A call by Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz for a Muslim solidarity conference at the end of Ramadan seeks to revive the “Islamic Solidarity” movement that was active in the 1960s and that was founded by late King Faisal.
But the mentioning of the “solidarity movement” by King Abdullah soon brought memories of King Faisal and whatever came with the movement from protocols and sentiments.
It is hard to find a definition for Muslim solidarity, but nothing describes it best than its name. The solidarity between Muslims is where the movement derives its power back then and today.
It is a solidarity call for all Muslims, regardless of their sect or color…Muslims and that’s it.
During that era ‘Muslims and that’s enough’ was a statement that was widespread and was used as headlines for Saudi TV and radio stations.
The movement was also against communism.
Communism which, was activated and boosted by revolutions and coups, was the youths’ choice for change, including for Arabs and Muslim. Therefore, the movement entered with communism a fierce battle.
The movement had to also face Arabism, which existed as an alternative to Islam, but it was not against Arabism altogether. The late king Faisal after all was proud of his Arab heritage but for him Islam came first.
He was able to form a current, a mold of Arabism and Islamism, and was able to create a balance that has lessened from the Arabism zealously and the general widespread discourse of progressive Arab-zealous forces at the time.
The movement was to defend Islam, when Islam’s values and pillars were fiercely attacked, and when Arabs were divided between two camps: “reactionaries” and the “progressives.”
The Islamists, who included traditional religious and fatwa intuitions, fell in the reactionary camp, and faced campaigns against what they stood for by the progressive camps. The Islamists were transformed to mere decor that surrounded the “leader,” who had support coming from the laborers, farmers, intellectuals and artists.
At the time, the Islamic movement was arrested… it was whipped and tortured, and the execution of high-ranking religious scholars was an issue that on one protested against.
It is not imagined today to see a constitutional religious scholar being dragged and executed like what happened to Abdulqader Awda, or for a thinker like Sayid Qutub, or like Abdulaziz al-Badri, without the protests of Cairo and Baghdad. But this had happened in the 1960s.
Whoever was able to salvage himself, became a refugee, and found a place for himself under the movement’s wide umbrella.
The movement welcomed them, and they became allies and were active in its institutions at the time.
The Islamists did not differ with their surrounding on “article two” in the constitution or on statements such as “Sharia to be the basis of the country’s laws.” Defending Islam was the number one priority, at the time.
With the weakening of Islamist sentiments in the Arab street, Arabs saw religiousness as anti-modernity especially amid youth circles.
I remember a young man in my neighborhood, he was known for his diligence to pray on time, and he was famed because for his commitment, and this was in Medina! Then how about youths in Cairo and Damascus?
The movement today returns to the Islamic world in a different fashion from 1975 when its founder left.
Communism fell, leftists in Arab world have receded down even intellectually, Arabism too backtracked and reconciled with Islam. Islamists returned consolidated and even more emboldened and not just politically but also among the populace.
However, the movement faces two new challenges which did not exist at the time of its launch:
The sharp rise in sectarianism that ailed the Muslim nations and globalization with its tech and international organizations
The second challenge, globalization, is easier than the first one, although it is more important in the long run, because it is the cultural challenge for Islam, which we say is attainable in every moment and place – this was also one of the most famous slogans of that era. The conflict is an intellectual one; it is set by Islam’s ability to succeed in the governing and to succeed according to the globalization criteria and that’s the provision of freedom, justice, equality, and prosperity as well. This is the political Islam responsibility, which has put all Islam now, in a challenging position with its arrival to power.
As for the sectarian division, it is the urgent situation whose flame is burning now with the repercussions of the Syrian Revolution that refused to be sectarian, and whose outcome will have a heavy impact on the religious situation in the region.
Some went on to say that the launch of Islamic solidarity movement again, is in the context of the Sunni- Shiite conflict, and that it comes before the “Non-Aligned” Summit that will take place in Tehran 10 days after the Mecca summit. Some of what is mentioned above is true, however the objective is neither Iran nor the Shiites, but it is sectarianism. Certainly, Saudi Arabia will invite the Iranian President to the summit; I do not exclude the possibility that the King would enter the hall once again, holding Ahmadinejad’s hand from one side and the new Egyptian president Mohammed Mursi or the Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan from the other side, as he did few years ago in the Islamic summit, to send a clear message to the Muslim world.
The conditions now favor for reconciliation between Muslims especially amid the Syrian crisis.
The Syrian “sectarian” regime is going down, and it is the Syrian regime that led for Tehran’s appetite for “sectarianism.” Tehran is going against history when siding with Damascus. The Iranian sectarian extension to Syria, in the heart of the Arab and the Sunni Muslim world, was a historical mistake and it is being fixed now. Iran’s perception of that loss and its impacts on the Iranians, may encourage Iranian moderate forces to take a historic decision, and to “drink the poison” again and return back home, to their natural surroundings, and their country that’s somehow divided.
The concept of “solidarity” does not label the superiority of the victorious and the humiliation of the defeated, but it recommends embracing the one who is defeated. It also advises facilitating his return to the wider camp. It will not be easy, because the “Arab Spring” has not bloomed yet, and the transformations after the fall of Bashar al-Assad in the region will continue for a few years, during which, there will be a movement in the name of Islamic solidarity based on the tolerance, which will be in charge of such transformations.