Consequences of the decline of Bandung Dynamics: Extension of Globalization and Religious Fundamentalism in the Middle East, the Arab World and Lebanon

Prof. Boutros Labaki*

Consequences of the decline of Bandung dynamics: Extension of globalization and religious Fundamentalism
in the Middle East, the Arab World and Lebanon



- Introduction

1) Fundamentalism and globalization in the Middle East and the Arab World

2) Jewish fundamentalism in the Middle East and the Arab World

3) Christian fundamentalism in the Middle East and the Arab World

4) Muslim fundamentalism in the Middle East and the Arab World
    4-1) Muslim Sunni fundamentalism

    4-2) Muslim Shia fundamentalism

    4-3) The changing situation since the eighties with the end of the cold war

5) Lebanon in this turmoil
    5-1) Basic facts about Lebanon

    5-2) Political developments in Lebanon since the sixties

6) Lebanon and religious fundamentalism movements
    6-1) Lebanon and Shia'a Muslim fundamentalism

    6-2) Lebanon and Muslim Sunni fundamentalism

    6-3) Jewish and Christian fundamentalism in Lebanon

7) Conclusive remarks


The Bandung Era 1955-1965 was the period when patriotic, anti colonialist, secular socially minded movements and regimes were at their climax in Asia and Africa. Decolonisation was accelerated in Asia, and in Africa. Politically independent states were aiming at being economically independent. Patriotic movements, frequently secular and/or socially minded, were active and growing.
Regional structures (Organization of African Unity, Arab League,...) were emerging and developing. "Third World" structures were emerging. States, groups of states and economies were trying to build independent structures. Countries were recovering a partial control on their economies (nationalization and/or "indigenisation" of foreign interests).
Since the mid sixties things started changing.
Nationalist and anti colonial regimes and movements were attacked by the interests of industrialized countries (Indonesia, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Ghana, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Congo,...). In the Middle East, and the Arab World, this was particularly felt through the 1967 Israeli war against Egypt, Syria and Jordan. Arabs reacted partly by a growing of leftist militantism, but mainly by muslim fundamentalism. A big majority considered that Arabs have been defeated because they abandoned their faith, for secular and/or atheist ideologies (nationalism, patriotism, secularism, marxism, "third world socialism", ...). As a consequence islamist movements considered that Arabs have to return to the true faith in order that God will make them victorious of their enemies. In the same period (1965-1990) Christian and Jewish fundamentalism were growing in the USA and Israel.
With the break down of the Soviet Block in the late nineties of past century, globalization accelerated, with as a consequence the "rexpansion" of western powers in the political, military, economic and cultural fields. In the Middle East and the Arab World, this expansion reinforced the rise and extension of muslim fundamentalism as an ideological tool to confront western expansion.
In this article we are describing how, in the framework of the strong decline of "Bandung spirit" based movements and regimes, globalization (which is now mainly the expansion of industrial countries) and religious fundamentalisms are interacting in the Middle East the Arab World in general and Lebanon in particular.

1) Fundamentalism and globalization in the Middle East and the Arab World

To start we try to define very simply our terms.
We have to start defining very simply religious fundamentalism as a move in a given religion to return to the original texts and creeds and to apply them literally and strictly in all aspects of present time life. These moves are frequently an obstacle to ecumenism and dialogue with other religious, creeds or philosophies.

