Western Asia from a Muslim perspective

West Asia, Middle East, Muslims, Israel, Europe, USA,

The Western Asian landmass, commonly known as the Middle East in geographical terminology, is the home of all three Semitic religions, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.  All of whom have some of their revered places in this region and have claims of being aboriginal of this land. 

With the Romans attacking and renaming it to the fall of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, this region due to its religious and sentimental attachment to all followers of these three religions had always remained a battleground between them. The Balfour Declaration and the UN decision to partition this British-mandated land between two states, one for Palestinians and the other one for Jews after their Holocaust in Europe during the Second World War led to the formation of the state of Israel.

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The neighbouring Arab countries, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt invaded the newly formed state of Israel. In which the defeat of the Arab countries gave more land to Israel than was partitioned to it by the UN.  In modern Arab history, this is called Nakba meaning the catastrophe or setback due to the mass displacement and capturing of land by the Israeli forces. 

It is estimated that about 85 per cent of Palestinians either fled or were expelled from this land.  0.7 million Palestinians living in refugee camps after the 1948 Arab-Israel war or Nakba yearned for their homes which were now in the new state of Israel.  Those Arabs left in Israel were reduced to second-class citizenship and were put under severe vigil and guarded by successive Israeli governments for almost two decades for their ethnicity and religion. Areas dwelled by them were deliberately kept poor and without basic amenities of life.

Under such duress, several Palestinian groups joined to form the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1964 led by the late Yasser Arafat for the struggle and liberation of the Palestinian state, an organization secular in nature and following the guerilla’s tactics of hit-and-run in the style of Mao and Che Guerra.  PLO targeted and attacked high-profile targets and carried out plane hijackings to internationally highlight their cause. 

In 1967, Israel attacked Egypt, Syria, and Jordan preemptively to scuttle any likely attack from theirs.  The six-day war proved to be disastrous for Arab countries both militarily, economically and politically losing much of their lands in war. 

It is widely reported that to cut down the hold of PLO on Palestinian politics and cause, Hamas progressively developed from Sheikh Ahmad Yassin’s organization, Mujama al-Islamiyah, initially a charitable and social network in the area. 

During the first Intifada, in 1987, Hamas actively participated with other Palestinian Islamic groups.

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Interestingly, Israel approved the creation of the Islamic University in Gaza in 1978, the area which it had captured in the 1967 war.

The four intifadas of Palestinians that are, the first one of 1987-1993, the second one of 2000-2005, the third stabbings intifada of 2015-2016, and the fourth present al Aqsa flood intifada of October 2023 are embodiments of the Palestinians’ griefs and sorrows over their abysmal conditions and how they are treated and ignored both by their Arab brethren, the Israeli government, and the world community at large. 

Muslims in general,  what is called Muslim Ummah referring to all those who believe in the tenets of Islam,  have complaints and feelings lurking in the collective consciousness of them that the Western World irrespective of their mutual tussles and rues combine and collate against them in any issue that is directly linked to them and have sensitivity for them. They invade any Muslim country for any reason however false and baseless may be. Muslim governments and rulers are pawns who are moved and placed by them. 

With the dawn of Islam, their relations strained with them.  Muslims” conquests in the Middle East, the birthplace of all Abrahamic religions, in North Africa, and Asia Minor spread Islam.  But it also challenged the West, what was then called Christianity or the Christian World. Then the 400 years of crusades to retake Jerusalem from the Muslims created a historical, psychological rift between Islam and Christianity what is later called East Chasm and West for our geographical ease.

The joining and defeat of the Ottoman Empire in the First World War gave the Allies the much-sought opportunity to redesign the Arab area, the present-day Middle East, of the defeated Ottoman Empire for their political and strategic leverage. 

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The majority of the third-world countries gained independence from their colonizers after the Second World War. The discovery and exploitation of hydrocarbons in the Middle Eastern countries brought them into the limelight of international politics and geostrategic considerations of world powers who were now vying for a full or partial sway over them.  Hence, positioning and toppling governments and regimes of their choice in these countries. 

Muslim diaspora living in Western countries is a positive contributory force of these societies who not only boost their personal economic growth but also deliver to the society they are living in.  There are some segments of the economy in these countries where they provide cheap and expert workforce for them.  They could not remain isolated and alien from the policies of these countries. 

The sporadic attacks in these countries are a symbol of protest and disgust by the aggrieved individuals in these countries over their pursued policies. Muslims living in Western countries are well-assimilated and tolerant never thinking of breaking the law of the land. Though some issues like the desecration of the Quran and sacrilegious cartoons ire and make them uneasy, they remain peaceful and law-abiding communities as a whole in these countries. 

The English Noble laureate poet, Rudyard Kipling said, “East is east and west is west, the twain shall never meet”.  This is not a good scenario both for Muslims and the West and would further lead to a clash of civilizations and fraying of world peace. 

There is no reverse gear in the clock. It goes only forward. But we should be aware of saying of Mark Twain that there is no repetition in history. We must know the pulse and rhyme of history to save our posterity from the bad and destructive rhymes of history! 

(the article is also published on the platform of the International Policy Digest.org)

Western Asia from a Muslim perspective

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