Saudi Arabia, the UN and the OIC
A stated Islamist goal, to replace Western civilization's liberal democratic order with a Sharia-governed Ummah [community of Muslims], now seems to involve an effort to delegitimize Western international organizations, as seen this week by Saudi Arabia's refusing a seat on the United Nations Security Council. Saudi Arabia's refusal likely reflects its view of itself as helping to establish an alternative international order based on Sharia law. For Islamists, the United Nations, like all secular international organs, lacks legitimacy.
OIC vs. UN
The Islamic world threw down the gauntlet to the secular international order in 1990 when it drafted an alternative declaration of human rights, the Cairo Declaration, based on the Sharia law. The 56 countries of what was then called the Organization of Islamic Conference, since renamed the Organization of Islamic Cooperation [OIC], criticized the UN's 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights as being insensitive to religious concepts of the non-Western world. In Saudi Arabia's UN Ambassador Abdallah al-Mouallimi's October 13, 2013 statement, explaining the sudden and unprecedented rejection of a seat on the Security Council, he cites Saudi Arabia's "historical responsibilities toward its people, Arab and Islamic nations as well as toward the peoples aspiring for peace and stability in the world." The Saudi explanation continues by enumerating a litany of UN failures to solve problems in the Mideast. This statement underscores Saudi Arabia's role as the capital of a shadow-caliphate alternative to the current liberal democratic international order.
Riyadh's sentiment was preceded by last summer's rebuttal -- which revealed the global scope of Islamist objectives -- by the Pakistani Taliban fugitive, Adnan Rashid, to the UN address by the heroic Pakistani Malala Yousafzai (then 15 years old), shot by the Taliban for having asked for women's education. In a letter, Rashid denounced Malala's naiveté for placing trust in an international organization that he claimed is a tool of the West with which to punish Islamic nations.
Rashid's riposte, however, has an unwritten corollary. He and his fellow Islamists bear allegiance to an alternate network that exists in parallel with the institutions of the current international order, the most visible symbol of which is the OIC. The OIC, which promotes Islamic social, economic, and political solidarity, is, in fact, already the second-largest international organization after the UN. It has not only attempted to negotiate disputes among Islamic factions in Muslim-majority countries, such as Iraq and Somalia, but has also helped to mediate disputes between non-Muslim-majority states and their Islamic minorities, as in the Philippines and Thailand. In adjudicating these disputes, the OIC has employed, as the legal frame of reference, the principles of Sharia law rather than international law.
One has only to examine the flag and the logo of the OIC to realize its ambition. A crescent moon encompasses the entire globe. The earth rests on a sea of green, the color of Islam, with the Kaa'ba in the center of the globe. The flag resembles the national banner of the al-Saud Kingdom (the only country among all the embassies in Washington D.C. that, on 9/11, did not lower its flag). The OIC, however, is just one of several all-Islamic multinational organs that parallel secular international community structures. There is also, for example, the International Association of Islamic Banks and several other organs for cooperation, such as the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and the Islamic States Broadcasting Organization.
Jihadi terrorists, as a matter of targeting policy, strike at representative symbols of the existing international order. One of the initial targets of Iraq-based al-Qaeda terrorists was the United Nations Special Commission in Iraq. Pakistani and Nigerian Muslim terrorists have routinely assassinated international volunteers, even those working to eradicate deadly diseases such as polio. The most extreme assassinations have occurred in Sharia-governed northern Nigeria and Pushtun tribal areas in northwestern Pakistan, where, in both places, the murders closely followed sermons that vociferously denounced ongoing inoculation campaigns. Any form of assistance from international organizations is rejected by Muslim extremists as part of a Western conspiracy to influence Muslims to abandon their faith. Inoculations against polio, for instance, have been described by Islamic extremists as a plot to sterilize Muslim children. It is more likely, however, that the radical clerics who urge believers to renounce such aid efforts are more concerned about losing control of their constituency.
Allah: Chastiser of Nations
The theological rationale for replacing the Western system of the nation-state rests in the Koran. Allah made it clear to Muhammad that all nations have a term and that all nations will be judged. The Koran contains frequent references to two pre-Islamic nations who have disappeared following the judgment of God: Ad and Thamud, two Arab-related people. The citizens of Ad are described as abnormally tall and were descendent from the biblical Noah. Ad was allegedly a powerful country, which stretched from Oman to Hadramaut (the southernmost province of Yemen, and homeland of Osama bin-Laden). Allah dispatched the Prophet Hud to warn the Ad that they must abandon their worship of false gods. Unheeding of the warning, the Ad people vanished from the world stage. The Koran asserts that the Thamud people met the same fate: oblivion.
