May 17, 2006
Arab Reluctance toward Sudan
I wanted to follow up on a couple of items I mentioned yesterday about Arab countries not pressuring Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir to allow an UN peacekeeping force in Darfur or that there isn’t much mention in the press about Muslims denouncing the genocide.
After much searching on Google, I found this interesting commentary “Darfur at the Crossroads” on ZNet by Farid Omar. It dates back to August 2004, but can be applied to the situation today:
“While western hypocrisy on the situation in Darfur is really problematic, Muslim complicity in the Darfur mayhem is equally disturbing. The Muslim people and their allies around the world should stand up for Darfuris, denounce and expose western double standards and condemn the AL and the OIC for their inaction and failure to put pressure on Sudan to contain the crisis in Darfur.”
Omar goes onto to state how the member states of the Arab League and Organization of Islamic Conference violate human rights in their own countries and do not have the moral authority to condemn the excesses of fellow-member state Sudan.
Omar also makes an interesting point refuting commonly held beliefs that the politicization of Islam is the mobilizing force behind the Janjaweed militia in Darfur.
“The reactionary Islamist forces in Sudan do not command widespread support. In its heydays, Sudan’s main Islamist party, the National Islamic Front (NIF), has never commanded a significant popular following, and has gained and retained power only through intrigue and coup.”
Do check out this op-ed by Emily Wax that ran in the Washington Post in late April, leading up to the Save Darfur rally in DC. She illustrates some of the misconceptions about Arab-African relations in relation to Sudan. The first two myths being that everyone involved in the conflict is Muslim and black:
“Although the conflict has also been framed as a battle between Arabs and black Africans, everyone in Darfur appears dark-skinned, at least by the usual American standards. The true division in Darfur is between ethnic groups, split between herders and farmers. Each tribe gives itself the label of “African” or “Arab” based on what language its members speak and whether they work the soil or herd livestock. Also, if they attain a certain level of wealth, they call themselves Arab.”
Finally, I’ll leave you with this last piece by Tarek Fatah, I found on the Progressive Muslims Union website. It is a call for all Muslims to denounce what’s going on in Darfur. He eloquently states how Sudan exploits its Islamic credentials to ward off any criticism from its Arab neighbors while portraying itself as defenders of the faith against neocolonialism.