Globalization in principle is a process of removing obstacles to the free movement of goods, services, capital, persons, ideas, cultural and intellectual messages between all the countries of the world. In fact it is mainly a way of describing and favoring the economic, political, cultural and ideological expansion of industrial modern powers in the rest of the world.
So globalization is an old phenomenon: since the fifteenth century, European powers (Portugal, Spain, Holland, UK, France, Russia, Germany, Austria, Italy,...) expanded their military, political, economic and cultural influence to the rest of the world. They were followed in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries by the USA and Japan. Globalization was known in these times under the names of colonization and constitution of empires.
After the Second World War, and during the "Cold War" (1945-1989), the world economy witnessed an "internationalization of capital", and trends to open markets to the transnational corporations. But, with the end of the cold war, and the collapse of the Soviet bloc, globalization accelerated, tariff and non tariff barriers tended to disappear, the same for the barriers against the flow of capital, but with strong resistances mainly in the US and the UE. But freedom for the movement of persons was restrained especially to a number of rich countries.
The expansion of Western Powers in the Third World and some of its consequences stimulated religious fundamentalism especially in the Muslim world, the Hindu world and the Buddhist world. The same happened with the Jewish religion as a consequence to the social and political developments in Europe and the Arab East in the 19th and 20th century.
For the Christian churches, fundamentalist movements came mainly in the late 19 century and the 20th century as a reaction against modernization and secularization in Europe and North America.
Religious fundamentalism and globalization in the Arab World and the Middle have old links, since colonial expansion during 19th and 20th centuries and after the 1967 Arab defeat against Israel.
Three kinds of religious fundamentalisms are active in the Middle East and the Arab World: Jewish fundamentalisms, Christian fundamentalisms and especially Muslim fundamentalisms.

2) Jewish fundamentalisms in the Middle east and the Arab World

are a growing force in Israel and especially in the US; supporting in ideas and fact the ritualism and the thesis that Palestine is the Promised Land for all the Jews on earth and that their religious duty is to go and settle there, and as a consequence push out Arab Palestinians from their ancestral land.
So Jewish fundamentalists are a main driving force supporting the Jewish settlement colonies in what remained of Palestinian territories (20% of the original) in West Bank and Ghaza. (before the recent withdrawal).

They provoke all sort of problems for a peaceful solution of the present Arab - Israeli conflict in particular.
They are also a force of oppression for other Jews in Israel and outside, trying to impose their concepts and rituals, and pushing to violence, and assassinations. As examples we can mention:
- Israeli Prime Minister Ishak Rabin assassination in Tel Aviv by a Jewish fundamentalist in 1995.
- Rubinstein killing 15 Palestinians in Al-Khalyl (Hebron) in 1994.
So, Jewish fundamentalists participate actively directly and indirectly in oppressive wars and tension in the Middle East.

3) Christian fundamentalisms in the Middle East and the Arab World

“American Born Again Evangelists", who even not very directly present in the Middle East, are in spite of this fact very active there. As an example we can mention the American Tele Evangelist Pat Robertson who installed a TV station called "Middle East TV" in Israeli Occupied South Lebanon in the late seventies to preach his well known interpretation of christianism. The station was withdrawed with the liberation of South Lebanon from Israeli occupation in 2000.
Evangelist Christian fundamentalists are also active in Algeria, where they have a conversion activity among Amazigs (a Moslem ethnic minority in North West Africa), taking advantage of the conflict of this minority with the Arab Muslim majority.
Western Christian fundamentalists are also active in trying to convert Oriental Christians in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine and Irak to their brand of christianism. But their stronger impact is through their "Christian Embassy" in Jerusalem as a support to Israel's expansion, and the support and ideological guidance they provide to their member Georges Bush in his policy in Irak, Palestine and Afghanistan....

4) Muslim fundamentalisms in the Middle East and the Arab World

We have two main branches of Muslim fundamentalisms:

4-1 Moslem Sunni fundamentalisms:

This branch started at the end of 19th century, in the decaying Ottoman Empire. But it was institutionally established by Hassan Al Banna in Egypt under British rule between the two world wars. Banna and Sayed Kotb established the "Muslim Brotherhood" which is the central structure of the majority of the sunni fundamentalists.

