May 27, 2006
Muslims Fighting Muslims in Sudan
I wrote 10 days about the reluctance of Arab countries to speak against the Sudanese government over the crises in Darfur or pressure them to allow a UN peacekeeping force. I found this opinion column on Beliefnet. com, a website on spirituality and religion.
I’m not sure when this column was written, it’s by Hesham Hassaballa, a physcian from Chicago who contributes regularly to the website on issues of Islam. The essay, Shameful Hypocrisy, looks at the history of the different ethnic groups in Western Sudan and also references what the Qu’ran says about Muslims fighting each other. On the site, there is a sidebar with readers’ comments. I’m posting the whole thing. Check out Hassballa’s blog God, Faith and a Pen for more postings on Islam in the face of terrorism.
By Hesham Hassaballa
When the photographs of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib first emerged, the Muslim world rose up in condemnation. The Organization of the Islamic Conference, for instance, “expressed its strong condemnation of the brutal acts of torture perpetrated against Iraqi prisoners…in flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”
Yet as the chorus of condemnation loudly rang across the Muslim world, worse crimes were being committed within the Muslim world–crimes that also were in “flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.” As angry fingers were wagged at the West, they passed over vicious genocide being committed in the Darfur region of Western Sudan.
The conflict in Darfur has a long history. The Darfur region is a very poor region almost entirely dedicated to subsistence agriculture and livestock herding for domestic and export purposes. The Fur and other ethnic African peoples of Darfur have farmed the most fertile parts of central Darfur for generations. The Northern part of Darfur is mostly desert, and the ethnic Arab populations of Northern Darfur bring their flocks to graze and water in the south every spring.
This has led to conflicts between the Fur and the Arabs. The Fur and other African groups of Darfur formed self-defense groups in the 1990s to protect their crops, homes, and families from increasing incursions by the Arab raiders, many of whom have also been armed over the past decades.
In early 2003, armed conflict broke out between two non-Arab rebel groups in Darfur and the Sudanese government forces. The Sudanese government attacked the civilian populations associated with the rebel groups. Human Rights Watch, in a report released in May 2004, accused the Sudanese government of ethnic cleaning in Darfur. The report documents how “Sudanese government forces have overseen and directly participated in massacres, summary executions of civilians, burnings of towns and villages, and the forcible depopulation of wide swaths of land long-inhabited by the Fur, Masalit, and Zaghawa ethnic groups [of the Darfur region].”
Peter Takirambudde, executive director of the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch, said, “There can be no doubt about the Sudanese government’s culpability in crimes against humanity in Darfur.”
In addition, government forces allied themselves with the janjaweed, armed Arab militiamen from the North of Darfur; these fighters have raped, pillaged, and terrorized the civilians of Darfur. The government has also recruited and armed a 20,000-man strong militia. In fact, numerous eye witnesses document coordination between the government and janjaweed forces. For instance, the Sudanese air force will bomb a village, and then a joint government-janjaweed force will attack that same village.
The janjaweed wear green khaki uniforms similar or identical to the Sudanese Army, except that the patch worn on the chest or sleeve may have a horseman. The janjaweed officers sometimes arrive at the scene of an attack in an army Land Cruiser. In addition, they use satellite phones said to be issued by the government, and the janjaweed have offices in the main government-controlled towns and are paid by the government.
There is no religious element in this conflict, unlike the decades-old conflict in the South between the minority Christians, who are persecuted by Muslims. Both the janjaweed and tribes of Darfur are Muslim. In fact–and this makes my blood curdle in fury–the Human Rights Watch report documents how the janjaweed have destroyed mosques, killed imams, and desecrated Qur’ans of the Darfur. The report lists 39 mosques in Darfur that have been destroyed by the janjaweed. Muslims are killing Muslims; Muslims are destroying mosques; Muslims are desecrating Qur’ans.
How could the Muslim world stay silent? How could there be no outrage at the ugly atrocities being committed in Darfur? As of this writing, there is not a single mention of the Darfur crisis on the website of the Organization of Islamic Conference. What shameful hypocrisy.
The Qur’an is unambiguous when it comes to Muslims fighting Muslims:
“If two parties among the Believers fall into a quarrel, make peace between them. If, however, one of them transgresses beyond bounds against the other, then fight (all of you) against the party that transgresses until it complies with the command of God. If it does (then) complies, then make peace between them with justice and be equitable, for God loves those who are equitable” (49:9).
Where are the Muslim armies that should have been dispatched to protect their Darfurian brothers and sisters? The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), before being commissioned by God, was a party to the Fudul Alliance, a pact among the pagans of Mecca which vowed to assist anyone oppressed and in need.
Years later, after becoming Prophet, he remarked that had a similar alliance been formed at his current time, he would join it. Islam demands that its adherents stand up for justice, even if it be against themselves:
“O ye who Believe! Stand up firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor, for God can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest you swerve, and if you distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily God is well-acquainted with all that you do” (4:135).
What is happening in Darfur is a grievous injustice, just like the genocide of Rwanda, against which the Muslim world also should have stood. To have a repeat genocide on the very same continent, during the very same year in which the 10-year anniversary of the Rwandan genocide was commemorated, between two parties of Muslims, and have the Muslim world fail to lift a finger is nothing short of scandalous.
I would venture to guess that the condemnations against America for the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in the Muslim world were meted out with a bit of vindicated self-righteousness. Indeed, on May 7, Libyan Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassouna al-Shawish, in response to U.S. criticism of his country, retorted by saying, “America has no right to talk about human rights–or even animal rights.”
Yet it is the United States, according to Human Rights Watch, that has been the most publicly vocal in its condemnation of the genocide in Darfur. The U.S. House of Representatives has even held hearings on Darfur. Where are the hearings in the governments of the Muslim world? What has happened to the Nation of Muhammad?
The Muslim world has failed its brothers and sisters in Darfur. The Prophet would be disgusted and horrified at its impotence. If it was appropriate for the Muslim world to condemn the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib, which it fully was, then it is even more appropriate for the Muslim world to condemn and intervene in the horrific genocide being committed against the Darfurian civilians in Western Sudan.
The Qur’an says it best: “O ye who Believe! Why do you say that which you do not do?” (61:1-2).
Right on, Lord, right on.