Shameful Hypocrisy

In Sudan, Muslims are killing Muslims; Muslims are destroying mosques; Muslims are desecrating Qur'ans.

BY: Hesham A. Hassaballa


When the photographs of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib first emerged, the Muslim world rose up in condemnation. The

Organization of the Islamic Conference

, for instance, "expressed its strong condemnation of the brutal acts of torture perpetrated against Iraqi flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention."

Yet as the chorus of condemnation loudly rang across the Muslim world, worse crimes were being committed


the Muslim world--crimes that also were in "flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention." As angry fingers were wagged at the West, they passed over vicious genocide being committed in the Darfur region of Western Sudan.

The conflict in Darfur has a long history. The Darfur region is a very poor region almost entirely dedicated to subsistence agriculture and livestock herding for domestic and export purposes. The Fur and other ethnic African peoples of Darfur have farmed the most fertile parts of central Darfur for generations. The Northern part of Darfur is mostly desert, and the ethnic Arab populations of Northern Darfur bring their flocks to graze and water in the south every spring.

This has led to conflicts between the Fur and the Arabs. The Fur and other African groups of Darfur formed self-defense groups in the 1990s to protect their crops, homes, and families from increasing incursions by the Arab raiders, many of whom have also been armed over the past decades.

In early 2003, armed conflict broke out between two non-Arab rebel groups in Darfur and the Sudanese government forces. The Sudanese government attacked the civilian populations associated with the rebel groups. Human Rights Watch, in a report released in May 2004, accused the Sudanese government of ethnic cleaning in Darfur. The report documents how "Sudanese government forces have overseen and directly participated in massacres, summary executions of civilians, burnings of towns and villages, and the forcible depopulation of wide swaths of land long-inhabited by the Fur, Masalit, and Zaghawa ethnic groups [of the Darfur region]."

Peter Takirambudde, executive director of the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch, said, "There can be no doubt about the Sudanese government's culpability in crimes against humanity in Darfur."

In addition, government forces allied themselves with the janjaweed, armed Arab militiamen from the North of Darfur; these fighters have raped, pillaged, and terrorized the civilians of Darfur. The government has also recruited and armed a 20,000-man strong militia. In fact, numerous eye witnesses document coordination between the government and janjaweed forces. For instance, the Sudanese air force will bomb a village, and then a joint government-janjaweed force will attack that same village. The janjaweed wear green khaki uniforms similar or identical to the Sudanese Army, except that the patch worn on the chest or sleeve may have a horseman. The janjaweed officers sometimes arrive at the scene of an attack in an army Land Cruiser. In addition, they use satellite phones said to be issued by the government, and the janjaweed have offices in the main government-controlled towns and are paid by the government.

There is no religious element in this conflict, unlike the decades-old conflict in the South between the minority Christians, who are persecuted by Muslims. Both the janjaweed and tribes of Darfur are Muslim. In fact--and this makes my blood curdle in fury--the Human Rights Watch report documents how the janjaweed have destroyed mosques, killed imams, and desecrated Qur'ans of the Darfur. The report lists 39 mosques in Darfur that have been destroyed by the janjaweed. Muslims are killing Muslims; Muslims are destroying mosques; Muslims are desecrating Qur'ans.

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