As a numerical minority – of course Shia are the Muslim group most interested in Muslim unity: It means survival. It has meant this since the very death of Prophet Mohammad, and both “Muslim unity” and “the survival of Shi’ism” have been inseparable ever since.
The logic of that concept – that “Muslim unity” is the best protector of the largest minority in the Muslim world – should be self-evident. Minorities need peace to thrive – they are outnumbered in conflicts/votes.
It is only divisive imperialists, and their puppets in some Muslim countries, who reject this logical idea and propagate the opposite – that, instead, Shia are trying to divide the Muslim community; that the minority Shia are bent on war with Sunnis. Of course, that is a war which is already prohibited by Islam – faith can never be forced on someone – so such persons (and I refer to isolated extremists who hold no democratic political power anywhere in the Muslim world) are always rejected as being un-Muslim.
No thinking Muslim needs a conference to restate this millennia-old conversation and settled law. Iran’s annual International Islamic Unity Conference, which just concluded its 35th meeting, is light years beyond these phony non-issues.
What the Conference does is to provide a forum to create an Islamic-geopolitical path to resolve insecurity in the Muslim world. Such insecurity is allowed to occur, in our modern area of imperialism, because there is disunity on fundamental topics of political modernity among Muslims.
Islamic Unity Week was initiated in 1987 and is held on the week of the birthday of Prophet Mohammad. The conference is not held to proselytize in favor of Shi’ism (again, proselytizing in Islam is forbidden, which is why there are no Muslim missionaries) but to strengthen unity among Muslims in a practical sense.
Yes, the event is held under the auspices of the World Forum for Proximity of Islamic Schools of Thought, which paves the way for Islamic scholars to get to know and understand one another. Creating theological empathy and respectful intellectual understanding among Islam’s many sects is indeed an integral part of the conference. But the presence of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, the heads of Iran’s Foreign Minister and Minister of Culture, major Iranian political leaders, political scientists, communication specialists, and others attest to the very practical, very real-world results which the conference is expected to produce.
A fundamental tenet of the conference is that Muslims cannot be united as long as foreign powers take away the sovereignty of Muslims in their own countries. Thus, the practical basis of the conference is anti-imperialism, a struggle so bloody and necessary that correct unity of any type must be utilized.
We should always remember that unity among any broad masses has always been called “divisive” by the powers of imperialism – whether such powers were feudal kings who rejected even meager parliaments, or the stockholders of the East India Tea Company, or the “200 families” of France whom Leon Blum had to negotiate with, in 1936, for an 8-hour day because “Who else was there for me to negotiate with?”, or today’s 1% and the media they own all of – because the united power of any masses against the elite will effect a modern revolution in any society.
Political unity should be easier than religious unity, but the Muslim world has more of the latter than the former
When there is Muslim unity on a merely national level the result takes the form of an “Islamic republic”. It must be a republic because monarchy – the preservation of privileges which are based on blood, elitism, and favoritism, and thus the necessary rejection of economic and political equity – is always cruel and unusual punishment of the nation’s masses and their resources.
That idea did not come along in the history of the Eastern hemisphere until the advent of the 19th century, and places like Europe fought the Napoleonic Wars, smothered the democratic wave of 1848, spread the false glory of their monarchs around the globe in violent and arrogant colonialism and embarked on the horror known as World War One simply because monarchs (in alliance with their aristocracy, both old and nouveau riche) wanted to preserve their privileges. It is truly as simple as that, and to say otherwise is a lie.
Monarchy – i.e. autocracy, authoritarianism, inequality before the law, unearned privilege, and arrogance – still has enormous support and backers among most of Western Europe, and these countries have propped up their royal brethren in the Muslim world.
It is incorrect to expect global unity on a religious plane, but are we expected to still wait for unity regarding the truly horrific demands of kings and queens?
“Republican imperialism” – of which France and the United States are shining examples – is not a true republic but one which merely mouths the words of equality before the law, yet whose policies preserve the nouveau riche and keep imperialism firmly in place. In such places, patriotism is the most exalted virtue, and because it places the nation higher than even God it degrades positive patriotism into fanatical jingoism.
Following World War One the idea that a nation of people has superior characteristics, deserve special privileges, and are destined to rule over others was then changed into “fascism”. The differences between monarchy and fascism are slight as there was no fundamental overturning of property relations as in, for example, the Iranian Islamic Revolution – the banking system, medium and heavy industry, and foreign trade remained in the hands of a tiny cabal instead of the people’s hands for the people’s benefit.
Because Western nations are either former or current colonizers and/or strongholds of monarchism (either overt or latent), they suffer themselves from a vicious sectarianism. Their callous, entrenched, self-serving elite tries to foist that same sectarianism onto the Muslim World. The policy of “divide and conquer” is not something they fail to use domestically as well, of course.
This is properly called “sectarianism” outside of the West but inside the West it is given a more innocuous-sounding name – “identity politics”. Both are the politics of battles for elite privileges, of “us versus them”, of anti-unity, of an individualism which strives to know no legal bounds.
“Identity politics” is anti-republican because it is sectarian. One hears this constantly in France – they do have a revolution-from-the-masses history to draw from, after all. In the US, identity politics is cynically viewed as a necessary evil in a world with only heartless societies.
