in Iraq quagmire: Muslims to the rescue
NEW YORK - As American military casualties in Iraq move dangerously
close to the 1,000 mark, the US is seeking ways of cutting down
its troops or gradually withdrawing them from the violence-ridden
rightwing neo-conservatives, who turned a blind eye to the stereotyping
of most Muslims as potential terrorists, are now supporting a move
for the creation of an international Islamic military force to be
despatched to Iraq.
despite all the Muslim-bashing following the September 11 terrorist
attacks, the US is desperately seeking the assistance of Islamic
nations to get the American military out of the quagmire in Iraq.
harassment of Muslims at US airports, the use of the USA Patriot
Act to deprive them of basic civil rights, and the denial of visas
even to students from Muslim countries -- all in the name of fighting
terrorism -- have already created a wave of strongly anti-Bush sentiments
among American Muslims in a presidential election year.
set of new guidelines to track down terrorists has compelled most
foreign airlines to provide meticulous details of each passenger's
profile -- including how the ticket was paid for (was it by cash
or by credit card?). Only potential terrorists apparently pay for
their airline tickets with cash.
guidelines had a more intriguing and sinister proviso: every airline
has to notify the US if and when a passenger orders a Muslim meal
on board a flight.
survey done in the state of Michigan -- home for one of the largest
concentrations of Arab-Americans -- says that 42 percent of Muslim
Arabs feel their religion is not respected by mainstream US society.
by a team from the University of Michigan, the survey also revealed
that 15 percent of Arab Americans had experienced harassment or
intimidation after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the US.
9/11, it was very clear that most Americans knew very little about
Arab Americans," says Wayne Baker, the professor who led the
Michigan study group. The study also found that 50 percent of respondents
believe that American news coverage is biased against Muslims.
the only good news coming out of the survey was that 33 percent
of respondents said that a non-Arab had offered a helping hand or
made a positive comment since the September 11 attacks. The Council
on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is of the view that unfair
law enforcement tactics are byproducts of the Bush administration's
misguided war on terrorism.
these prejudices and biases, the administration has now turned to
Islamic nations for a new military force for Iraq. The initiative
to create the new force has come from Saudi Arabia, one of America's
closest allies in the Middle East. But it may turn out to be a non-starter
judging by the kidnappings of foreign nationals and the killings
of coalition soldiers by insurgents in Iraq.
kidnappings and killings have also threatened to undermine the creation
of a new multinational security force aimed at protecting UN staffers
and humanitarian workers who are planning to return to Iraq.
Iraqi insurgents want all foreign forces -- whether they are Muslims
or non-Muslims -- out of the country. They want an end to the military
occupation of Iraq.
United States has so far lobbied several Muslim countries -- including
Egypt, Algeria, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Morocco, Yemen and Jordan
-- seeking troops for the proposed new protection force. But it
has apparently hit a brick wall.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan last week announced the appointment
of Pakistani Ambassador to the United States, Ashraf Qazi, as the
new UN Special Representative for Iraq, there was speculation that
the government in Islamabad would reciprocate the gesture by providing
troops to protect UN workers.
if this was true, Annan told reporters last week that a request
did go out to "quite a few countries to offer troops."
Pakistan was one of them, he admitted. "But there was no quid
pro quo or any expectation that, because I have appointed a Pakistani,
they would give me troops," he said.
will not be the first country or the only country to provide troops
for the protection force," says Mansoor Suhail, press counsellor
to the Pakistan Mission to the United Nations.
said the Pakistan government has made it very clear that it would
provide troops only on three conditions: "Firstly, the request
has to come from the interim Iraqi government. Secondly, that request
has to be endorsed by the United Nations, and thirdly, we will go
in to Iraq only as part of a collective Islamic international force
-- not as a single military force."
Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, who is on a tour of Middle Eastern countries,
has already visited Egypt, Lebanon and Syria, lobbying for troops.
his efforts have been stymied by the increasing number of kidnappings
-- including nationals of Egypt, Pakistan, India, Kenya and Turkey.