Sunday, July 5, 2015

Family Debate: Absolute Monarchy and Democracy in Oman, the War of the Roses, and Sects in Islam

When you have a family who loves history and politics and debate as much as my own, very likely some very peculiar (and pedantic) subjects will come up....

For some reason my Uncle (who resents houses that are in the National Trust of the United Kingdom), will come to the end of his tirade against the Canadian government (usually a particular Premier who was born owning too much silverware for his liking) and the British monarchy with sentiments about the War of the Roses and Reformation, blah blah. This is one thing.  As I live now in an absolute monarchy (Oman) this subject always comes up and I am declared a royalist. Which I myself wonder about. Since I am "sunni" as a Muslim, many Muslims also could think of me as a "royalist" as well, as the Ummayyid caliphates did tend to favour their tribes when it came to government, I guess, though my rationalizations for what manner of school of thought and section of Islam I come to defend have nothing to do with politics and everything to do with history and "right and wrong" idealism, I guess. I am also declared "very female" for that, and wonder not if I should be offended?

Somehow, as we discuss the "cousins war" from now medieval British history, and contemplate the complex tapestry woven of Islamic Party/Sect control of majority Muslim history through out history, I am always discussing with my family what side I would have been on. As my family had no history that we are aware of in England, during the war of the roses, or neither any in Flanders, or Burgundy, and little to none beyond being ignorant crusaders in the 12th century, and I am certainy the only Muslim of my family line, discussing whose side we would have been on seems, I don't know, silly. And yet, alas, that is what the Muslim world does to this day, with terms such "sunni" "shia" "ibadhi" "Isis" "wahabi" blah blah blah on the mouths of people who do not know the origins, the history, the connotation, of the sect they have chosen, and cannot differentiate from what it has become and modernly encompasses, from what it began as and originally meant.

Back to the cousins' war. If I was a royalist, tried and true, I must always have been for King Henry and Queen Margaret and their heir (Lancastrians) to the end, and I would have lost and suffered (supposing I was landowning and had anything great to lose). It is always my opinion that from the 13th century onwards owning enough land but not too much to be of armed consequence was quite a good thing, because a King who overthrows your king could forgive you for supporting his rival and you could change your colours always as if nothing had ever happened. Which happened a great deal in the cousins' war. But then, with King Edward (a plantagenant) on the throne, and in his reign, while there was war, there was some manner of law for those lesser than princes that was consistent, and I think this would have won my loyalty. I am not sure, but I think I would have been a York supporter. The best qualified should always be in charge. Someone who runs the general country best, safe passable roads, trade, education, law and courts, etc.

Which is kind of, an Ibadhi thought for Muslims, I suppose, rather than a Sunni thought. Keep in mind, I am a Sunni.

But I may have switched back to the Lancastrian side, once Edward died, as I would have seen Richard the III's imprisoning the two princes in the tower as a great betrayal, despite perhaps Richard the III being better for England than a couple of boys. I don't know. It is hard to tell what one would have done, depending on who one would have been, what would have been of value, and who one had to protect (i.e. Elizabeth of York who had to marry a man who would murder her brothers).

Which makes such games so silly, although we play them on the modern stage, with Islamic history now in our medieval period, our dark ages, as the War of the Roses and Hundred Years' Wars were for European Christian history.

I am a Sunni, in the manner of Ibn Abbas, so while I would have been declared a Sunni in the time period, I would have stood to fight with neither Ibadhi and Shia (modern-day Shia are more to me, like the absolute monarchy people, saying Islamic leadership is tied to a bloodline, rather than the best qualified) nor with the Sunni (Muawiyah). (Whereas, Muawiyah, let's face it, was definately not the best qualified and if you had a choice between Ali R.A. and Muawiyah, you wouldn't have wanted him to lead your government unless you were of his tribe and allied tribes) (and thus there are Ibadhi). I would have said, we should not be fighting, we should not divide ourselves, we are but one house, and that would have been me, back then, I think. I would have walked out on them all, like Ibn Abbas, for killing another Muslim unless they have left Islam completely, is a sin, so such fighting is declared by law of the Propet Mohammed, unjust.

To me, everything that comes from that battefeild in ancient history, every prejudice, every hate, every innovation,  every division, every injustice, is regrettable and avoidable. It is ancient history now. I wish, we wouldn't still be choosing sides, for a battle that should never have had to have happened. It's not like we've got a back-up Princess Elizabeth of York to wed a Lancstrian King and we can put it all behind us or anything.

Most Muslims don't even know their own history to know which side they would have been on. They proclaim ideals out of line with what, historically at least, they are supporting.

This subject comes up with my family a lot, and any non-Muslims, with questions about Islamic modern politics playing out on the global theatre.

