Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Syrian Agony And The Competition For Hegemony

By Sodium

An essay has been entitled, " Observations About The Third American Presidential Debate, " has been published on October 25, 2012, on this website. The writer's intent, at that time, was to provide the readers with an outline of constructive criticisms of the entire debate that took place then, between President Barack Obama and his challenger, Governor Mitt Romney. A total number of five observations was listed in the outline. Among them, there was one observation concentrated on the current conflict in Syria. It is worth re-stating the essence of that particular observation as a background for this essay entitled, " the Syrian Agony And The Competition For Hegemony " :

The bloody conflict in Syria is so complex. Military intervention will make it bloodier. All major powers, (U.S.A., Russia, China, Britain and France ), know that without their joint agreement to end the blood shed in Syria, through the United Nation Security Council, the conflict will continue unabated, and the dangerous potential exists for the conflict to spread out from Syria to the neighboring countries, specifically to Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Israel,Turkey and Iran.

Syria is not Libya. Unless the big powers act jointly, in good faith, all the efforts of Mr.Al-Akhdhar El-Ibrahimi, the appointed United Nations' envoy for the purpose of finding ways to stop the blood shed will fail, as all attempts by Mr.Kofi Anan, the former Secretary of the United Nations, have failed before him. Ignoring this reality and substituting it with words of bellicosity, during the debate, is self-defeating and will not stop the blood shed in Syria."

Since publishing the observation referred to above, the Syrian agony has increased greatly in intensity and the conflict has become even more complex to resolve.

The recent serious disagreements amongst the different factions of the Syrian Oppositions, during their last meeting, (in May 2013), in the Turkish city of Istanbole, attest to that. Such disagreements stem from the fact that the participants in the meeting are acting by proxies, on behalf of some regional powers; and possibly some of them also on behalf of some big powers as well.. It seems to me that the competition for hegemony is fiercer amongst some regional powers, in the Syrian Oppositions, than the competition, for hegemony, between the real big powers which finally agreed to resolve the Syrian bloody conflict politically, and through the good offices of the United Nations. What has happened lately, in the ranks and files of the Syrian Oppositions, is most unfortunate, at a time when the U.S.A. and Russia have called on both the Syrian regime and Syrian Oppositions to attend an already proposed conference in June, 2013, in Geneva, Switzerland  The Syrian government has already accepted, " in principle ", to attend the proposed conference, according to Mr. Waleed  Al-Mu'alim, Foreign Minister of Syria.

Both the Syrian Government and the Syrian Oppositions must respond positively to the call for stopping the agony of Syria politically and let the Syrian people decide what kind of Syria they wish to have through legitimate elections and dialogues, not through blood shed of a war in which a fighter dared to split the chest of a dead Syrian soldier and pulled out the heart of the dead soldier and ate it. And that was precisely what I saw on the Internet.

I saw many despicable and disgusting scenes in my life time. But, I have never seen before such an act of horrible human cannibalism, as I have seen in this war in Syria.

It is highly urgent to stop the Syrian human agony that has produced such a horrendous act of cannibalism. We all are either human beings connected to one another by our sense of humanity, or we all are nothing more than cannibalistic animals in human forms.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Bodies Languages of Netanyahu,Obama And Putin.

By Sodium

Although I have hated to interrupt the plan I have already set and started for exploring in more depth the content of the book entitled, " A World Without Islam ", by Graham E. Fuller, I have found myself compelled to interrupt the plan, in order to write and publish this essay, concerning the body languages of Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, Barack Obama, President of United States of America, on one hand, and the body languages of Netanyahu and Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, on the other. A comparison must be interesting.

I watched, on the Internet, at different times, all the meetings that had taken place among those three leaders. During the first four years of Barack Obama as President of the United States, Netanyahu came to Washington DC several times and had meetings with President Obama in the White House; and even addressed the joint Congress of the United States and received more " STANDING OVATIONS " than President Obama received as Obama addressed the same joint U.S. Congress as he delivered his State of the Union addresses. You figure !

Lately, Netanyahu had made a special visit to Moscow and met with President Putin of Russia. I watched their meeting on the Internet, as well. My observations concerning the respective body languages of Netanyahu, Obama and Putin can be summed-up as follows:

A Meeting Between Obama and Netanyahu:
~  Netanyahu sitting cross-legged, facing Obama, with the bottom of his shoe pointing in the direction of Obama. This is a sign through which implicitly telling Obama that you might be the President of the mighty United States of America, but I was/am the one who dictates what policy America should have for the Middle East, since the political powers I have in and outside your government were/are numerous that could make your political life so miserable and ill received in the halls of the U.S. Congress.

