their work for a better organised and more peaceful world".

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India condoles former UN chief Kofi Annan's death.
India condoles former UN chief Kofi Annan's death. Flickr

India on Saturday condoled the death of former UN Secretary General and Nobel laureate Kofi Annan with President Ram Nath Kovind expressing his condolences to the former Ghanaian diplomat’s family and the UN community as a whole.

“Sorry to learn of the passing of former Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan,” Kovind said on the Rashtrapati Bhavan Twitter handle.

“My condolences to his family and to the UN community,” he stated.

Annan, 80, died on Saturday in Switzerland after a short illness, with his wife and three children by his side.

“It is with immense sadness that the Annan family and the Kofi Annan Foundation announce that the former Secretary General of the UN and Nobel Peace Laureate, passed away peacefully on Saturday 18th August after a short illness,” his family said.

Kofi Annan
Annan was the first black African to take up the role of the world’s top diplomat, serving two terms from 1997 to 2006. Flickr

Annan was the first black African to take up the role of the world’s top diplomat, serving two terms from 1997 to 2006. He later served as the UN special envoy for Syria, leading efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict.

He also led a UN commission to investigate the Rohingya refugee crisis in Myanmar.

The Myanmar government led by Aung San Suu Kyi supported Annan’s recommendations on the crisis in the country’s Rakhine State.

Also Read: New AI Model to Identify the Risk of Heart Disease in Indians

Annan was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with the UN in 2001 “for their work for a better organised and more peaceful world”.

His tenure as the UN chief coincided with the Iraq war and the HIV/Aids pandemic. (IANS)