Oman being an absolute-monarchy, I am asked by family to compare that to my Islamic political leanings. And to describe how dangerous a description could be if it were written in Oman, as in the days the speakers of our parliamentary government (we are a constitutional monarchy) being killed by order of the King.

I fear no death from my words by Sultan Qaboos, lol, although I don't think he'd agree with everything I write on this blog. I know the two of us have different opinions about which apsects of citizens' lives country-law should rule over, such as who one can marry, basically derived from differing opinions about the benefits and construct of such laws. I also think that I am more scared of parliament in Oman, than I am of a monarchy, as the majority of Omanis who have the power to vote,  have opinion (perhaps uneducated ones) that I think contrary to the benefit of the nation and the people (i.e. let's all get nationally mad about a small expatriate pajama party but who cares about Omanisation of the unskilled labour and poor anti-cheating measures in the education system in the country). As much as I do support perhaps a constitutional monarchy in Oman's future, a doing away with the Council of Ministers and integrating that with the Shura somehow, I think the "monarchy" in Oman will have to be strictly defined if Oman wanted to go this route.

I have been called out by others, and it has been said of me, that I am a liar, for knowing some Princesses and Princes in the middleeast. I laugh at this, since really it is no big deal here. It is hard NOT to meet someone in government or someone from a royal family in the MiddleEast in many professions. My own mother, who Omanis like to politely call "Bedouin" for her lack of propriety and manners, knows many diplomats and government people, because they liked to frequent PDO club's bar. So you can even meet Royalty in bars in Oman, go figure.

The royal families of Gulf states are huge, and in Oman at least, some have no power whatsoever, and few privellages. All the people I know are totally normal people who do totally normal things. You might have seen them shopping at Al Fair. In fact, they seem less inclined to be spoiled than low-lier "classed" Omani women I am also friends with, who delight in brands, and housemaids etc... and they certainly talk about "wasta" less. They may be better travelled and bettered educated, but that is the only difference. Their education doesn't always exceed my own, and I had a very modest middle-class upbringing and education. Even wrting this makes me feel "class" ist and racist lol. But people are very much the same, no matter what. Divisions like wealth and education exist, and those are entirely of our own making and could be remedied. Any other divisions, are made up and fantasy, I swear, at least with all the working royals I know. People defer to them and "embrassingly" court their favour, but that's about it, in way of a difference I notice. I think they are as embarassed as I am when this happens.

"When you are an Omani citizen then you can me 'Your Highness'," one Royal tries to calm some people we are sitting with, as I am referring to her without a title. "Like that will ever happen," I laugh, and she grins, but the people we are sitting with look HORRIFIED. Some Omanis, obviously, still want a monarchy.

And looking at my little daughter, I can't blame them, despite my Islamic political beliefs. Who doesn't love a pretty princess, and a handsome prince, or diginifed looking King? There's a romance to it. It makes for great stories. Especially for young men who grew up on tales of tribal warfare and honour and all that... defending a Princess from possible attack in the parking lot seems to appeal to them, as laughable as that always comes across to me.

...But then, no Cinderella story for me, I am famous for a time I was supposed to meet someone very famous in the royal family of Oman and my shoe broke (I wore a nice pair of heels) and ended up just wearing the ugliest pair of rubber flip flops... which he did notice and grinned about, and I got a wink, so... I have to wonder if his Majesty Himself does not own a cool pair of flip flops.

So defining the royal family in Oman COULD PROVE DIFFICULT for Oman if Oman ever decided to have a consitutional monarchy. Which family members to include and which to disclude...and where to create line for direct lines... like do we only include firstborns? Males? Whatever... that whole old highly sexist and classist monarchial bloodline thing.

That's one drawback.

But the biggest so far is voter's education... Shura has made some crazy assertations... So if, Oman did have a constitutional monarchy, they would definately need a much better constitution (and clearer) than anything they currently have got, and the court system would need to be revised....and the Minster Council needs some form of integration (I guess they are like a senate and parliament in one). I can't imagine how to do that easily, really I can't.

I am glad I am not a Minister or His Majesty because, I get a headache just thinking about it... I can't help but feel that Sultan Qaboos has it in his head that he'd like to go this route from statements he's made in past interviews, but his fears and knowledge of the country should be deeper than mine, and I understand I guess to say, why he hasn't.

I don't think that makes me a "Royalist" still. I wouldn't fight and die for a bad Sultan, just because they bore a name. But I wouldn't trade a decent one for a government of those selected (not all but enough) to appeal to popular prejudices and imprudent aims.

