Are Muslims Enemies of Peace? – Part 5
By Dr Javed Jamil
International Centre for Applied Islamics
The question here arises what is turning Muslims into "international" terrorists. Is it that violence is inherent in their nature? Is it that they are doing so just because they hate all non-Muslims? Or is it because they want to convert the world to Islam by hook or crook? It has been proved beyond doubt in the preceding pages with the help of indisputable statistics that, as individuals, families as well as society, Muslims are one of the most peaceful people on the face of the earth. They have much more equanimity at the individual level, have much greater family peace and live amidst a higher social security. It has also been seen that Muslims have been much less the part of the political bloodshed that reddens the last century. Furthermore, they have faced sustained hostilities at the hands of their opponents; they have been killed in much greater numbers than that they have killed. Loss of political dominance on accounts of recurrent political and military onslaughts of European countries in the 18th to 19th century followed by the recurrent persecution by Russians, Americans and Israelis have turned Muslims all over the world sour. Till 1970s, they had been only on the receiving end. Israel backed by America had snatched Muslim lands; Russia had occupied Afghanistan and US-backed dictators had been ruling most of the countries of the Arab world. In the twentieth Century, ideologically too, Islam was facing a stiff challenge from both the West and the East. Muslim intellectuals were becoming increasingly influenced either by Westernism or by Socialism. There was hardly any place for religion in a world dominated by two blocs. But Islam had an inherent capability to make a comeback even from the worst of situations. Revivalist movements had already begun at the ideological level in several countries. This was particularly evident in Egypt where Ikhwanul Muslimeen was busy bringing Islam back to the forefront in human lives. In Indian subcontinent, two major movements turned the tide. Tablighi Jamaat attracted both the masses as well as some elements of the educated class. But its aim was limited to reforming individuals. It started making efforts to change the human psychology by endeavouring to inculcate love for God, Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him!) and his Companions. This love was conjoined with the fear of Hereafter that led to a decreased attachment for this world in the minds of the masses. But Tabligh had virtually nothing to do with social, economic and political aspects of human life. They had no idea whatsoever of what was boiling in the international arena. Allama Iqbal and Syed Maulana Maudoodi challenged the Western ideas through their revolutionary writings, the former in the form of a haunting poetry and the later in the form of a haunting prose. Both of them attracted the intellectually inclined Muslims. They gave them the reason to believe that despite the huge scientific and technological advancements of the Capitalist and Socialist blocs Islam as an ideology was far superior to them. Maulana Maudoodi in particular was able to impart social and political colours to fast swelling Islamic sentiments. But still the influences of Western and Socialist systems were strong in several countries. Iran, Egypt, Turkey and Pakistan had pro-capitalist tilts. Iraq, Syria, Libya and some other countries had strong leftist leanings. In most of the countries, the Western social and moral values were being aggressively promoted. Masses had started feeling perturbed by the new developments. The continued support for Israel had been generating hatred for Americans. Developments took fast turns towards the end of the 1980s. The first of the major developments was the success of Islamic Revolution in Iran under the leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini who overthrew Shah Raza Shah Pahalvi. Shah fled the country. Against the wishes of the people of Iran, he was given an asylum in Egypt at the behest of the US. This infuriated the students in Iran who took 50 Americans as hostages. The US could not secure the release of the hostages in the face of the religious fervour demonstrated by Iranians. Ayatollah Khomeini’s movement had far reaching effects. He was the first Islamic cleric, after the initial period of "Rightly Guided Caliphate" (Khilafat-ar-rashidun), who could combine his views with actions in the field. This energised Muslim masses all over the world. Till this time, Muslims had been on the receiving end for centuries. Their countries had been occupied, their faith was ridiculed and every attempt was being made to divide them on various lines. Now the time had taken a new turn. Muslims had now started responding in fashion to the designs of the Western and Socialist blocs. Russia was forced to leave Afghanistan as the result of the huge sacrifices of Mujahidin. Hizbollah Movement, influenced and guided by Ayatollah Khumeini, gathered momentum in Lebanon, which Israel and the US were using for their strategic purposes in the region. Faced with daring attacks by the fighters of Hizbullah, American forces had to pull out from the vicinity of Beirut. Soon Israeli forces had to leave in the face of stiff resistance. The success of Islamic revolution in Iran had engendered a visible unease in the Western capitals. America in particular felt offended. It could not