Why was our Muslim World absent in such an bewildering manner?
Why was not its voice heard or actions seen in protest and anger?
The events in Kosova have given us a double shock. The human tragedy there is terrible in itself, but the silence of those who should be concerned by virtue of their ties with the Kosovars – Those in the Arab and the Muslim world – make it all the more terrible.
Last week, AFP reported from Tel Aviv, the statement of an Israeli government official expressing his country’s concern over the fate of 50 Jews living in Kosova. But we have not yet heard a similar voice from our Arab and Muslim world about the fate of 1.5 million Muslims living in the same province. The Israeli official, for all his concern, must be confident that the 50 Jews are safe and sound, that if harm has come to anyone of them, it must have come by mistake and that quick amends would be made for the mistake and there would be a thousand apologies from Belgrade. The victim will be given exorbitant compensation because the blood of a Jew has a high value.
As for 1.5 million Muslims, they are being slaughtered before our eyes every day. We see them terrorized and humiliated and their houses set on fire, on our television screens all the 24 hours of the day with every news bulletin. The veritable hell their life has become and how terror follows them even as they shuffle through wooded hills and over the snow are detailed in the reports we have been reading every day in our morning newspapers for the last two weeks.
It is a shame that none of these horrors created an echo in the Arab and Muslim world. We watched demonstrations in Belgrade and several other world capitals in support of of the Serbs or against NATO’s air strikes. Newspapers carried pictures of attacks on U S and German embassies in Belgrade and the U S Embassy in Moscow.
We also read that a school in Greek Cyprus, showing sympathy with Belgrade, decided to dismiss students from the Countries taking part in the NATO operations.
However, there was no mention of even a single demonstration in any Arab or Muslim capital condemning the genocide of Muslims. It was as though the world to which we belong was totally absent from the scene of action and that the Muslims exists only on maps.
This raises several questions:
Why was our Muslim World absent in such an bewildering manner? Why was not its voice heard or actions seen in protest and anger? Why do Muslims remain silent about the tragedies of the million-and-half of their brothers in Kosova,while Israel is shouting about the fate of 50 Jews? Do they think that NATO attacks are enough and that they need not speak up?
True Arab and Muslim countries have issued statements, some denouncing the massacres and others calling for an end to violence and a political settlement. Some Arab countries have sent food relief to the refugees. However, their voice was not strong enough and was not heard. It was too cautious and lukwarm. Nor was the relief sufficient enough to make a difference.
I asked several Arab diplomats, well-informed on what is happening behind the scene, about the reasons for this caution and indifference in dealing with the issue. They agreed that the official statements were cautious, but insisted that there was no indifference. They argued that if Muslim countries took a strong and united stand in confronting the Serb aggression, it would give the impression that it was a conflict between Islam and Orthodox Curch. Muslim countries are keen not to create such a wrong impression. They also explained that some Arab countries have reservations about the NATO air strikes without legitimacy such as a resolution by the U N Security Council, that even though they support the punishment of Serbs, they reject the principle of powerful countries acting outside the Security Council, as though NATO was a substitute for that body; and that it is an extremely dangerous principle which, if accepted, will legitimize similar attack on some Arab countries. Therefore, my diplomatic friends explained most Arab countries are for punishing the Serbs but are against the NATO action, not wishing to state these reservations explicitly, they have been making their official statements moderate and ambigious creating some confusion and misunderstanding. They added that Arab and Muslim countries really sympathized with the Kosovar Muslims, but had reservations about Kosovar ’s secession from Yougoslavia because,if they accepted that, they themselves might face a similar situation.
Naturally, I cannot say this represents the Arab and Muslim view. All that I can say is that these are the views some Arab diplomats keep on repeating. However, I do not find in it a convincing reason for Arab foreign ministers and the OIC not expressing their solidarity with Kosovar Muslims and demanding that the Serbs stop their atrocities against Muslims and at the same time urging NATO to a adhere to the international law and not to take any step without the approval of the U N Security Council. The issues of religious freedom and secession can be handled in a way that will respect the Kosovar’s fundamental rights- including the right to their own cultural and religious identity.
It is not my intention to tell Arab and Muslim countries what they should do. What is my concern is that Kosova Muslims should not be left to face their desperate situation while their brother Muslims remain silent as mere spectators.
However, worse than silence was the baffling statement from three Arab countries. Iraq, Libya and Algeria have demanded that the attack against the Serbs be stopped without any mention of the Serb crimes and slaughter of Muslims in Kosova. Such a stand destroys the hopes of Muslims and multiply their pain.
It was also painful to hear some Arabs living in Serb areas defending the policy of Belgrade and repeating the Serb justification for the killing of Kosovar Muslims and putting all the blame on the United States and NATO. It was unfortunate that these Arab commentators and journalists are happy to be the mouthpieces of Serbs and are choosing the enemies of Kosovar Muslims as their friends.
If Arab and Muslim countries want to take a positive stand expressing solidarity with the Muslims of Kosova without involving themselves in the issue of air strikes they can take initiative at two levels, one diplomatic and the other humanitarian.
First they can follow the example of Jordon by recalling their ambassadors from Belgrade as message of protest to the brutal regime. I wish they would also expel Serb ambassadors from their capitals, their return conditional on Belgrade stopping the atrocities against Muslims. If they could do that, the message will be much more forceful.
Secondly, Arab and Muslim countries should intensify the relief works, as a message of solidarity with the victims. If the International Islamic Relief Organization, with its vast resources and expertise, were to throw its weight behind the effort, it would play a glorious role in responding to the meeds of the Muslims and lighten the burden on their shoulders.
The Arab and Muslim world has the capacity to give without limit. It is capable of taking up responsibilities in the best possible manner. All that is needed is a political decision expressing real will and determination.
Let’s do something. To keep silence in the face of injustice is in itself injustice. If we are not making a move to support and help Muslims in a situation such as this, when will make a move? If we are not angry at this catastrophe, when will we be angry?
(www.radioislam.org / 28.03.2011)