Beyond Islamic complexities, politics and conditions of government are things, which I do confess, I forget about entirely when I am away from my family, I have too many friends of differing backgrounds to be of fixed opinions about anything I suppose. Any friend I know who owns a "vast English estate tucked away in the countryside" is far more impoverished and enchained than I am in my life. My experiences have taught me that people with titles and wealth--- at least European ones, have far more responsibilities than I do, and I wouldn't trade lots with them for more than a weekend, ever. Or marry one of them, no offense if any one of "those kind of people" read this lol. So I have a healthy respect for "nobility" and "monarchy". At least the responsible and goodly kind.

Which of course, enrages my Uncle, and then we discuss for several hours why communism really does not work either, as a form of government (he fought in the Vietnam war, of course, in the side against communism, ironically).

What form of government is best? For any country or for Oman? I could not say. At times a monarchy works well, and a constitutional monarchy still presents the same old flaws at times as an absolute one. A republic, I confess, I do not like much, and find too much rule of ignorant masses therein, and it can become fascist. Communism, we know its err is that men are all perfect, and are content to be the same as others, and that is not so of our character... and the same error is that of so-called Islamic Law for all the Land, I suppose. Someone greedy will always get hold of it, and pick and choose what they want of it, and then we'll be Saudi Arabia or Iran, and I can't see myself well there, though I can't speak for all Omanis on that.

Maybe it is best I won't be staying with my family too long... thinking these thoughts remind me almost ashamedly of the ghost of the old me, the rebel, the fighter, the thinker, the doer, the crusader, that I buried, since that woman was far too an idealistic but fatally pragmatic creature, too divided and unsure of her own leanings to succeed in much action, yet unable to sit still. Muscat is far too easy and slow a place to accomodate such a person. So much is possible there, that possible things become impossible, and I smile and laugh too much now, to take serrious the serrious things.

I wonder if my family notices? How I no longer burn bridges and howler and yell, over past nothings and ancient history, and care little about the future, as if I could never catch it aright anyways, and focus instead on the day.... They say I have not aged, but that in it to me, is proof that I have. When Oman's Shura can say the same of itself, I suppose then we'll be ready for something like constitutional monarchy.

Allah hu allim "God knows best".


bladenomics said...

Wow, your knowledge on history and politics is so deep and first hard. I doubt there is even good literature on these topics, especially about the Omani history.

There are books, but the best stories from Omani history are still unwritten, perhaps you should write it. And I love how you compare it with English politics. It makes it easier for the reader to understand relatively.

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

bladenomics: I really am not involved in Omani politics, I swear {hands up in innocence} and this post, is like my familys' endless debates: pure opinion. I tried Canadian politics, once, and hated it... and can't even write about it... so... But I love history, the more ancient the better, but with Oman you are right, the best is yet to be written... it is hard not to be excited about the time.

Although, comparing Islamic history of sunni versus shia + Ibadhi and all that, I suppose I could do that, but someone with better Arabic than I should be the main author on such an endeavor for sure... ;). There are a lot of books and sources but sometimes I dearth of Ibadhi ones... I could write the colourful bits, peice it together with comparative prose, and then we should get someone else to spellcheck it... And then someone should edit my opinions, which are a bit too loud, to be general opinion. But this post, maybe the part you are talking about, comparing modern Islamic age to the war of the roses (Medieval periods for English Christian and Global Islamic) I confess I've read more than a bit on THAT.

But Oman's modern politics are a few books and some articles...I try to read but don't keep up with the news. And the those that I have read... they are all either PRO-MONARCHY or drivel, or pro almost-republic-style democracy... and I guess as a permanent resident with Omani citizens of my own children, I just think on it from time to time, which way is best for us... and what way Qaboos intends for us, and if people will accept his mysterious intentions... I could write about what other people have written, but some people have been banned entry into Oman for writing about like, the protests in Sohar and the oilfeilds, so I don't know... Maybe I am royalist enough they'd allow it? ;). I don't share the author's opinions... not completely... so I have no idea.

There are some new young daring professor's in Sultan Qaboos University's College of Economics and Political Science, of a political bent, so I'd love to keep on top of their upcoming research proposals and anything they publish I guess. I wonder if the government is doing the same;). I'd like to picture Qaboos reading their proposals and research findings. But that is definately a very "romantic" idea for me:D

Mohamed pohlisch said...

No need to publish but please fix the readability of your post. I'd love to make more sense of it.

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

Mohammed;): Actually, while I use fragments (usually followed by .... to excuse them) I never use run-ons, merely a pedantic form of English common to my education;). Alas, 100% correct, but very annyoing for the modern reader. Usually for publishing I have to break apart my sentances to make them easier for others to read, but on my own blog I refuse to. Commas and semi-colons, as long as used properly, allow for super long paragraphs and super long strings of opinion and words, with, alas, but one period at the end of them.

I admit, I am far too lazy to change the manner in which I writem unless someone is paying me too;)

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

I also have a lot of typos;)