tolerate its consolidation and export to other parts of the Muslim world, and signalled Saddam Hussein of Iraq to invade Iran. Ever ambitious, Hussein obliged the US with a swift advance towards Tehran. The initial successes of Iraqi army caused jubilation in the US. They had started calculating that the fall of Tehran was imminent. But their hopes were belied. What happened instead was the rise of Iranian nation against the invaders, which ultimately forced Iraqis to retreat. The war continued for several years. The defeat of Russia in Afghanistan and the failures of the US in Lebanon and Iran had rekindled the hearts and spirits of Islamic revolutionaries in many Muslim countries. With the downfall of Soviet Union, the US and its allies had shifted all its attention to the new threat. Islamic resurgence had been gaining ground in many Muslim countries. Malaysia had witnessed the emergence of an Islamist in the form of Mahathir Muhammad who cleverly combined Islamic zeal with modern technology, which within two decades would see the emergence of a big economic power in the region. Life in Indonesia had started showing visible impact of Islam. Pakistan was being Islamised by Zia ul Haq who at the same time kept close ties with the US. The expulsion of Russian forces in Afghanistan had paved the way for an Islamic rule there. The US did everything in its power to stall Islam from rising as a dominant force. When Islamic groups emerged victorious in Algerian elections, the US did not allow the democracy to function and beckoned to the army to take over. Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait gifted the biggest opportunity to the US to increase its hold in the area. It amassed a huge coalition under its leadership and invaded Iraq, forcing Saddam Hussein to pull out of Kuwait. For the first time, the US forces established bases on the soil of Saudi Arabia, regarded as the Holy Land by Muslims. Though the US attacked Iraq for the stated purpose of liberating Kuwait, Muslim masses would not tolerate the US intervention in the affairs of Islamic countries. The hatred for the US achieved new heights, which was not diluted by the American intervention in Bosnia where hundreds of thousands of Muslims were brutally killed by the forces of Millesowich. Most Muslims believed that the US remained a silent spectator of the carnage of their fellow brothers, which continued for several years. The US intervened, they believed, only when its own strategic interests in Europe faced imminent threat from the Serb ruler. The US action in Bosnia could have still carried some weight had the US not continued to support Israel against Palestinians whose plight was intolerable for almost all the denizens of the Muslim world. The continued presence of the US forces in Saudi Arab was working as fuel in the fire. The hatred for United States and Israel was sufficient enough to spawn groups that would use whatever method they had at their disposal to defeat the Western designs. The ideologues of these groups were convinced that most Arab states were mere stooges of the US government and would do precious little in the direction of securing legitimate rights for Palestinians, establishing Islamic systems in their own lands, eradicating social evils and working for the uplift of masses. This was a strong enough motivation for them to fight Westernism led by America and its stooges in the Muslim world; they thought it would be a fight for the cause of God. Weak as they were, without any formal army and sophisticated arsenal at their disposal, the only option left for them was to work clandestinely and attack targets of significance. They knew that the forces they were confronting were too strong for them to defeat in a conventional war. The governments of their own countries would not support them if they used peaceful means of demonstration. The frustration this helplessness caused in their minds converted them into "terrorists". Previously they had been indulging in relatively less threatening attacks that did not worry the West too much. But in 2001, they were able to prepare a master plan, muster courage and execute it with perfection. They chose what were three of the chief symbols of American power: White House, Pentagon and Twin Towers. The plan to hit White House failed, the attack on Pentagon was significant but without causing any substantial loss; the twin onslaught by planes on Twin Towers was big enough to change the course of the history to follow. Though no terrorist organisation claimed responsibility for these orchestrated attacks on American soil, the US administration was quick to point finger at the Al-Qaeda led by Osama Ben Laden, a man of Saudi origin who had close ties with CIA in the Afghan resistance against Russia. This was the "defining moment" for the US. It could have acted in many different ways. The delicateness of the position of the only Super Power of the world at that critical juncture was understandable. A Tiger had been challenged in its own den. It was natural for the tiger to be furious, ready to pounce, whoever it thought could have been behind the attacks. Yes, instead of fighting "terrorism" with human wisdom, it chose to fight it with the instincts of a wild animal. The US could have given a serious thought as to why there was a growing hatred in the Muslim world for its policies. It could have invited an international debate to discuss what was required to minimise the hatred. It could