Indeed all praises are due to Allah, we praise Him, we seek His help, we ask for His forgiveness, and we rely solely on Him. We seek His refuge from the evil in our souls and from our wicked deeds. Whoever Allah guides, no one can misguide. And whomever Allah misguides, no one can guide. I bear witness that there is no one worthy of worship except Allah, He is One, with no partners, and I testify that Mohammad (pbuh) is His Messenger and His slave.
This article attempts to highlights few reasons, from a Muslim point of view, for sour relations between West and Islam:
- Identifies the term Islam and the term West
- Identity the factors behinds unhealthy relationship between West and Islam
- Provide the historical context.
- Propose some solutions
I. RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN WEST AND ISLAM
The Term “West”
The basic definition of what constitutes "the West" varies, expanding and contracting over time, in relation to various historical circumstances. The term “West” here can be referred to in two context:
1. A System or Culture: System of Beliefs and Laws that is practiced by certain group of people
2. A Community: A community or group of people who embody in their lives certain way of life.
Together in these meanings the term “West” can be defined as a Western Culture or Civilization. Some historians believe the West originated in the northern and eastern Mediterranean with ancient Greece and ancient Rome, and later grew to both towards east/south and towards north/west to include Western Europe. Other suggests that West was born 400 AC after the total collapse of Western Roman Empire. However, either way it’s between the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the Renaissance Era. The West also experienced a period of considerable decline, known as the Middle Ages (which include the Dark Ages and the Crusades).
After the Renaissance, the West rapidly evolved beyond the influence of the ancient Greeks, Romans and Muslims due to the Commercial, Scientific, and Industrial Revolutions, and the expansion of the Christian peoples of Western European empires, and particularly in 18th and 19th century. After the discovery of Columbus, “West” expanded itself to American content. Also, Australia, New Zealand and somewhat South Africa are also considered part of “Western” culture as they are diasporic states created by the descendants of Europeans. Also the nations like Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and Brazil are heavily Western as they also carry common Christian culture.
Even though that west is largely revolves around concept of secularism, the countries that are primary referred to as “West” consists of Catholic and Protestant. Also, some of the developed nations are loosely coupled with “the West” due to their political, economical or military affiliations. This includes Israel, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea, and Philippines etc. Although they don’t have the same Christian or Western Culture, but they have alliances and affiliations like NATO, G8, IMF, WB etc.
The term “West” today is global, as its reach has gone far beyond European domain. West is now primarily a civilization or culture or phenomenon. It can be said that the “West” today is lead by the United States that has two distinct characteristics, i.e. “Capitalism” and “Secularism”. Although at the backdrop of it, it is still united by history, religions, languages, values and traditions of European Catholic and Protestant. In 20th century, Christianity declined in “Western” countries hence giving rise to Secular forces. And though that majority of citizen in “West” identifies themselves as “Christian”, they in essence and practices are secular.
From an “Islamic world” perspective the term “West” is a result of various historical experiences that the Muslim world faced from forces that came from West, especially from Europe and their descendants. It is largely seen under the historical context of colonial and post-colonial experiences. The term “West” can reflect both secular and religious culture as the term has evolved through time in Muslim world based on the historical and political events, time period, social and religious situation and the region. However, on a larger canvas the term “West” is seen as described earlier. Muslims largely sees “West” responsible for “Crusades”, Fall of Ottoman Caliphate, Nationalist Ideology and division of Islamic State in satellite States like Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Egypt etc, Separation of Sham into Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and its occupation by “Zionists”, Interfering into Muslim States by proxy governance, and its lager opposition to allow settling of an Islamic Empire governed and administered by Islamic Shariah based on Divine Guidance.
The Term “Islam”
Islam is the religion of “the God” (Arabic Allah or Al-Illah) who is the sole master and creator of Universe and all that has ever been created. Allah is defined as unique who has no father or no son and who is like none that can be imagined. The word Islam means “Submission” and acceptance to Islam means total submission and surrender to Allah’s commands. Muslims is one who has surrendered to the commands of Allah in totality.
The term “Islam” reflects multiple dimensions, while it is generally defined as “religion”, however, the Devine source defined it as “Deen”. The word “Deen” has vast meaning and the shortest definition can be “System or a way of life” that covers set of beliefs about Universe and its Creator and implication of such belief, and set of values and laws in relation to ethical, social, political, economical, judicial and moral dimensions of our existence in this Universe.
Islam presents the “Deen” or “System” in its totality. Human beings are considered as the most sophisticated and valued creation on Earth whose assignment is to be vicegerent of God on Earth. The Deen (System) of Islam is branched into two arches:
- أصـل الــدين / تـوحيــد - The Core or the Principles or Tawheed
- فـروع الـــدين - The Branches or the fiqh or the methodology (Shariah)
Islam states that the Core or the Principles of Deen are common amongst all the Prophets that came from Adam to Mohammad (pbuh), and all of them proclaimed same Message of submission to Allah’s command and rejection of any opposition to Allah’s Deen (System).
