These are Troubled Times

Yemen, a nation steeped in history – our Beloved Prophet (PBUH) has mentioned the land and its people in his sayings – is now in deep crisis, and is set to become another one of the Middle East’s failing states.

The rapidity with which the Middle East and North Africa are imploding is a matter of grave concern for the whole world, the Muslim world in particular, as battle-lines in the deserts and swamps look likely to be exported to other Muslim nations soon, with Shia-Sunni, Wahabi-Barelvi, Pro-Liberal-Democracy vs Autocratic rule being the major divisions – and there appears little Muslim leadership now to stem the tide.

Yemen’s crisis following the Arab Spring of 2011 – which soon morphed into the Arab Famine, the Arab Massacre, the Arab Winter, and the Arab Nightmare, all at once – was a result of the same problems that have plagued nations historically: an illiterate majority, a jobless youth bulge, an unaccountable elite, and an over-reaching authority.

Iran, which, due to its ethnic uniformity and historical legacy of never having been dominated by any power in the world, sustains itself, is playing a dangerous game of exporting Shia extremism throughout the Middle East in an attempt to counter the domination of Saudi Arabian politics of the past five decades – politics driven by the now-drying-up petro-dollars. Examples are the devastating consequences of an Iran-backed, Shia-dominated, and sectarian government in Iraq – leading to the expansion of the barbaric Islamic State in response. We now have the surreal, apocalyptic landscape of Syria – courtesy Iran’s unending support to the Alawite-dominated government of Bashar-al-Assad, and now the Iran-encouraged, Houthi-led coup in Yemen, which destabilised a country just beginning to function as a free democracy. (Remember that female, Muslim, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate from Yemen, Tawakkul Karman? – It seems so long ago!)

Saudi Arabia, now the world’s largest arms importer, has been building up its arsenal for over two decades, realising the fickle-minded support of the United States was losing its legitimacy in the eyes of its own people, fed up with the United States’ support to Israel in the Israel-Palestinian conflict. It is guilty of its own over-reach – in Egypt, it helped bring down the legitimate government of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has led to innumerable deaths, summary arrests, and the return of autocratic military rule. In Bahrain, it helped contain a Shia-dominated revolt against the Sunni-minority ruling elite. In Syria, it openly armed and backed the rebels against Bashar-al- Assad, only to see the rebels become the monstrous Islamic State, which Saudi Arabia decided to bomb a few years later.

The year 2010 seems so far off! Gaddafi ruled in Libya, Ben Ali in Tunisia, Mubarak in Egypt, Ali Saleh in Yemen, Iraq was stable, Assad ruled in Syria, the only area affected by terrorism was Iraq where the death toll was waning with the impending withdrawal of the US Army. It has all changed. And in the rush of changes and brash decisions have walked in vested interests who have decided to divide Muslims and Islam on the lines of sects, beliefs, and, practises. Gone are the days when the Palestine struggle would inspire thousands of protests throughout the world, whether Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Yemen, or Syria – the narrative has changed, and Muslims are the losers. Israel the winner.

And the better-informed, the well-off, among Muslims, in the comfort of their homes can watch on TV every night the sad news coming from the world about Muslims slaughtering their own children – supposedly to please Allah. It is imperative on all Muslims, wherever they are, to take upon themselves to stop the senseless sectarian bloodshed engulfing the Muslim world – children do not deserve to die because their parents belong to a particular sect. Their blood is on the hands of those who sat and watched, and did nothing, like you and me.

If our children are to head for a future where they will be identified as Shia or Sunni, or Deobandi or Barelvi, and not as Muslims, then the only winners would be the enemies of Islam.

May Allah help us. These are trying times.