have taken Islamic clerics and intellectuals into confidence. Instead it chose to threaten the whole world; the jaw was demonstrated and the teeth ground implying that anyone not ready to abide the orders of the king would be crushed and engulfed. With all of its might, the US attacked Afghanistan, reduced its already dilapidated cities to ruins, killed thousands of innocents along with Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters and replaced the Government of Mullah Omar with its puppet government of Karzai. The Muslim world was furious; their fury however had an empty jaw with no teeth. Many Muslims had reconciled to the attacks by the US on Afghanistan. They felt it would perhaps silence the fury of the wounded tiger. The end of Afghanistan’s Taliban regime provided a golden opportunity again for the US to bury the hatchet and concentrate on improving the relationship with Muslim masses. Mind it, Muslim masses, not the self-imposed rulers. It had already dismantled the infrastructure of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. It could have continued to hunt its elements while trying to befriend Muslims in general. But the tiger’s anger had not subsided. It was ready to engulf another prey, which in its mind, and only in its mind, was a threat to it; none in the world could see what the tiger was trying to show them. Without waiting for the UN inspectors to find Weapons of Mass Destruction, the US embarked upon a mission, which would prove to be nothing more than a mission of hatred. Which would flare the flames of terrorism rather than extinguishing them. Which would make ordinary Muslims believe the US and its allies were bent upon destroying, with their innumerable weapons of mass destruction, the very existence of their religion, their culture and their sovereignty. What followed was nothing but sheer madness. Iraq was invaded with the overwhelming might of the US and allied forces. Saddam Hussein was overthrown soon. But the real carnage followed after his exit. Even those who hated Saddam Hussein soon turned enemies of the allied forces. Insurgency emerged strongly and has continued even after two years of invasion. About one hundred thousands of Iraqis have lost lives. American and British forces are facing an uphill task in controlling the insurgency; they are working on an exit strategy but nothing has worked so far. The Iraq invasion has totally annihilated the sympathy that had been generated all over the world for the US in the wake of 9/11. The hatred for the US policies has now become ubiquitous; almost half of Americans are angry with their government. The Iraqis that were oppressed for long by Saddam Hussein have developed an equal aversion for Bush. They know that Saddam was bad, but they also have seen Americans proving worse. The average of innocent Iraqis killed per month in the Post Saddam era is surely much greater than those killed in the Saddam era. The graph of hatred in Muslim community for the US has climbed sharply. And it is the hatred that ultimately matters. No stockpiles of weapons, no threatening postures and no bombardments can generate love in the hearts of Muslims for the US and its allies. The more they will be bombed the more they will get determined to fight it. Only a handful of "terrorists" have brought disastrous consequences for the US. If suppose this number multiplies 100 times, the results can be anything but predictable. If immediate actions are not taken to redress the situation, the future spells doom for the whole world. We will discuss later what should be done to minimise the imminent threat.
The rise of terrorism, in short, can be attribute to three major factors: American policies, the failure of official response by Muslim countries and the failure of Islamic clerics to take the governments to task. American policies have shown glaring paradoxes:
First, while the West does not tire of espousing the cause of democracy, it has shown scant regard for the same when it does not suit its interests. The US continued to give Shah Reza Shah Pahelvi of Iran, a monarch, whole-hearted support against the wishes of the people of Iran; he in fact survived on this support. The rise of popular movement against him and the replacement of monarchy by Islamic democracy must have been a welcome change for the US if it was a real supporter of the rights of people. Instead it chose not to let the Republic of Iran function smoothly. It has been busy putting all sorts of pressure on the elected government and organising rebellion against it. When an Islamic political party emerged victorious in Algeria, the US did not allow it to hold reins. The Army got in and the civil war that ensued consumed thousands of lives. The "lovers" of humanity and democratic rights of the people kept smiling. What on the earth can explain the souring of America’s relationships with important Muslim democratic countries like Malaysia and Iran and its backing of the monarchies? The US is fooling itself if it thinks its campaign of bringing democracies to the Islamic world will help its cause. Whatever the US plans for Iraq and Afghanistan, the governments there will ultimately land in the hands of Islamic revolutionaries. In Iraq it will happen sooner than the US can expect. The Muslim masses do not tolerate the US; the democratisation is therefore not going to help it. If it thinks it can manipulate political groups within these countries, this strategy is not going to work.
