Lisbon Treaty Referendum: Is the European Union an example for the Islamic World?
By Yamin Zakaria
Lisbon Treaty established on 13th of December 2007,
is another step towards cementing European unity. Almost all the member
states of the European Union have ratified the treaty through the
parliamentary process. Ireland is the only country to have done this
through a referendum. Once the treaty comes into effect, Europe will
have its first President, Tony Blair looks set to occupy that position.
It all started back in 1957 with the treaty of Rome;
six European countries formed the EEC (European Economic Unity). The
small economic club has now increased to 27 member states, which is
increasingly asserting itself beyond an economic entity. It is only a
matter of time that we may see a call for the creation of a European
army, controlled by the European Parliament, headed by the new
President of Europe. To a spectator, it seems they are moving
inexorably towards a Federal Europe or some kind of super state. Is the
new Roman Empire on the rise again? Many would view this power as a
positive force to counterbalance the negative situation of having a
lone super power.
Only 70 years ago, Europe was at war, and despite
their historical animosity, diversity of language, culture and race,
they are gradually moving forward with greater unification. One can
argue the formation of European unity has been one of the main factors
that have prevented wars breaking out in the continent. This period of
stability is slightly tainted by the limited air raids carried out over
Serbia by the NATO forces. However, this is seen in the fringes of
Europe, and hardly constituted a full-scale war.
Rational justification for unity is self-evident. It
gives more strength by pooling the resources of various nations. A
unified European economy is one of the largest economies in the world
that is competing with the US and the Japanese economy. The Euro looks
set to replace the US Dollar as the dominant currency.
The tide of European unity is opposed by those who
are concerned about sovereignty of their nation. The counter argument
is the old notion of sovereignty of territorial or national integrity
is outdated, has to be modified to conform to the globalised world.
Increasingly the nation’s ability to determine its own economic or
political policy is being limited by the rising tide of globalisation.
Sovereignty is redefined as the ability of a nation to determine the
welfare of its own citizen.
As an example, the European powers have collectively
relinquished some level of political and economical sovereignty for the
increasing collective benefit. Hence, if the UK were to pull out from
the EU it would be more sovereign to determine its economic and
political policies internally, but its influence would be reduced
significantly in the international arena. Consequently, this would harm
the welfare of its own citizen significantly. If it loses power and
influence, in effect it is losing real sovereignty.
Nation states are supposed to be inherently divisive
as each nation seeks to promote its interests. Yet, these European
states have overcome these barriers and forge unity, propelled largely
by the mutual economic benefit, which is reinforced by cultural and
political cohesion brought through education, open debates and
Unity does not mean uniformity in every aspect.
Different nations within Europe maintain their cultural identity,
language and religion. In this age, mass participation is a feature of
most society; this implies unity should come from within through mutual
consultation, rather than the imposition of force, like the good old
days of Napoleon. European Union reflects that ethos, and it seems to
be working well.
Many of the Muslim countries and the respective
minorities can learn from European countries like the UK, which has
different nations (Scotland, Wales, Irish) flourishing within. The
minorities retain their cultural identity, there is no ban imposed on
the Celtic or Cornish language or the Scottish Kilt. In fact, the
central government encourages all minorities, including the recent
migrant populations to express their cultural identity; it adds
character to the nation and enriches the culture.
The case for unification of the Islamic world is
even greater. Apart from the rational justification of increasing
material benefit, there is a religious obligation to be unified. Our
values are identical, from Morocco to Indonesia. The cultural
similarities are stronger than our regional differences.
However, the Islamic world is more divided than ever
before, and to blame this entirely on the west is simply being in
denial of our failure. We were colonised argument has passed its sell
by date. Other countries have made considerable progress since
independence, whereas the Muslims countries are constantly falling
Take the example of India and Pakistan (and
Bangladesh), both countries have gained independence in 1947, yet India
has made far more progression, despite having far greater levels of
disparity in terms of language, race, religion and culture. To blame
the British for the stagnation and corruption that exists within
Pakistan and Bangladesh is ludicrous. Whenever, I have travelled
through these parts of the world, just the experience with the airport
officials seeking bribes tells the story. When you peek under their
cover, you see nepotism and bribery is a way of life. There is no
evidence to suggest the west is dictating or influencing the Muslim
countries to behave in this manner. Why should they?
Those who argue the absence of Caliphate is the
reason for our failure are missing the point. The progression does not
start with the Caliphate but rather Caliphate would embody the result
of our progression, which should begin before that. The existence of
the Caliphate should not be a prerequisite to have the basic level of
civility and some level of progression even within secular
dictatorships or monarchs.
The stable European model and the volatile Islamic
world shows, unity in the modern age has to be achieved gradually
through mutual consultation, rather than the imposition of force. It
has to be cultivated in the minds of people. The various organisations
have failed to create any form of unification, even in terms of close
cooperation between the various Islamic nations. There is deep-seated
racism amongst various racial groups; the Turks see themselves as
superior to Arabs, and the Arabs in turn looks towards the Pakistanis
with disdain, and so on. The example of Iraq clearly illustrates this
fracture, each group based on racial and sectarian motive pursued its
interests, and thus the war was lost even before the US invaded Iraq.
Even the smaller experiment of Arab nationalism has
failed at every level because the same prejudice is replicated amongst
the various Arab states. It is no secret, many of the Arab states are
eager to delete the Palestine issue, rather than collectively confront
Israel. All they can offer is some token economic aid to the
Palestinians after watching the routine Israeli massacres.
The world is moving on, but the Muslims seem to be
stuck in the past literally. You see the endless lectures of what the
Muslims achieved in the 12th century, failing to see the scientific
advances made by the west in the last 500 years have left us behind in
‘Allah will never change the situation of a people unless they change what is within themselves’ (Quran – 13:11)