Saturday, December 16, 2006
However much you re-label the jar, the contents remain the same
"There must be some deeply ingrained sectarian/tribal dimension to Arab society that impedes democratisation and the evolution of a modern state. As if it is not enough that doctrinal differences within the same religion escalate into sectarian divides, political differences are almost invariably cast and played out as tribal or sectarian rivalries. Clearly such "support your brother right or wrong" attitudes are at odds, not only with conceptions of the modern polity but with the codified value systems of universalist religions that hold the individual responsible for his conduct before God.
Arab societies face enough problems of their own making -- the transition to modernism, to the nation-state, and to the concept of the individual as citizen -- without having to contend with the attempts of colonialist powers, since Sykes-Picot and San Remo, to fragment the only historical basis -- the cultural and geographic bond -- upon which the Arabs could build a nation.
The colonialists took a straight-edge ruler in order to carve up the region into separate political entities which they administered by relying on existing organic tribal and sectarian affiliations, some of which they elevated over others by granting them positions of power and influence in the government and the army........
....Sectarianism by any other name: now the idea is to support "moderate Sunnis". But several problems muddy this tidy picture. Michel Aoun and the Free National Movement has aligned itself with the resistance, as if to deliberately expose the fallacy of the new nomenclature. Hamas (the Sunni-affiliated Palestinian resistance movement) is allied with (the Shia) Hizbullah and the fact that it has been labelled "terrorist" does not obviate the blurring of the Sunni-Shia divide that Israel and the US are playing on. Then there is the Iraqi resistance, which defies any neat categorisation.....