The Year of Wars: Cold and Hot

Dr. Widyane Hamdach
2023 / 1 / 1

The year 2022 reveals the worst of human nature and unprecedented historic events. The following is a summary of three major themes that are worth attention and discussion:

1. The Russian invasion of Ukraine:
On 24 February 2022 Russian president Vladimir Putin declared a "special military operation" in Ukraine. The shameful invasion has various concerning results: tens of thousands of deaths, millions of Ukrainians were displaced within their country, and with millions of Ukrainian refugees, Europe is facing the largest refugee crisis since World War II, in addition to war crimes committed by Russian armed forces in the form of deliberate attacks against civilians: massacres, torture, rape of women and children, and indiscriminate attacks in populated areas.

The most important remark on the war is that Russian citizens are not supporting it, despite the authorities trying to spiritualize the war by describing it as ‘holy’ and legitimizing the use of violence in the name of God and the preservation of culture and traditions. The so-called “holy war” mirrored the sharp religious rhetoric emanating from the Kremlin to desperately retain public support & trust. Putin claimed that Russian forces are fighting Satanists and the West and described the war as a “glorious spiritual choice,” Putin provide a cultural justification for his war against Ukraine and warned against “the overthrow of faith and traditional values.”

Putin is not worried about the widespread international condemnation of the invasion, talk is cheap. The master of the Kremlin is more concerned about the public reaction to the war: the popular uprising and the instability in Russia. A loss of public trust/support means a loss of legitimacy, and the latter is symbolizing the End of Authority. The public is the only force that could put an end to this war along with defection in the Russian Army. Recognizing the power of the public, protests in Russia were met with mass arrests and increased media censorship.

The lesson of 2022: the war in Ukraine reveals the dark side of human nature: the war is not about religion´-or-culture´-or-ideology, the war is about greed (we are needy and vulnerable), it’s about politics and power “who gets what, when and how” it’s about Russia’s concern about NATO expansion in its backyard and-limit-ing U.S. hegemonic power and dwarfing its role in the world stage. The main root of the war is based on the crisis of confidence between both countries, it’s a war of adjusting the imbalance of power around the globe. This war is seen as an opportunity for Russia to impose its muscles and remind the United States that the time for American hegemony in international affairs has passed, that the glories of the Soviet --union-- have returned, and to remind the world that Ukraine will once again return to the arms of Russia. This egoism demonstrates the dark side of human nature, the side that we are all responsible to control.

2. The Cold War of Hijab in Iran:
Iranian women’s decades-long struggle for freedom of choice, and the death of Mahsa Amini in the custody of the country s ‘morality police’ on September 16 was an opportunity for Iranian women to remind the Iranian government of this basic human right ‘the right to choose.’ The mass protests in Iran were unprecedented in terms of both the high number of demonstrators and their diverse social backgrounds and educational spectrum. Social media reveals remarkable and historic moments of women cutting their hair and burning their hijabs rejecting the policy of compulsory hijab.

To protesters burning Hijab symbolizes the end of repression and demonstrates that it’s time for women to freely choose what to wear. Most importantly, to emphasize that human lives are inherently valuable and more important than a piece of cloth: the right to life is a natural right. However, to Iranian officials, Hijab is not just a piece of cloth it’s a religious symbol that must be respected. One may argue that Hijab is a political symbol, a symbol of the 1979 Iranian/Islamic Revolution when Iran becomes an Islamic republic with a new theocratic-republican constitution and Khomeini as the supreme leader of the country through a national referendum. In this sense, Hijab symbolizes ‘the Islamic revolution, and burning Hijab is burning the Khomeini era, so it’s almost impossible to abolish hijab laws. It reflects how the hijab is a complicated issue due to its religious and political complex dimensions.

3. World Cup in Qatar: Clash of civilizations
The World Cup in Qatar is historic as it’s the first time an Arab Muslim country hosted the world cup and it’s a historic achievement for the Moroccan team (the Atlas Lions) as it became the first African/Arab team to reach the World Cup semifinals. Interestingly, the World Cup in Qatar has been described as ‘the Clash of Civilizations’ between Islamic regimes and secular liberal democracies on the world stage. Qatar, throughout the entire event, tried to preserve its Islamic identity and cultural values: the Qur an had been recited as part of the opening ceremony, Moroccan fans were chanting the Shahada (it’s the first pillar of Islam: the declaration of faith in one God (Allah) and His messenger), and soccer fans from around the world go sightseeing to Islamic monuments (e.g. the Katara mosque), where preachers have been introducing Islam in multiple languages, Qatar has also been very restrictive regarding LGBT practices and alcohol consumption. The clever and historic moment the entire world was waiting for was Lionel Messi carrying the World Cup while wearing the traditional bisht over his shoulders honoring the man but most importantly portraying the Arab culture to the world and covering Messi’s Argentina shirt and the national badge. Many fans have followed suit, soaking themselves in Arab culture during the FIFA World Cup 2022.

Politics was dominated, it is a tournament like no other in the world cup: there was the Iranian national team who refused to sing their national anthem in protest at the Iranian repressive regime, and Germany whose hands-over-mouth gesture protesting the denial of their right to wear the pro-LGBT armband, and an opportunity for the Palestinians and Arab nations to easily communicate their cause and sharing their objection to Israel s occupation of Palestinian territory. Both players and spectators (especially from Arab states) shared similar sentiments, most Arabs refused to be interviewed by Israeli TV stations. Thus, many commentators went even further to describe Palestine as the real winner of FIFA 2022 despite not participating in the games at all. Arabs and Muslims worldwide were very inspired by Morocco s victory: portrayed as a victory of the east over the west. In fact, the world cup exposed the world to witness the unity of Arab/Muslim nations despite the differences between their governments (Algeria vs. Morocco): Arabism, nationalism, and religion and culture, were the dominant features of this unique world cup. Yet, the World Cup also raises the battle over identity (e.g., how Moroccans identify themselves: as an Arab nation, African, Amazigh,´-or-Muslim nation), how do European´-or-Asian identify themselves?

May the year of 2023 open new themes of hope and unity, a unity that is not necessarily based on similarities in religion, culture, ideology,´-or-politics but based on what unifies all of us: humanity.

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