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The Modern Arabian Nights

The Old Wife, The New Sheikh And Women Who Thought They Were Wives

Once upon a time there lived a rich and powerful man, who was profligate and in the chutzpah of his newly acquired status, wealth and power, he got addicted to a substance. This strange habit made him stronger and bigger, but completely dependent on repeated and larger doses of this fuel of his might. He was incapable of exercising any discipline on himself or his budget and had a large number of offspring who needed the sole use of the bulk of his income. He made a deal with his dealer and even told her how much he loved her, would marry her and even convert to Islam.

The devout woman believed all this and in consonance with her faith allowed him to consummate a
relationship with three other Moslem women and assumed they were co-wives. The self-absorbed addict also saw the possibility of countering a godless opponent and he justified and explained the need for alliance with three other women to his woman dealer.

In reality he was rationalizing his physical needs and never really believed in permanent alliances, only permanent interests and varying needs. There was one exception to his uncaring insouciance. His one and only true wife, had a stranglehold on him and because they had powerful children in common. He had a nostalgic Pygmalion complex towards this Galatea like first wife. He had become henpecked and she ruled the roost without forbidding him selfish convenient peccadilloes, as long as they did not harm her or the children. She even encouraged the indiscreet, dangerous, temporary liaisons as long as they enriched her or kept him in a good mood. He loved this variety in relationships and had nearly ten of them with willing Moslem cohorts, but always claimed he had four wives like a good New Sheikh and divorced some old ones or entered into a mutually convenient short-term marriage relationship with others, so he could fulfill his urgent needs and indulge in rising passions. The Sultan asked, 'my dear Scheherazade, why did the foolish women get taken in by the wiles and words of this stranger? I still can't believe it.' Scheherazade replied, 'You unfortunately believe and the women were hats who mistook themselves for wives, while he was a man without beliefs.'

I am no admirer of Islam or the bulk of its followers.

Naive leaders are blind and selfish and rulers undemocratic tyrants. The resigned indifference of its oppressed subjects with fanatic bursts of xenophobic violence and unthinking submission to medieval ideas, which are stagnant and stifling by nature, and the tyranny over women, leave little hope for the future. One feels a sense of sorrow, but little sympathy. One repeatedly hears that the total non-oil exports of all the Middle Eastern countries are less than those of tiny Finland. Ever since division and independence dictated by the great powers, changes in government were by coups, countercoups and assassination in all the countries without a single truly elected government in any Moslem country from Morocco to Indonesia and Kazakhstan to Somalia.

Let me start with Iran, where the Shah was returned to power by a CIA led coup and his ruthless autocracy could not be sustained because he was too tyrannical to allow free speech or opposition in politics and too timid and overwhelmed to stop opposition in the mosques for fear of losing control. His secret police, armed forces and weapons and his seducing powerful master could not help him. The latter even denied terminal sanctuary in his dying days. Now we have a third bloodbath waiting to happen in Iran.

This mistaken policy of relative religious leniency, with suppressed political opposition was used by the Pope to combat the Soviet stranglehold in Poland with partial success. Saudi Arabia a poor student of history, blissfully oblivious of these prior two examples of foolish unsuccessful policy in Moslem Iran and Catholic Poland practiced political suppression and relative unchallenged acceptance of religious interference in politics and economics. Its portrayal of a pious image of protector and preacher of a highly restrictive Wahabbi Islam to prevent political opposition and to divert attention from non-Islamic activities of the powerful and princes, only accentuated the dislike and rebellion by the common people of its hypocritical behavior and the rise of the pretender Mahdi and Bin Laden's Al Qaeda. The restrictions on women, falling oil prices, a poorly educated male workforce unwilling to do many essential but menial jobs and no foresight to develop any manufacturing or services base fuels these fires. Let Saudi Arabia's dismal failure in providing marketable skills and economic growth be a dire warning for African Americans, feminists and Hispanics to steer clear of the dead ends of Black, gender based and bilingual studies which are good intellectual curiosity pursuits but inculcate few if any economic skills. The disenchantment between America and Saudi Arabia has begun.

