Anatomy of neo-colonialism Dr Muzaffar Iqbal Friday, April 01, 2011

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The day I arrived in Lahore, it seemed that the greatest event in the world was the quarter final between Pakistan and the West Indies. Bombs were raining down from the sky in Libya and the so-called international forces were violating the terms of the UN resolution which they had concocted to invade Libya. Yet, almost everyone in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan was glued to TV sets, watching a meaningless encounter in Bangladesh which had no consequence for their country’s desperate situation or for their own lives other than the remote possibility that it may provide an emotional relief of sorts if Pakistan won the match.

This was, of course, not entirely unexpected, yet it was shocking as one expected a certain degree of awareness that the US-led bombing campaign is destroying the infra-structure of a Muslim country and endangering the lives of their brethren in faith. But this apathy seemed “innocence” compared to the aggressive position of many Arab countries in this new western aggression against a Muslim country. The fact that the Arab League and the OIC had actually provided the necessary – although flimsy – raison d’etre for this new western crusade against Muslims, which was bound to result in a civil war in Libya, underscores the emergence of a new western strategy of colonising the Muslim world, especially the oil-rich countries.

The anatomy of this neo-colonialism, now in its initial phase, is already clear: all regimes which do not comply, should be changed. Regime change, accomplished at a huge expense in Iraq, was the first experiment; it has now become a much easier process: ferment revolt from within, then watch the situation and control it from behind the stage. Wherever possible, attempt a Jasmine revolution, where this is not possible, device a mechanism for covert military action and when that also fails, use the ever-willing mistress called the United Nations, drawing in the non-representative “Muslim” bodies such as the OIC and the Arab League. This mechanism is not new; the United States has already unsuccessfully tried it against Iran. It did not work in Iran for various reasons specific to Iran, but it is fairly workable in the rest of the Muslim world.

Many readers may wonder why the western powers need a regime change when a Hosni Mubarak or a Musharraf was already doing what they wanted. The answer is: every puppet has an expiry date and when that date comes, he must go. He has become useless, because he cannot move on to the next stage due to inherent limitations in his first role. Musharraf of Pakistan, for example, was already doing the required job, but growing opposition, and his own blown up ego had become hurdles to quick results desired by his masters; so he was shown the exit door. The same goes for puppets elsewhere.

There is also another dimension of this new strategy. In Bahrain, for instance, the United States wanted to exert pressure, sell more arms not only to the tiny Gulf state but also to the neighbouring Saudi Arabia and hence a certain “controlled” pressure has been brought to bear on the potentate who obliged immediately.

Some may construe this anatomy of neo-colonialism as another conspiracy theory, but a brief look at the historical pattern through which this mechanism has emerged can provide a reasoned argument against such a claim.

The colonised world was set free by France, Italy, and Britain shortly after the Second World War. This was not a voluntary exit from the lands which these colonisers had plundered, desecrated, and destroyed for over a century – in some cases for two centuries. The exit was forced by the awakened populace, whose “fathers of the nation” nonetheless, were soon replaced or co-opted – by the departing colonisers who were now joined by the United States of America in a global effort to control the natural resources of the colonies.

The forty year period between 1960 and 2000 provides ample historical evidence to prove that the oil and minerals of the Muslim world were the most obvious material reason for various western aggressions against them. The post-9/11 period, however, is a different era; now it is not just oil, gold, and minerals, but the entire make-up of the Muslim world that is the target; even the taste buds of the new generation should be changed to make the terrible and unhealthy McDonalds seem delicious food to them.

This added factor in neo-colonialism has its ideological, even religious raison d’etre, but what matters most is the lack of comprehension of the extent of devastation being wrought. The entire Muslim world seems fast asleep. This heedlessness is infused through a massive media campaign, numerous economic, political, and cultural interventions and outright military aggression.

Yet another aspect of the anatomy of neo-colonialism is the time-tested divide and rule policy. In the post-colonial phase, divisions within the Muslim polity are both ideological and material. The most obvious proof of the success of this policy is the raging fever of Shia-Sunni conflict which has gripped the Arab world since the emergence of a Shia government there. In addition, even the Sunni house of Islam has been fractured. This is more of a problem in Pakistan than the Arab world, where the intra-sectarian disharmony is not so pronounced.

The most obvious question which needs to be answered at this early stage of neo-colonialism is: where would this lead to and how long will it last? Obviously, no one can predict the future, but if history and an objective understanding of the current state of affairs can be trusted, the Muslim world is heading towards a transmutation from within which will destroy the entire fabric of the Islamic civilisation, leaving behind an “individualised Islam”, with only a veneer of a common identity. Thus, in not-too-distant a future, one can see a Lebanon like situation in many parts of the Muslim world where one will be free to go to a bar or a mosque and where gambling houses and places of worship will exist side by side.

The writer is a freelance columnist.


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