– April 2nd, 2017
This piece is in Two Parts – Part Two is Here
I woke up the other morning, sweating, heart pounding and breathing heavy. I didn’t know what time it was, but I knew it was early. I daren’t put the light on, or even check the clock by pressing the illuminate button, because I knew it would wake my wife. So I ended up lying there, tossing and turning, thoughts churning over in my mind.
I’d been dreaming, and the dream was one of those were you end up fighting some unknown foe. I quickly realised who I had been fighting, in this somnabulistic nightmare.
I’ve been studying, and watching a huge number of videos on Islam, and the history of it over the last 1400 years recently, and this must have been playing on my mind.
Of course this blog is not normally dedicated to religious topics, as it is usually too contentious, and people get upset when you challenge their deeply held beliefs, even if you use rationale and logic to do so – or especially because you do.
But, as I began thinking about the theology, I realised that there are economic consequences, quite serious consequences. I realised that there are monetary and economic forces at work, so I also began studying the history of the man who became the prophet, that so many revere in the world, and casting my analytical eye over the whole piece, reaching some surprising conclusions.
I was surprised to learn, that an Islamic Caliphate had existed pretty much since the death of Mohammad in 632 A.D., until 1924, when the last of the major European economies, rid itself of Islam, at least in its political role in the state. But, that at its height, it was bigger than the Roman Empire, of which we learned so much as children. Why weren’t we taught that?
The turnaround in fortunes began as Europe began to be more economic than spiritual, and the breakaway from the Papacy, by King Henry VIII, for his own ends, began the change.
That was followed by the reformation, when the schism in the Roman Catholic Church began, set in motion by Martin Luther, when he wrote: “The Ninety-Five Theses”.
This was reinforced by the renaissance, when science began to become the major driver of thinking, and the improvements in productivity this allowed, coupled with the movements from the countryside to the towns began to occur. The Gutenberg Press spread the word far and wide as cheap books became commonplace.
Europe expanded through education and enlightenment as European ships set sail towards the New World, to return, with wondrous trinkets from Native Americans, and fortunes in Gold and Silver as these new lands were discovered, explored and plundered. As mechanisation took hold, this cemented Europeans in the ascendancy as they could develop stronger economies, and build well-funded armies.
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, was the founder and first leader of modern day Turkey and established the state, after the fall of the Ottoman Empire in the early 1920s when he created the Grand National Assembly on 23rd April 1920. He had studied Western nations, during his extensive military career, and began to build his new nation, on more secular lines.
Mustafa Kemal fought a final battle with the Islamic Caliphate Army, shortly after the signing of the Treaty of Sèvres, which was imposed by the allies on the Ottoman Turks, and by September 18, 1922, the occupying armies were expelled. On November 1, the newly founded parliament formally abolished the Sultanate, ending 623 years of Ottoman rule. The Treaty of Lausanne of July 24, 1923, led to the international recognition of the sovereignty of the newly formed “Republic of Turkey” as the successor state of the Ottoman Empire, and the republic was officially proclaimed on October 29, 1923, in the new capital of Ankara. Mustafa Kemal became the republic’s first President which finally broke up the Ottoman Empire.
On 1 March 1924, at the Grand National Assembly, (GNA) Mustafa Kemal said: The religion of Islam will be elevated if it will cease to be a political instrument, as had been the case in the past.
On 3 March 1924, the caliphate was officially abolished and its powers within Turkey were transferred to the GNA. Other Muslim nations debated the validity of Turkey’s unilateral abolition of the caliphate as they decided whether they should confirm the Turkish action or appoint a new caliph. The only political party of the GNA was the “Peoples Party”, founded by Mustafa Kemal on 9 September 1923.
He forbade women to wear the Hijab, ensured they got an education, by establishing free compulsory primary schooling and forbade men to wear the beard.
He made Turkey a secular state and gradually its importance in the region grew as its economy and population did, aided by membership of NATO and acting as a bulwark against soviet expansion, which meant American money went there.
The West (in the guise of the EU) dangled the carrot of membership, but the rhetoric of recent months, and the animosity between Muslim President Recep Erdoghan and the Netherlands, seems to have put paid to that – at least for a while. Turkey despite shooting down a Russian MIG fighter jet over Northern Syria, as it apparently ventured into Turkish airspace seems to have patched things up with Russia, as they apparently were co-aligned in fighting so-called “Terrorist groups”
In Russia’s case, they were fighting anyone who threatened their relationship with Basher Al-Assad, which is largely because if he falls, Russia loses one of its allies in the region, and probably the warm water port it has in Northern Syria. Turkey, meanwhile is intent on fighting the Kurds who have been pushing to have a homeland in South-Eastern Turkey, and Northern Iraq for decades, and Kurdish oil, would give them money and influence, which Turkey is wary of having, on its south-eastern flank.
The Tribes of Islam – Sunni and Shia, have been fighting amongst themselves for domination ever since the demise of Mohammad. Mohammad’s father-in-law – Abu Bhaqhar, and his cousin – Ali ibn Abi Talib, began feuding over who should succeed him, after his death by poisoning, in 632, and the interpretation of the religion, and these two strands of thought have been fighting for dominance ever since.
