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This article appears in the December 26, 2003 issue of Executive Intelligence Review.

Moderate Islam Voices
Shock U.S. Imperialists

Two speeches in December by leading spokesmen for what is called "moderate Islam" by the West, have sent out shock waves, especially hitting the neo-conservative war faction in the United States. Both speeches are excerpted below: the first by Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda on Dec. 8 in Jakarta; the second by Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian fighter for civil and human rights, especially those of women in the Islamic world, as she accepted the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo on Dec. 10.

The neo-cons may well have anticipated speeches which would lend credence to their imperial policies, by demanding "change and modernization" in Iran and the Arab nations. Indonesia has been championed by Paul Wolfowitz and his synarchist circles as the model of Islamic "moderation"—opposed to the supposedly radical Arab world. Ms. Ebadi, known for speaking out against aspects of the Islamic regime in Iran, was expected to put the glint of the Nobel Peace Prize on the neo-con threat of pre-emptive war against her nation. As you will see below, both Foreign Minister Wirayuda and Ms. Ebadi did quite the opposite, denouncing in no uncertain terms the destruction of international peace and justice brought on by the illegal war of aggression in Iraq.

Ms. Ebadi's speech in Oslo was broadcast internationally. In a subsequent interview on French television, Ms. Ebadi said that Islam did not need reforms: "What it needs is to be better understood, and to be interpreted more intelligently."

Foreign Minister Wirayuda's speech in Jakarta was presented to a conference sponsored by the Australian Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific, whose audience included ambassadors from Britain, France, and India, as well as U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia Skip Boyce and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Daley, who both gave half-hearted defenses of American policy in Iraq in response to the Foreign Minister's indictment.

Shirin Ebadi: Today coincides with the 55th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a declaration that begins with the recognition of the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family. Yet disasters distance humankind from the idealistic world of the authors of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 2002, almost 1.2 billion human beings lived in glaring poverty, earning less than one dollar a day. More than 50 countries were caught up in war or natural disasters. AIDS has claimed 22 million lives, and orphaned 13 million children.

And some states have violated the universal principles and laws of human rights by using the events of Sept. 11 and the war on terrorism as a pretext. Several United Nations resolutions have underlined that all states must ensure that any measures taken to combat terrorism, comply with their obligations under international law; in particular, international human-rights and humanitarian law. However, regulations restricting human rights and basic freedoms have been justified under the cloak of the war on terrorism.

Worse, these principles are also violated in Western democracies; in other words, countries that were themselves among the initial codifiers of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Hundreds of individuals who were arrested in the course of military conflicts have been imprisoned in Guantanamo, without the benefit of the rights stipulated under the international Geneva Conventions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Why is it that some decisions and resolutions of the UN Security Council are binding, while other council resolutions have no binding force? Why is it that in the past 35 years, dozens of UN resolutions concerning the occupation of the Palestinian territories by the state of Israel have not been implemented, yet, in the past 12 years, the state and people of Iraq were twice subjected to attack, military assault, economic sanctions, and, ultimately, military occupation?

'All Human Beings Are To Uphold Justice'

I am an Iranian, a descendant of Cyrus the Great. This emperor proclaimed at the pinnacle of power 2,500 years ago that he 'would not reign over the people if they did not wish it.' He promised not to force any person to change his religion and faith and guaranteed freedom for all. The Charter of Cyrus the Great should be studied in the history of human rights.

I am a Muslim. In the Koran, the Prophet of Islam has said: 'Thou shalt believe in thy faith and I in my religion.' That same divine book sees the mission of all prophets as that of inviting all human beings to uphold justice. Since the advent of Islam, Iran's civilization and culture have become imbued and infused with humanitarianism, respect for the life, belief and faith of others, propagation of tolerance and avoidance of violence, bloodshed, and war.

The luminaries of Iranian literature, such as Mowlavi [known in the West as Rumi], are emissaries of this humanitarian culture. Their message manifests itself in this poem by Saadi: "The sons of Adam are limbs of one another/Having been created of one essence."...