The elite who profit seek divisiveness both in California and Nebraska, just as they want divisiveness in Lebanon and Iraq, just as they now want divisiveness within Afghanistan with a flaming urgency.
It is Afghanistan that this year’s conference was focused upon, as it’s currently ground zero in the struggle for unity in the Muslim world regarding the global war against a sense of arrogant privilege which some persons call “reactionary”, which other persons call “fascism” and which other persons call “evil”.
In Part One the geopolitical foundations of Islamic Unity Week have now been described, which allows us to see the accuracy of the title of Part 2, “Iran’s Islamic Unity Week: A place free from fascist/reactionary/anti-Muslim influences”. In 2021 the Taliban’s victory in Afghanistan makes just such a haven incredibly necessary for Islamic Unity as well as global harmony.
Iran’s Islamic Unity Week: A place free from fascist/reactionary/anti-Muslim influences ( Part 2)
The intellectual unity of the Muslim World has long been established. They are similar to the Buddhists in this – they similarly have had very few epochs of “fitna” (civil war) – and dissimilar from their Christian Abrahamic brothers, who seemingly have embraced the idea that Christian unity is neither achievable nor even desirable but fundamentally antagonistic and overly-intrusive.
Indeed, it is not surprising that the Western media did not cover Iran’s 35th annual International Islamic Unity Conference, which just concluded, as it does not appear to see divisions among Christianity as a subject worth covering either?
Part One discussed the geopolitical foundations of the Conference: The struggle for unity in the Muslim world regarding the global war against a sense of arrogant privilege which some persons call “reactionary”, which other persons call “fascism” and which other persons call “evil”. Certainly, “imperialism” can be used interchangeably with all three.
The anti-imperialist victory of the Taliban over the United States-led Western coalition may wind up not being anti-imperialist at all – this was the underlying concern of this year’s conference.
The Taliban themselves were indeed this year’s target audience: it should be easily understandable that the primary aim was to show the Taliban that they are being monitored, and that there are demands by 52 Muslim countries that Shia and other groups be protected in the name of both Afghan unity and Muslim unity.
The expulsion of the Western coalition may prove to be a failure in the anti-imperialism fight if Daesh and other terrorists – who foment Muslim disunity via attacks on Shia – are not totally rejected and subdued by the new Taliban leadership. Without an inclusive government and zero tolerance for “sectarianism/identity politics”, then certainly Daesh will continue to terrorize and thus provide grounds for yet another western invasion. That would mean more decades of disunity in Afghanistan, in a victory for imperialism.
However, a Taliban which is inclusive and which expels Islamic fundamentalists would be a victory for both anti-imperialism as well as Muslim unity. It should be easy to see why for Muslims the two are the same in 2021 It should be easy to see why to the colonialist project of Israel and the individualist-worshipping Western 1% Muslim unity is as threatening to their profit lines as anti-imperialism is; as any broad unity of the masses is.
The Taliban say they have changed from decades of fighting – the conference is a reminder that 52 Muslim nations are studying them closely for proofs.
Daesh and other groups – which are known to be funded by Western imperialist nations even though they find democratic approval in no Muslim region – keep getting Western guns and money precisely because they allow the West to station Western troops in Muslim countries. It is a fundamental tenet of the International Islamic Unity Conference that Muslim nations must provide for their own security, as Iran does. The West repeatedly insists that only they are capable of providing security in the Muslim world, but the double-dealing and murderous hypocrisy of Western history in the modern Muslim world is well-known to all.
Indeed, the Muslim world is so thwarted and denied chances of self-empowerment that they are now relying on the Taliban – originally a terrorist group supported by the United States to topple a democratic government – to break the cycle of Western-backed terrorism within Muslim countries.
It seems like a very weak leg upon which to rest the Conference’s politically-modern version of Muslim unity, no?
But there is no worldwide revolution coming to save the Muslim world: The nation of Afghanistan has proven exceptional in its ability to overcome foreign invasion, and now they must prove that their exceptional ability was based on the modern political ideas of grassroots demands for sovereignty, social equity, and religious harmony.
In a real way, Iran’s Conference is an open invitation, and a plea, and a humble request for communication in order to show the Muslim world that there is another version of what is acceptable in Islam other than what is offered by the house of Saud and the obscenely-monied (which is also to say “obscenely privileged”) Persian Gulf countries. The differences are not cultural values – because Islam is the essence of all these cultures – but the most fundamentally modern political values, i.e. the rejection of feudalism, monarchy, unequal privilege, Muslim disunity, and the violence always required to uphold any of these outdated concepts.
The Conference shows that the petrodollar’s true printers and the Arab League do not have a monopoly on the political direction of the Muslim world, and – in my opinion – their actions and comprador complicity in recent decades show that they do not deserve one.
Iranians believe that due to their Islamic and modern revolution they are not some sort of shining example for the Muslim world but simply a guaranteed safe space – a place that can host open dialogue and which excludes undoubtedly reactionary/fascistic/evil intentions.
Such dialogues must be held in the name of Muslim unity, which should be about as controversial as motherhood but which are controversial because Muslim unity would upend two centuries of Western dominance, colonization and forced regression/stagnation. In 2021 the Muslim world looks to Afghanistan as a place of newfound military sovereignty – grassroots, republican and Muslim unity must immediately follow.
Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for PressTV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of ‘Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism’ as well as ‘I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China’, which is also available in simplified and traditional Chinese.