This movement was one of the reactions against western colonialism and expansion in all aspects (military, political, economic, social, cultural), and took place because the nationalist secular movements were considered unable to confront victoriously the Westerners.
In the fifties, "Moslem Brothers" were supported and used against Nasser, by the British and the American governments, the Hashemite and the Saudi ruling families in Jordan and Arabia, to counter attack Nasser's moves at political and economic liberation from western domination of Egypt and at unification of the Arab World on secular nationalist and socially progressive grounds.
Muslim Brothers acted also against similar regimes in Syria, Irak, Yemen, Algeria and others.

4-2 Muslim Shia fundamentalisms:

In Iran, Ayatollah Kachani was very effective in 1953 in crushing down Mossadegh secular nationalist regime who nationalized Iranian oil in 1951. With the support of the CIA and General Zahedi (head of the Iranian military intelligence at this time), he mobilized Teheran mob to crack down the regime, restore the Shah and western domination on Iranian oil, and Iran as a whole.
In the late fifties of last century, a shia'a cleric Baker Al-Sadr in Irak, afraid by the expansion of nationalist and especially communist influence among the shia'a youth, even in the shia'a holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, established a shia'a party, called "Al-Daawa Party", as muslim shia answer especially to marxism. He wrote two well known books: "Falsafatuna" (our philosophy) and "Iktissaduna" (our economy), in order to answer marxist theses in the philosophic and economic spheres. This party expanded later to Lebanon.
During the 50's, 60s, 70s and 80s, Muslim fundamentalist movements were instrumental to combat the Soviet Union and its satellites, communist movements, nationalist populist parties and regimes in Indonesia, Palestine, Turkey, Algeria, Sudan, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Muslim former Soviet republics of Caucasus and Central Asia, and other countries. There were the base of Zbignew Brezenski's** theory and strategy of trapping the Soviet Union, in a pincer movement by Catholic Poland from the West and by Islamic Movements from the South. This is probably why the US didn't oppose Islamic Iranian revolution in the beginning.

4-3 The changing situation since the eighties with the end of the cold war.

In Iran, in the meantime, in the late seventies, American viewed with a certain sympathy the rise of shia muslim fundamentalism with Khumainy (who was hosted by the French government near Paris), as a protest against, the "dependant modernization" the Shah regime was promoting. This modernization was hurting also the interests of the shia clergy (land reform), and big bazar merchants, and marginalizing other sectors of the population.

The Shah had also hegemonic pretentions (nuclear manufacturing, South Asian, Common Market); and Brezenski said that: "US cannot afford a Second Japan in Southern Asia".
After the eighties and with the end of the cold war, some fundamentalist movements were no more useful to the US, and were put aside. US troups occupied Saudi Arabia and some small Gulf Countries, and pushed the Taliban from Pakistan to Afghanistan in order to establish a regime, who could, interalia, protect a gas pipe line from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan and the Indian Ocean, avoiding the Iranian territory, and contribute to drive out Soviet influence from Afghanistan and Central Asian former Soviet Republics. Ben Laden and his network Al-Kaida, financed, equipped and trained by the US, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan turned against their former protector and the regimes affiliated to the US. Civil conflicts started in Algeria, Egypt, Sudan, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and other countries against regimes considered as "unbelievers western agents".

5) Lebanon in this turmoil:

5-1 Basic facts about Lebanon

Lebanon has an area of: 10500 Km2. It is a very small country having: 4,000,000 inhabitants (including 400 000 Palestinians, 200,000 Syrians and 3,400,000 Lebanese) Around 50% of Lebanese residents pertain to Christian churches and around 50% pertain to muslim communities. Lebanese belong to eighteen communities, living in a mountainous country composed of two ranges of mountain parrell to the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. Mountains and hills count for 80% of Lebanese territory. The density of Lebanon is 400 inhabitants per square kilometer. It has been historically a mountainous safe shelter for religious, ethnic and political minorities persecuted in other parts of the Middle East .
The political regime is a consociational democracy, with proportional representation of religious communities and regions, in the Parliament, the executive, the administration, the army and security forces.
The economy is based on services, banking, tourism, transport, transit, insurance, etc..., and on export oriented manufacturing industry and agriculture. 4 to 5 million Lebanese live and work outside Lebanon in Australia, the Arab Gulf, Africa, EU, USA, Canada and Latin American countries.

