, by SYED HUSAIN PASHA
“Auron ka hai Payaam aur, mera Payaam aur hai, / Ishq key dardmand ka tarz-e-kalaam aur hai!” (Iqbal) “How different is my message from the message of all the others! / How different indeed is the cry of a heart stricken by love!”
People say: What is in a name? I think Shakespeare’s Juliet asked that question and then went on to give a rather sweet reply herself. But my answer to that question is somewhat different from Juliet’s.
To Juliet the name did not matter. For, it was the name “Capulet” that was the source of her sorrow and misfortune.
On the one hand, she, a Montague, loved Romeo, a Capulet, with a love that hurt as only true, divine love could.
On the other hand, each one of these two names, Montague and Capulet, was anathema to those in this equation that did not wear it.
That meant so long as she was a Montague, and Romeo a Capulet, their love was, with the certainty of death, headed for heartbreak.
For, neither family would let a member of the hated other family become a part of theirs.
Hence, Juliet’s youthful eagerness to get rid of all names, so her beloved Romeo will bear the hated Capulet moniker no more.
Exactly what a spirited young woman in love would do anytime anywhere.
What is in a name you say? My answer is: History and identity of nations.
Name of nations and societies is often the key to their past as well as to their present and future.
It is the code to their identity. And to their conduct and character in this world.
It is the name that tells us who nations, societies and cultures are; where they came from; and how they are likely to behave in this world.
And also to some degree how they may end up: whether in the landfill of history or in the vanguard of nations, societies and cultures on the march.
That, if you ask me, is part of what is a in a name. And there is much more in a name after that.
That is perhaps why God Almighty himself gave the name Muslim to Muslims. He named you Muslims, says the Qur’ān: Huwa sammaakumul Muslimeen!
The custom of this world is that owners and masters brand names, numbers and identities of their choosing on their possessions.
Muslims are those who opt for slavery to their master and maker, God Almighty, in lieu of slavery to their own fellow humans.
That, then, is part of what is in a name: Nations’ past, present and future.
To Britain, “Great” in terms of all the lands it had conquered and colonised and plundered and all the peoples it had subjugated and enslaved?
Or to a host of European countries, with similar credentials and accomplishments?
So, just an appendage to someone else’s identity and a convenient shortcut to others in their often bloody march to fulfil their own personal, national and racial desires, dreams and ambitions?
Why don’t you name the second of your three children “The Middle One” and send him or her marching to school with that name?
And what a story of stolen identity, adulterated history and compromised destiny does the expression “Middle East” tell!
And even translate it in their own languages through mostly unthinking, uncaring and uncultured translators, many of them without any care or respect for their culture, creed, history or geography.
Ash-Sharqul Awsat! That is what they call it.
Exactly what it says, no matter how mindless it may sound: Middle East.
Just like translating “overseas” to Maa Waraa-ul Bihaar, don’t you think? Even if you are only going from Kuwait to Iraq.
And how happily and proudly slaves embrace and flaunt the names and identities their owners and masters slap on them.
To the so-called Middle East, this name “Middle East” means a loss of their true identity and history as independent nations, societies, tribes and people with their own culture and character.
Shu’ooban wa Qabaail, as the Qur’ān called them.
What most people don’t know is that your name – your true identity – is often the first target of those who wish you ill: those who have designs on you and what you have and want to steal that from you.
When people want to demonise and destroy people and places and things, they often begin by destroying their identity.
They give them a name of their own choosing, rather than call them by the original name that these people and places had chosen for themselves.
So, the Middle East has been a favourite playground of the Colonial marauders of Europe for a long time.
And in this bloody, ruthless and evil game of nations, everything belonging to the “Middle Eastern” people has been fair game: their culture; their creed; their religion; their history; and their way of life.
Poor Juliet was not expected to know all this. Besides, even if she had known, she would gladly have sacrificed all this for Romeo.
But not you and I. We are supposed to be a bit more level-headed than that.
We are supposed to see through the wicked and evil game that others play with our names and identities and destinies.
One of the greatest triumphs of the Colonisers came when they convinced elements of the Middle East Muslim population that the Muslim Ottoman Turks were their enemy and got them to revolt against them.
