It is customary for Muslims to greet one another with the celebratory salutations for Eid Al-Fitr and Al-Adha.
“Eid Mubarak (Blessed Holy Day) or “Kul ‘am wantum bi kheir (May you be in goodness every year) are some of the things Muslims say around this time in the lunar calendar.
I hear these greetings from co-workers, neighbors, taxi drivers, day laborers, store vendors – everywhere. I do return the greeting in kind . but with a small disclaimer attached.
I begin by explaining that as a Muslim, I do not celebrate Eid because there is nothing worth celebrating in the ummah – the nations of Islam.
I look eastward and I see the cataclysm that has become Iraq, with Muslim killing Muslim killing US and foreign occupier killing Arabs. I look at how a country once prosperous and stable has been utterly ruined and left with no infrastructure, no order, no security.
Some six hundred thousand (600,000) Iraqis have died since this great war of liberation and democracy; another six million are fleeing or have fled the country. Nearly 400 Iraqis are killed every day in Baghdad alone.
The Christian community in Iraq, once proud, thriving and as ancient as the teachings of Christ, is now a mere shadow of its presence in the Fertile Crescent. They have been hounded by Islamic extremists; their houses have been raided, their churches bombed, their priests killed.
The Palestinian community in Iraq, refugees and integrated into Iraqi society since the 1950s, have been targeted by Iranian-based death squads simply because Saddam Hussein provided them with privileges. Landless in Palestine, and now landless in Iraq.
And the Muslim nations watch.
Muslim clerics, both Shiite and Sunni, have been slaughtered, tortured, decapitated. Mosques have been destroyed, used as torture chambers, weapons storage facilities. Muslims destroying holy Muslim shrines, US soldiers destroying holy Muslim shrines, and still the ummah watched.
I could write an entire volume of books on the debacle in Iraq but alas, there are many other disturbing events unfolding in yet other Muslim countries.
In Lebanon, where Israel recently utterly destroyed the south in its 34-day war this past summer, Muslims march in the streets hailing the great victory against the Zionist state. Meanwhile, Lebanon’s economy, just beginning to show signs of recovery after the bloodshed of the 1975 Civil War, is once again in shambles.
There are hungry people in Lebanon. In the south and in Beirut itself. There is no infrastructure to speak of in the south. Landmines and unexploded ordnance continue to maim and murder Lebanese children.
But, the infamous Lebanese houses of the mighty insist on waging their mini-wars. The Aouns, the Geageas, the Jumblatts and the Nasrallahs.
All fighting it out, all wanting a slice of the pie and all wielded by foreign powers set on ensuring Lebanon never regain its former opulence.
And still the Muslim world watched. Naively, however, some did protest; some did appeal for supporting the Lebanese “resistance not realizing the resistance was never really Lebanese but Iranian.
Some, never realized the growing Shiite-Sunni schism in the Middle East. They did not hear when King Abdullah II of Jordan warned of this growing threat. They did not hear when President Hosni Mubarak tried to focus on the threat of Iran’s dominance in Iraq.
And in Lebanon.
And now Iran has become more brazen, scoffing at the international community, threatening the Arabs, addressing its neighbors not as Arabs but as “Sunni powers .
Instead of realizing the dangers threatening to tear apart Lebanon in the west and Iraq in the east, the conscience of the Muslim world was drowned out in the shake, rattle, and roll of the belly dancing music videos from all the plastic harlots festooning our screens.
In Palestine, the situation is no different. Ironically, Palestine too is one of the areas the Bush administration stressed needed to apply democratic virtues and principles. Like Lebanon and Iraq, where US democracy is busy at work undermining the social and political fabrics that keep the nations stable, Palestine is about to witness its own civil war.
No, forget the Israelis. They have enough Palestinian blood on their hands. Let us instead have Palestinians kill Palestinians, which is what unraveled as Fatah and Hamas started firing on one another.
Children, women, elders, community leaders – it did not matter who got killed. Hamas and Fatah both claimed to be champions of Islam, both claimed to be champions of the resistance and the only legitimate leadership.
Hamas, holding the Quran in their hands, marched against Fatah, holding portraits of Abbas in their hands.
Then we have the conflict in Sudan, which has not been resolved by Muslim nations and which threatened to invite foreign troops on African soil. Have we not had enough of colonialism?
The crisis in southern and western Sudan was so grave that it nearly pulled Chad into a regional conflict, which would invariably drag Libya into the fray.
And poor Somalia, an Arab, Muslim nation which has not known statehood for more than 15 years. The conflict in Somalia, which nearly escalated to a war with neighboring Ethiopia, is still dominating headlines – and fears of regional powers.
