I have read two books, written by two authors with completely different background, concerning the factors that may influence the 21st century world. Ian Hackett’s book “Succeeding Revolutions – 18th Century America and the 21st Century World” gives an account of American independence movement (on right hand side of the pages) and compares it with the 21st century developments (on left hand side of the pages), drawing parallel between various events and personalities featuring in the two processes. The other author, Dr Ehsanullah, has worked as a structural engineer and he is an expert in Islamic Law. He got his Doctorate when he was over 80 years of age. He continues writing at the age of 86 years. His book “Siyasa Shariyya, The anthropology of Injustice – The case for Saudi Kingdom” questions the legitimacy of Saudi Kingdom from Islamic point of view, based on history and principles of Koran, and comments on the undesirable effect it may have on the 21st century world, owing to its alliance with the USA.
Mr Hackett has given a detailed and well researched account of the American revolution, suggesting that some wise counselling was ignored by King George III, The author has suggested that the history would have changed for the better if the advice was taken and that the consequences might have influenced the development of American politics thereafter, resulting in beneficial effects for the 21st century world.
Unfair taxation without representation was the primary reason for the unrest in the American colonies. The likes of Ben Franklin had pleaded in 1766 in favour of abolishing the Stamp Duty Act. The British repealed this act but replaced it soon by duties on glass, lead, paper and tea (Townsend Taxes). In 1769, most taxes were repealed except for the tax on tea. This resulted in the “Boston Tea Party”, an iconic event in the process of collapse of British power in 13 of the colonies. Some 40,000 kilograms of tea were dumped in the harbour. It started a conflict that escalated into blocking of the harbour by the British and killing of innocent people. The conflict flared into a war that went on from 1775 to 1785, with Spain and France aiding the Americans against the British. All because of the intransigent King George III, a sovereign with German ancestry, who ignored and hated his own Prime Minister Pitt! The history took its course with ups and downs in the fortunes of the warring sides, finally resulting in bringing about American independence that was declared on 4 July 1776 and a constitution that evolved from Mr Paine’s pamphlet called the “Common Sense” issued in 1776.
In my opinion, Mr Hackett has drawn strange-looking parallels between the American Revolution and the 21st century USA hegemony, starting with a link between indiscretions of King George III and those of President George W. Bush. Those wise counsellors of the 18th century, e.g. Pitt, Adams, Barre’, Burke, Wilkes, Ford et al, are compared with Gordon Brown, de Villepin (French Prime Minister known for his opposition to Iraq war) and Hilary Benn. Modesty must have been the reason for not including the author’s name in the list! It is also amazing, if not totally unacceptable, that the Boston Tea Party merits any comparison with the attack on World Trade Centre towers in September 2001.
While all authors should be entitled to some degree of exaggeration, I feel that Mr Hackett has indulged in excessive extrapolation that could suffer from the defects similar to any large-scale magnification of a small model. American Revolution regrettably resulted in loss of life but it might seem like a family feud, resulting from the greed of a head of the family, when compared with the massive difficulties the world could potentially face in the future. Additionally, not all aspects of the present American attitude towards the world could be attributed to the old war of independence.
To start with, Americans did not accept all principles in the pamphlet produced by Mr Paine, notably abolition of slavery. Brutal treatment of the Native Americans and slaves continued to such an extent that the American prosperity would appear to be nurtured substantially with the blood of its natives and sweat of its slaves. Furthermore, more Europeans came later on, with the only intention of making money at any cost and to forget the problems of their lands of origin, e.g. the Irish after the potato famine in 1849 and the Italians with Mafia connection. It is hard to blame King George III for the American philosophy of life, whereby hard tyrants would kill and subjugate any opposition so that Uncle Sam and Aunt Mollie can thrive and live prosperously under the cover. What can be a better compliment to such American ways than that of Hitler himself, who often expressed his admiration for the expediency in which the American Christians removed the Native Americans and gave them mass graves like the one in Wounded Knee, South Dakota? Even today, most Native Americans find themselves reduced to mere statistics that everyone hears about – unemployed, uneducated, alcoholics and welfare recipients.
The USA is acquiring an image of a greedy, oil-obsessed and imperialistic monster in the 21st century, with total disregard to any environmental issues confronting the world and with contempt to any proposals for mitigation of hazards like the global warming, CO2 emissions and rapid depletion of natural resources. The USA politicians have strong influence on the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Such powers allow the USA to impose punitive tariffs on imports from developing nations while enjoying advantageous trade with people of Africa and other poorer countries, including indiscriminate extraction of minerals and natural resources. The USA would wish to grab energy resources from the world, oil and minerals, vastly disproportionate to the US population, i.e. 4% of people using some 25% of the resources. The US-led corporations continue to sell bad and harmful tobacco products in Southeast Asia. Their large companies buy out water sources for building soft drink factories, depriving farmers of their livelihood. This can only stop when the voice of leaders like NKrumah, Nyrere, Mandela and Kofi Annan reaches the people and they wake up, and, in some cases, drive out their own corrupt leaders. Help may be at hand with the European Union gaining strength, which should challenge the USA hegemony and exploitation of the world.
If the USA politicians are exploiting the world in their own way, there are rulers in the Middle East strengthening their hands. Dr Ehsanullah’s book “Siyasa Shariyya, The anthropology of Injustice – The case for Saudi Kingdom” makes this point very strongly. The book should also assist in eliminating any wrongful impressions of Islamic religion. The book makes a case that the Saudi Kingdom cannot claim to be following the principles of Siyasa Shariyya or a government in accordance with the precepts of Islamic Law. Saudi rulers seem to follow the path of those who seek the good for themselves. Their Lend-lease agreements with the USA bring them vast sums of money, with seven top Al Sauds allegedly claiming one day’s oil revenue per year. It is also alleged that a whole month’s oil revenue goes for the private use of the Royal family, who spend and squander money, indulging in luxury and flamboyance with no regard to any austerities that were traditionally observed by Muslim heads of states at one time, e.g. Aurangzeb of India.
Dr Ehsanullah blames the scientific materialism for replacing spiritual existence and producing Satans like Thatcherism, Bushism and Saudism. With the unholy alliance of the USA and Islamic kings like the Saudis, the Islamic community, which amounts to 25% of the whole mankind, has been rendered helpless and hapless like a great mass of flotsam of a sunken ship.
The author recalls the events of 1880s when Muslim countries like Tunisia, Algeria and Turkey were occupied by the European colonial powers, progressing towards the control of the Middle East and its oil, the main commodity. The book refers to the Sykes-Picot pact of 1916, which led to dismemberment of succession of religious leadership. Finally, Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, the so-called restorer of Islamic faith, carved out a kingdom for himself by 1930s with the support of the West, from the Red sea to the Persian Gulf. Riches have kept coming to the Sauds after Standard of California struck oil in Bahrain, which received a concession in 1933 of 320,000 square miles for 60 years for £50,000 in gold, coupled with additional perks for the company and the rulers.
The rulers like King Fahd are dubbed as pro-Americans with drinking problems, financiers of the CIA’s dirty wars and other covert involvement in the Iraq – Iran War and the Gulf War. Muslim scholars doubt whether the Saudi King is fit for or entitled to the guardianship or custodianship of the Holy Shrines at Makka and Madina. More importantly, their alliance with the USA is strengthening the US domination of the world, ignoring basic interests of the environment and progress towards removal of poverty and injustice suffered by the less developed nations.
Satish Desai is a member of the committee of Federal Union. The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of Federal Union.