14th November 2003
AUSTRALIAN (OZ) DIARY
- TURNING POINT IN TERRORISM? -
From "The Economist" November 13th, 2003. The latest terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia have left at least 17 people dead, most of them Arabs from neighbouring countries.
Most of religious Islam is not a "top down" power structure, like for
instance the Catholic Church. If anything, each discipline of Islam (Sunni etc) is an oligarchy
of Holy Men (Mullahs or whatever), similar to but less organized than most Protestant
religious groups. I envision it's structure as similar to the
preachers in southern USA. Those preachers acknowledge that their
colleagues are men of religion, but nobody is supremo. When I refer to
a "Fundamentalist" Muslim, I refer to a Muslim who follows a Mullah or
Sheik who refers primarily to the original (fundamental) teachings of the Prophet,
and does not accept the moderating interpretations developed in the
intervening fourteen centuries. Mainstream Islam has a more
pacific approach to cohabitation with the infidel world of the 21st
century CE (Christian Era).
According to the histories, Mahommed was invited to reside in Medina by the inhabitants of that
oasis because it was hoped that he could act as an arbitrator between
the mutually hostile tribes there. He was successful in attaining that
objective, and he enshrined the procedures he employed as laws of
Islam. One of the laws he made was that Muslim states (tribes)
are forbidden to attack other Muslim states. Another governs
revenge for a murder. Unless agreed "blood money" is paid, only
one life can be taken for a life. Punitive damages are not
The recent attack in Arabia should therefore present religious problems
for fundamentalist Muslims. This was not an assassination of
infidel Christians or Jews, but the assassination of followers of Islam
from a foreign Muslim nation by Jihad warriors. By my reading of Islam,
such behaviour was specifically condemned by the prophet. Of
course I am not a Muslim, and am not qualified to argue that point, but
I believe that, at the very least, fundamentalist clerics will be
divided on the question.
Hence we have the potential for a turning point. Unless
fundamentalists take positive steps to disown the fundamentalist organization
that supported that operation, then fundamentalist organizations as a
group will lose credibility with Islam. A cancer of uncertainty will develop. Instead of growing,
fundamentalist Islam will lose direction and wither.
- THE WALL -
Israel is building a wall, ostensibly to make it more difficult for
terrorists to cross from Palestine to Israel. This brings
to mind two other walls, that in Berlin and that in China. The
Berlin wall was designed to stop emigration. The Chinese wall was
designed to keep Mongol looters out. Both had qualified success.
We have mutual irredentists.
The Israeli government permits Israelis to return & settle anywhere in
the promised land, which includes occupied Palestine. Arafat refused to sign the peace accord hammered under the
auspices of Bill Clinton because he insisted that displaced
Palestinians should be allowed to settle in Israel.
The Palestinians most recent concern is that the Israelis are building
a wall that is infringing on "their" side of the UN demarcation
line. The Israelis excuse is (a) that they
want to protect new settlements and (b) that geography (ease of
building around mountains & rivers) is a determining factor.
The Palestinians' concern of a land grab has been supported by many nations of Europe, and even by Israel's major ally, the USA.
Perhaps it is time for the Israelis to reconsidered their
position. Many historians believe that a primary cause of the
second world war as the unjust peace imposed on Germany, particularly
the French seizure of the Ruhr. The Israeli wall would be equally
effective in stopping terrorists if it were built wholly on Israeli
territory. Of course a few settlers might be less secure.
However this fence will be seen as a boundary fence, and nothing makes
neighbours more volatile than the unfair placement of a fence in a
Like the retreat from Sinai, this is an occasion when the Israelis should bend.
allay the main discontent, but only in a manner that will certainly
produce further discontents can hardly be called successful.
Therefore the sage behaves like the holder of the left-hand tally, who
stays where he is & does not go round making claims on
people. "For he who has Te is the grand almoner, he who has not
Te is the grand perquisitor. "It is heavens way, without
distinction of persons, to keep the good perpetually supplied".
Tao Te Ching.