Optimum Terms for Euro-Arab Relations

The Arab House in Madrid

Speech on:

Optimum Terms for Euro-Arab Relations

By: Imam Al Sadig Al Mahdi

June 2009


I am grateful to the Arab House in Madrid for inviting me to become acquainted with its activities, and to speak to its constituency on the subject of “Optimum Terms for Euro-Arab Relations”.

By way of introduction, I find it appropriate to offer a brief autobiographical note: I come from a dynastic family. However, as I came to participate in politics, I held no office to which I was not freely elected. I participated in the overthrow of two dictatorial regimes which governed the Sudan and led my party twice to successful general elections and was twice elected Prime Minister. My party has supplied almost all the ideas of great compromise in the pursuit of a peaceful resolution of the civil war in Sudan, namely, that the conflict is political and cultural and can not be resolved by military means, that citizenship rather than religious identity should be the basis of constitutional rights in the Sudan, and that we should negotiate new terms for a United Sudan, and allow our aggrieved compatriots to accept voluntary unity on the basis of a free plebiscite or choose a different path.

My grandfather established a religious organization as a modern and moderate avatar of the Mahdist Revolution. Without holding any specific title, I led that group, modernized its organization, and democratized its decision-making organs. I have spent altogether four years in Prime Ministerial office, eight years in prison without trail and about the same number of years in exile.

My party today is in touch with all Sudan’s political forces, particularly the government, negotiating and mobilizing opinion to eschew violence, eschew totalitarianism, and agree upon a National Agenda which should reach a just peace agreement, a program for democratic transformation and the formation of a National Government which would abide by a national political program, implement the peace agreement, and implement the democratic transformation.

Therefore, my address to you will cover a broad intellectual, political, spiritual, cultural and international spectrum.


(A) North/South Conflicts

In 1989, after the destruction of the Berlin Wall, I published a book titled “the Challenges of the Nineties”. In that book I made point that the East/West conflict will be replaced by a North/South conflict. I referred to several fault lines between North and South, and concluded that unless they are resolved justly, the World will witness a polarization in which political forces in the South will resort to what I called Weapons of Mass Obstruction, namely; Terrorism, illegal immigration, Drug cultivation to market in the North, Environmental delinquency, population irresponsibility, the Health Bomb and WMD proliferation.

Unfortunately, the last decade of the 20th century, and the first decade of the 21st century seem to have fulfilled those expectations.

After the events of 11th September, I gave a lecture to an American Military Academy in Washington in which I maintained that the security response to the tragic events is necessary but not sufficient, that there are five main causes of this malaise, namely; colonization of Muslim/Arab territories, occupation of some, and cultural hegemony as external causes; and despotism and social injustice as internal causes. I stated that if there is no comprehensive diagnosis of the situation, and so a viable prescription, one side will be absorbed by the War on Terror Program, and the other side will be sucked into the Jihadist Program; and the two will engage in a Road to Hell Waltz. I said that the cranks must not be allowed to lay down the Global Agenda. However, the last decade witnessed just that Agenda.

Between the two Waltz partners, there was a symbiosis described by Sir Ivor Robert, UK Ambassador to Italy in 2004, who said: “The best recruiting Sergeant for AlQaeda is non other than President Bush; with US elections entering their final furlongs, if any one is to celebrate the eventual reelection of Bush, it is AlQaeda“.

On a more serious analysis, Mohammad Qutb, a well known Islamicist thinker said in 2003 in Riyadh to an audience including myself what could be quoted as: “We Muslims are in our worst conditions suffering from Divine punishment, because we abandoned Islam; the only thing which will wake us up is the series of American and Zionist atrocities. They are God’s instruments to wake us up, make us abandon talk about moderation and reconciliation and prepare for the eventual confrontation. Many have been hoodwinked by Western liberalism, Human Rights and Toleration. Now America has shown its true face. This is the real face and we need to recognize it to know our enemy and prepare for liberation. This is the wakeup call, which Toynbee referred to us as a sleeping giant which will someday wakeup and defeat the West’.

This confrontational language has got several other advocates who thoroughly Demonized USA and its allies in Muslim/ Arab World.

In the other side of this “Iron Curtain” there are numerous spokespersons of IslamoPhobia and Islamofascism led by religious and intellectual giants like Professor Bernard Lewis.

Some in the West read the writing on the wall and started to speak a different language. On 12-13 January 2008, the Herald Tribune stated “We can only hope that this time, unlike 2004, American voters will have the wisdom to grant the awesome powers of the presidency to someone who has the integrity, principle and decency to use them honorably. Then when we look in the mirror as a nation, we will see, once again, the reflection of the United States of America.”

No doubt, the election of President Obama goes someway to fulfill this aspiration.

Some European Governments have defied American unilateralism and preemption. European Peoples have been more outspoken in that direction. But, on the whole the policies of the Neocons have smeared Western policies and contributed to the greater popularity of Jihadism and extremism in the Islamic/Arabic World.

