Politics & Policy

Reform Begins At Home

Sudan's anti-Muslim policies.

The Arab League wound up its lackadaisical weekend summit with several stunning displays of hypocrisy.

It condemned “the crimes and inhumane and immoral practices committed by the occupying soldiers” against prisoners in Iraq. The events at Abu Ghraib are terrible enough, but the idea that members of the Arab League are in any moral position to do any condemning is laughable. Many of its members are major-league torturers: Human-rights groups have been telling U.S. forces that it would be a violation of international law even to transfer prisoners to the custody of the likes of Egypt or Syria.

The Arab League also condemned Israel for purportedly conducting “military [operations]…that target civilians without distinction.” While it did so, the League managed to ignore the elephant in their living room, indeed, sitting in their lap: The fact that one of their members, Sudan, which is daily and hourly engaged in what the U.S. Congress, U.N. functionaries, Freedom House, and many other human-rights groups have labeled war crimes, and even genocide.

While the summit went on, the Sudanese government continued its war on the Fur, Masalit, and Zaghawa people in Darfur, in the west of the country. Government-backed militias are burning towns and villages, and engaging in systematic rape and murder. In recent months, more than 10,000 people have been killed and 110,000 have fled to neighboring Chad, with perhaps another million displaced. Many of those forced to flee their villages are now held in camps where they face starvation.

The targets of this policy are mainly Muslims–the inhabitants of western Sudan, who have the misfortune of being the “wrong sort” of Muslim: traditional, Sufi, easygoing Africans, at peace with their neighbors. They are rebelling against discrimination by the Muslim Brotherhood-inspired execration of Islam propagated by the ruling Sudanese National Islamic Front, a brother of Hamas.

How has the Arab League addressed this? As usual by ignoring it. Does it ignore it because it does not care about fundamental human suffering, because it would rather play political games with the all too real but, on a Sudanese scale, comparatively lesser suffering of the Palestinians? Does it not care about Muslims who are dying in their thousands, and soon to be tens of thousands, and perhaps hundreds of thousands? Will it ignore this as it did Algeria, where Islamists massacred over a 100,000 Muslims, disemboweling them, tearing up pregnant women, and sawing off heads? As it ignored the earlier two million, largely Christian and animist, Sudanese who died owing to government policies of forced starvation? Or is it simply racist in ignoring what Arabs do to Muslims who happen to be non-Arab, black Africans.

Whatever it is, members of the Arab League should be questioned, exposed, challenged, mocked, pilloried, castigated, shamed, and humiliated for their vile abdication of any real human responsibility.

And why is our media doing so little? Why is there nothing in the broadcast media? Why do they let the Arab League off the hook? As we know all too well, visuals can drive a story and compel attention. Where are the photos and videos of Darfur?

If we do not act, then we may well sit here five years from now and hear the equivalents of Kofi Annan and Bill Clinton once more bleating about how the U.N. and the U.S. did not do enough in Rwanda. So far only America has shown much leadership on this issue. The U.N. Human Rights Commission managed only a watery resolution on Sudan, and even elected this practitioner of genocide to the commission itself. The U.S. needs to pressure the Arab League to begin reforming Sudan, and to influence the Europeans to put their sense of moral superiority to some good use.

Paul Marshall is senior fellow at Freedom House’s Center for Religious Freedom. He is author of Islam at the Crossroads and God and the Constitution: Christianity and American Politics.


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