Darfur: Rallying to the wrong cause

At ease?

For the first time in its history, the International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for a sitting president of a country: Omar Al Bashir of Sudan. He is charged with five counts of crimes against humanity and two counts of war crimes for the crisis in Darfur. According to the United Nations, up to 300,000 people have been killed in the conflict, the overwhelming majority of them being innocent noncombatants. Moreover, scores of women have been raped, villages have been plundered (and bombed), and hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee.

What makes Darfur unique is that both parties to the conflict are Muslim. In Darfur, Muslim brother has killed Muslim brother; Muslim brother has raped Muslim sister; Muslim brother has destroyed Muslim mosques; Muslim brother has destroyed copies of the Qur’an. And the reaction of the Muslim world has been silence… deafening silence. The conflict in Darfur has continued to fester for years on end – when the world allegedly said “No More” after Rwanda – and the Muslim world barely lifted a finger. In fact, in Rwanda it has been documented that Muslims helped protect their non-Muslim neighbors from being slaughtered. Sadly, the Muslims in Darfur were offered no such help by their brothers and sisters around the world.

Enter the ICC and its arrest warrant for President Al Bashir. His reaction, predictably, was angry defiance. In a rally to supporters, Bashir angrily cried, “The true criminals are the leaders of the United States and Europe,” claiming this warrant was an act of “neo-colonialism.” In addition, President Al Bashir expelled 13 international and 3 local aid organizations for allegedly helping to “spy for the ICC.” These organizations include Oxfam, Save the Children, and Medicins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders). In fact, the Guardian reported on March 13 that three Western aid workers with MSF were abducted in the Darfur region.

To make matters worse, African and Arab allies of Sudan, along with China, have called on the ICC to suspend the warrant, and Muslim countries have rallied to Sudan’s side. Representatives from Iran, Yemen, Syria, Jordan, and Palestine all visited the Sudanese capital of Khartoum in a show of support for the indicted Presdient Al Bashir. The Organization of the Islamic Conference also condemned the ICC arrest warrant, saying it undermines past efforts to solve the crisis in Darfur.

Now, it must be said that a legitimate question is raised about why the ICC chose to issue this indictment against this president at this time. Indeed, there are other war criminals who are walking the earth freely without any fear of being arrested by the ICC. Yet, that fact is irrelevant to the issue of Darfur: clearly crimes have been – and are currently being – committed in Darfur and they must be stopped now, and if it takes an ICC indictment of President Al Bashir to spur action, then so be it.

Still, how could it be that it had to take an indictment by the ICC to rally the Muslim world to the cause of Darfur, in support of a possible war criminal at that? Why have the Muslims abandoned the principles of their faith? How could it be that for years, Muslim has been killing, raping, and pillaging other Muslims unabated?

Did not the Qur’an say: “If two parties among the Believers fall into quarrel, make peace between them. If, however, one of them transgresses beyond bounds against the other, the fight (all of you) against the party that transgresses until it complies with the command of God” (49:9)? Do these words have no meaning for the Muslim Ummah today? Are they just beautiful words to be recited on Fridays and during Ramadan, but with no practical application? Where were the hearings about Darfur in the various Muslim capitals across the world, like the hearings in Washington, D.C.? Where were the mass demonstrations by Muslims against the violence in Darfur?

What has happened to the people of Muhammad (pbuh)?

What has happened to the followers of the man who said that if his own daughter Fatima committed a crime, he himself would punish her? Rallying to the side of President Al Bashir now that he is indicted is not a case of “support your brother, right or wrong” as the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said. Quite the contrary. The Prophet (pbuh) said that to support one’s brother when he is wrong is to stop him from committing the wrong in the first place. The Muslim world has failed miserably in this respect.

How can the Muslim world sit idly by and watch as its fellow Muslims were being raped and killed by other Muslims? How can Muslims say – with a straight face – that they showed their “love for the Prophet” by sometimes violently protesting a bunch of cartoons, yet do almost nothing to stop the bloodshed in Darfur? The Prophet (pbuh) would have been far more concerned about the killing in Darfur than the stupid cartoons depicting him.

What’s more, this entire ICC debacle has exposed a serious crisis of leadership in the Muslim world. It is quite clear that the government of Sudan is at least complicit in the murder, rape, and pillage of the inhabitants of Darfur by the janjaweed militias, if not outright involved. When the ICC moved to do something about the conflict, President Bashir reacted by expelling NGOs that had nothing to do with the ICC, thereby putting millions of people at risk of further suffering. And many Muslims cheered him on!

What has happened to the people of Muhammad (pbuh)?

Once again, there very well may be a political motive behind the ICC’s arrest warrant against President Bashir. That possibility, however, does not refute the fact that, had the Muslims stayed true to the principles of their faith, there would have been no need for the ICC to act. Had the Muslims listened to their own holy scripture which says, “make peace between your two (contending) brothers and fear God that you may receive Mercy” (49:10), the conflict in Darfur would have ended long ago. Had the Muslims truly loved their Prophet (pbuh), they would have embodied his statement: “A Muslim is one who does not harm other Muslims with his tongue or hands.”

Hesham A. Hassaballa is a Chicago physician and writer. He is the co-author of “The Beliefnet Guide to Islam,” published by Doubleday in 2006. His blog is at godfaithpen.com.


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