DR MOHAMMAD MANZOOR ALAM agonises over growing division between Muslims, and pleads for unity in the larger interests of the Ummah

This is an extremely grim moment for the Ummah that seems to be getting divided vertically and horizontally. There are pressures from outside and growing division inside.

As external pressure builds up in Iraq, the infighting between different factions too intensifies. Iraq today is at the verge of a full-blown civil war.

A similar situation obtains in Afghanistan where Muslims are at the throat of Muslims. The occupation forces have aggravated internal divisions in both Afghanistan and Iraq. The Palestinian situation is even worse.

In Palestine more than a hundred people have already been killed in what seems to be a slow-burning, low-intensity civil war. The partisans of Fatah and Hamas, armed with Klashnikovs, mortars and grenades are killing each other with extraordinary gusto.

Despite pious declarations of unity by the leaders of Fatah and Hamas their foot soldiers have been killing each other. The stupidity of the conflict is so obvious that the Custodian of the Haramain Sharifain, King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, has called it "shameful". Diplomatic restraint and royal protocol has prevented him from using a stronger word of denunciation, which it deserves.

Meanwhile, Israel has started excavations at al-Quds Haram Sharif in Jerusalem which threatens the al-Aqsa mosque because no structure can stand if it is undermined. Although both Hamas and Fatah leaders have condemned the excavation, they cannot be expected to be taken seriously if they fight against each other.

The most unfortunate part of this sordid story is that last month the supreme leader of Hamas Khaled Mashaal and the PA Chairman Mahmood Abbas, had agreed on unity and cease-fire, still the two sides have continued to kill each other.

As if the growing polarisation of the Muslim world along Shia-Sunni lines was not enough, the Ummah is not prepared to miss even a single opportunity to create further division among itself.

The initiative taken by the Saudi King to host a meeting of the two sides in the holy city of Makkah is laudable. The meeting to attain reconciliation and unity has already begun in Makkah. As Khaled Mashaal has rightly pointed out, "We cannot afford to fail" to reach an agreement on unity. They must unite now as tomorrow will be too late.g

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