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November 29, 2002

Rites of Wailing!

Dr. Mohamed Mosaad

Not long ago, the morning newspapers brought to us the usual sad news, which came this time from Bali. Tourists’ bodies, or rather pieces of bodies, flew everywhere stained with their blood, smoke and the terrorists’ gunpowder. The terrorists are as much determined to continue their terror, as the American Government is to continue its war against them. Well, that is not helpful to almost 200 innocent tourists who were blown up in a matter of seconds. Analysts and experts tell us this should “normally” be expected before, during and after the American invasion to Iraq. Other experts say the American invasion will indeed lessen the level of terrorism and dry out the resources of terror. Other experts say this is nonsense; terror will certainly increase with the new military step. The “heated” debate will continue on and on till the terrorists or the Americans take their next step. 

Meanwhile, will we, the inhabitants of this planet keep reading newspapers and watching TV channels bringing in, second by second, pictures, our pictures, either blown up by a car bomb or bombarded by a B52? Of course not! We, the global civil society, have a lot to do. It is our responsibility, our duty, our lives, our future and the future of our children. Never will we surrender to the terror or the stupid politicians. The post-Bali picture is indeed very promising. Religious people belonging to all faiths of the world started a global circle of prayer for peace. Meditation meetings and silent walks were launched out. Hundreds of thousands everywhere are signing online petitions to protest the war against Iraq. The explosion is only a few weeks ago and there are already hundreds of good articles condemning it and calling humanity to reason and peace. Muslim scholars decidedly declared this action has nothing to do with Islam, a religion of peace and dialogue. Global NGOs in the Four Corners of earth condemned what happened and called governments and citizens to stop violence.

That seems very encouraging! But, how many times did we see this “promising” scene? How many times has the so-called global civil society expressed its strength and determination? Are the Genoa, Johannesburg, Seattle, and Prague demonstrations and protests forgettable? Did we ever surrender to the WB, IMF, and GATT… policies? Did we ever miss a one chance to declare our noble positions based on our clear vision of a better future? The point is what were the results of all these faithful and dedicated activities?

In spite of these efforts to bring in peace in the Middle East, there is still no progress. A one single tank shelling a Palestinian refugee camp or a one-suicide bomber exploding an Israeli bus would makes all our efforts melt into air. These activities, or rather the rites of wailing, have not helped to lift the sanctions on Iraqi people. Nor did they help stopping American soldiers from killing (as a byproduct of a legitimate war) thousands of Afghani civilians. Nor did they help eliminate the horrible dictatorships governing the majority of humanity and violating daily all the human rights referred to in our online petitions. And have we forgotten Ken Saro-Wiwa, the human rights and environmental activist and the symbol of Ogoni people from Nigeria? Is it too long ago to remember? Ken Saro-Wiwa was supported by the entire global civil society. The Sierra Club, which had then a membership in US of 650.000 and an annual budget of 38 million dollars, and the worldwide Greenpeace organization that has a membership of one million in the US alone, were backing him and calling for sanctions against the Government of Nigeria and boycotting of the Shell Oil Corporation. Unfortunately his hanging body was the only message the Nigerian Government sent to this enthusiastic global civil society. The painful fact is that while millions of people are dreaming and signing online petitions, there is a handful of politicians, army officers, media producers, and businessmen shaping out our real future.

However, before praising or belittling the enormous efforts global civil society is undertaking, and the giant funds it is consuming let us first question what challenges does global civil society have? They are not only those missions prescribed in their agendas, but also those tasks left for the politicians and army officers. If you want to coerce the US to sign the International Court for War Crimes treaty, you will also need to find someone to keep peace in Bosnia, it is just a simple regulation. Politically, we have to liberate the Iraqis from their autocratic oppressive regime. We have to have enough power to eliminate not only Saddam but also any other crazy dictator who might feel like killing his own people or invading a neighbor country. We should know how to enforce democratic values and defend human rights all over the world. Economically we should be able to fight the over-consumption, and bring in global social justice. We have to put some limits on the giant corporations and narrow the ever widening gap between the rich and the poor. Socially we need better education to our children and profound major improvement to the women status in different societies. Well, this is exactly what we dream of and call for, but how can we make it come true?

I believe we should first talk less about ethics and more about power. Unfortunately this is the only language both the politicians and the terrorists understand. You need “power” not only to wage a war, but also to stop it. The global civil society should also be more independent. When we stretch one hand to get some money from the politicians and the corporations, we immediately drop the anti-government sign in the second hand. The global civil society is huge,  but it is also very fragmented. In fact one can frequently find bitter competitions between its factions and groups, whose project is better and who is worthier to get the fund?

Authority, money and coordination , those are what the global civil society lack. I do not have an answer regarding how to build a more powerful, independent and coordinated global civil society. I am just raising the question, because it has become really boring and frustrating to see, over and over again, these futile rites of wailing each time something happens.

Mohammed Mosaad


Dr Mosaad is an Egyptian psychiatrist, sociologist, educator and  peace activist. His is coordinator of the Abrahamic Forum,  and member of the Abrahamic Forum Council, an International Interfaith  dialog. He is a member of the Global Council of the United Religons Initiative URI.  He may be reached at .

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