Last week, Salih Mahmoud Osman, a Darfurian Muslim and human rights activist, came to our newspaper to meet with the editorial board. He told us that not a single outside Muslim group has come to Darfur and expressed sympathy with the suffering of its people at the hands of the Janjaweed militia and the government of Sudan. In fact, he told of one Egyptian professional organization that came down, looked around, and went back to Egypt to denounce the claims of genocide against Darfur’s black Muslims as a conspiracy cooked up by the Zionists and the Crusaders. ~Rod Dreher
Rod’s post points to an interesting Dallas Morning News editorial discussing bin Laden’s endorsement of Khartoum’s proxy war in Darfur and the noticeable silence of Muslims elsewhere regarding the Muslims of Darfur. My own views about the “genocide” in Darfur aside for a moment, I am not entirely sure why this ought to surprise anyone. The reason for bin Laden’s enthusiasm for Khartoum’s war seems fairly straightforward: Khartoum is a hard-line Islamic regime of the type that warms bin Laden’s heart, and it was the same regime that sheltered him for several years before the Sudanese government was persuaded to have him depart. Exterminating insufficiently zealous and pure Muslims is par for the course for this sort–the Hazaras’ Islamic credentials counted for nothing in Afghanistan, because they were Shi’ites, and Darfurian Muslims likely will be viewed through the same lens.
The effects of Saudi-backed Wahhabist proselytism through the Islamic world have been to make the most rigorist or ‘purist’ strains in the Islamic world appear to considerable sections of confirmed religious Muslim opinion as the more correct and desirable sort of Islam, free from any local cultural accretions such as frequently crop up in Saharan and sub-Saharan African Islam. So that is one part of the explanation for the silence: Darfurian Muslims receive little sympathy, because Muslims elsewhere may have been convinced these people aren’t ‘real’ Muslims. That reminds me of a conversation I had with a very genial alumnus of my alma mater some years back who said to me, without any malicious intent but simply for lack of knowing anything about the situation, that he didn’t think Serbs were real Christians. He got this impression because of the endless Western media saturation that Serbs were veritable devils who ought to be crushed underfoot. He consequently seemed to have less concern for what happened to them. Non-Arab Muslims are likely receiving similarly distorted impressions about the situation in the Sudan, if they are hearing about it at all, and it would not surprise me at all if they were receiving a very different story than we are.
The other part of the reluctance to speak out against Khartoum, if there were a desire to do so, is most definitely rooted in the sense, not entirely unjustified, that Western powers use or fabricate charges of genocide, as they did in the Balkans, to pursue their own political goals, the aims of which have nothing to do with the well-being of either side in any of the conflicts in question. Not surprisingly, the one case of real genocide in the last 16 years in Rwanda was practically the only time Western governments did not freely and carelessly throw around the g-word, because they did not want to be obligated to fix or ameliorate a problem that did not align with any pre-existing geopolitical goals. Thus when Westerners begin talking about genocide and humanitarianism, even if it were actually genocide taking place, most Muslims could be forgiven for assuming that it was some sort of scam or lie (even if the last lie worked to the benefit of Muslims in Bosnia). They might say to themselves, “When I hear the phrase ‘humanitarian intervention’, I reach for my gun.” This is not an all together bad instinct to have.
One of the best signs so far about the response to the Sudanese conflict is that most Western powers have too much interest in preserving the status quo in Khartoum and have no desire to watch Africa’s largest country fall apart and become an even more uncontrolled haven for any band of fanatics that might care to set up shop in its remote vastness. This means that, for all the prattling about genocide, none of these governments will intervene in a conflict that is genuinely none of their (or rather our) concern. (Memo to those worried about “failed states”: if there is a large-scale intervention in Sudan, the entirely fake country will crack up and you will have Afghan-style warlordism spanning a huge swathe of Africa, unleashing unpredictable forces of disorder throughout eastern Africa.)