The damning fact that fifteen of the nineteen hijackers were Saudis and the trails of money, some unwittingly, some misused and some intentional, does not help and past co-operations by the Saudis in oil price control are forgotten and clandestine co-operation in the Contra cloak and
dagger considered a foolishness. The defeat of the Soviet Union by Saudi money and co-operation by sowing the seeds of radical Islam now becomes a mixed blessing. The seduction phase is over and the time has come for mutual recrimination. Alternative willing cohorts have been found in Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Uzbekistan, for stationing armed forces and gas and oil can be obtained from Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. There is Kuwait beholden by gratitude, and soon Iraq will be a client state. It is not surprising that America's attitude is tell me what you have done for me lately? This is accepted correct conduct of foreign policy by nations and the history of our relations with France and Britain after the American Revolution spell out in detail the way it was handled, and the obvious success and benefit of its practice. If the Saudis had studied their own history and the shifting and convenient alliances of Mohammed, they would have learnt the reality, instead of being in the current precarious position.

Pakistan is the most gullible of them all. It was dumped once after 1989, when the Soviets were defeated in Afghanistan. It was equally foolish in destroying its economy and having military dictators or rigged elections. The two elected regimes were hopelessly corrupt and bankrupted the nation but the raging fires of hatred towards India, an inferiority complex and Chinese and North Korean support allowed it to acquire WMDs and thus be bought by America for its use as long as needed to get rid off Taliban and Al Qaeda from Afghanistan. This way America gets to keep an eye if not a shackle on its nuclear weapons. As long as those items are important to America and they will be for sometime, it is utterly foolish of India to expect that America will truly restrain terrorism in Kashmir. In fact it suits USA to have India fighting the Al Qaeda in Kashmir and killing them by suffering casualties, rather than US troops or civilians suffer the carnage from the wrath of the terrorists.

The Gulf States and Djibouti are patrolled by our armed forces, which also oversee Somalia and Yemen. Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and the West Bank and Gaza are under the supervision of Israel, which serves as a stern monitor, though all but the first get some lunch and pocket money from Uncle Sam to get a taste of few goodies now and then. A noteworthy point is that Egypt keeps a very tight rein on people, mosques and clerics. It encourages emigration of extremists, who often seek political asylum in Europe or America.

That brings me to the dilemma of the European Union. Large minorities of Moslems, nearly 15 million or more live there. Sweden and Denmark have Kurds, Germany has Turks, France has Algerians and Tunisians, Spain has Moroccans, Netherlands has Indonesian Moslems, Belgian has African and others, and Britain has Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Arab, Persian and Indian Moslems. Most of these Moslems, partly due to poor and inadequate education and skills, partly due to shift of manufacturing and textiles to low wage countries, partly due to a less open and racist European attitude and partly due to frustration, hostility and some antisocial behavior of these Moslem non-whites, are a time-bomb waiting to explode. The visa waiver agreements that USA has should be a cause of worry to us, because of the easy entry provided by European passports to these explosive, susceptible believers, who are easy and willing recruits for potential terrorists.

The paranoia and insecurity of the Europeans, unfortunately negatively influences their attitude towards granting Turkey membership and thus granting an additional 65 million Moslems, the privilege of unrestricted work, travel or stay within the rest of Christian Europe. The justifiable fears and hesitation lead to a greater sense of discrimination, unfairness and exclusion in Turkey, which has elected a sort of Islamic party to power. The recent tirade about war on Iraq, labeling Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia as supporters of terrorists, and the military campaign in Afghanistan, reaffirms to the Moslems rightly or wrongly that, the West is bent on destroying Islam. A vicious cycle of mutual fear and distrust worsens by feeding on itself.

Our knowledge of past behavior, thinking and character tells us that the new Scheherazades can expect repetition of the past, as it is Henry the Eighth who is masquerading as the new Sultan! An astute observer can watch with amused irony or sad pity, as Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Yemen merrily ecstatic, but blissfully ignorant like Marcos, Mobutu, Shah, Somoza and Suharto before them, bask in their fatal embrace. 


More by :  Gaurang Bhatt, MD

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