and Muslim Polities
By Dr Shireen M Mazari
It is a sad time for Muslims.
Europeans have declared open season on Islam with
blasphemy and abuse deliberately going unpunished
by states. The unprecedented scale of protest from
Muslim civil societies is also being misread as
something happening at the behest of extremists
and/or Syria and Iran. Some recognized European
experts on Islam, like Olivier Roy, have declared
that the protests go beyond the issue of the cartoons.
Some have even tried to link the protest to the
lack of freedoms in some Muslim polities! Well all
this may comfort those who refuse to accept the
extent of hurt and anger caused to all Muslims by
the unpunished acts of blasphemy against Islam and
its Prophet (peace be upon him), but it is absolutely
The fact of the matter is that all shades of Muslims
are angry and want to see the guilty brought to
book and the issue is very much of the cartoons
themselves. No one has to push the protest forward.
We are all protesting because we are angry and hurt
by the injustice of the countries allowing their
own laws to be broken because the targets are Islam
and Muslims. Contrast this with the action taken
against historian David Irving who denied the Holocaust
and has been in prison in Austria, since 2005, under
a warrant issued in 1989, for this denial. Denmark,
too, has seen the same Jyllands-Posten editor, who
was supposedly taking a stand for "freedom
of expression" when he commissioned and printed
the blasphemous cartoons suddenly being sent on
holiday when he felt he must also print anti-holocaust
So, it becomes increasingly clear that Islam and
Muslims are now acceptable targets for abuse in
Europe and other parts of the Christian world. So
much so that we are now seeing revelations of yet
more physical and mental abuse being heaped on Muslims
in Iraq by the occupying forces -- this time the
victims being mere teenagers. As if Guantanamo Bay
and Abu Gharaib were not enough of abuse against
Muslim prisoners, British forces seem to have developed
a perverse joy in the physical abuse of Iraqi teenagers.
A few sentiments of regret by Blair and a news item
stating that one of the guilty soldiers has been
arrested is all that one has gotten in response
from the British Government. Even here, the name
of the offending soldier has been kept out. Why?
After all, the teenagers were abused in public with
one clearly deranged soldier giving vent to his
thrill in witnessing this abuse. Once again, even
guilty Europeans must be protected while Muslims
remain fair game.
And now we are hearing of yet another invasion of
a Muslim state in the offing -- this time Iran.
And the pretext? Its nuclear program. Consider the
following: North Korea opts out of the NPT, declares
it has nuclear weapons and intends to continue down
this path. So what does the US do? Get involved
in the Six Party talks while keeping the North Korean
issue at the UNSC on ice. Then we have Iran, reiterating
its intent of staying in the NPT, stating it simply
wants to pursue its right to enrich uranium as allowed
for under the NPT, makes a clean confession of its
past omissions, allows inspections, disavows any
intent to produce nuclear weapons, so what do we
get? The US threatening the possibility of military
action against Iran. Ironically, no one is allowed
to cast any aspersions at all or seek any limits
on Israel's nuclear program and weapons' stockpiles.
This threat of military action comes alongside the
British Foreign Secretary's statement to a parliamentary
committee, on 8 February, that there was no proof
that Iran was developing nuclear weapons. But then
the US has never waited for proof when it seeks
military action against a Muslim state.
This is not to say that Iran has not been guilty
of violations of the NPT, but if it really wanted
to go the nuclear weapon route it would have left
the NPT and not held its nuclear program up for
inspections and negotiations. As for producing fissile
material, no non-nuclear party to the NPT has a
larger and more threatening program than Japan.
Japan has a massive fast breeder program and is
in the process of building the Rokkasho-mura reprocessing
plant. Already, in Japan's pilot Tokai reprocessing
plant, 206 kg of plutonium have gone unaccounted
for. But we have not heard anyone refer to this,
even at the IAEA.
Of course, sending the Iran issue to the UNSC will
only up the ante and politicize the issue even further,
leaving little flexibility for negotiations -–
that is, if the US is prepared to have negotiations.
After all, the US still suffers from an Iran trauma
since the Islamic Revolution and the hostage crisis
that followed. But for other members of the UN,
some pertinent questions need to be answered if
one is to assess the value of moving the issue out
of the IAEA, which has a technical rather than a
political focus, to the UNSC.
* First, what will be the next step, once Iran has
been reported to the UNSC? Is there a cohesive strategy
that exists on this?
* Second, now that Iran has decided to voluntarily
implement the Additional Protocol and has also taken
some transparency measures, that go beyond the IAEA
safeguards and Additional Protocol, is the international
community better off? The suspension on the enrichment
was voluntary and non-legally binding so how can
this be made legally-binding now just to try and
find some rationalization for taking Iran to the
UNSC. After all, Iran continues to observe the regular
* If Iran refuses to cooperate with an UNSC resolution,
what will be the response of the international community?
In the case of Iraq, non-cooperation impeded verification.
As for sanctions -– will they be enforceable
effectively? Will there be military action a la
Iraq-invasion style by the US and a coalition of
the willing with a post-event UNSC resolution to
give it legal cover? Will that help stabilize the
region or enable an effective response to the situation
in terms of non-proliferation, which the US itself
seems to have reneged upon in the wake of its nuclear
deal with India?
Clearly, the US approach has only put the international
community, including Iran, on a lose-lose path and
any military action against Iran will end what is
left of stability in this region. It seems the US
will target the oil installations of Iran, which
are clustered together, with cruise missiles and
then try to take physical control of them. The oil
resource factor in play again!
For Pakistan, the danger lies not simply in the
fallout on the domestic polity of any military action
against Iran. With the US delinking India's nuclear
status from that of Pakistan, a far greater danger
lies in the possibility of a similar threat being
given to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan's nuclear
program -- which still sits uncomfortably with the
US. Otherwise why should the US deny Pakistan the
same nuclear recognition it is offering to India?
(The writer is director general of the Institute
of Strategic Studies in Islamabad. Courtesy The