Some have mooted the idea of a clash of civilizations, or prescribed war and military intervention for this region. One must say to them, if you consider international human-rights laws—including a nation's right to determine its own destiny—to be universal rights; and if you believe in the superiority of parliamentary democracy over other political systems; then you cannot selfishly think only of your own security and comfort....

I have spoken of human rights as a guarantor of freedom, justice and peace. When human rights are not manifested in codified laws or put into effect by states, then human beings will be left with no choice but to rebel against oppression. If the 21st Century wishes to free itself from the cycle of violence, and avoid repetition of the disasters of the 20th Century, there is no other way except by understanding and putting into practice every human right, for all mankind irrespective of race, gender, faith, nationality, or social status. I anticipate that day.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda: Great is the impact of the Iraq war. It will take several years before it is possible for us to fully assess the enormity of its effect on the global political landscape, on the global economy, and on the sensibilities of the human race....

'An Arbitrary Pre-Emptive War'

There is even the question of whether the Iraq war is really over. It well may be that the Iraq war has been merely transformed from a conventional war in which one side had a prodigious superiority of arms and logistics, into a nation-wide guerrilla war in which superiority of arms and logistics do not count for much in a hostile and unfamiliar social terrain.... There is the dreadful prospect of the Balkanization of Iraq, with boundaries drawn on ethnic and sectarian lines.

With Presidential elections fast approaching in the United States, and as the guerrilla war intensifies, the occupying power is resorting to precipitate "Iraqization." But the political infrastructures necessary for carrying out such a policy cannot be built overnight. And if Iraqization were implemented without the necessary political infrastructures, the result could be a deadly power vacuum.

The various rival factions in Iraq today could be sucked by that power vacuum into a new and terrible round of internecine violence—a civil war. That would bring about even greater chaos and more enormous suffering to the Iraqi people.

Such dire developments would pose threats to the entire Gulf and Middle East region. It would be a setback to the cause of global peace. That is not what we wish to see in Iraq....

An arbitrary pre-emptive war has been waged against a sovereign state—arbitrary because it is without sufficient justification in international law. Does that mean that any state may now individually and arbitrarily decide to use force pre-emptively against any other state perceived as a threat?...

Though we listen hard, we do not hear any renunciation of the doctrine of arbitrary pre-emptive war. Unilateralism therefore is by no means dead. It may just be waiting for the next opportunity and plausible pretext for leaping, with guns blazing, on the next perceived threat.

'A Debacle to the Cause of Global Security

The events of the Iraq war have also clearly demonstrated the limits of military power in solving the security problems of the world. But we do not hear any acknowledgements of these limits....

The war against terrorism is a struggle for the hearts and minds of populations. That struggle calls for wise policies, not smart bombs. In Iraq, it calls for the safety of citizens when they walk on the streets, for the availability of fuel, electricity, and water, and for the assurance that their dignity is respected.

If the purpose of the narrow coalition in invading Iraq was to make their countries and the world safer and more secure, it is not at all clear that they have attained that goal. If the purpose was to liberate Iraq, today we are witnessing an Iraq occupied by foreign troops.

The coalition ousted the regime of Saddam Hussein because it supposedly threatened the region and the world with weapons of mass destruction. But until this late day, these weapons of mass destruction have not been found.

If those weapons have not been found because they do not exist, then an entire country has been leveled to the ground for no good reason.

In any case, after the war in Iraq, a keen sense of grievance has become even more pervasive all over the Muslim world. That can only be a setback in terms of global stability. For the issue of Iraq should not be viewed in isolation. How this problem is addressed will have repercussions on the longer-standing issue of Palestine and the challenge of terrorism.

Moreover, by rushing off to war without allowing the United Nations weapons inspection mission to run its full course, it is possible that the coalition has seriously damaged not only the UN inspection regime, but also the international community's nonproliferation regime.

That would make the war in Iraq a debacle to the cause of global security and peace....