~  Netanyahu was defiant, in all his meetings with Obama, as his face expressions, his eyes, hands and legs movements had said so. In fact, the personal incompatibility, between the two men, was so obvious, even some Israeli newspapers published stories about it.

~  As calmly as he could muster, President Obama took it with dignity of a good host should. He just looked at Netanyahu and listen and really said little, perhaps wisely, to avoid a possible public confrontation. Obama is too smart of a politician to be intimated by a person like Netanyahu. Obama's coolness was remarkable, indeed.

The Recent Meeting Between Putin and Netanyahu:
*  Netanyahu did not sit cross-legged, as he met, in Russia, with President Vladimir Putin. The arrogance he shined in his meetings with President Obama in the White House was totally absent as he met wet with the Russian President, Vladimir Putin.

*  Netanyahu's head was slightly pointing down, while using meekly his mouth and hands in expressing his opinions to Putin.

*  The difference between Netanyahu's body language in his meetings with Obama and his recent meeting with Putin was, indeed, striking. In his meetings with Obama, his rudeness was so obvious while his meeting, in the recent meeting with Putin, his meekness was so telling.

*  Putin's body language, in the recent meeting with Netanyahu, was expressed calmly, but tellingly by the glares of his eyes. As Netanyahu meekly talked with his mouth and hands, while his head bowing slightly down, Putin's suspecting and glaring eyes were fixed on Netanyahu, like telling Netanyahu I question every word you were/are saying to me-you had promised not to get involved in the bloody Syrian Civil War and I agreed, in return, to freeze an already scheduled-shipment of missiles to Syria. I honored my word, but you did not honor yours, since two weeks ago your air-force had attacked and destroyed certain Syrian facilities. Do you expect me to believe what you were/are saying to me now ?

These body languages are ripped for a documentary film that would be interesting and fun to watch. Where are you, Michael Moore ?  To those who have no idea who is Michael Moore:

Michael Moore is a master in directing and producing documentary films in the United States of America. He tells it as it should be told. His admirers and followers are in the millions. I am one of those millions.



Sunday, May 12, 2013

( 2 ) " Islam and the Abrahamic Faiths."

By Sodium

In this topic, Professor Graham E. Fuller, author of  " A World Without Islam " presents a provocative argument not only on Islam, but also on Christianity and Judaism as well. To outline his argument in a connective and comprehensive manner, one may do so by concentrating on the essence of his argument in a condensable, but at the same time understandable fashion:

~  Islam is an Abrahamic faith, just as Judaism and Christianity are. In fact, Islam considers The Prophet Abraham a Muslim. A verse in the Qur'an is so explicit on this point.

~  All three Abrahamic religions are closely connected. Islam is the complementary to both Judaism and Christianity.

~  The differences that exist among the three Abrahamic religions have been magnified "by politics for political ends."

~  The region, meaning the Middle East, had experienced " geopolitical tension " since time immemorial, way back before the appearance of Islam in the Seventh Century A.D.

~  Such a " geopolitical tension," in the Middle East has " persisted even after Islam appeared " and until present time.

~  The Middle East region has been a sort of mosaic in cultures, social and political divide through out its own recorded history.

~  Islam was capable of absorbing such a mosaic, but at the same time was capable of representing and perpetuating such a cultural, social, and political mosaic.

~ Although the author of the book, " A World Without Islam," pays due respect to the Prophets of the three Abrahamic religions, as Prophets of Gods, he stresses the argument that all of them were influenced by the environments, conditions, and circumstances they lived in and encountered.

~  Although Islam is a universal religion, it remains a product of the Middle Eastern environments as Christianity and Judaism are.

~  An interesting point the author stresses upon is orthodoxy that exists in each one of the three Abrahamic religions. The author has made the point that the problem is in the orthodoxy of each religion, not in the religion itself.

Any reader who is interested in knowing the details of  the above outline should consult the pages of the book directly.