5-2 Political developments in Lebanon since the sixties

Lebanon has been infiltrated since 1965 by Palestinian fighters, supported, armed, trained and pushed by the Syrian Baathist regime in the framework of its competition with Nasser for the Arab leadership. After the 1967 Arab defeat, Palestinians started their guerrilla war against Israel from Lebanon, especially after they failed to take control of Jordan in 1970. They tried to take control of Lebanon in 1969 and 1976 with local forces (a coalition of Muslim, Druze and leftist political groups). At this period, Syria, after supporting Palestinians in Lebanon to weaken the Lebanese government under Christian hegemony, made an alliance with this government and introduced her forces in Lebanon, in order to control the Palestinians and to gradually control Lebanon between 1975 and 2005. This was done in spite of Israeli invasions in 1978 and 1982 and an Israeli occupation of South Lebanon until May 2000.
With the end of the cold war in 1989, the US moved to stop the wars in Lebanon. In 1990, with the agreement of Israel and the support of the US, (mainly against Syria's support to pull out Saddam from Kuwait), Syrian troops entered in the only unoccupied zone of Lebanon, crushed down the legal government, and installed a pro- Syrian government.
During the wars on Lebanese territory between 1975 and 1990: 25% of Lebanese population was displaced, 30% emigrated, per capita GDP falled to 50% of its 1974 level, 3% of Lebanese were killed, the infrastructure, the educational system and the economy were partly destroyed.
The Syrians tried to legitimize their occupation by anti constitutional and unfair legislative elections, widely boycotted by the population (85%) in 1992. The same illegality and unfairness applied to the 1996 and 2000 legislative elections.
In 2000, with the withdrawal of Israel from South Lebanon, popular moves for the restoration of Lebanese sovereignty, who, since 1990, were mainly Christian movements, extended to other communities: Druzes and Sunni Muslim. This happened after the extension of the presidential mandate, under Syrian pressure in 2004, and the assassination of ex Prime Minister Hariri, (a prominent muslim sunni leader) in February 2005. After all that, the Sunni community joined massively the opposition to Syrian occupation. Syrians were forced to withdraw militarly from Lebanon. They were forced also by France and the US who passed the 1559 Security Council resolution in September 2004, calling for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon, for the respect by foreign forces of the sovereignty and the constitution of Lebanon and for the disarmament of the Lebanese and non Lebanese militias.
Elections were held, in May and June 2005, after the return from exile of ex Prime Minister General Michel Aoun. These elections even organized under the "year 2000" anti-constitutional electoral law, produced a parliament were pro syrians become a minority.

