WORLD

A council of holy war

Claudia Wright February 2 1981
WORLD

A council of holy war

Claudia Wright February 2 1981

A council of holy war

WORLD

Saudi Arabia

Claudia Wright

Signs over the gleaming eight-lane freeway that runs from Jeddah to Mecca advise drivers approaching the Holy City that Moslems should take the centre and left lanes, non-Moslems the right. A beltway takes unbelievers, forbidden by Islamic law to enter Mecca, around and on to Taif, the summer capital 96 km further east in the mountains. From the beltway, the peak of Mount Arafat is visible. It was here that the angel Gabriel appeared to the Prophet Mohammed, as the Koran says, “at a distance of but two bow lengths.”

It was down this highway on Sunday that King Khaled, the Saudi prime minister, led an extraordinary procession of limousines. Altogether, leaders of 38 Islamic states and the PLO participated, including Generals Evren of Turkey, Zia of Pakistan, several central and west African heads of state, and accredited observers from the guerrillas that are fighting in Ethiopia and the Philippines. Inside the Grand Mosque of Mecca, the procession performed the pilgrim’s Tawaaf— the religious ritual that has been the climax of the Islamic faith for nearly 1,400 years. As they made the seven times circuit of the Black Stone, they wore the traditional white cloth that has emphasized for centuries the equality of the Moslem faithful before God.

For all their wealth—the summit

1. AFGHANISTAN 2. ALGERIA 3. BAHRAIN 4. BANGLADESH 5. CAMEROON 6. CHAD 7. COMORO ISLANDS 8. DJIBOUTI 9. EGYPT 10. GABON 11. GAMBIA 12. GUINEA 13. GUINEA-BISSAU 14. INDONESIA

IRAN IRAQ JORDAN KUWAIT LEBANON LIBYA MALAYSIA MALDIVES MALI MAURITANIA MOROCCO NIGER OMAN PAKISTAN

29. QATAR 30. SAUDI ARABIA 31. SENEGAL 32. SOMALIA 33. SUDAN 34. SYRIA 35. TUNISIA 36. TURKEY 37. UNITED ARAB EMIRATES 38. UGANDA 39. UPPER VOLTA 40. NORTH YEMEN 41. SOUTH YEMEN

preparations cost more than $2 billion—this was the message the Saudis were trying to reinforce as they mobilized, as never before, international support for their objectives. Politically, last weekend’s Islamic meeting could not be expected to match the revelations of God’s messenger, but Western observers should not underestimate the impact of what was decided.

Rhetorically the focus of the third summit of the organization of the Islamic Conference, initiated in Rabat in 1969, was on the preparation of the “Mecca Declaration,’’ a call for Islamic solidarity worldwide. In particular, this was intended to dramatize the Islamic world’s refusal to accept continued occupation of Jerusalem. But Farouk Kaddoumi, head of the PLO’s political department (in effect, foreign minister), said the most practical result of the summit was the rejection—for the first time by many of the delegations—of UN Resolution 242 (see box) as a basis for negotiating a solution to the Palestinian conflict. This involved a significant shift by Turkey, for example, which in the past had tried to preserve its links with Israel directly, and indirectly through NATO military arrangements.

In closed-door sessions it was also de-

cided to expand the economic boycott of Israel beyond the Arab states and to sharpen its impact. The word jihad (holy war) was used in this context in Taif to mean an economic attack on Israel’s primary export industries— diamonds, citrus fruit and vegetables and arms. Companies and countries trading in these goods will now be exposed to a cutoff of business throughout the Islamic world. Said Prince Fahd, the Saudi deputy prime minister: “We

should ask each other: ‘What benefit have we gained by moderation?’ ” The Saudis are offering to compensate any Islamic state whose foreign exchange position is hurt.

To Saudi officials the summit epitomized the country’s determination to move beyond the reticent, moderate stance it has preferred in the past. The Saudis were especially active in behindthe-scenes manoeuvring to create a collective security system for the Gulf Arab states—Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Oman.

Unlike Iraq, which argued for collective action to block outside intervention, primarily from the United States or the Soviet Union, the Saudis wish to prevent internal forces as well from undermining the stability of regimes presently in power. In December, Prince Fahd, along with Prince Naif, the Saudi interior minister, offered to extend the perimeter of Saudi security interests to include Pakistan. Pakistan infantrymen and pilots are already on duty in Abu Dhabi, on the Gulf, and Indian sources report that Pakistan has sent several contingents to Saudi Arabia. (Pakistani officials in Washington say their numbers may reach 20,000.)

Both the absent Moammar Khadafy’s invasion of Chad and Iran’s war with Iraq were especially troubling topics. After meeting Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal his Chadian counterpart, Ahmat Acyl, said that Libya had not “swallowed or overrun the country.” No direct talks on the Gulf war were possible due to Iran’s refusal to attend. But the Arabs want a political settlement and moves to obtain one will soon be continued. There is too much at stake for the Saudis. In their new role as Islam’s leaders, they have other goals in view.