The Middle East chessboard can work in favor of the Muslim countries only if they unite

(Muhammad Atif Nawaz, Faisalabad)

A few week ago, six countries including UAE and Saudi Arabia, announced to cut their diplomatic ties with Qatar. The decision was not expected with this much haste and intensity; therefore, it was not favored among Qatari population and the rest of the world. The gravity of the situation even goes beyond that. Qatar was also denied of all the air and land routes. Surrounded by water, it only shares land border with Saudi Arabia. Consequently, it is completely dependent on Saudi Arabia for its imports through land routes. For the rest, it relies on Bahrain and UAE. Almost all dairy products come from Saudi Arabia. Now imagine the social and economic life of its citizens when Qatar is denied of air and land routes.

Qatar, the country which earned the wrath of its neighbors, is similar in geographical location with Gaza. Other than geographical similarity, it does not have anything common with Gaza-Palestine conflict. Nonetheless, the nature of the Saudi-Qatar spat is seen into “us” versus “them.” How unfortunate it is that this time, it is not about Palestine and Israel but this time it is all about minor differences of two brotherly Muslim states. It is neither humane nor wise to boycott a Muslim-majority state. Even if Qatar violated international law and diplomatic code of conduct, should its 3 million population be left to starve? International Law doesn’t permit such crime against humanity. It has ample evidences and precedence when food and water supplies were remained intact just to safe life of innocent citizens. International Law, humanity and the religion go against the rationale of punishing Qatar.

How ironic it is that Qatar has been avenged for furthering friendly ties too with Iran whereas Iranian companies are operational in many countries, which are a part of anti-Qatar alliance. The Qatar-Saudi spat has escalated into an open conflict. The international community is watching it with utmost concern. Foreign Minister of Germany said that this crisis can develop into an all-out-war. has the Muslim world not learnt its lesson from the wars and crises in Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Egypt and Iran? Is the US trying again to plunge another Muslim country into war?

Fighting over sectarian differences is categorically un-Islamic. Being the custodians of Harmain Shreefain, Saudi Arabia should play the role of a big brother in the Middle East. However, it has put itself upon the whims of Donald Trump, “Divide and Earn.” It seems that the Middle Eastern powers are again caught into the bloody politics of monopoly and influence of the US. At the Riyadh summit, Trump himself asked the government of Saudi Arabia to take stern action against Qatar. Diplomatic and economic sanctions are the succeeding actions. Afterwards, Trump’s tweets only added fuel to the fire.

The fact cannot be denied that Qatar is an important regional player. It is top richest countries of the world. Around 2 million people from 87 countries work to earn their living. Local people only make 12% of the Qatari population. Approximately 0.13 million Pakistanis, which are five per cent of the total population, also live in Qatar as a valuable resource of Pakistan’s foreign reserves. Qatar is the largest producer of LPG in the world and ranked as one of the safest countries in the world. The biggest factor is that it is a Muslim country.

Islam is the peace of religion not for its followers but for all. It is the message of brotherhood and humanity. It is about time that Muslim states stand up to the occasion and forge friendly ties. "And if two factions of the Believers get to fight, make them reconcile. Then if either of these (factions) commits injustice and aggression against the other, fight against (the one) that is committing aggression till it returns to Allah’s command (of establishing peace). When they revert and submit, make peace between them with equity. And put justice to work. Surely, Allah loves those who do justice." (Al-Quran Chapter 49: Verse 9)

Inhumane sanctions and force are no solution to the Saudi-Qatar Crisis. The Islamic countries who are preaching the message of peace and brotherhood to the world do not walk their talk. The dualities in sayings and doings are all visible even to layman. In this critical time, religious scholars must step forward leaving their sectarian affiliations aside. in this milieu, role of Pakistan and Turkey is of special importance. However, these efforts for reconciliation could bear fruits when the United States pursues for the policy of non-discrimination and forging peace in the Middle East. The Middle East chessboard can work in favor of the Muslim countries only if they unite together against the foreign enemies instead of creating wedges and widening sectarian gulf among themselves.

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