[FOUNTAIN]Understanding Islam“AAA” is the operative abbreviation in understanding Southwest Asia and the greater Islamic world. In fact, underestimating or mislabeling any of the A’s can reap havoc, and sometimes even alter the destiny of a country or a regime.
The first A stands for Allah. Allah is an object of absolute consideration in all stretches of the Islamic world, whether cultural, social or political.
Iranian politicians invoking God during the 1980s in the aftermath of the pro-American regime’s downfall, and the Taliban drawing legitimacy for its ruthless campaigns from Allah’s will are some of the telltale examples of the synthesis between religion and politics. And in Saudi Arabia, the two pillars of power lie with the royal family and the spiritual leaders. The stature of Allah is unmistakable.
The second A signifies the army. Not only in Pakistan or Afghanistan, which have a history of harboring recurrent coup d’etats and military rules, but in Central Asia, Iran and Iraq as well, erecting political and social institutions to offset the influence of the military was never so much as dared. In these regions, the military was more than the last fortress of protection for the regime or system; in many cases, the army was the system itself.
America rounds out the list of A’s. For the Saudis and Kuwaitis, who take pro-American stances, for Iraq and Syria, which hold opposite views of the U.S., and for the Pakistanis who seem to vacillate between the two extremes depending on the period in history, the meaning of America rivals those of Allah and the army.
But unlike the other A’s, America is an external entity, a different religion and an unfathomable ideology. In the wave of globalization and industrialization sweeping the planet, and as Western political and cultural values like democracy and human rights increasingly permeate the logic of the political battlefield, America is being requested, or rather pushed, to assume a newer position in the region than its current status as an external variable. Like it or not, the United States is becoming an increasingly engaged player in the political and societal landscape of Islamic nations.
The U.S. strategy of pushing the war on terrorism to Iraq may amount to an attempt to reposition the three A’s. Greater shock and disturbance may await this region after the dust of war against Iraq has settled. The huge influence of American policies demands greater prudence.
by By Kim Seok-hwan
The writer is a JoongAng Ilbo editorial writer.