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Islam is thought by most Muslims to be a true brotherhood, a brotherhood that is beyond nationalistic borders. Many Muslims feel this way; whether for good or bad, most of the men who lead what are predominately Muslim countries, do not necessarily feel this way. Perhaps it is modern day politics, perhaps it is necessity, perhaps it is a greed for power, or some other factors; nevertheless, the cracks in Islamic unity are showing.
This week, the leader of Pakistan, General Mussharraf agreed to cooperate with China in China’s suppression of people of the northwest Xiangiang province, who are 90% Muslim–the area is also called East Turkestan because of the Turkic background of the people. The Muslims of that area have never considered themselves to be part of China, but the central Han dynasty of China and the government of Djiang Ze Min considers them as part of China. The fact that this Muslim head of a Muslim head of state would go this far shows that there are serious cracks in Islam. The West, as well as Russia, also agrees with this clampdown, because Russia sees this area as analogous to Chechnya in terms of its bid for freedom from Russia. The Chechyans claim that since the other parts of the Soviet Union were given independence, they too should receive it. Interestingly enough, America has not seen the Northwest Chinese as part of the terrorist network; on the other hand, Ameica has not spoken out when the Muslims were brutally attacked by the central Chinese government, but America did scream when some Christian Chinese were harassed by the central government.
What is interesting about these areas that are asking for their freedom is that they are all heavily Islamic areas. Add to this the Moros of the Moro Liberation Front who have never seen themselves as part of the Phillipines, not to be confused with the Abu Sayef group of bandits and radicals who claim to be Muslims, who are now to be attacked by the Phillipine government with the assistance of American advisors and advanced weapons–and you have another area that is heavily Muslim that is under attack.
Some have asked, "where is the Islamic Conference"? Where is the Islamic unity. It may be that these supposedly Islamic countries are ruled by men who have more interest in their own power than in the unity of Islam. This is in direct contradiction to dicta from the Qur’an, where it is clear that Islam is to be more important as a unifying factor than the type of nationalist states that came into being in the 19th century. Most people of today have only had a sense of history within nation states, but long before this development, religions were one of the main binding forces in civilizations–certainly this was the case in Islam. However, this did not stop the Turkish Muslims from mistreating the Arab Muslims who were under their control in the latter part of the 19th and the early part of the 20th century; in fact, the Arab Muslims so re sented the treatment by the Turks, that they sided against the Turks in WWI, believing Western powers promises that they would get their freedom after WWI. It turned out that the West was as big an enemy as the Turks.
Nevertheless, there has always been a romantic idealistic notion in Islam that all Muslims are one body and that this unty should prevail in all things. However, with the Taliban in Afghanistan and the brutality they used, the autocratic power of some Middle Eastern kings, princes, emirs etc.–much of this idealism has died. This latest move by General Musharraf takes the division within Islam one step further.
Until some other great leader in Islam, such as the pan-Islamist, Gamal Abdel Nasser, or someone of the stature of a Suleiman or a Saladin, it appears as those the divisions in Islam will continue to fracture the body (the Umma) of Islam, which will ultimately weaken the power, social and political influence of the religion in the modern world. Others feel that by the growth of the religion, at the present time, 1 out of ever 5 people in the world is a Muslim, and Islam as a religion is rising fast–that Islam as a value system will prevail in the world, even if the so called "leaders" in the Muslims world don’t behave in a unified way. Only time will tell, but a the present time, it appears the latter way will be what will happen in the future–it may be then that the so-called Muslim leaders will lose their positions as a truly Islamic way, that of democracy from the people, once again replaces the western notions of kings, princes, etc.