The following quotations may help clarifying some of the thoughts the author has intended to convey to the readers of this topic:

Quotation One: " Power invariably attracts religion and religion attracts power. Theology is secondary. Furthermore, the enduring forces of culture, time, tradition, history, and beliefs are powerful; they possess great ability to bend new events into well-trodden channels. Islam, for all its new and incredible civilizational brilliance, was very much a product of its larger environment."

Quotation Two: " Religion is an exceptionally powerful human force. It deals with gut issues such as the meaning of life, death, war, moral behavior,, community, and sexuality.
Given the extraordinary power of  this force, can we be surprised that seats of world power should seek to harness the force of religion to their own ends ?  Such is a key focus of this book: the relationship among religion, power, and the state. The state ultimately seeks to adopt and take over religion, making it " state religion." Once tied to the state, the religion's doctrines and theology then become linked to state prestige, power, and control. The religion can be Judaism, Christianity, or Islam; it does not really matter."

Quotation Three: " It appears the world can be divided into two distinct psychological mind-sets. There are those who seek EXCLUSIVITY, who seek to draw boundaries between themselves and others, who wish to see their own beliefs as unique, quite distinct from what others believe, views in which they themselves are right and the others wrong. On the other side, there are those whose goal it is to search out common ground among beliefs, shared points of overlapping inclusivity and commonality. This happens even among believers of the same faiths. As one wise man put it: " They drew a square and left me out; I drew a circle and included them." "

Quotation Four: " Islam did not come as a theological shock to the region. But it did serve the interests of geopolitical powers of the region just as Christianity did. Thus, most of our story will involve interplay of states with religions ; at that point the power and goals of the state dominate any independent role of religion. This reality sets an important stage for a key argument of this book: that most of the history of the West's relations with the Middle East is really about the geopolitics of empires and states and not much about religion itself-regardless of the slogans, banners, and ideological fervor invoked at the popular level to support the state. Take Islam out of the equation, and there is a very good chance you'd still find the Middle East at loggerheads with the West."

Note: Next topic will be topic ( 3 ) " Power, Heresay , and the Evolution of  Christianity."   


Sunday, May 5, 2013

( 1 ) The " Introduction " Of "A World Without Islam".

By Sodium

In the " Introduction " of  the book entitled " A World Without Islam ", the author has summarized or rather outlined what the content of the book is all about plus what is mainly his intent in writing such a book.

The following points seemed to me to be of importance since they represent what one may see as the crux of the misunderstanding that exists as a conceptual state of mind, in the West as a whole, about Islam:

~  At the outset, Western public has been bombarded by words such as Jihad, Mujahideen, Mullah, Fatwa, Martyr, Wahhabi, Sharia Law, Islamic Radicals, Madrasa and Taliban. Such a flood of un-fathomable words, as poured by the media to the average Americans, for instance, has made Islam as the center of American struggle against terrorism and the " Global War on Terror ".  Islam is really innocent of such an outrageous allegation.

~  What has intensified the misunderstanding has been what the neoconservatives have done: They have labeled Islam as " Islamofascism " to serve, of course, their own political agenda, in making Islam as their enemy.

~ Because of such un-fathomable words and labeling Islam as, " Islamofascism ", have created a polarization that has reduced the relations between the West and Islam as a conflict between the " Western Values" and the " Muslim World " which is really not the case.

In order to show the readers the view points of the author of the book, the following quotations from the Introduction of the book may just do that:

Quotation One:
 " We are only superficially aware of  Middle Eastern critiques of Western policies that touch on oil, finances, political intervention, Western-sponsored coups, Western support for pro-Western dictators, and carte blanche American support for Israel in the complex Palestinian problem-which, after all, had its roots not in Islam, but in Western persecution and butchery of  European Jews. European powers have also exported their local quarrels and parleyed them into two world wars that were fought partly on Middle East soil, as was much of the Cold War as well. All this suggests that many other causative factors are at work that have at least as much explanatory power for the current turmoil as does " Islam ".

Quotation Two:
 " It is not simply a matter of " blaming the West, " as some readers might rush to suggest here. I argue that deeper geopolitical factors have created numerous confrontational factors between the East and the West that predate Islam, continued with Islam and around Islam, and may be inherent in the territorial imperatives and geopolitical outlook of  ANY states that occupy those areas, regardless of religion."

