( The article below shall be presented for discussion by Mirza Ashraf at TFUSA meeting scheduled for Sunday, January 31, 2016 at 11:30 AM. All participants are welcome to the meeting at Karavelli Restaurant,416 Nanuet Mall South, Nanuet, N.Y. 10954,845 215 9794)
Western Muslims and Impact of Conflicts in the Muslim World
Within Geo-Political Spectrum
What if Islam had never existed? To some, it’s a comforting thought: No clash of civilizations, no holy wars, no terrorists. Would Christianity have taken over the world? Would the Middle East be a peaceful beacon of democracy? Would 9/11 have happened? In fact, remove Islam from the path of history, and the world ends up exactly where it is today — Graham E. Fuller, a former Vice Chairman of National Intelligence Council at the CIA, in A World Without Islam, Foreign Policy Magazine, Jan/Feb 2008.
Migrants and their New Generation:
First Muslim immigrants who came to Europe were from the European post-colonial nations of North Africa, Middle East, and South Asia. Their source of identity was their nationality, their ethnicity and their linguistic background. Unfortunately they were treated as former humiliated subjects of the Europeans and had to face a lot of discrimination. They were addressed with derogative words as Pakis, Blackies, Brownies, etc., mimicking their accent and mannerism. Since Muslims were ingrained in their Islamic religious and cultural values, they and their new generation found it better to be identified as Muslims. They started claiming their identity as born-again Muslims, not as a refusal of integration, but as an honorable way of integration—a way to hold their heads up just as they were in their original countries. Today as millions of Muslim refugees from the war torn Middle East and North Africa are pouring in Europe, it has created a fear-phobia of cultural collision, militant tendency, and growing number of Muslim mobs overwhelming police in the small European continent. For the Muslims, the big question is who has created a chaos in their countries by bombing their cities and homes, forcing them to flee towards regions where they can find shelter and peace.
As compared to the Europeans, image of US and Canada as immigrant nations delineates Americans much more self-assured, confident, and less nervous about the importance of religion. Although the event of 9/11 may have shattered some confidence, but Americans seem to find it normal and natural that immigrants, most of them highly educated, came to their great country by their own choice. For them identifying themselves with America cannot be a problem for the host society as well as for the new comer immigrants. Therefore, immigrants, even after being naturalized as American citizens lived without any problem as immigrants. But after 9/11 Islam is now being viewed more as a militant ideology than a peaceful faith. In spite of anti-Islamic sentiments, Islam is the fastest growing religion in Europe and America by conversion, not by the sword but by its spiritual philosophy of “al-Islam,” that is, by peace and submission to God. The Pew Research Center’s recent report released on April 2 2015 reveals that Muslims all over the world will overtake Christians by the end of this century. India, now mostly Hindu, will become a world’s largest Muslim country. Muslims do not claim that they are taking over the West by multiplying their population; it is the Westerners who are shrinking and converting to Islam. Modernity has rendered the West meek and its civilization has morally and spiritually collapsed into an open vulnerability. Islamic culture anchored on spirituality and powered by its centuries old traditions, tempts the West to change instead of West wishing Muslims to change. Today Republican candidates of U.S. presidency are criticizing Islam, threatening to send Muslims back to the countries from where they came. American Muslims, therefore, are naturally concerned about the chaos in Muslim world which is impacting their status in the West. They are not looking towards the Muslims of world of Islam to sympathize them, rather to seek sympathy and help from them if they are forced to leave the West where they are settled.
The Intense Form of Islamic Revival:
Until the last decades of twentieth century, many Western thinkers believed that Muslims were becoming secularized, because many Islamic countries were ruled by what claimed to be Marxist type regimes in Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Indonesia, and during Bhutto’s time in Pakistan. They held that, since secularization was the wave of the future and the inevitable result of modernization, the clock could not be turned back. Peter Berger, the Boston University sociologist, told the New York Times in 1968 that by “the 21st century, religious believers are likely to be found only in small sects, huddled together to resist a worldwide secular culture.” He, later on recanted and put it, “I think what I and most other sociologists of religion wrote in the 1960s about secularization was a mistake. … Most of the world today is certainly not secular. It’s very religious.” Today, according to Rodney Stark, a Professor of Social Sciences at Baylor University argues in his latest book The Triumph of Faith: “The world is more religious than it has ever been. Although not growing as rapidly as Christianity, Islam enjoys far higher levels of member commitment than it has ever before, and the same is true for Hinduism. In fact, of all the great world religions, only Buddhism may not be growing. It seems true that in combination with globalization, a worldwide wave of religious intensification, particularly of Muslims—including those living in the West—is causing what Samuel Huntington called Clash of Civilization.”