The Koran describes Muslims as the chastisers of godless nations that refuse to amend their evil ways, and who give their hearts to Satan. In a possible attempt to explain why political tyranny triumphs temporarily, Koranic scholars agree that Allah permits nations to practice their corrupt and perverse pleasures until their tyranny and transgression reach extraordinary proportions. "We (Allah) opened the gate of all things (for them) …until they rejoiced in which (what) they were given (but) we seized them suddenly; then lo, they were in despair." This reference of course is embraced by some Muslims, who may hope that eventually the scales of justice will be balanced and that even the "Great Satan" (America) will have its day of judgment when Allah decides. Osama bin-Laden used to taunt the al-Saud rulers of Arabia that, because of their illegitimate nature and having failed to adhere to the ways of Allah, they too will soon disappear. Bin-Laden would call upon the Saudi ruling clique "to fight in Allah's way and to urge believers on because the might of Allah is stronger as is His punishment."
Some Arabs and Muslims may have derived a sense of confidence that they are Allah's new chosen people; that they will be raised by Allah to become a great nation in a manner similar to the one God promised Abraham. The Koran, for instance, describes how Allah sent 3000 angels to bolster the outnumbered Muslims against the Mecca-based Quraysh forces at the Battle of Badr in 624 A.D. Thereafter, Muhammad consolidated Muslim power throughout the Arabian Peninsula. The early Muslims were then confronted with the hostility of the world's two greatest powers, Rum (Byzantium) and Persia (Sassanid Dynasty). Both attacked Islam first, but Allah again came to the rescue, and Rum and Persia were conquered. Muslim commentators also recall how fierce were the Mongols, who devastated the Baghdad-based Abbasid Caliphate but who ultimately were converted to Islam. These historical lessons are applied to present day enemies of Islam as well.
The Umma Trumps the Nation-State
The 1648 Peace of Westphalia elevated the concept of national sovereignty above all other claims of loyalty by a country's citizens. This international agreement ended a century of warfare, which had been fueled by religious differences and the conflicting dynastic claims of the principal royal houses of Europe. The sovereignty principle was the cornerstone of the modern nation-state system, and curtailed the ability of Europe's dynastic families to exploit religious differences within European principalities as an instrument to augment their power. The Westphalia arrangements also helped to establish Western civilization's principle of the separation of church and state by acknowledging the political leadership as a society's primary power rather than the officials of the dominant religious denomination of each principality. This documentary precedent ultimately facilitated the development of a liberal, democratic, and secular order in the West. And it is this order that political Islam intends to expunge, replacing it with a new global system ruled by Islamic Sharia.
Muslim states have not emulated the West's example. In Islamic countries there is no separation of religion from politics. Moreover, the nation plays a minor role in governmental administration and legislation. Koran-based legality is the law of the land. Parenthetically, the majlis in Islamic countries is a consultative assembly lacking the authority to create law, unlike the legislatures in non-Muslim governments. In political Islam, law-making is the prerogative of Allah alone.
Islamist clerics preach that loyalty to the worldwide Muslim community, or umma, transcends any ethnic or cultural attachment to one's native land. National borders are seen as artificial constructs of the West -- certainly true of several Mideast countries, the boundaries of which were set arbitrarily by European imperial powers. This historical reality helps Islamists justify their effort to create a separate Islamic emirate that ignores the current borders between, for example, Iraq and Syria, and makes it difficult for the Islamic faithful to integrate fully into the body politic of their native lands -- as in, say, the case of U.S. Army Major Nidal Hassan.
Extremist Muslims occasionally boast that the Soviet Union, one of the modern two superpowers, disappeared a decade after its invasion of Afghanistan. Muslims attribute this victory to their fighting in the cause of Allah -- a type of conflict that is, by Koranic definition, a jihadist-led defensive war fought by mujahedeen [freedom fighters]. To fight this defensive war is a fard, or individual obligation, incumbent upon Muslims from all over the Islamic world. It was this dynamic that energized Muslims to fight U.S. forces in Iraq, the troops of the secular dictator Qaddafi of Libya, and the forces of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. The rhetoric of jihadists is replete with the same confidence in ultimate victory over the world's remaining superpower, the United States.
Restoring Muslim Lands to Islamic Governance
Nations as diverse as Israel, India and Spain also have no legitimacy in the Islamist worldview. Many Muslims believe that these countries have been unjustly ripped from the Dar al-Islam [The Abode of Islam] by the military power of polytheists and infidels. According to this Islamist axiom, the Islamist effort to return Spain to "the glorious era" of al-Andalus is well under way; it is viewed as having been stolen from the Muslims by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in 1492. And Israel is also regarded as land stolen from the Ottoman Turkish Muslims. Both al-Andalus and Israel are therefore viewed as forever part of the waqf [the entitlements of Allah]: land that once belonged to Allah, still belongs to Allah, and that can never revert. Northern India, condemned as being the world's most flagrant violator of the principle of Islamic monotheism, is also seen as eventually returning to the Muslim sovereignty that once flourished under Mughal [Mogul] dynastic rule.
Although Muslim numbers continue to grow, in large part through the proselytizing efforts enabled by oil revenues from the Arab Gulf states, many Muslims seem concerned about the challenge to Islamic values presented by the secular aspects of globalization, and the corrosive impact this may have on the faithful.
 Adnan Rashid, a former Pakistani Air Force officer, was serving a life sentence in a prison in Bannu, Pakistan for his role in a 2003 plot to kill the then President of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf. The Taliban freed him from prison last year along with about 400 other prisoners.
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