Already Europeans are being showered with cries of wolf.. wolf in a series of books and articles, for example, “Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis” by Bat Ye’or (2005), “Power, Faith, and Fantasy: The United States in the Middle East”, by  Michael Oren (2007), “The West’s Last Chance” by Tony Blankley (2005) and “While Europe Slept” by Bruce Bawer (2006).

This trend was fed by no less an authority than Pope Benedict-XVI, and his September 2006 lecture titled “Faith, Reason and the University: Memories and Reflections” in which he did not stop at the merits of Christianity, but made a scathing attack on what he called Islamic irrationality and propensity to violence. An attack which bears all the signs of panic at the current fortunes of Islam. It further fueled the trend of Islamophobia. His presumed apology was not an apology but that he was sorry his remarks upset Muslims; not that there was anything wrong with the remarks themselves!

Although President Obama enjoys unprecedented popularity in his country and Worldwide, he is already being attacked by the hawks, for example, John Bolton, Dick Cheney and others. They struck a sensitive nerve about being soft on America’s enemies and exposing American Security. They, the Israeli lobby, and the Rightist Government in Israel, will leave no stone unturned to restore the Agenda for a New American Century: the neocons Blueprint.


(B) Europe’s Responsibility and Preferred Role

Europe has a special International responsibility. It has geographical, cultural and ethnological continuities with the Region across the Mediterranean and across central Asia.

It is true that there was a historical interaction between Europe and Muslim/Arab World before the Imperialist period. However, after the historical interaction and the Imperialist interlude, it is the first time there is now a substantial Islamic/ Arabic presence in the whole of Europe. Therefore, relations between Europe and the Arab Peoples is now a multifaceted issue: Internal, Regional and International.

America as the leader of the West has already realized that it should rethink its policies to the Muslim Arab World. America has also realized that unilateralism is wrong, and is gearing its policy towards multilateralism.

In the restructuring of Western policy towards the Islamic Arab World, the European input is crucial. For Europe to perfect that input, Europeans need to make a thorough diagnosis of the situation, and before charting their response to listen to the views of the stakeholders.

Optimum Terms for Euro-Arab Relations

There are ten important issues which should be negotiated and hopefully yield a strategic understanding as a basis for a meeting of hearts and minds and a definition of optimum terms for Euro- Arab Relations.

They are:

First Point: the issue of Religion. The assumption that Religion has been devalued as a result of the prevalence of Secularism is nonsensical. Religious identity is very much in business influencing World views, shaping identities, influencing legislations and defining moral values.

In the field of Inert-Religions, it is necessary to agree upon three aspects:

  • Mutual Recognition of Spiritual and moral Worth.
  • Mutual respect for Religious identities.
  • Freedom of Religious beliefs.

It is necessary to review all current practices to ensure their consistency with these principles.

Second Point: Cultural plurality is part of the human predicament. Modernization and now Globalization are unifying factors which aim at standardization of human conditions. In all societies, therefore there will be a dialectical tension between Globalization, and cultural identity. It is necessary to earmark certain principles; namely, Human Rights; and certain values, namely, truth and Righteousness, as universal commitments. However, it must be left to the Peoples concerned to define how to reach a synthesis between the universal principles and values and their respective cultures.

Third Point: Security: International relations based upon peace, Justice, and cooperation, are diplomatic imperatives. However, the present structure of the UN system has been designed in the absence of so many present stakeholders. It must be reviewed to accommodate their views and interests. It is necessary to update the UN system.

The whole World suffers from Terrorism. The so called War on Terror made two mistaken assumptions about this tragic violence which only helped advance its cause:

  • All the groups engaged in this activity have been related to an International cause, for example, the Jihad in Afghanistan was a direct result of Soviet occupation and American cooperation with the resistance. It is true that at a later stage AlQaeda targeted America, but the enterprise had a shared parenthood. The same may be said about Taliban and Pakistani/ American encouragement. It is a mistake to ignore this background and link the phenomenon with Islam. Such a linkage is not justified. It had the counterproductive result of broadening the appeal of this violent activity.
  • Another basic mistake was lumping together such violence with bona fide Resistance Movements. Many Iraqi activities have been born directly as a result of an unlawful occupation. Hamas developed as a direct consequence of Israeli refusal to comply with UN peace Resolutions. Hizb Allah grew out of Resistance to Israeli occupation of Lebanon in 1982.

It is true that Dictatorship and Social injustice in Arab Countries contribute to the tension, which breeds extremism from which violent designs spring. However, a Just Resolution to the Palestinian problem and an end of foreign military occupation will go a long way to abolish the raison d’ etre of extremism and its ability to recruit the soldiers of violence.

Fourth Point: Development: the present distribution of World income is absurd. It is inherently unstable and would lead to all types of unacceptable behavior like terrorism, illegal immigration and so on.

Europe has done a wonderful job in terms of absorbing Southern and Eastern Europe into a zone of prosperity.

The North must accept the need for a Global Development partnership. This strategic commitment should emulate what the upper classes did in Europe to share prosperity with the lower classes. Of course, this is a double edged commitment, where the beneficiaries have got to effect much reform to enable this partnership to succeed. The idea is to go for beyond the MDGs into a Millennium Partnership Goals.