But one of the things that has perplexed me over the time I have been thinking about this problem, is that if a person is praying 5 times a day, how much time they have for study of scientific, and other critical thinking subjects. In fact according to one source, I was surprised to learn, that the whole of the Islamic world (of 1.4 billion souls) translates fewer books each year than tiny Liechtenstein.
But, the Islamic world has had two events happen, to help them:
In the 1920s, oil was found, in the Kingdom of Saudi-Arabia, and the Arab-American Oil Company (Aramco) was established, before it was nationalised some years later… This with the establishment of the Petro-Dollar system, by Henry Kissinger back in the 70s, gave the House of Saud, rising importance in the world, as dollars flowed into the Kingdom’s coffers. That immense wealth went into Palaces, British and American Defence Technology as the Kingdom purchased British Fighter Jets, and American missiles and equipment, which has provided the Kingdom, with an excuse to spend their wealth, and recycle some of that wealth into British and American jobs.
Behind the scenes, the Sunni dominated House of Saud, and the Shia dominated establishment in Iran, have been feuding: funding and promoting unrest throughout the region for decades. Whoever wins that battle, wins the battle for dominance in the whole of the Islamic world, and therein, lies the root of the problem for the west.
Back in the 70s, two important things happened… The oil-crisis, brought about by rising world demand, due to an increasing dependence on oil and oil derivative products such as plastics, fertilizers, chemicals, paints, and the pharmaceuticals industry etc; drove the price of oil, as it rose from circa $1.60 per barrel in 1969, to $41.00 per barrel briefly in 1980, and that meant huge amounts of wealth transferred from the west to the oil producing nations (Largely OPEC).
The second thing that happened was, that the ruler in Iran in 1978 was the U.S. installed Mohammad Reza Pahlavi – the last Shah of Iran. But a new twist was about to happen. On January 16, 1979, Pahlavi left Iran after a citizen’s revolt, and two weeks later, on February 1, the Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran. Khomeini had been exiled to various countries, including France, where he made several contentious speeches. He was arrested and exiled to Iraq, then Turkey and finally Paris, France in 1964, but shortly after his arrival back in Iran, on February 11, 1979, Khomeini appointed his first own prime minister, Medhi Bazargan. On March 30, 1979 a referendum took place in Iran and as a result, the monarchy was replaced with an Islamic Republic. After the Islamic Revolution, Khomeini became Supreme Leader of Iran.
As a young man, Khomeini, studied in Qom, an Iranian city, where he received a traditional religious education, but Khomeini, also had other plans. Wiley as a fox, Khomeini – intended to bring Islam to the world. The oil wealth, would allow him and his government to spread the word, and buy the support of those around him. Just as the House of Saud, and the hundreds of Royal Princes do in the Kingdom of Saudi-Arabia.
These two almost tribal nations, one espousing Sunni Islam, the other espousing the more traditional Shia, eye each other across the Persian Gulf. The Straits of Hormuz a narrow waterway, as narrow as the Dover Straits, separates the two nations. And through those straits, 40% of the world’s oil travels. If any one of these two nations decided to close the straits, oil would hit $200 barrel within days at soonest, and weeks at most.
The other choke point – The Baab-el-Mandeb (The Gates of Tears) sits on the other side of the Saudi Peninsula and allows entry to the Red Sea, and the short-route to Europe through the Suez Canal.
In 1973, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and Syria went to war for the second time, the Egyptian President – Anwar Sadat, and Basher Assad of Syria attempted to take back the land won by Israel in the six days war in 1967.
Oil was hovering around $2.30 a barrel. Just days later, while the Israelis, the Syrians, the Jordanians and the Egyptians were still slugging it out acorss the Sinai Peninsula, The Libyan Colonel, who had taken power just four years before, and had nationalised the Libyan oil-fields, and their production technology, raised the price of oil heading to Italy. First to $3., then four, then six, and finally in one final flourish to $11.69. The war lasted almost three weeks, before a UN resolution and a threat by Leonid Breshneyev Soviet President, to put troops on the ground unless the U.S. did, brought hostilities to a swift halt. the War had lasted from October 6-24, 1973.
Reports emerged later that at the time Iran had charged as much as $17 per barrel during the crisis briefly. The small Islamic nations had risked everything against the Western Powers, and survived. The U.S., Italy, France, Germany, former Empire holder Britain, she who had controlled 50% of the earth’s land-mass at one time, were reduced to penury. No armies arrived, no foot-soldiers, no planes bombed their fields, and no jack-boots patrolled their streets, nor gun-boats patrolled their shores. These tiny Arab nations had stood up to the great western powers, and were emboldened. That winter, brought a severe crisis, in Britain, as inflation would reach 26.9%. Mineworkers went on strike, and then power workers. The UK government of Ted Heath was forced to bring in the three-day week to conserve fuel, and council workers joined the fray.
Heath announced a snap election for February 1974, and asked the question – “Who governs Britain?” the electorate answered not so emphatically – “Not you.”. The election was insufficient to give Labour a full mandate, and a brief pact between Labour’s Harold Wilson, and the Liberal’s Jeremy Thorpe maintained things until a second election in October that year, gave Labour a slight majority.
The Americans, had their own crisis that year end, as cars queued at gas-stations for $5.00 worth of fuel, and gas-stations ran out of fuel causing frustration at the Arab nations.
But what does all that have to do with us?
Find out in Part Two