Targeting Islam 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 incorrect.
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 cartoons!
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 NPT safeguards.
* 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 News)


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
2004 . All Rights Reserved.