Arab Leadership Quagmire – What are They Fighting For
Mahboob A Khawaja, PhD.
The contemporary Arab world is fraught with animosities. Common sense stops at various levels to reflect on the real problems. Revitalization of historic ignorance, authoritarian greed of power, sectarian hatred and missing sense of moral and intellectual visionary leadership to deal with the contemporary problems of political transformation.
American-led warfare has ruptured the Arab world’s integrity and unity on several fronts. Most recently, President Trump has challenged the global consciousness on the status of Jerusalem. Jerusalem belongs to the humanity – to Jews, Christians and Muslims alike and is not the capital of Israel. One finds irrationality and trade-in of human rights, justice and freedom in Trump’s declaration to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Americans are not born with a national cause, the political elite invents the cause to maintain control over the masses. All nations want to be seen as relevant and influential- nothing wrong there. But to pick on Jerusalem and make it a deliberate historic blunder mocks the human nature and facts of history. The Arab leaders knew for long, it was coming-up for change. Yet they were sitting motionless and did nothing to challenge the absurdity of the current US administration. Do the Arab societies have intelligent leaders and enlightened scholars to speak out on this vital issue? Why do the Arab leaders buy several billions worth of armaments from the US? Are the Arab leaders stupid and ignorant of the facts of prevalent global affairs?
The Secret History of Elizabeth I’s Alliance With Islam
Catholic Europe shunned England so the Protestant queen traded with its enemies—and changed her country’s culture forever.
By Simon Worrall
In 1570, Elizabeth I was in a bind. She had been excommunicated by the Pope, and her country was shunned by the rest of Europe. To avoid ruin, England needed allies. The queen sought help from a surprising source: the Islamic world.
From Donald Trump to Brexit supporters, many Westerners view Muslims as a threat and want to close the borders. But 500 years ago, Queen Elizabeth I made alliances with the Shah of Iran and the Ottoman Sultan. What can Elizabeth I’s relations with the Islamic world teach us?
A lot. They can teach us that there’s a form of pragmatic exchange and toleration and accommodation, which trumps ideology. One of the key stories in the book is the issue of trade and the way trade collides with religions. The reason Queen Elizabeth develops this relationship with the Islamic world is theology initially. She’s establishing a Protestant state and England has become a pariah in Catholic Europe. So she reaches out for alliances with the Islamic world.
What flows from that is an exchange of trade and goods, regardless of sectarian and theological differences. Elizabeth is not reaching out to Sultan Murad III because she’s a nice person and wants religious accord. She is doing it for hard-nosed political and commercial reasons.
Elizabeth’s alliance with Murad III was essential to her self-preservation, yet this story has largely been left out of Tudor history. Why do you think that is?
In the last few years, there’s been a parochial identification of the Tudors, reflected in the way they have featured in recent TV shows, like The Tudors. It has become an index of Englishness, connected to whiteness and Christianity. But it never tells the wider story of what’s going on internationally. I started working on 16th-century maps and what the maps were telling me was that there was an exchange between the Islamic and Christian worlds, which wasn’t being told in the official histories.
Look at Tudor portraits. It’s all Orient pearls, silk from Iran, or cotton from the Ottoman territories. The English language changes, too. Words suddenly enter, like sugar, candy, crimson, turban, and tulip, which have Arabic or Persian roots. They all come in with the trade with the Islamic world.
Elizabeth did her best to convince Sultan Murad that Protestantism and Islam were two sides of the same coin and that the true heresy was Catholicism. I’m confused …
What she does very shrewdly, when she starts to write to the Sultan in 1579, is say: Look, you and I have many similarities in terms of our theology. We do not believe in idolatry or that you should have intercession, i.e., a saint or a priest will geEt you closer to God. Protestantism says you should read the Bible and then you will be in direct contact with God. Sunni Islam says the same: You have the Koran, the word of the Prophet, you do not need saints or icons.
Elizabeth is doing this politically. What she’s saying is, you’re fighting Spanish Catholicism; I’m fighting Spanish Catholicism. What nobody mentions, of course, is Christ. [Laughs] Islam believes Jesus is a prophet, but not the son of God. So in all the correspondence, they step around this issue. They always talk about the fact that they both believe in Jesus but not how they believe in Jesus.
She does. Another extraordinary figure, Anthony Jenkins, one of the earliest Englishmen to establish diplomatic and commercial connections with Persia, is on his way back to England, traveling up the Volga River, in what we now call Greater Russia. In Astrakhan, he buys this woman, Aura Soltana. It’s not clear whether this is a slave name or the name of the place she’s come from, but he takes her back to England.
At around this time, a similar figure is established as a lady-in-waiting in Elizabeth’s court. If it’s the same person—and I believe it is—she becomes a kind of fashion adviser to the queen, telling Elizabeth how to wear certain kinds of shoes or materials. Her exotic background made her exactly the kind of person to whom Elizabeth could say, “Oh, you’ve just come back from Moscow, what are the latest catwalk fashions?”
There’s a tantalizing painting of an anonymous woman by Marcus Gheeraerts, called The Persian Lady, which some people speculate is of this woman. She’s dressed in a very opulent, oriental fashion. It could be our lady Aura Soltana, a slave who ends up in Elizabeth’s bedroom, dressing her. It’s an amazing story.
Among other goods, English merchants imported over 250 tons of Moroccan sugar into London every year. Is it true Elizabeth’s love of sugar turned her teeth black?
THE LAST GIRL My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State By Nadia Mural with Jenna Krajeski
Illustrated. 306 pp. Tim Duggan Books. $27.
How to approach a memoir of a war still being waged? “The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State” contains open wounds and painful lessons, as the Yazidi activist Nadia Murad learns how her own story can become a weapon against her — co-opted for any number of political agendas. In August 2014 Islamic State militants besieged her village of Kocho in northern Iraq. They executed nearly all the men and older women — including Murad’s mother and six brothers — and buried them in mass graves. The younger women, Murad among them, were kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery. Raped, tortured and exchanged among militants, 21-year-old Murad finds an escape route when she is sold to a jihadist in Mosul who leaves a front door unlocked. She flees into Kurdistan by posing as the wife of a Sunni man, Nasser, who risks everything to escort her to safety.
Just when Murad, and the reader, expect a flood of relief, there is another sinister turn: Murad and Nasser are detained by Kurdish officials who force them to testify about their escape with cameras rolling. The officials are eager to hear how peshmerga fighters from a rival Kurdish faction — the two groups fought a civil war in the 1990s — had abandoned the Yazidi communities they were supposed to protect. The officials swear no one will ever see the tape, but it appears on the news that same night, putting Nasser and his family in grave danger. “I was quickly learning that my story, which I still thought of as a personal tragedy, could be someone else’s political tool,” Murad writes.
Freed from captivity, Murad remains trapped inside politics. To publish “The Last Girl” right now, in the United States, means there are tricky issues of sensationalism to navigate; in a threatening climate of Islamophobia, Muslims of all kinds are vilified for the actions of one group. Yet Murad, and the team of translators and writers with whom she worked, hedge against this response with a book intricate in historical context. Visible throughout are the disastrous legacies of the American intervention that dismantled Baathist institutions and bred a generation of Iraqis raised on violence and with few prospects. In a childhood flashback, a young Nadia receives a ring from one of the many American soldiers who arrived in Kocho in the mid-2000s bearing trinkets and empty promises. During the Iraq war, Yazidis became increasingly isolated from their Sunni Arab neighbors, caught in cross hairs of sectarianism in the wake of the “coalition of the willing.”