In the 1960s there erupted a massive revival of intense and strict form of pristine Islam from Saudi Arabia—also defined as Islamic fanaticism—founded on the theological outlook of Abdel Wahhab. The great strength of fanaticism is that it demands the individual to be prepared to lay his life for his faith. This revival hit mostly the countries from Egypt to Gulf States, and India, Pakistan, Bangladesh to Indonesia. Its impact also succeeded in rolling back Ataturk-era secular measures, when in 2011 Turkey lifted the ban against hijab for universities and offices. Moreover, the call to prayer now is done in Arabic instead of Turkish. With the start of Soviet-Afghan war, Wahhabism spread throughout the world of Islam being taught in madrasahs set up in many Muslim and also in Western countries, financed by the oil money of Saudi Arabia. Facilitated by safe and fast air travelling, a huge increase in the number of pilgrims visiting Mecca from 100,000 a year in 1960s to three millions in 2015 reflects a wave of great Muslim revival. Muslims coming back from Mecca after Hajj and Umra would bring for themselves and for their families and friends Arabian dresses like hijabs, abayas, and other souvenirs considered sacred. Above all they would start using Arabic words, inshallah instead of sure, jazakallah for thanks, maashallah for great or well done, and Allah-hafiz for take-care. This wave to Arabnize the Muslims living in the West is seen to be challenging the Western culture and traditions.
Muslims, mainly in the Islamic countries inflamed by the bogey of immorality of popular Western culture espoused anti-Western sentiments—inherited from anti-colonialism—became another aspect of Muslim revival. When Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, millions of Afghan refugees poured over the border into Pakistan. Refugee camps and madrasahs were ostensibly set up to educate them as well as to provide a recruiting ground for a new brand of soldiers impregnated with pristine Arab traditions, known as mujahedeen or warriors trained to fight infidel invaders the proxy war of the United States with the Soviet Union. A turn to the past radical concept of jihad for inspiration to current conditions revived the strict form of Islam. A Chechen terrorist calling himself mujahid said during the siege of the theater in Moscow: “We will win in the end, because we are willing to die—and you are not.” With the help of United States’ warfare logistics, and the jihadi spirit of the young warrior mujahedeen recruited from the Muslim lands from Morocco to Indonesia, the Soviets were defeated marking the demise of Communism. The end of Cold War rejuvenated the radical Islam and Muslims found themselves as leaders of Islamic Civilization. Emboldened by their success against one of the world’s super power, mujahedeen believing in the charismatic power of their faith heralded a move to fulfill their dream of a “Universal Islam.” They revolted against the Western appointed corrupt and tyrant leaders in the Muslim countries, and turned against Western culture and its modern traditions. Terrorism in Muslim countries erupted as new form of revolt against the appointed and protected rulers, brutal kings and dictators with the titles of presidents and prime ministers supported by the West in former Islamic colonized countries. They started destroying institutions in Muslim lands wherever Western education is imparted. They triggered a wave of terror within Muslim countries forcing them to turn against Western world. Attack of 9/11on USA exposed the intense and fanatic form of Islamic revival and warnings of its dangerous consequences alerted the Americans and Europeans. On the other hand the Arabnized Muslims visualized it as a great step towards their dream of “Universal Islam.”