The branches of Deen (System) that covers Jurisprudence differs according to the nature, circumstances and needs of those whom the Message was sent to. Allah swt said: لِكُلٍّ جَعَلْنَا مِنكُمْ شِرْعَةً وَمِنْهَاجًا – 5:48 we have made for each of you (set of) laws and a path (to follow)”. Thus, the Shariah of Moses differs from Shariah of Muhammad pbuh. However, Islam states that Shariah of the newer Messenger abolishes the Shariah of previous Messenger, as the circumstances and needs changes. The Prophet Mohammad (pbuh), was the last prophet, thus Shariah sent through him will be applicable till end of times, as stated in Devine Guidance. The General framework of Shariah of Prophet (pbuh) covers all aspects that mankind will face in their quest to submission to Allah’s commands.
Islam is also defined as complete Civilization by its preachers as it provides fundamental basis for three main aspects related to life1:
- Believes and Thoughts:
- Concept of Creation and Human’s status in relation to creation: Islam provides the fundamental concept of creation of universe and relationship between us (human) and universe.
- Objective of Life and end result of our struggle: Islam provides the purpose of our existence in this universe, and why are we doing this entire struggle. It identifies the objective in this world, and also highlight the reward and punishment as end results after the due course of accountability.
- Believes and thoughts: Islam provides the founding principles upon which Human character development shapes up. It builds a specific mindset and clearly identifies the relationship between the ultimate objective and this special type of character building.
- Human development, Moral Standards and Ethical Code: i.e. what kind of human being it is creating? What kind of ethical and moral standards its setting for this human to live and achieve that ultimate objective. And though that civilization is building of a nation, but the individual humans are those who collectively build a nation. And building strong characters, ethics, morals and values in individual humans is what builds a strong nation. Islam provides very defined guidelines of these ethical and moral standards.
- Collective System (of governance, justice, protection and dealings): Lastly, Islam provide complete judicial and constitutional framework to provide security, justice, and fair dealings. It provide guidelines to builds fair and strong relationships between various members of the nation. It guides relationship between family members, between neighbor, between friends and society, rulers and ruled, judge, politicians, industrialist, businessman, priest, and common man etc. It identifies rights and bounds of all citizens, and not just that, it identifies rights of other creation and environment.
Islam defines itself as a universal Deen (System). It is the Deen (System) that that started when the first man came to Earth – Adam, who was the first Messenger and vicegerent of Allah (swt) on Earth. After Him, came many Messengers who all brought the same common Message from Allah (swt), i.e. His Deen (System).
- وَلَقَدْ بَعَثْنَا فِي كُلِّ أُمَّةٍ رَّسُولاً أَنِ اعْبُدُواْ اللّهَ وَاجْتَنِبُواْ الطَّاغُوتَ فَمِنْهُم مَّنْ هَدَى اللّهُ وَمِنْهُم مَّنْ حَقَّتْ عَلَيْهِ الضَّلالَةُ فَسِيرُواْ فِي الأَرْضِ فَانظُرُواْ كَيْفَ كَانَ عَاقِبَةُ الْمُكَذِّبِينَ - 16:36 - "And We certainly sent into every nation a messenger, [saying], "Worship Allah and avoid taghoot." And among them were those whom Allah guided, and among them were those upon whom error was [deservedly] decreed. So proceed through the earth and observe how was the end of the deniers.”
Quran testifies and confirms all Islamic Religions that came before Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) including all Abrahamic faiths like Judaism and Christianity:
- وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا مِن قَبْلِكَ مِن رَّسُولٍ إِلَّا نُوحِي إِلَيْهِ أَنَّهُ لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا أَنَا فَاعْبُدُونِ - 21:25 And We did not send any Messenger before you (O Muhammad (pbuh)) but We inspired him (saying): La ilaha illa Ana (none has the right to be worshipped but I (Allah)), so worship Me (Alone and none else)."”