6) Lebanon and religious fundamentalist movements

6-1 Lebanon and Shia'a Muslim fundamentalisms

The main Shia'a Muslim fundamentalist group in Lebanon is the Hizbullah. Other groups like the Al-Daawa Party, Amal Islamiya and Tufaily group are less important. Hizbullah is a Lebanese extension of Iranian Hizbullah, and the Iranian "Guardians of the Revolution" (Pasdarans). They developed in Lebanon especially after the Iranian Islamic Revolution in 1979, and gained ground in the muslim shia'a community. They are mainly supported by the Iranian regime, and its ally the Syrian regime, as a tool for their "war by proxy" against Israel. Hizbullah was effective in driving out Israeli occupation from South Lebanon in 2000, with the support of the Iranian and Syrian regime, and the Lebanese regime under Syrian control (until 2005). Hizbullah suppressed the secular resistance movements to Israel movements, mainly driven by the Lebanese Communist Party and the Syrian National Social Party.
Hizbullah has a security branch and an armed branch, the "Islamic Resistance" (Al Mukawama Al Islamia), in spite of the end of Israeli occupation of Lebanon. It has also a political branch: the "Party of God" (Hizbullah) which have deputies in the Parliament, and two Ministers in the Cabinet. They control a number of municipalities in South Lebanon, the Bekaa, Beirut southern suburb and some other areas. Hizbullah is also very active in the lebanese civil society: in trade unions, student unions, and through a varied network of religious, charity and social organizations. He owns a TV, a radio, publications, and a research center. Hizbullah is also active in the Lebanese economy through a number of companies and other institutions in several sectors (construction, public works, agriculture, services, manufacturing activities, trade activities, telecommunications, financing and others type of trades...). They have a number of social institutions (health-institutions, safety networks, regular schools, and religious schools). Some tendencies of Hizbullah are trying to establish in areas they control, Islamic courts, to implement "sharia", through an association called "Al amr bil maaruf wal nahi bil munkar". They have also housing and marriage schemes, an organization called "Jihad - Al - Bina'a" for building infrastructure and development activities, youth, boy scout and girl scout movements. They have representatives in foreign countries. They have also organizations in the Shia Lebanese communities abroad (in Arab countries, Africa, Europe, the Americas and Australia).
So the Hizbullah shia'a fundamentalist movement is a strong multi faced movement, very active in the Lebanese society, economy, culture and politics. Some analysts say Hizbullah is a "State within the State". Dominant force in the Shia'a Lebanese community, Hizbullah is also a strong instrument in the hands of the Islamic conservative forces ruling Iran, for their policies in Lebanon, in the Arab-Israeli conflict, and for their international influence.
Other Shia'a fundamentalist movements (like the "Hizbul da'awa" of Iraki origin) are also active in Lebanon through a network of clergy persons, of schools, charity organizations and other social, religious and financial organizations. But they have no armed branch, and no public political organization comparable to Hizbullah.

6-2 Lebanon and Muslim Sunni fundamentalisms

Sunni fundamentalists are less influent than shia'a fundamentalists in Lebanon. They belong to several organizations:
- The "Jama'a Islamiya", is the Lebanese branch of the "Muslim Brotherhood". It exist in Lebanon since the fifties of last century at least. They are active in the Sunni areas of Lebanon especially in Tripoli, Saida, Akkar, Dinnieh, the Bekaa, Iklim al Kharoub and in the Palestinian camps. They had deputies in the Parliament in the 1990's for Beirut, Tripoli, Dunnieh and Akkar. They have schools, a university, publications, and networks of social organizations.
They are also active in student unions, and other youth and women circles.
- Another group is the "Jamiyat Al-Mashari' Al Khairiya al Islamiya" (Association of Islamic Charity Projects). Better known as "Al-Ahbash": from the name of their founder the Muslim activist Sheikh Al-Habashi, an Ethiopian muslim cleric escaped from Harar (Ethiopia) under late Hailé Sélassié, who came to Beirut, were he established his movement. This movement coordinated his moves since at least the early nineties with Lebanese and Syrian military intelligence in Lebanon, and was used by the later as a "puppet fundamentalist" Sunni movement to combat other real fundamentalist movements. The "Ahbash" were influential especially in Sunni areas of Beirut, where they have also a publishing house, medias, schools, bookshops, a University, and a deputy in the Parliement during the 1990's.
- We must add some other small movements related in the past to PLO: Rabitat Al Ulama'a al Muslimin, of Sheikh Maher Hammud, and Haraket Al Tawhid Al Islami of late Sheikh Said Shaaban, and others mainly located in Palestinian camps.
- The Sunni fundamentalist movements in Lebanon, were sometimes supported by Syrian occupation forces, until 2005, in order to destabilize partly Lebanon. They were also sometimes persecuted by Syrian forces and intelligence, when the laters were fearing their influence in Syria, and when they wanted to please the US after 2001...