Islam under Siege:
After 9/11, Muslim mujahedeen who were the pride of the Western world became its enemies. They understood that Islamic fanaticism is a formidable weapon in the struggle for their cultural survival. Throughout Islamic history, it has served as a powerful mechanism to thwart all attempts by rival cultures to conquer, dominate, or even influence Islam. At the same time it has given Islam the capacity to expand, not merely through conquest of territories but through the conquest of the hearts and minds. They are well aware of historical facts that wherever Islam has spread, there has occurred a total revolutionary transformation in the culture of those conquered or converted—a transformation so thorough that it becomes difficult even to imagine a time when lands like Egypt, Iraq, or Iran were not Muslim. They would destroy ancient relics and archaeological sites and monuments of pre-Islamic periods to own the regions as purely their own by erasing all signs of pre-Islamic cultures. Therefore, by interpreting Qur’anic injunctions in their own way and using suicidal tactics, declaring themselves as mujahedeen, they rather exposed themselves as terrorists in the eyes of Western world and fixed a label of disgrace for the Muslim world. The modern West understood the power of their intense and fanatical form of Islam as a potent weapon in the struggle for their religious and cultural survival and supremacy, as good a weapon now tried and tested during the war with the Soviets in Afghanistan as it was in the distant past. Their terrorist attacks provided an ample justification for the Westerners to bring Islam under siege in the West, suspecting both radical and traditional Muslims.
Though there is no Muslim World, but rather many Muslim states and countries with diverse sects existing within some religious and cultural commonalities now defined as Islamic Civilization—a Westernized definition of Dar-al-Salam—came under an assault and siege in Europe and America. Paradoxically, policies of Western nations, particularly of USA, instead of fracturing the unity of Islamic Civilization, have helped forge an Islam-minded committed community of Muslims. Council of Foreign Relations resident Micah Zenko recently tallied up how many bombs the United States has dropped on other countries and the results are very depressing. Zenko figured that since January 2015, USA has dropped around 23,144 bombs on Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, all Muslim majority countries. This detail provided by the pro-State Department think tank, puts in stark terms how much destruction USA has leveled on other countries. Whether one thinks such bombing is justified, it’s a blunt illustration of how much damage in life and property the West has inflicted on Muslim countries. Killing millions of Muslims and displacing millions from their homeland, became a suspicious act of USA and its European allies. At the same time, many scholars of international affairs and humanitarian activists in the West have blamed United States of America of playing a double game. Role of Western powers in the Muslim world has caused a great concern for Western Muslims and their second and third generations regarding their future in the West.
Reactive Conflict Spillovers:
Whatever Western Muslims are displaying as an impact of conflicts in their home countries or in the Muslim world is in fact a product of “reflective conflict spillover” which, according to Dr. Juris Pupcenoks, happens when violence in domestic migrant-background communities occurs in response to conflicts abroad. Arguing on “reflective conflict spillover” in his recently published book, Western Muslims and Conflicts Abroad he remarks:
Reactive conflict spillover is an episode of protracted violence within a diasporic [dispersion of people from their original homeland] community in response to conflicts abroad. Frequently, spillovers occur following trigger events, which can be either violent (e.g. the beginning of the Second Intifada in Palestinian territories in 2000) or non-violent (e.g. the publication of Prophet Muhammad caricatures in 2005). In instances of planned terrorist acts and other cases of premeditated hostilities, violent acts can occur without an immediate proceeding specific trigger event. However, more frequently, spillovers happen spontaneously following a vivid triggering event, such as news reports of horrifying crimes committed by a perceived adversary. Thus, spillovers can involve radicalization and acts taken by national liberation or ideological movements—as long as such behavior involves violent actions and is committed in response to an event taking place in another country.
After September 11, 2001, the discussion around Islam has been a shrill which is a matter of great concern for the historians and thinkers of socio-political philosophy: Why Muslims born, raised, and living in the West are impacted by the conflicts abroad in the Muslim World? Why there is a reactive spillover of violence or strong sympathy with the Muslim regions where the Western military adventure is involved? Some believe, Muslims in the West not only religiously, but also socially and culturally are different, appearing less likely to fit in the Western countries, where they are citizens for the last many decades. They are more likely to follow their religious teachings and Islamic cultural heritage than the ways of the states of their citizenship.
