- By Sohail H. HashmiSohail H. Hashmi is associate professor of international relations at Mount Holyoke College.
As the United States struggles for the best way to get out of Iraq, the Muslim world should contemplate how to get in. Muslim civil, political, and religious leaders must move beyond the resentment and hostility engendered by the Iraq war. Not one Muslim state committed troops to the "coalition of the willing," and few have assisted beyond token measures in the postwar stabilization of the country. Animosity toward the United States and its policies in the region has grown steadily in the Muslim world. Perhaps most significant, some Islamic scholars have not only condemned the American invasion but issued fatwas calling on Muslims to assist the insurgency.
After the January elections in Iraq, however, Muslims cannot afford to continue harping on the wrongs of the war. Islamic ethics require that they help their Iraqi brethren build a more peaceful and prosperous country. As the Koran commands, "Let not enmity of any people divert you from justice. Be just: That is closest to piety."
Above all, Islamic ethics require that Muslims refrain from materially or morally assisting murderers and terrorists masquerading as mujahideen. Because many Muslims sympathize with the insurgents’ goal of driving the United States out of Iraq, they tacitly accept the atrocities these insurgents are committing. Kidnapping, torture, beheading, and the random killing of civilians through suicide bombings are not the work of mujahideen. They are the acts of criminals and should be firmly denounced as such by all Muslims.
Muslim troops approved by the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference should replace American, British, and other European forces as interim peacekeepers until Iraqi security forces are properly trained. This force cannot come from countries neighboring Iraq, which might have their own designs on its territory, but it could draw on troops from Morocco, Egypt, Pakistan, or Bangladesh.
The drafting of the country’s constitution will undoubtedly stoke old controversies within and outside Iraq about the compatibility of Islam and democracy. These disputes should not be allowed to divert attention from a central moral principle: the right of the Iraqi people to self-determination. The constitution that best provides for the security, welfare, and justice of all Iraqi citizens — Sunni and Shia, Muslim and non-Muslim — will inherently be an Islamic constitution. A successful Iraqi democracy will benefit all Arabs and all Muslims; a collapse of the Iraqi experiment into civil war will help no one.
Muslim leaders have an obligation to avoid the mistakes they committed in the lead-up to the U.S. intervention in Iraq, not just in 2003 but in 1991 as well. They had an obligation to isolate and to remove the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein when he attacked Iran, terrorized his own people, and invaded Kuwait. Yet for decades, Arab leaders either did nothing or actively supported Saddam. Their action and inaction made U.S. intervention all too easy.
Now that Saddam is facing trial for crimes against humanity, he should be tried under both international and Islamic law. Iranians and Kuwaitis should be allowed to participate in the trial, not just as aggrieved citizens of a foreign country but as Muslims victimized by a dictator who disguised himself as a Muslim ruler. One famous hadith, or saying of the prophet Muhammad, states: "The highest form of jihad is speaking truth to the tyrant." Holding Saddam accountable under Islamic law will help other victims speak truth to their tyrants.