Islam and the West: A Battle of Religious Imperialisms?
By Junaid Ahmad
January 30, 2013
The Islamic world has been a source of intrigue for the whole world, especially in the last decade or so. The attack on New York and Pentagon on 11 September, 2001 profoundly escalated this intrigue around Islam and Muslims and in fact took it to a different level. Muslims were recognized as “terrorists” and Islam as a “religion of hate”, a “cancer”. The western propaganda mills churned out this venomous rhetoric in such huge quantity, that the perception of people that was shaped as result of it has pretty much become their belief system with little or no changes. It has helped the western nations in effectively selling the “war on terror” (read war of Islam) to the world. In the name of “interventions” and bringing in “democracy” and “peace”, the US led west has decimated one Muslim land after another.
In the last few years, especially the drubbing NATO forces have been getting in Afghanistan at the hands of the rag tag Taliban militia and in wake of the economic crises in Europe and US, there has been vocal opposition in the west against the Military campaigns of their nations. However it seems to have come rather late in the piece now.
The fundamental question to be asked is, “Why is the west meddling into the affairs of the Muslim world, launching one war after another and imposing democracy and secularism over it?
Many people attribute it to the vast natural resources that the Muslim lands possess and their strategic positioning which is crucial for America and its allies to maintain their global dominion. While it is one of the reasons for the mostly American western Military campaigns, it is the just the tip of the iceberg. Apparently it is a very sound argument but a closer look will reveal a different picture. It must be understood that all wars launched by the US led west against the Muslim world are in fact primarily aimed at the belief system of Muslims-Islam- and the world it envisages.
In fact western interventions cum invasions in the Muslim world are purely ideological in nature. Their primary objective is to suppress and derail the efforts of Muslims who wish to live their lives according to their own value system. West‘s hysterical discomfort with Islam playing a major role in the social, economic and political affairs of Muslims is the underlying reason why the “war on terror” is in fact a war on Islam. This ideological tussle lies at the heart of confrontation between Muslim world and the west.
Despite governments of Muslim countries being subservient to the west, there have been continuous efforts on part of Muslims to make their own value system prevalent in all affairs of the society. There have been various groups in the Muslim world propagating the establishment of Islamic Shariah; from Ikhwan-ul-Muslimoon in Egypt to Jamaat-e-Islami in Pakistan or the Hizb ut-Tahrir as well as Military groups like Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. However these voices have been suppressed one way or the other and mostly by Military might.
The argument that West’s war on Islam and Muslims is merely about the resources comes crashing down in view of the hegemonic control that western capitalism exercises over the whole world in general and Muslim world in particular. Economic imperialism has replaced the direct Military imperialism that characterized the bloody expansionism of European powers prior to World War II. West has consequently abstained from getting involved militarily when its economic weapons can do the job of enslaving the world. It is especially true of America’s exploitation of the Latin American countries. Though there have been military interventions by US in countries like Panama, Honduras, Bolivia, and Guatemala; however they have been rather small in size and scope unlike the ones in the Muslim world. Had west, especially the American imperial politics been driven by the vast economic resources of Muslim lands it would not have unleashed all the wars it did and continues to do. The regimes of Muslim countries are but stooges of the west and perennially subservient to its diktats. The petro-dollar is an apt example of the economic slavery and the resultant political and social slavery of the west that Muslim countries are under; what then has prompted the US led west, time and again to intervene militarily? West’s economic and political control has been enough to keep its stranglehold over the resources of Muslims, why then the need to use the military option? The fact of the matter is Western wars over the Muslims are primarily not about resources or economic domination. No.
American President George Bush in a speech in 2006 tacitly revealed the actual purpose of “war on terror ”: “They(Islamic extremists) hope to establish a violent political utopia across the Middle East, which they call caliphate, where all would be ruled according to their hateful ideology.”, he said.
There are numerous other instances where western leaders have categorically stated their absolute displeasure in Muslims wanting to live by their own value system. Former US secretary of Defence, Paul Wolfowitz captured the essence of America’s war on Islam when he said, ““It’s true that our war against terrorism is a war against evil people, but it is also ultimately a battle for ideals as well as a battle of minds.” Similar views were echoed by former British PM Tony Blair in 2005.
In a 2007 report a leading American think tank, RAND Corporation declared, “The struggle underway throughout much of the Muslim world is essentially a war of ideas. Its outcome will determine the future direction of the Muslim world.”
The cultural onslaught that West launched against the Muslim world towards the end of the 19th century first succeeded in destroying the Ottoman Islamic caliphate and eventually breaking it up into small nation states. However, contrary to what the west had hoped for, the cultural onslaught and neo-imperialism made Muslims rise up against the western onslaught. Having ran out of options west decided to intervene militarily especially after the end of cold war and the fall of Soviet Union.
Rand Corporation in its report titled, “Civil Democratic Islam” identified and categorized Muslims on their affinity for Islamic polity and their likeness for western value system. The report puts forth comprehensive description of a “moderate Muslim”: acceptance of Democracy and non-sectarian sources of law. The report speaks volumes about the western mindset and obsession with implementation of its value system by any means necessary. While on one hand the West talks about moral relativism on the other hand it wants to singularly impose its values as universal. What makes western values better and universal and Muslims’ values a recipe for “terror” and unfit even for Muslims themselves? It is clear that it is in fact west whose values and their supposed superiority are germane to the terror and oppression world over. While west hails its wars as “wars of liberation” the obvious reaction and resistance that Muslims are put up against this western onslaught is conveniently referred to as “terrorism”. Muslim reaction to western aggression is bizarrely and unjustly termed as “Islamic extremism”.
West is wary of what it calls “Islamo-fascism” reaching its shores and justifies the beastly actions undertaken as a way to prevent it. But when a Muslim does the same, well, there’s a “terrorist”!
West is uncomfortable with Islam occupying a central position in Muslim societies and wants Muslims to relegate Islam to their private lives pretty much like westerners in the aftermath of separation of church and the state after the European renaissance. West wants to impose its ideas on the Muslims who in turn are resisting it and the ensuing confrontation is being termed by the west as “war on terror”. The other side of the story is rarely being told owing to the massive media machinery at the disposal of the west. Afghanistan was invaded by NATO more for it being a nascent Islamic state rather than for minerals or opium. Iraq was invaded based on the lies of WMDs to reshape the middle-east for the benefit of Israel.
The most recent example is that of the invasion of Mali by France. The invasion is being portrayed as a war of “liberating” Northern Mali from “extremists” of Al-Qaeda and uniting the troubled African country. However only 2 years back in 2011 west had intervened in the Muslim majority Sudan and chalked out a Christian majority South Sudan out of it. Hypocrisy of the highest order! Again the underlying reason for the invasion of Mali is the growing sphere of Islamic groups in the north of country and their readiness to live by Islamic Sharia and not the Uranium and Gold. The west’s discomfort ramifications of the Arab Spring- rise of Islamic groups-is also a testimony to the fact that as long as Muslims abide by western ideals they are “moderate” and not “terrorists”.
The truth is people holding power in west are pursuing a religious agenda in the cloak of secularism and democracy. This underlying reality has been artistically concealed by portraying western wars over Muslims as economic rather than ideological or religious. It is nothing but religious imperialism. An economic war is a lesser evil compared to a religious war in an utterly godless world and the west considers it as a relatively better condemnation. This portrayal is also aimed at diverting the Muslims from the core issue and hence towards the development of a non-religious and irrelevant response to the Western onslaught.