“The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact, non-Westerners never do.” – Samuel P. Huntington
During his visit to Europe, George Bush emphasized to his European hosts that spreading freedom and democracy was the only way of defeating terrorism in the Middle East and the wider Muslim world. His remarks echo a familiar tenet of his presidency – freedom triumphing over terrorism. But, by coining the struggle as freedom versus terrorism, the Bush administration has avoided answering some pertinent questions like – What is terrorism? Who are the terrorists? Who is the enemy in the eyes of Bush and his acolytes the neo-conservatives?
The 9/11 Commission (by no means the first) stressed that the term war on terrorism was misleading and recommended that it should be renamed to place greater ideological emphasis against Islam. In October 2001 US General Wesley Clark, said that the US war against terrorism “was a war over Islam” that would define Islam “as either a peaceful or militant” force in society . Yet others have argued that it should be appropriately labeled war against political Islam.
Whatever differences exist amongst America’s political elite over the naming of the war there are few to be found amongst ordinary Americans. Thanks to the Islamaphobic corporate media, most Americans irrespective of their political orientation view the war on terror as a fight against Islam.
The same milieu exits in Europe. The lack of boldness on part of the Europe’s political class to confront Bush on these questions together with the Islamaphobic media has convinced ordinary Europeans that their new enemy is Islam and Muslims who live in their midst.
Before 9/11, Muslims long held the view that American intervention in their lands is part of the ongoing struggle between Islam and the West. The aftermath of 9/11 only served to reinforce this view. Today an overwhelming majority of Muslims believe unequivocally that the war terrorism is a war against Islam and Muslims.
Hence, behind Bush’s charade of fighting terrorism the clash between Islam and the West is well and truly under way. This struggle is being fought at several levels. The most important of all is the ideological struggle. The winner of this battle will decide whether the future belongs to Islam or Western secular liberalism.
So the question that now arises is who is winning the battle of ideas? The answer is that the West long ago lost the ideological war against Islam. This due to the following reasons:
1. The West has spent the last two hundred years combating Islamic thoughts in the hope of dissuading Muslims from Islam. This campaign began with the Orientalists who studied Islam and attacked its beliefs and rules. For instance they attacked the divinity of the Quran, jihad, polygamy, the Islamic punishment system and the Caliphate. But despite this organized effort to alienate Muslims from Islam, the West is facing a resurgent Islam both at home and abroad.
In the West, Islam is the fastest growing religion both amongst immigrants and the indigenous community. Between 1989 and 1998 the Islamic population in Europe grew by over 100 percent, to 14 million (approximately 2 percent of the population), according to United Nations statistics . “Within the next 20 years the number of British converts will equal or overtake the immigrant Muslim community that brought the faith here”, says Rose Kendrick the author of a textbook guide to the Koran . America is not immune from this phenomenon. One expert estimates that 25,000 people a year become Muslims in the US; some clerics say they have seen conversion rates quadruple since Sept. 11.
Conversion figures aside, the attitudes of Muslims living in the West towards secular liberalism is equally damning. A recent ICM poll surveying Muslim attitudes in Britain published the following results: 81% view freedom of speech as a means of insulting Islam, 61% support the Sharia, 88% want Islam in schools and 60% do not think they need to integrate.
If this is the outlook of Muslims in one of the main citadels of enlightenment then one can only guess the stance of Muslim world towards secular liberal values. Suffice to say that the West has failed to convince the Muslim masses that Western culture is better than Islam.
2. In the past, the West employed the services of modernists such as Rifa’a At-Tahtawi (1801-1873), Jamal Ad-Din Al-Afghani (1838-1897), Muhammad Abduh (1849-1905), Taha Hussein (1889,1973) and Rashid Rida (1865-1935), Syed Ahmad Khan (1817-1898) to spear head their campaign of introducing Western culture under the guise of Islam. The impact of these reformists has not only been nullified but also reversed.
Today’s modernists find themselves in precarious situation. They are despised by Muslims and are seen as instruments of the cultural imperialism undertaking the West’s bidding to defame Islam.
In Western eyes they are viewed as being too Islamic and are no longer entrusted with the responsibility of turning Muslims away from Islam. America’s decision to revoke Tariq Ramadan’s visa and the media outrage at Al-Qardawi’s visit to the UK epitomizes the West’s mistrust of modernists. On the whole, they are discredited and have become irrelevant in the battle of ideas between the West and Islam.
3. The biggest blow dealt by the West against the Islamic world came on March 3rd, 1924, when Britain through her stooge Mustafa Kamal destroyed the Caliphate. Lord Curzon speaking in the House of Commons said, “The point at issue is that Turkey has been destroyed and shall never rise again, because we have destroyed her spiritual power: the Caliphate and Islam.” Subsequently, the European powers carved up the Islamic lands between them, establishing direct colonial rule over the Muslim people.
