Yasser Arafat addressed the UN General Assembly at Manhattan on November 13, 1974, he sounded a dire warning by stating: I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom fighters gun. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand. Well, in March 1975, the architect of the Islamic Conference, King Faisal, was slain and gun play again resumed, with greater ferocity.
The same year, on December 21, 1975, at Vienna, the OPEC meeting of oil ministers was attacked by Carlos (the Jackal) along with some Germans and other radicals. The OPEC oil cartel was seen as collaborationist. There was a wave then of idealism fused with radicalism. But now, radicalism has morphed into nihilism. A gripping French TV drama series, Carlos, details the revolutionary trajectory of a Venezuelan born to Marxist parents and fully immersed in the Palestinian issue.
Then, the Palestinian cause attracted radical youth across the world including, but not limited to, Latinos, Japanese and Germans, in striking contrast to the bright youth of today, whose ambitions are fixed on finance. Carlos is in a gaol in France, having converted to Islam.
Western elements, too, have proven equally lawless. According to Steven Shapiro, national legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union: The response to 9/11 included torture, extraordinary rendition, prolonged detention without charges or trial and secret imprisonment.
To counter so-called extremism with extremism means that the blood feud never ends. Self-evident are the long-term consequences of Mossadeqs ouster by the Anglo-American combine in Iran (1953) and the execution in Egypt of Sayyid Qutb by Nasser in 1966. Now, there is a permanent breach.
Chronic challenges persist without a long-term vision to meet them. Instead, there is a misguided notion that slick salesmanship can surmount problematic policies. But, in reality, they cannot be separated from each other.
During the Muslim Worlds moment of greatest need, erudite leaders with a strategic vision, like Anwar Ibrahim of Malaysia, are incarcerated on trumped-up charges, while scavengers are coronated. Anwars statement from the dock is a wake-up call for those inclined to bow before the chair. Instructive, too, was the plight of Algerias first President, Ahmed Ben Bella, now 92, who was ousted in June 1965, just before he was scheduled to convene a major Afro-Asian Summit Conference in Algiers. The spearhead of Algerias freedom struggle against France was imprisoned by post-independence Algeria for 15 years.
Those who promise political transformation do not always turn out to be the glittering catalysts of change as many hoped they would be. In substance, they are no different. Privileged classes do not voluntarily divest themselves of their privileges. They do so when they have no choice.
Electoral manoeuvring - the cardinal feature of so-called democracy - is inherently corruptive, brutal, and prone to unholy alliances. It fosters cynicism and is a mirror reflection of broader society, with its jealous intrigue, cold-blooded backstabbing, and use-and-discard approach. The just-released movie, The Ides of March, by George Clooney, depicts how political pragmatism erodes idealism.
There is no substitute for a vibrant and vigilant civil society.
The writer is an attorney-at-law, writer, and policy analyst based in Washington DC. He is the first Pakistani American member admitted to the US Supreme Court Bar.