The tragic event of 9/11 also opened a chapter of grave concern for the Europeans and Americans whether Muslims living in the West are loyal citizens or a fifth column. Fifth column, as we all know, is any group of people who undermine a larger group—such as a nation or a besieged city—from within, usually in favor of an enemy group or nation. The activities of a fifth column can be overt or clandestine. Forces gathered in secret can mobilize openly to assist an external attack. The dramatic force of the event of 9/11 is focused on Muslims as they were now enemies inside the tent as fifth columnists lying in wait for the signal to strike. The violence in the form of terrorism did come to Europe and America, but the conspirators were traced to Muslims linked with Saudi Arabian ideology of intense form of pristine Islam. It is an irony that Saudi Arabia is still seen as a best friend of USA and Europeans when 18 out of 19 terrorists of the 9/11 attack were from Saudi Arabia. An important question before Western Muslims and the Muslims of the world is that, whereas attacks were launched by the USA and its allies against Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria why even a finger was not pointed towards the Saudis or a warning was not issued? On the other hand the Muslims in the West have never appreciated the support provided by Saudi Arabia to the terrorist groups.
The standard definition of Islamophobia is “prejudice against, hatred towards, or irrational fear of Muslims.” Islamophobia is enshrined in many hate speeches in America as well as in Europe. Just as some are anti-Semitic or hate evangelical Christians or African Americans, today in the West some are Islamophobic. Famous evangelist Franklin Graham told NBC news following the 9/11 attacks: “We’re not attacking Islam but Islam has attacked us. The God of Islam is not the same God. He’s not the son of God of the Christian or Judeo-Christian faith. It’s a different God, and I believe it is a very evil and wicked religion.” Pastor R. Parsley of the huge World Harvest Church of Columbus, Ohio, a spiritual adviser to John McCain said: “The fact is that America was founded, in part, with the intention of seeing this false religion [Islam] destroyed, and I believe 9/11 was a generational call to arms that we can no longer ignore.” Though there have been many Christians to have expressed hate against Islam today Donald Trump, a Republican candidate of U.S. presidency is a blunt critic of Islam, behaving as an enemy of the Muslims living in the West. President Barak Obama was impelled to take aim at nativism in his final State of the Union address Tuesday, January 12, 2016, offering a not-so-veiled jab at politicians, specifically of GOP presidential candidate, who have called for keeping Muslims from entering the country and have denigrated other minorities. President Obama said:
U.S. needs “to reject any politics that targets people because of race or religion,” not as “a matter of political correctness,” but to maintain the country’s values. “It’s a matter of understanding what makes us strong,” he said. “The world respects us not just for our arsenal; it respects us for our diversity and our openness and the way we respect every faith.” “When politicians insult Muslims, when a mosque is vandalized, or a kid bullied, that doesn’t make us safer. That’s not telling it like it is,” he added. “It’s just wrong. It diminishes us in the eyes of the world. It makes it harder to achieve our goals.
Noam Chomsky, the noted activist and MIT professor emeritus, in an interview on Jan. 22, 2016 with The Huffington Post has remarked, “The Republican Party has become so extreme in its rhetoric and policies that it poses a serious danger to human survival. … Today, the Republican Party has drifted off the rails.” Chomsky said the GOP and its presidential candidates are “literally a serious danger to decent human survival.” GOP presidential candidates, in their debates are aggravating the situation by making commitments that Muslim should be banned to immigrate to US and those already living, even as citizens, should be sent back to the countries from where they came. Such rhetoric is creating unrest amongst the Muslims and what we see in Western Muslims and impact of conflicts in Muslim World, is consequentially going to be a dangerous situation as visualized by Professor Noam Chomsky.
Efforts to deny any link between violent acts of terrorism and Islam are widespread, especially in the news media as well as government circles. It is an acknowledged fact that terrorism in the West is usually perpetrated by a handful of misguided individuals, mostly with connections to radical networks abroad, as has been proved in the case of the woman terrorist Tashfeen having connection in Saudi Arabia. Many experts in foreign affairs do not believe that Islam is on a collision course with the West and is inherently inimical to the modern age. It is rather, the negative attitude of the West towards Islam which has created Islamophobia scaring the Western Muslims, who ultimately had to look towards the world of Islam beyond Europe and America, not to seek any support to war with the countries they have adopted as their homes, but as a “hope of their safety and survival” in the Western countries they are living now.
Is Something Going Wrong with the Muslims?