The Muslim masses for the first time were exposed to Western solutions, ranging from economic solutions that plundered their wealth to an educational syllabus that disconnected them from their history and reduced Islam to a mere set of rituals and taught them how to think like Westerners.
Moreover, Islam was effaced from temporal life only to be replaced by a secular rule. Later the West granted pseudo independence to the Muslim countries they had invented and appointed loyal servants to safeguard Western interests and to rule over Muslim people on their behalf.
If the West had thought that eight years of subjugation to secularism would have been enough to deter the Muslim masses from political Islam then they were gravely mistaken. The ferocity and direction of today’s Islamic revival has seized the attention of Western leaders. Vladimir Putin, Tony Blair and Donald Rumsfeld have joined a long chorus of Western leaders in 2004 warning about the dangers of a resurgent Caliphate. This was aptly summed up by Kissinger who said,”…what we call terrorism in the United States, but which is really the uprising of radical Islam against the secular world, and against the democratic world, on behalf of re-establishing a sort of Caliphate ”.
4. There is an inherent flaw in the ideology of secularism, which has led to its predictable rejection by the Muslim world. This is because secularism insists on restricting the role of Islam in society to personal worship only. Political decisions about running the society are left to human beings. This directly contradicts the doctrine of Muslims, which considers politics an indivisible part of Islam i.e. to Muslims Islam is politics. Bernard Lewis gave a similar assessment and said, “The absence of native secularism in Islam and the wide spread rejection of an imported secularism inspired by Christian example, may be attributed to certain profound differences of belief and experience in the two religious cultures ”.
Furthermore, secularism always leaves a spiritual void, especially when human beings are confronted by problems, which they are unable to solve. Separating God from temporal matters only accentuates this feeling. It is this intellectual weakness that has contributed to the dramatic rise of political Islam under the secular autocratic rule, which pervades much of the Muslim world. The West should take heed from the inability of communism to dissuade Muslims from Islam. Communism a far deeper ideology than secularism also failed to convince the Muslim masses of materialism and man made laws.
5. The duplicity of the West in promoting Western values across the Muslim world has greatly undermined its credibility, especially, after September 11, when Western double standards reached new heights. It was the episode of Abu Ghraib that revealed the true extent of the Western hypocrisy and hatred towards Muslims.
Western ideas such as freedom, democracy, human rights were given a devastating blow not by Muslims, but by America, the so-called defender of liberty. Even the agent rulers in the Muslim world were left gasping and could not shield America from the evil crimes it had committed. In one swoop, America by its own handiwork had permanently damaged its standing in the Muslim world and had gravely weakened the very ideas that represent the cornerstone of Western civilization. So much so, that many non-Muslims are questioning the validity of these ideas and the deceitful role played by their governments abroad. Hence for the very first time, Western governments are faced with the challenge of convincing their own citizens why these values have to be curbed at home, while these values are forcibly thrust upon the Muslim world. Perhaps Westerners should seek solace in the words of Oscar Wilde who said, “Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people.””
These are some of the reasons, which have contributed to the Muslim world’s rejection of Western culture and its secular liberal philosophy.
The stark reality facing Western governments today is that the Muslim Ummah (Muslim nation) has won the battle of ideas. The chapter of ideological struggle between the Muslim Ummah and the West is more or less closed. But the chapter of political struggle between the Ummah and the West is still open, albeit for limited period. This is because the West and their surrogates have no political legitimacy left in the Muslim world. These surrogates only survive because of dogged support from Western powers.
Therefore the West and their puppets stand alone in coercing the Ummah to accept Western values. The Ummah stands firm rejecting Western culture and calling for the return of a global Islamic state. The two positions are irreconcilable and the polarization of viewpoints between the regimes and its people cannot continue indefinitely. It is only a matter of time before Muslims overthrow the secular order, which has been unjustly imposed upon them. Sensing the failure of its surrogates to contain political Islam, the West, under the pretext of fighting terrorism, has sought to re-occupy the Muslim lands in a desperate bid to reinforce its values and to safeguard its material interests.
The West’s behavior towards the Muslim world can be likened to that of a failed schoolteacher. A failed schoolteacher is a person who continues to beat his pupils in the vain hope of imbuing them with the values of the school. Instead, the teacher not only loses control of the class but also brings down the very establishment he is trying to protect.
Indeed Westerners have got far less to fear from the Islamists and more to fear from their own governments who, in the name of freedom and democracy, are slowly but surely ebbing away at the very foundations of their civilization.
1. Wesley K. Clarke speaking on BBC World’s Hardtalk programme, October 29 2001
2. Muslims in Europe, The Economist, October 18, 2001.
3. The Spread of a World Creed, The Times, November 9 1993
4. Islam Attracts Converts by the Thousands, The New York Times, October 22 2001
5. Henry Kissinger, Hindustan Times, Nov 2004
6. What Went Wrong?, Bernard Lewis, 2003