Second, while the US wants every other country to honour "international opinion", it hardly cares itself for what the world thinks about it. The overwhelming opinion of the world was against the invasion of Iraq; it still chose a course itself and treaded it along with a handful of its followers. It disregarded the UN, which it thinks must always submit to its demands. The truth is that "International community" for the US means nothing but America, and "international opinion" means nothing but the opinion of the President of America. The "champions" of democracy would not tolerate democracy in the UN. The fate of the world should be decided not by the mutual consent of all the countries but by the will of the lone Super Power.
Third, while the US would not waste a minute in declaring the actions of terrorist organisations as barbaric, it would do everything, civil or barbaric, to satiate its lust of power. The US forces killed thousands -- the estimate varying from a minimum of 15 to the maximum of 100 thousands -- of innocent Iraqis. The responsibilities of all killings in Iraq after the invasion fall on the US. It made open attempts of the assassination of the President of a member of the UN, and later put rewards on his and his men’s heads. Its soldiers tortured, molested, humiliated and sexually abused Iraqi prisons; the worst inhuman treatment was reserved for the prisoners at the Guatanama Bay. While it regards the death of innocents as "collateral damage", it is not going to accept that the loss of innocent lives in terrorist attacks may also be labelled as collateral damage.
Terrorism would in all probabilities not have emerged had the governments in Muslim countries not been blindly pursuing the American line. If they had even allowed the masses to demonstrate peacefully, things would not have got that far. Terrorism is an act of frustration; when the governments do not act the way the masses want it to, some groups emerge from among them, which use the means available to them to try to stall the march of their detractors. While wars are the method of the strong to subdue dissent, terrorism is the weapon of the weak to challenge the mighty. Terrorism is worth condemning but less than the full-fledged wars by the strong nations against the weak. Terrorists must be condemned but in the same breath American government must be condemned. For its heavy-handedness in dealing with other countries, its exploitative policies at the global level, its attempts to hijack all international institutions including the UN, its support for social evils, even their export for its own economic ends and for its unjust policies towards the genuine grievances of Muslims.
Third, Muslim masses want to see clerics perform their religious duty without fear or bias. Clerics have failed to understand, at least put into practice, the real mission of Islam: bringing peace to the whole world. The fact is that they have hardly any idea of what is happening in the corridors of power at the global level; they have been a virtual failure in recognising the demands of the emerging world and planning an Islamic response to them. The world has become a haven for the forces of evils; evils of all kinds are destroying the individual, family and social lives of the people. But clerics are only busy eulogising their mentors, religious and political. This provides an opportunity to those to step in who have the will and courage to challenge the devil but not the following to pursue their goals in a peaceful manner. They have no option but to resort to undesirable if not entirely prohibited means.
The Western analysts have also responded to the "terrorist" problem rather childishly. Most of them have used it as an alibi for venting their own hatred or misgivings about Islam and Muslims. They have demonstrated a partisan approach. They have culled from the pages of history a few isolated incidents where Muhammad (Peace be upon him!), as the Head of State, ordered the execution of a few persons who were busy masterminding rebellion against the on-rushing revolution. They forget that this order of the execution of less than ten persons was preceded by amnesty for the whole city of Mecca. They also ignore that even the most modern heads of state try to protect their countries from visible threats by openly or clandestinely ordering the execution of the biggest tormentors. When Khomeini punishes the leaders of the enemies of Islam, the whole world yells in unison. But when Bush orders the killing of the current and former heads of state and a number of other enemies of the US and puts rewards on their heads, the world keeps quiet.
Excerpted from "Islam means Peace" by Dr Javed Jamil (scheduled to be released in November. Those interested to possess a copy of the book may either write to the author at firstname.lastname@example.org or may visit www.bagchee.com/catsearch. aspx?bookprice=50&Catid=BAC053009 - 79k – )
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