after 15 months,
is once again a
sovereign state. It was a
quiet, unpretentious handover of power – and just the beginning of a
process leading up to democratic elections in January.
Reaction is mixed – some saying it should have happened 15
months ago, some arguing that the handover is too soon with the
continued escalation of violence, and many pondering on how the next
few months are going to go. It
is no easy task for the new Prime Minister, Ayad Allawi or for
president Sheikh Ghazi Ajil al-Yawar.
They have the advantage of being Iraqi and of having the best
interests of their country at heart.
They have the disadvantage of suspicion from some of their
countrymen that they are coalition puppets and that
is still in
charge. They have a
challenge to built trust, and rebuild the economy.
Security is their number one issue.
you, security is also the number one issue of their neighbours.
struggling with the issue of terrorism.
Some Western companies are now offering their expatriate
employees $US1,000 monthly bonuses for staying in the country amidst
fears of targeted terrorism following the June 18 beheading of Paul
Johnson, an American engineer, by al-Qaida.
But the Saudis have now taken a very interesting approach to
dealing with terrorism.
Prince Abdullah, the day to day ruler of
has announced a
month long amnesty indicating that those who gave themselves up would
be treated leniently. And
there is Islamic reasoning behind the process.
These extremist militants are fighting, however misguided their
ideals or understanding, in the name of Islam.
But Islam has a merciful side to it, and when you, as a devout
Muslim, are offered mercy, it becomes you, as a faithful follower, to
also offer mercy. The
month long amnesty is a kind of “stick and carrot” approach, but
it follows the example of
that used a
similar process to deal with the rise of fundamentalist terrorism –
and hasn’t had a major terrorist attack for seven years.
Saudi’s have already had some success.
Othman al-Amri was named on their most wanted list last
December as a senior Al-Qaida operative.
Under the amnesty, he’s handed himself in.
Last week Saaban al-Shihri another
militant turned himself in. He
appeared on state television last Tuesday to
repent and apologise for harming the kingdom.
He stated. "One must think and
consult with (Muslim) scholars...who have called for repentance, a
return to God and condemned these acts as crimes. All of society
rejects these acts".
others will follow. Perhaps
the Egyptian model can work – and perhaps that’s the reason for
similar types of overtures being made by the new leadership in
More than 300 Iraqi’s have been killed this last month in car
bombings, attacks on police stations and army recruitment centres and
well as the targeted assassinations.
In addition there have been the kidnappings.
So the stick here is the threat to impose selected curfews, set
up more roadblocks, conduct house to house searches and maybe even
restore the death penalty or impose martial law.
The carrot, is the idea of extending an olive branch to those
Iraqis who have been opposing the coalition led administration but who
may now, hopefully, be brought along side the Iraqi leadership
following the same Islamic principles.
good news from
was that the three Turkish hostages were released on Wednesday.
After the recent executions of hostages that must be a relief
to their families. Turkish
officials, celebrated the reported release of their countrymen, but
condemned taking hostages as against Islam.
cannot understand how people who belong to the same religion as me can
do such a thing,'' Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters.
''Such actions do not belong in our religion.''
we can start to see more positive outcomes like this, then I, for one,
will be happier. I’ve
spend some time looking at the Islamic way of dealing with the current
terrorism problem – and I think that is important – but in
listening to a BBC radio documentary, In
the footsteps of Mohammed, I also learnt something about the roots
of Islam and the strong early links to Jewish Christianity.
It discussed, from an early Islamic point of view the
difficulty of taking Jesus principle of “turning the other cheek”
in the face of oppression – and almost extermination.
Yet this is a principle that can, it seems, bring people around
to a more reasoned point of view.
Add to that the Biblical injunctions to support the poor, the
oppressed and the marginalized, the ideals of the Lord’s prayer to
“forgive as we are forgiven, and I think there is common ground to
pray for the people of
They’ve been facing difficult times for many years.
They deserve a better future.
And whether Muslim, Christian – or any other religion,
let’s use those principles of humility, forgiveness, and hope to
build community both for a better future in the Middle East, but also,
perhaps, more locally, where I really can make a difference.