Quotation Three:
 " One point I wish to make very clear: the purpose of this book is not at all to denigrate or dismiss the role of Islam in world history. Islam has had great impact upon the world, as one of the greatest and most powerful continuous civilizations in history. No other civilization has lasted as long, over such a broad expanse of the world as Islam. I have immense regard for Islamic culture, art, sciences, philosophy, and civilization and for Muslims as well. The world would be a much more impoverished place in the absence of Islamic civilization."

Quotation Four:
 " In the end, I hope to persuade the reader that the present crisis of East-West relations or between the West and " Islam," has really very little to do with religion and everything to do with political and cultural frictions, interests, rivalries, and clashes. This conclusion matters a lot: it has everything to do with how we end up treating the problem of Western-Muslim confrontations today. Are we in fact headed toward a titanic and implacable clash of civilizations, a new Hundred Years' War or World War IV, as some have suggested ?  A small group of Muslims, Christians, and Jews actually like such a stark narrative of existential struggle . But if we conclude that religion is
NOT the central issue at work in present tensions, then we have a much better chance at dealing with and even resolving those issues, however more complex they may be. In that sense, we are hopefully working toward building a solid foundation for the three great Abrahamic faiths-Judaism, Christianity, and Islam-that share more than they dispute. It is the STATES that dispute." The emphasis is mine.

Next topic will be number (2) Islam and the Abrahamic Faiths.     


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

" A World Without Islam, " As Reviewed By Sodium.

 By Sodium

On this website, a brief review has been posted on January 18,2013 on a book entitled " A World
Without Islam " by Graham E. Fuller. In that post I have said that I might explore this book further, if time and health cooperate. Well, time and health have cooperated so far. Hence, I have no excuses to avoid digging more deeply in the content of the book which I have been provoked and fascinated by. Why I have been provoked and fascinated by the content of the book ?

By a straightforward, and in a sense blunt way, the author has treated the three Abrahamic Religions, namely Judaism, Christianity and Islam so differently as one may expect from an American author, specially from one who held a high ranking position in the American intelligence community for so many years. I could find no nepotism toward any of the three religions whatsoever. Perhaps, I feel that way because I do expect to sense a degree of bias toward one religion or another and that religion has always been the religion to which the author or debater or writer or lecturer or speech maker/orator adheres. It is really part of the human nature from which no man or a woman can truly overcome completely. What really has provoked me most is the fact that I have found the argument, as presented in the book, the complete opposite of what I expected. That and that alone has developed a challenge: whether or not I am willing to give the book more of my time and effort to explore it further in order to understand its content better. A challenge I must meet. And I do hope that the interested readers will learn something in the process of exploration, as I will.

By a sense of history, the author has cleverly connected his argument with recorded historical events . In my views, the author's argument is persuasive and sophisticated and requires truly and profoundly open minds to fully understand and appreciate what the author has tried to convey to the readers of his book. I hope that all of this will be understood and appreciated by the interested readers as I have, as they read what I can offer them by way of exploration of the content of the book.

Reviewing The Book Through A Series of 16 Different Topics:
I repeat what I have recommended in the past: the best thing to do is to get a copy of the book and read it from cover to cover. For those readers who have no accessibility to the book, I will explore the following series of topics whose titles are taken from the book, precisely as the author of the book has presented them in his marvelous and unique book:

(1) " Introduction "
(2) " Islam and the Abrahamic Faiths "
(3) " Power Heresy and the Evolution of Christianity"
(4) " Byzantium versus Rome: Warring Christian Polarity "
(5) " Islam Meets Eastern Christianity "
(6) " The Great Crusades ( 1095-1272 ) "
(7) " Shared Echoes: The Protest Reformation and Islam "
(8) " The " Third " Rome and Russia: Russia Inherits the Orthodox Legacy "
(9) " Russia and Islam: Byzantium Lives "
(10) " Muslims in the West: Loyal Citizens or Fifth Column ? "
(11) " Islam and India "
(12) " Islam and China "
(13) " Colonialism, Nationalism, Islam and the Independence Struggle "
(14) " War, Resistance, Jihad and Terrorism "
(15) " What to Do ? Toward a New Policy with the Muslim World "
(16) Sodium's Conclusions Derived From Reviewing, " A World Without Islam"

I shall attempt to explore all the topics listed above, as soon as possible. At the end, I shall outline my own personal conclusions. To do all that will take time. I ask for the readers' patience.