We are aware that billions of Muslims are not motivated by their faith even to hate let alone to kill those who do not fully share their religious outlook. Many Muslim religious scholars teach that Islam is a religion of peace. But we cannot ignore that current terrorists are mostly Muslims who justify their atrocities on religious grounds. Rodney Stark in The Triumph of Faith argues:
Responses to Muslim terrorism have long generated confessions that terrorism exists because Americans, and Westerners in general, have offended Muslims in many ways, including by supporting Israel, that they really have only themselves to blame. In the immediate wake of the 9/11 attack, former president Bill Clinton cited the Crusades as one of “our crimes against Islam.” More recently, while speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, and in the aftermath of televised beheadings by ISIS terrorists, President Obama also stressed Christian guilt for the Crusades.
But it also seems important to point out that most Muslim terrorism is against other Muslims. It seems unlikely that even the most ardent apologists for Islam would suppose that either Western or American misdeeds are the reason why Sunny Muslims kill and are killed by Shi’a. It is time to raise an important question: Is something going wrong with the Muslims that every terrorist act leads towards them? One of many other reasons is that the rise of a far more intense and militant Islam—justified and promoted as the need of the hour during America’s proxy war with the Soviets—seems primarily to have been a source of modern terrorism. The traditional Islam isolated during the European colonial rule until the end of nineteenth century was relatively lax and accommodative to worldliness. When modernity broke down the isolation and oil money enriched the Arabs, the result was not proliferation of new rational “enlightenment” focused on secular political ideology, but the rise of national and international Islamic religious leaderships. These new religious leaders and scholars of Islamic Shari’ah as Maulana Maududi, partly in a reaction against secularism and partly in response to Muslim economic/industrial backwardness generated a kind of militant commitment to a variety of intense forms of Islam. It appeared in the form of intensification rather than a regression into peaceful and pious past. We can say that modernity in the world of Islam resulted in an increase of religiousness instead of a modernity of rational and scientific enlightenment.
What is in store for the Muslims?
The prospects for a harmonious relationship between Islam and the West seem uncertain. A period of cordial relation between the fanatically intense and militant Muslims, and the allied American British Westerners lasted for a very short period of a decade or so. Soon after the fall of Soviet Union, voices were being raised by thinkers and politicians in the West that now it is time to take care of “Islamic Civilization.” I remember to have read an article in the Los Angeles Time in 1990 that after the demise of Marxism the only ideology which can pose a threat to American supremacy is Islam. Works and interviews of Bernard Lewis followed by the famous book of Samuel Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Making of World Order, appeared followed by many debates and discussions. Before a well planned clash of civilization could be ignited, the war as “Desert Storm” against Saddam Hussian was administered as testing ground. For me it is neither a pride nor a matter of glorification—as since my childhood I hate war from the core of my heart—that concept of “Jihad for war” is so powerful in Islam that in the past within a short period it shattered two great empires soon after the advent of Islam, and succeeded in bringing down the Soviet empire to its knees. It took ten years for the U.S. think tank to find a new way to tackle the jihadi ideology by turning the mujahedeen into terrorists engaging them to destroy their own believers of liberal and traditional Islam. The West has created a kind of uncertain chaos in the Muslim world by adopting a careful and safe role for themselves and a deadly start of a horrible World War for the Muslims right from the footage of September 11, 2001 — MIRZA IQBAL ASHRAF.
Books Consulted and referred:
Ahmed, Akbar S: Islam Under Siege, Polity Press, Cambridge, UK, 2003.
Christopher Caldwell: Reflections on the Revolution in Europe, Anchor Books, New York, 2009.
Fuller, E. Graham: A World Without Islam, Foreign Policy magazine, Jan/Feb 2008.
Fuller, E. Graham: A World Without Islam, Little, Brown and company, New York, 2010.
Harris, Lee: The Suicide of Reason; Radical Islam’s Threat to the West, Basic Books, NY, 2007.
Huntington, Samuel: The Clash of Civilizations and the Making of World Order, New York, 1996.
Pupcenoks, Dr, Juris: Western Muslims and Conflicts Abroad, Routledge, New York, 2016.
Stark, Rodney: The Triumph of Faith, ISI Book.