A pan-African war. An Arab civil war. A Shiite-Sunni war.
Apparently, these issues are not important enough and pale in comparison to the three-week long war of words spawned by Culture Minister Farouk Hosni’s remarks over the veil.
For three weeks, Parliament hosted vitriol and ranting galore as MPs took to the podium to lambaste Hosni. Meanwhile, inflation increased between October and November reaching some 12.2 percent.
Thousands of Egyptians are without jobs, clamoring for any means to feed their families.
Crime is peaking, with social scientists telling The Daily Star Egypt that this past Ramadan – a month of piety, virtue, compassion and humanity – witnessed a spike in crime for the most mundane of reasons.
A woman failed to prepare the evening iftar meal for her husband so he beat her to death.
These are not isolated incidents.
Take for example the shocking child rape-murders committed by one Ramadan Mansour, 26, who admitted how much he enjoyed sexually abusing young boys before murdering them or throwing them in the path of trains.
But, no, Hosni’s remarks were far more important than any of the social or economic woes in the country.
Not to be outdone by Hosni’s flair and wit, of course, the Muslim Brotherhood, who once had a decent argument to be made about political expression and human rights, shot themselves in the collective feet with their little show of bravado a few weeks ago.
Clad in black balaclavas, appearing more like the death squads of Iraq and the suicide bombers of Hamas, a number of Muslim Brotherhood students staged a parade, a thumbing of the nose at authorities, at Al Azhar University.
My, my. The Al Azhar University and institution which for more than a thousand years has been the center of Islamic learning for Muslims. The university which is filled with students from Malaysia, Indonesia, Russia, Pakistan as well as from neighboring countries is no longer the place to learn about the purity and richness of Islamic history and theology.
It is a staging ground, a showplace for the foundation of militia. An arena like the circus maximus where ancient gladiators did once do battle, but in Cairo, it is where students believe they have the chutzpah to taunt the government.
Of course, the uproar against this show of force was paramount. Of course, the media attacked the Muslim Brotherhood for allowing its young members to stage such arrogance. And of course, the Muslim Brotherhood hit back saying the militia-style parade was in response to what they called brutal repression by the police.
Very well, they may or may not have a point, depending on which side of the aisle you are on. But if the Brotherhood have legitimate concerns and grievances, this is not the way to go about it.
pression in Egyptian minds is that the Brotherhood is becoming increasingly militant, that new cadres of youth are becoming hostile, impatient, and astoundingly militaristic.
In one television show, a brilliant young medical student, who belonged to the Muslim Brotherhood, said the Al Azhar parade was similar in tone to the respect Hamas militia showed in the aftermath of their leader Sheikh Yassin’s assassination by the Israeli Aggression Force (IAF).
I believe the upper echelons of the Muslim Brotherhood were shocked by the behavior of their young recruits. I have met Essam Erian, head of the Brotherhood’s political department, and once on a plane trip to Qatar, I had the privilege of being seated next to him. I spoke with him at length and I was very impressed with how soft-spoken he was.
How educated and sophisticated he was.
Educated and sophisticated. Bear those words in mind. That is what students are meant to pursue in an institution of higher learning.
Many in the Brotherhood complained that in the security sweep after the militia-style show of force, several bright students in the medical faculty were rounded up and would miss their final exams.
I say they should have thought about their final exams before supporting an exhibit of sheer juvenile delinquency.
Egypt needs bright doctors, technicians, engineers, professionals, specialists. The whole Arab and Muslim worlds are in dire need of a technocracy.
Look to Iraq to see what the political fighting has done. Look to Lebanon to see a country in standstill.
Look to Somalia to contemplate how political fighting has left its people without a nation.
Meanwhile, the West dominates politically, scientifically, industrially. Perhaps, little surprise Italy’s former uncouth premier had the audacity to say the Muslim world was uncivilized.
We, the Muslims who translated the Greek classics, who excelled in mathematics, astronomy and medicine. Sadly, I note that the first medical institute in history was in a place called Kufa in southern Iraq.
And Iraq has come undone.
Let 2007 be the awakening of a united Islamic conscience which is true to its foundations as a divinely-inspired religion tolerant of other faiths and upholding the very basic tenets of human rights.
Let 2007 be the awakening of an Arab spirit – Muslim and Christian – which will heal what ails this part of the world.
Until such a time, I will not celebrate Eid.
Firas Al-Atraqchi is the Editor of THE DAILY STAR EGYPT