6-3 Jewish and Christian fundamentalisms in Lebanon

We have no Jewish fundamentalists in Lebanon, because the Jewish Community has practically disappeared from Lebanon, gradually since 1967 and especially during the 15 years of wars in Lebanon (1975-1990).
Concerning Christian fundamentalists, we have few movements in the different churches (protestants, and some catholics). They are still limited in members but they are expending, in spite of the fact that they have still no appearent political influence. We can mention very quickly some Baptist and born again circles in the protestant sphere, the Opus Dei, Neo Catecumenate and other groups in the Catholic Churches, coming mainly from Spain, Italy and Latin America, with a strong support from abroad.

7) Conclusive reflexions

In the Arab World and the Middle East as in other parts of the world, globalization and religious fundamentalism are interrelated. Globalization is accelerating as a consequence of the crack down of the Soviet bloc: the present liberal, but not democratically controlled, globalization is a new brand of colonization, domination and exploitation of poor and weak communities and populations by rich and strong ones.

The religious fundamentalism of the religions of the "South" mainly Islam, is a reaction against these forms of oppression, taking sometimes violent forms: terrorism. (I am not here trying at all to justify this type of violence but to explain its roots).
Jewish fundamentalism started in the late 18th century, in Eastern Europe as a reaction against the influence of modern liberal, ideas on the Jewish communities. Jewish fundamentalism was accelerated by the persecutions, the Jews suffered in the 19th and XXth centuries, and its now expanding in the US, as a reaction against the assimilation of US Jews, and in Israel against the secular culture that dominated the Zionist movement and the Jewish state during its first decades. It is now flourishing as an ideology for the expansion of Jewish colonization in the remaining parts (West Bank and Ghazza) of Arab Palestine...
For Arab and Middle Eastern Christians, Christian religious fundamentalism (in its two branches Protestant and Catholic) is clearly imported from US and Europe, and has no local grounds. Christians are minorities in the Middle East and the Arab World, and they had an important role in the 19th and 20th centuries as pioneers in the processes of modernization and renaissance of the Arab East, in the intellectual ideological, political social and economic spheres. Christians were among the pioneers of ideologies such as nationalism, liberalism, secularism, socialism, and marxism. And the rise of religious fundamentalism now is a big threat to their role, their existence and their future in this part of the world.
Lebanon is in the heart of the Arab World and has been a safe heaven for several christian and muslim religious and political minorities, persecuted elsewhere in the Middle East. It has developed a form of consociational democracy where all religious groups can share in the state power and live their own cultural and religious specifities.
But the expansion of Israel especially after the 1967 war, as a part of the Western domination of the Arab East, has destabilized the Lebanese state and society. And the consequence of the Arab defeat in 1967, transformed Lebanon in a battle ground for the wars by proxy between Arab states and organizations (Syria, PLO, Irak, Lybia...) and Israel on the Lebanese territory, without important losses for the non Lebanese Arab sponsors... The 1967 Arab defeat exacerbated muslim sunni fundamentalism in the Arab East on the one hand. On the other hand the failure of the "dependant modernization" the Shah was trying to impose on Iran, exacerbated shia fundamentalism and lead to the "Islamic Revolution" of 1979 in Iran, and the development of Shia'a fundamentalist movements elsewhere especially in Lebanon.
These two fundamentalisms are developing in Lebanon as a reaction to western expansion through Israel and through western economic (oil companies) and military forces in the Arabian-Iranian Gulf. So in Lebanon, the Arab World and the Middle East, as in many other parts of the world, "globalization" and religious fundamentalism are strongly interacting.


* Professor of Development Economics and Director of research at the St. Joseph University of Beirut.
* Chairman of the Lebanese Institute for Economic and Social Development. (Beirut).
* Regional Vice President of "Centre International Lebret Irfed" (Paris- Geneve), for the Middle East and Arab World.
* Senior Vice President of the Council for Development and Reconstruction of Lebanon (1991 - 2000). (Beirut).

** Zbignew Brezenski's was the Security Advisor of US President Carter