Fifth Point: the Israeli problem. The crisis in Palestine is the result of the audacious implantation of an immigrant peoples in the land of a settled community without its consent, and in spite of the will of neighboring peoples who share with the deprived community a common ethno-cultural and religious identity. That socio-cultural engineering was both a legal mistake and a moral fault.

The Zionist theory is based upon:

  • That the Jews represent an ethno-religious community which suffers from persecution all over the World.
  • That gathering them in one Nation- State is the only means to protect them.
  • That the Land of Palestine is a land without owners which has been given to them by God.
  • That the balance of International power first under British and later American guidance supports this program.
  • That the surrounding Arab countries are themselves under foreign control and therefore have no independent position to take.

This description held good to a large extent over the past sixty years.


  • Since the second Atlantic War, the position of the Jews has changed to become the spoilt child of the West. Therefore, Jewish residence there, especially in USA has become extremely attractive and the majority of Jews now reside in USA without any intention to emigrate.
  • The Arab Region witnessed awakening movements under the banners of Nationalism, socialism, and later Islam. Therefore, even if Arab States have been forced by Self-interests to accept the de facto situation, the Region has witnessed non-state popular actors who dared to organize Resistance and successfully challenge Israel. Further, the structural basis of the Zionist ideology to gather all Jews in a Jewish state has evaporated. The majority of Jews are and will remain, outside Israel.
  • Israel itself includes now 20% Arabs, and in the historic Territory of Palestine they are now a majority. So the Jewishness of the State cannot be achieved except at the cost of an impossible surgical ethnic cleansing.

All the factors involved at present lead to an explosive situation with continuous war as the outcome.

There are only two possible peace recipes: Either a genuine Co-equal two State solution, or a multi-religious,  multi-ethnic Democratic one State for all, in which the three Monotheistic Religions Co-exist, and each given a spiritual enclave around its sacred monuments; three mini-Vaticans.

Time is running out and extremism on both sides is building up.

The European Union will have to come clear on the terms for Just Peace in the Region and support a peace process which delivers, and which involves all the stakeholders. The present situation is a recipe for disaster.

Sixth Point:  Energy: until further notice, oil and Gas are and will remain the main sources of energy. The whole World is interested in increasing the supply of oil and Gas. The producers are interested in stable and expanding markets. The consumers are interested in stable and reasonably priced products. Such are the rational factors that should lead to an International Energy Convention, which should receive universal recognition. It is imperative to demythologize the issue of oil and gas, liberate it from becoming the basis of asymmetrical relations between producers and consumers, and liberate it from being an instrument of International hegemony.

Europe, as the most important consumer market should seek with the producers to rationalize the oil and gas market.

Seventh Pint: Nuclear proliferation: Although NPT has helped limit proliferation, it has leaked in several respects. There are three factors which govern nuclear aspiration: Resources, know how? and motivation. The motivation has all to do with security. To call a country axis of evil, and to target it by Regime Change and hoist in its face the right of unilateralism and preemption is to create for it a motivation to seek maximum deterrence.

The Region can be saved from a Nuclear Arms Race to strictly abide by the use of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. However, this can only be achieved by reassuring States about their security so that it is Regional and not selective security, by making the Region Nuclear free, and removing the existing Nuclear blackmail; short of that, whatever is being maintained publicly, a Nuclear Arms Race in the Region will materialize.

Europe should espouse and carry a principled and viable Non-proliferation policy. The present policy is neither principled nor viable. It should be abandoned.

Eighth Point: climate change is a hazard created by the Rich Nations, and the rest will suffer the consequences. The Rich Nations must create a fund to help with containing the climate change hazard. Such a fund should finance, among other things, these programs, namely:

  • Widespread affrostization to increase the plant coverage over large areas which will both combat desertification and effect Co2 sequestration.
  • The widespread use of solar energy for all domestic purposes, which will have the effect of combating wood cutting, environment friendly energy.
  • Embankments where necessary to contain the expected floods.

Ninth Point: The current World financial crisis is having negative financial, trade and economic consequences worldwide. However, the G20 looked at the crisis only from a G20 point of view. It is necessary to count the costs to the rest of the world and to earmark a percentage of the stimulus to the poorer counties. This, of course, has to be conceived in terms of partnership where the recipients have to achieve certain reform parameters to make the stimulus effective.

Tenth Point: It is incumbent upon us all to appreciate that the issues at stake are capable of creating a cumulative crisis. A crisis which should shake complacency and offer on opportunity for a new 21st Century Deal between East and west, or more particularly between Europe And Arabia. A creative Shakespearean opportunity: “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.”

In the Arab World, there is a general realization that the status quo must change in several radical respects.

The two dynamic trends competing to shape the future are:

  • A leap into the past hopefully to restore a lost Golden Age against all the odds.
  • A leap into the future to reconcile identity with modernization.

A confrontational scenario a la neocons will blow into the rails of reaction and so no end of extremism and violence.

Optimum terms for Euro-Arab relations as indicated here are a recipe for a better, stable and just World.