Friday, May 19, 2006

The failure of Hamas or of the West?

US analysts expect the Hamas-led PA government to collapse within the next three months, reported al-Hayat newspaper last week.

I'd love to see Hamas fail, but they have to fail at the ballot box, not through an alliance of the US, Israel, Fatah and Arab states. Hamas as both a theological and national liberation movement is a disaster for the Palestinians and the larger Muslim world.

Theologically, it respresents a moderate branch of political Islam, but one that is still highly conservative and that works to implement an interpretation of religious law as the law of the state. That is bad enough on its own, because whenever a government claims its authority and laws are based on faith in a sacred text, there comes about a sacralization of the political, and a politicization of belief. You have government and laws based on a particular color of a faith, rather than on the principles of reason and public good.

But what is worse is that most modern Islamists try to implement Islamic law, Sharia, as a code of law, when it is really a judiciary process. So instead of reinventing the process, which has potential for highly liberal as well as highly conservative rulings, and a lot of ambiguity, they try to impose a legal code, rules, ahkam in Arabic, often with the most conservative and illiberal interpretation of these rules cherry-picked from a highly diverse Islamic heritage.

As a nationalist movement it has been a disaster for its role in sanctifiying the militarization of the second Intifada and of Palestinian society as a whole. So instead of arms being a means to achieve the end of liberation, they have been turned into fundemental part of a sacred duty, a new kind of fetish, or demi-god, of political empowerment. They have also legitimized the practice of suicide bombing, which is one of the most un-Islamic methods of warfare I am aware of. Suicide is prohibited in Islam, as is the random killing of civilians, yet Hamas has contributed to the growth in Muslim supporters of this practice, as disasterous to the Palestinian movement for national liberation as it has been to the Islamic faith.

But all of those working for the failure of Hamas on the backs of ordinary Palestinians ought to be ashamed of themselves, for their failure to protect and support simple humanitarian principles, as well as basic morality, and the must basic and fundemental tenats of democracy. They have essentially taken the lives of Palestinians living under occupation hostage and made a bargain with the devil to somehow justify the killing of more innocent civilians in the name of power politics. The short term result may be success, aborting the Hamas success at the polls, but a long term failure, effortst to suppor the development of democracy in the region.

Anybody who really cares about Palestinians should want to see Hamas fail, but it has to be a failure born of the failure of the ideology to deliver the goods, which it would have before long. But as it stands, those who are imposing and supporting the blockade on the Palestinians are giving Hamas and the worldwide "Islamic movement" a free pass for failure, and a trump card for the future.

Hamas will claim that it failed because the US, Israel and secular Arab regimes fear the success of the Islamic movement, not because once given a chance to rule, the Islamic Movement will show that it is a bankrupt, oppressive and close-minded ideology that does not suit people in the region. Instead the US, Israel and the neighboring Arab regimes have strengthen religious fundamentalism in the region, and did more to damage efforts at democratization than either Saddam Hussein or Osama Bin Laden ever did.


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