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A global Islamic network linked by France and close to China

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Prediction: A global Islamic network uniting Muslim nations, linked by the communications and nascent commerce channels of al-Jazeera, powered by the infrastructure tools of France, the Jackal Nation, and allied with China in diplomacy and economic power against the US.

Caught your breath yet? Rarely am I handed the elements of forecast as I was the three citations below, all published the same day by Hong Kong's Asia Times, one of those excellent but largely unread, or under-read, papers by US readers, especially when it comes to "Southwest Asian politics [that] are so thinly, slowly, and sporadically reported in the high street news of the US and Europe (bit better in Europe but not substantially better)."

In fact, Muslim nations strain noted that when "Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi called for the creation of a global Islamic network last week, the story went uncovered in the Western media in general and the United States in particular, the nation that ultimately could be affected most by such a move." I wonder how we can persist while being so ignorant. The answer that I do not like, but which I often accord to underperforming firms, is that they live at the courtesy of their competitors.

Muslims have in recent centuries blamed exogenous forces for their plight rather than themselves, a condition which al Qaeda has exploited, but now Abdullah says that "greater cooperation between Muslim countries is the key to lifting them out of poverty and changing the image of Islamic nations,... that Western nations have no real interest in improving the lot of the world's Muslims" and of course Abdullah would like to vie for the position of "leader of an Islamic development movement."

Consider the usual claims that global trading and financial systems are "corrupt and unfair" and that Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) is powerless in multilateral negotiations in the light of the Iraqi war and the GWOT which:

have already been perceived as anti-Muslim in many parts of the world. US foreign policy has been conducted with a callousness and ignorance of long-term ramifications that is damaging its credibility throughout the Muslim world; the failure of the current administration to understand the motivations and exigencies of Muslim nations is seen as symptomatic of the unbridgeable gap between the West and Islam.

Much of the influence of the US in the past has come from "soft power" rather than military might. Soft power is the principle that a nation's ideals, customs and government exert a certain gravitas abroad. Nations have looked to the US as a shining example of democracy, freedom and the good life. One need look no further than the Malaysian flag to see this influence; its 13 red and white stripes on a blue field are modeled on the United States' banner.

How far we have fallen and how great the success of al Qaeda despite how many of their number we kill. Abdullah's business network, incorporating Islamic business principles, is a gradual but "direct threat to the long-term interests of the United States and its status as the world's only superpower."

Whereas the League of Arab States are "all standing on tables fighting with one another," Qatari-based al-Jazeera, a marketing franchise built by conflict in Palestine and Iraq, "is one entity that everyone across the Arab world watches. They may be the only remaining base of Arab nationalism that exists. Arabs are proud of that."

While "Arab ruling elites [have] imported a development model based on economic growth, but have taken care to empty it of its progressive substance," al-Jazeera, launched in 1996, has played "a leading role" in "liberalizing Arab political culture [and] now rivals giants such as Cable News Network (CNN) and the British Broadcasting Corp, particularly in the Arab world." Think of marrying Amazon's product distribution capability with that franchise. Despite US distaste for al-Jazeera, I would do just that. If we don't the French will.

Christopher Hitchens has previously referred to Chirac as a jackal and in a Tim Russert CNBC interview on 16 Oct 2004 with Graydon Carter, referred to France as a Jackal Nation. France has continued to cultivate Arab relations in opposition to US interests, has the appropriate telecom and communication infrastructure, employs standards that are already in use across the region, and will strike more lucrative deals, personal and governmental, than will the US.

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, or SBY, Indonesia's first president chosen through direct elections and a devout Muslim, will be pressed by the US for an "immediate and unpopular dogmatism of the "crusade" on terror, whereas he can bask in the "long-term pragmatism and shared understanding" of a China that can offer "near-equal economic incentives" and also sees international terrorism as a lesser threat in the face of "long embedded, regionally popular secessionist groups."

We must make an about face or prepare to face the music.

Muslim nations strain at US business leash
By Keith Andrew Bettinger
Asia Times
Oct 14, 2004

Arab nationalism tunes into al-Jazeera
By Thalif Deen
Asia Times
Oct 14, 2004

SBY through Chinese eyes
By Jeffrey Robertson
Asia Times
Oct 14, 2004

Gordon Housworth



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