Our Concern is for the Ethiopian and Eritrean People [Archives:2000/28/Focus]

July 10 2000


By: Hassan Al-Haifi

I would like to thank H. E., the Ambassador of Ethiopia, for honoring me by reading my column and I appreciate his comments and criticism of my stand on the costly war Ethiopia and Eritrea waged needlessly, before exhausting all the efforts to bring their dispute to an amicable settlement. I assure H. E., the Ambassador that the article was not intended to blame any side for the conflict and not to personally insult anyone, and more important, the article was meant to underscore the needless suffering of the people – who are really the main concern of the journalists in covering or writing about conflicts of this sort – of both Ethiopia and Eritrea. Moreover, I was hoping to try to instill reason, in the hope that the leaderships of both countries would work forwards stopping the bloodshed, which eventually did happen, thank God. One would think that now it is time to heal the wounds and erase the spirit of animosity, which should be the main concern of all those involved, directly or indirectly. I present my best wishes to H. E. the Ambassador and to the people of both parts of Abyssinia my fondest yearnings that both of their countries will continue to endure lasting peace and prosperity.
Democracy and Development
One can surely look back at history and find that it is not hard to surmise that, indeed, human development and progress go hand in hand with greater freedom for the population leading to the empowerment for the people at all levels to manage their political affairs and to use their available resources wisely and efficiently. Moreover, peace among nations becomes easier to come by when the people have a greater say in the determination of relationships between the different nations of the world. Thus, the 2 Ds, as I would like to call them, clearly indicate that for the world to be able to tackle the major international issues confronting the different international organizations, so as to spread the message of peace and the alleviation of the poverty that has engulfed more than half the population of the world, strong emphasis should be laid on any efforts to bring about an international peaceful order by the combination of democracy and development as the common pursuits for the mankind.
If it was not for democracy, it would be impossible to believe that the city-state of Athens could have launched the birth of Western Civilization. When that democracy was upheld, it was not long before democratic Rome prevailed as the center of Western Civilization and Culture and opened the way for an empire that stretched throughout the Mediterranean Basin. Again, when the generals decided to take over the helms of power, it did not take long before that empire saw its break up and eventually faded into history books.
No one can deny the important inroads that Islam brought into the development of democracy, in addition to the countless achievements of the Moslems in the Middle Ages in the areas of science, medicine, and philosophy – just to name a few of the fields where Islam left its mark and which the world is greatly appreciative of to this day. Regrettably, the Moslems in the Middle Ages could not bring the democratic ideals preached and insisted upon by the Prophet Mohammed (Peace and blessings of Allah upon him) into an institutional framework that would give longevity and continued peace and prosperity to a vast part of the world today. Nevertheless, that is also God’s Will. Surely, it is not going to be difficult for the Moslems to come out of the misery and difficulties faced by most of the Moslem countries of the world, if they remember that Islam is a democratic religion and without democracy, Islam is, simply, not there.
Ironically, while the Moslems of the Middle Ages forgot to instill the democratic principles of Islam into a steadfast institutional order, it was not long before the Western civilizations quickly grasped a creditable amount of the democratic teachings of Islam and turned such principles into functioning democratic institutions that helped to launch human progress significantly over the 19th and 20th Century. In the meantime, however, the Moslem world, was still unable to embody such principles into working institutional frameworks that would redeem the individual Moslem countries – and the whole Moslem world for that matter Ð out of the misery and pitiful waste of valuable resources, at their disposal. Perhaps Iran, and to a certain extent some of the Southeast Asian Moslem countries have seen the light, and have begun to incorporate the true principles of Islam into their political frameworks. This in itself is to be commended and worthy to emulate as examples.
To underscore the significance of democracy and its role in bringing about peace, the shining example of Japan remains at the forefront. When the Japanese people saw that their Shogun order was threatening the independence of Japan due to onslaught of imperialist powers at their doorsteps, in the middle of the 19th Century, they looked at themselves and looked at the countries that were vying to take over their country, like they have taken over most of the countries in the world. At the time, the democratic principles that have prevailed in many of the imperialist states were not applicable to the colonies of these great powers, as they called themselves. The Japanese realized that in order to beat them, one needed to see what it was that made these so called great powers powerful and prosperous. Quickly the Japanese realized that to beat them, or at least to safeguard themselves, they were to do away with the archaic order that brought countless wars and misery to the island archipelago. Thus the first step towards development in Japan was the introduction of a functioning democratic framework, that allowed for the preservation of much of the culture and social inklings of the Japanese people, while at the same time removing the autocratic regime that had been the main drawback to the Japanese peace and prosperity.
It was not long before that Japan became a world power itself and went along with the imperialist bandwagon to join the other members of the imperialist club. While this should not be construed to mean approval of such an approach, it should be emphasized that it was democracy that heralded Japan into the mainstream of modern industrialist and military power more than anything else.
However, the generals in Japan also sought to undermine the great strides made by their country and nationalist demagoguery was allowed to prevail for a while in the Japanese Empire. The result was the absence of reason and common sense and the generals could not be credited for anything except for bringing destruction and suffering not only for their own people, but for the people of Southeast Asia and the Pacific Theater, which in many cases is yet to be healed.
But, the Japanese learn very quickly from their mistakes and it was obvious to them, before it was to anyone else, that the removal of democracy was the major reason for their defeat in World War II and that if Japan was to come out of its downtrodden status, it would be with the full reinstatement of democracy on a more steadfast framework. Thus Japan again was able to quickly rise to be a leading world power, concentrating on the economic dimensions of growth and development and underscoring the absolute wisdom of democracy as a necessary order for the welfare and peace of their people. On another note, one of the profound innovations in legislative work that came out of the defeat Japan suffered in the Second World War was the introduction of an amendment in the Japanese Constitution, which stated that, for all intents and purposes, war is illegitimate and a criminal offense that banned in Japan. This is a clear indication that a nation that truly understands the essence of democracy cannot find any glory or prosperity from marching armies that bring havoc and destruction for merely satisfying an egotistical drive, which God is completely disapproves of and condemns severely.