Islamic Civilisation Middle East — 12 February 2008

Lines in Middle Eastern sand, drawn by civil servants in Whitehall, can not wipe out Islam’s Golden Age. People who talk about uniting the Muslim Ummah are often derided as ideologues; impractical and unrealistic. However, all it took was a few sticks of dynamite to remove the ramshackle physical barrier – officially known as the border – between Palestinian Gaza and Egypt. The subsequent free flow of people and goods – only inhibited by the size of the gap in the broken boarder – exemplified how simple, realistic and natural the concept of one Muslim Ummah really is – if the political will exists!

In many parts of the Muslim world national border lines drawn by colonial masters, usually British, divided families, tribes, trade and commerce. Once the borders were drawn, ordinary people living simple lives were inhumanly and forcibly separated. Overnight, the borders physically divided communities who, for centuries, held the same identity; family names, belief, language and values. This abnormal separation, enforced by the creation of nation states, is actually what is unrealistic, impractical and consequently unsustainable – not natural unification.

The forced separation of people who have common interests and a single identity will always be transient. Their common interests will always encourage a tendency for merger; while the common identify will truly achieve serenity only through unification.

The unification of Germany in 1990 occurred in spite of nearly half a century of separation; the implementation of diametrically opposing ideologies in former east and west Germany; and massive economic and social inequalities. Greater integration in the European Union is actively being progressed despite the language and cultural differences in Europe; huge economic and welfare disparities between northern and eastern European countries; and vast differences in political maturity between European nations. In both these cases, political will is the driving force, which is able to overcome very real obstacles.

In contrast to Europe, the Muslim world, divided as it is into more than 50 nation states, shares a common belief , culture and ideology, many of these nations speak the same language, and they share a common and predominately successful history dating back over a 1000 years under the Caliphate. Most importantly, ordinary Muslims have an overwhelming desire for unity as evidenced by a 2006 University of Maryland survey and so vividly demonstrated by the personal accounts of those who crossed the border into Egypt. What is presently lacking though is the political will from Muslim leaders to demolish these contrived physical barriers.

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