The Middle East Muslims then stabbed the Muslim Ottoman Turks in the back under Christian British Colonial direction and leadership.
This resulted in the dismantling of the unifying Muslim Ottoman Turkish political umbrella and the dismemberment and splintering of the Muslim nations, societies, tribes and groups in the region.
The Christian Colonial British and the French then carved up the Muslim Middle East region into protectorates and principalities and ruled them either directly or with the help of their stooges and proxies whom they placed in control.
The picture gets a bit more complicated during and after WWII.
Independence movements rocked much of the world. Many new nations were born and many old nations were swept away by the tide of history.
A dominant pattern that emerged throughout the Middle East was that this region by and large remained under Christian Colonial domination even when many other nations of the world became independent and free.
But now the Christian Colonisers ruled the Muslim Middle Eastern region by proxy: either through a succession of military dictators whom they had trained or nurtured, or at least tacitly approved, or through hereditary quislings whom they supported.
So was General Hafez al-Assad, Tyrant of Syria for 30 years.
And Hussein, the tyrant king of Jordan for over 45 years.
And Ben Ali of Tunisia, who tyrannised the Tunisian people for 23 years before his people rose up and forced him to flee and take refuge in a foreign land, even though the Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, cursed those who would shelter a criminal on the run from justice.
And then there was Habib Bourguiba before Ben Ali who ruled the Tunisians for over 30 years with a mixture of benign neglect and brutal tyranny.
And Mubarak of Egypt who brutalised the brave but ever-patient Egyptian people for over 30 years under what are called emergency laws before the Egyptian people showed the world who they really were and put him on the run.
But General Mubarak, when he was about to depart, handed power to General Omar Suleiman, his Torturer-in-Chief, and to Field Marshal Tantawi, a man the media call “Mubarak’s Poodle,” and left behind the military regime that had dominated and tyrannised Egypt since 1952.
And General Ali Saleh of Yemen, who has done pretty much the same for over 30 years.
And Boutiflika of Algeria with his own emergency rule over the indomitable Algerian people for close to 20 years.
And Colonel Gaddafi of Libya who has enslaved and tyrannised the people of Libya for over 40 years and recklessly plundered and squandered their wealth.
And who is now, even as we go to press with this writing, is busy massacring his own people with the help of mercenaries imported from wherever he can find them.
This is a game that has been going on in the wider Middle East for quite some time though. I mean the use of mercenaries to kill and subdue local populations and others.
This is just a quick and flickering tapestry, and really a very partial and fragmentary one, of the repression and brutalization of lands and people in what we so nonchalantly lump under the euphemism of Middle East.
What we call the Middle East is a region with great history and culture and resources. The key to its future is to be able to shake off the tyrannies that shackle it and suck its blood and be truly free and democratic.
The key to Middle East’s success, then, is for it to be free.
And Middle East will be free from its Colonial masters and their native stooges and proxies, when the people of the “Middle East” will rise up, as they are doing now, and will get rid of all their tyrants, military or hereditary or civil.
The Middle East will be free when its people are able to start their life over in a transparent, tranquil, peaceful and fair and democratic political structure with freedom, justice, equal rights and dignity for all.
And when, to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, every Middle Eastern man, woman and child will reclaim their basic and “inalienable rights,” with which each and every single one of them is “endowed by their creator.”
Or as Umar, the second ruler of Islam after Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, put it, they are able to regain their natural state of freedom with which their mothers gave birth to them.
Waladat-hum ummahaatuhum ahraaraa!
That is the Promised Land of the people of the so-called Middle East.
And now that they have started their March to Freedom, the people of the so-called Middle East cannot afford to stop it before they reach the Promised Land.
And those of us who are watching from the sidelines, the least we owe them – nay, the least we owe ourselves and posterity – is to wish them Bon Voyage and God Speed!
And say: Nastaudi’ukumullaha Alladhee Laa Tadee’u Wadaa-i’uhu!
Meaning: We leave you in the hands of God who knows how to take care of those who are left in his care.
[DR. PASHA is an educator and a media specialist. To contact Dr. Pasha please visit www.islamicsolutions.com.]