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28 Sep, 2008

Islamic world tiring of the “new NATO”

Originally Published: 28 Sep 2008

Everyone has heard of NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the security club of mainly industrialised democracies on either side of the North Atlantic.

But another group is more worthy of being known as NATO. This is the No Action, Talk Only group of Islamic countries who in the past 50/60 years have become record-holders for doing nothing beyond speech-making and issuing meaningless condemnations and denunciations.

Muslims are becoming increasingly frustrated — and angry — with the continued impotence of their “new NATO” leaders in countering the daily barrage of attacks, insults, slander, defamation, occupation and killings, as well as the advancing military, economic, political and cultural occupation of the Islamic world.

These spineless NATO leaders have failed to reverse the occupation of Palestine, sought no accountability over the lie-based war in Iraq and the occupation of that country as well as Afghanistan, and are further cementing their NATO credentials by looking the other way even as innocent civilians are killed by U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan, adding to the thousands of innocent civilians killed in Iraq.

In late August, coalition forces reportedly killed 76 civilians in western Afghanistan. According to the Afghan Interior Ministry, most of them were children under 15. The coalition denied killing civilians. The “new NATO” did nothing.

One small but important change has emerged as the Pakistanis have finally come around to blaming the bombing of the Islamabad Marriott on the killing of innocent Pakistanis by American cross-border raids from Afghanistan. For the first time, the U.S. government has been told that this act of so-called terrorism is a blowback against its own policies.

Pakistan’s ambassador to the UK, Wajid Shamsul Hassan was quoted as saying that the Bush administration’s decision to allow cross-border incursions had been counterproductive “because they are not killing high-value targets, they are killing civilians.”

This was echoed by London-based, ethnic-Pakistani columnist Tariq Ali who wrote in The Guardian that “The Marriott bombing is terrible revenge for the Afghan campaign that has gone so badly wrong.”

He added, “Hellfire missiles, drones, special operation raids inside Pakistan and the resulting deaths of innocents have fuelled Pashtun nationalism. It is this spillage from the war in Afghanistan that is now destabilising Pakistan.”

Mr. Ali said, “While there is much grieving for the Marriott hotel casualties, some ask why the lives of those killed by Predator drones or missile attacks are considered to be of less value. In recent weeks almost 100 innocent people have died in this fashion. No outrage and global media coverage for them.”

The military attacks in Islamic countries are compounded by the continued media attacks on Islam itself.

In the U.S., the New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof did a column headlined “The push to ‘otherize’ Obama”. Published Sept 22, the column said: “Here’s a sad monument to the sleaziness of this U.S. presidential campaign: Almost one-third of voters ‘know’ that Barack Obama is a Muslim or believe that he could be.”

Mr. Kristof wrote, “A Pew Research Center survey released a few days ago found that only half of Americans correctly know that Obama is a Christian. Meanwhile, 13 percent of registered voters say that he is a Muslim, compared with 12 percent in June and 10 percent in March.

“In short, the political campaign to transform Obama into a Muslim is succeeding. The real loser as that happens isn’t just Obama, but America’s entire political process.”

In other words, the way to make Obama lose the election is to paint him as a Muslim.

These are only tips of the iceberg, but the response by the “new NATO” been exactly that – No Action, Talk Only.

In a recent speech at Columbia University, the head of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, bragged that the OIC is the second largest intergovernmental organisation after the UN, with 57 Member States and 5 Observer States. At the same time, he warned of the growing phenomenon of Islamophobia which he said is bent on “demonising Islam and its adherents, and on separating the world into rival civilisations.”

“The tendency to divide the world into good and evil, civilised and uncivilised, is inviting hostilities, disputes and instability,” he said.

According to the professor, “Reports of Western Intergovernmental and Non-Governmental Organisations indicate that Islamophobia in the West is so widespread that it may be more prevalent and dominant than racial abuse. Some Western media’s frequent portrayal and misrepresentations of Islam and Muslims have been one of the most persistent and virulent sources of prejudice against Muslims.”

He added, “Some scholars are also constantly presenting their biased views against Islam under the guise of scholarly presentation in their bid to set a false paradigm of knowledge against Islam.

“What is more alarming in this climate is the fact that Islamophobia has become increasingly tolerated as if it had been given license to gain legitimacy, acceptance and momentum to the extent that some start to see themselves on a collision course with Muslims and Islam.”

After all that analysis, Prof Ihsanoglu offered nothing by way of solution, another classic example of the “new NATO” doing what it does best – talk.

It is the ultimate tragedy that some of the world’s richest countries, in terms of cash and energy resources, are totally inept and incompetent in converting that power into a meaningful counter-strategy to confront their attackers diplomatically, politically, militarily or economically.

Oil consumption is considered to be a major contributor to global warming, but I would argue a bigger contribution has been made by the number of trees cut down by the Islamic world in issuing millions of paper resolutions and travelling to the thousands of useless meetings.

Last I heard, the OIC is looking to change its name because it is being derided as the “Oh, I See” group. Better to just leave it the way it is.