Quran praised all the Messengers of Allah (swt):
وَتِلْكَ حُجَّتُنَا آتَيْنَاهَا إِبْرَاهِيمَ عَلَى قَوْمِهِ نَرْفَعُ دَرَجَاتٍ مَّن نَّشَاء إِنَّ رَبَّكَ حَكِيمٌ عَلِيمٌ - وَوَهَبْنَا لَهُ إِسْحَقَ وَيَعْقُوبَ كُلاًّ هَدَيْنَا وَنُوحًا هَدَيْنَا مِن قَبْلُ وَمِن ذُرِّيَّتِهِ دَاوُودَ وَسُلَيْمَانَ وَأَيُّوبَ وَيُوسُفَ وَمُوسَى وَهَارُونَ وَكَذَلِكَ نَجْزِي الْمُحْسِنِينَ - وَزَكَرِيَّا وَيَحْيَى وَعِيسَى وَإِلْيَاسَ كُلٌّ مِّنَ الصَّالِحِينَ - وَإِسْمَاعِيلَ وَالْيَسَعَ وَيُونُسَ وَلُوطًا وَكُلاًّ فضَّلْنَا عَلَى الْعَالَمِينَ
6:83 And that was Our Proof which We gave Ibrahim (Abraham) against his people. We raise whom We will in degrees. Certainly your Lord is AllWise, AllKnowing. 6:84 And We bestowed upon him Ishaque (Isaac) and Yaqoob (Jacob), each of them We guided, and before him, We guided Nooh (Noah), and among his progeny Dawood (David), Sulaiman (Solomon), Ayub (Job), Yoosuf (Joseph), Moosa (Moses), and Haroon (Aaron). Thus do We reward the gooddoers. 6:85 And Zakariya (Zachariya), and Yahya (John) and Iesa (Jesus) and Iliyas (Elias), each one of them was of the righteous. 6:86 And Ismail (Ishmael) and Al-Yasa (Elisha), and Yoonus (Jonah) and Lout (Lot), and each one of them We preferred above the Alameen (mankind and jinns) (of their times).
Allah (swt) mentioned in another place that all of these Messengers of Allah (swt) brought the same (Deen) way of life which was brought by Prophet Mohammad (pbuh):
- مَا تَدْعُوهُمْ إِلَيْهِ اللَّهُ يَجْتَبِي إِلَيْهِ مَن يَشَاء وَيَهْدِي إِلَيْهِ مَن يُنِيبُ – 42:13 He has appointed for you the same Way of life which He had ordained for Noah and which (O Muhammad) We have now revealed to you; and which We had already enjoined on Abraham and Moses and Jesus, stressing: "Establish this Way and be not divided in it." The same thing to which you (O Muhammad) are calling the mushriks has set them ill at ease. Allah chooses for Himself whomever He wills, and He guides to His Way only him who turns to Him (in penitence).”
- وَلَقَدْ بَعَثْنَا فِي كُلِّ أُمَّةٍ رَّسُولاً أَنِ اعْبُدُواْ اللّهَ وَاجْتَنِبُواْ الطَّاغُوتَ - 16:36 “And We certainly sent into every nation a messenger, [saying], "Worship Allah and avoid Taghoot (rebels from God)." “
The summary from the history of all these Nobel Prophets and Messengers of Allah as given in Islamic teachings is that1:
- The Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) did not found a new Deen (System). Nor did any other Prophet. They all brought the same Deen (System) from same God (Allah)
- All previous Messengers were from God, and they were all Muslims (أَسْلَمْتُ) to Allah (swt). All of them Allah (swt) as Rabb (اعْبُدُواْ اللّهَ) to obey His Deen (system).
- All previous Messengers accepted Allah as Illah (إِنِ الْحُكْمُ إِلاَّ لِلّهِ), and they proclaimed la illaha illa Allah (وَاجْتَنِبُواْ الطَّاغُوتَ) and those who Deny God and His powers.
From a Muslim Perspective, Islam today is far cry from the Universal Deen (System). Its civilization has declined from its Golden Age (750–1258), and the higher ethical and moral characters that Muslim often seek as ideals from era of Rightly Guided Caliphs (the first 30 years after the demise of the Prophet Mohammad pbuh) is not found in larger Muslim Community.
While the Muslim as human declined in character and intellect, ironically, as promised by Allah (swt), the teaching and guidance of Islam remained intact and unaltered by human mischief. The main reason behind is the preservation of Quran by the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) himself and large number of dedicated individuals who memorized the Quran to its letter. Hence, no alteration was ever possible even to a small vowel. Later generation Muslim scholarship codified all the traditions of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh), his saying, his biography, his exegesis, his explanations and his judgements. This provided detailed commentary and explanation of Quran and foundation of Principles and framework for Islamic Civilization. The Quran and the traditions of the Prophet (pbuh) are the main sources of Islamic foundational principles and framework.
With the fall of last Islamic Caliphate of Ottoman Turks Muslims in general descended into an era that can only be defined as “Dark Age of Muslims”. Although, Muslims has faced similar invasions and chaos in previous times, however, because the Islamic Empire was spread so vast that turbulence in one region did not affect prosperity in another Muslim region and Islam continue to prosper under leadership of another nation. In fact the two main principles i.e. authority and supremacy of Quranic and Prophetic guidance in all three spheres of live (i.e. Belief System, Ethical and Moral Standards, and Collective System of Governance and Constitution) were never challenged by larger community and the State itself. With the establishment of Attaturk’s Turkish System, the supremacy of Quranic and Prophetic guidance was abolished from all three spheres of Muslim Lives, and was confined for gaining merely Devine barakah (blessings).
This chaos was followed by establishment of various satellite states by invading forces that deeply divided the Muslims on tribal, cultural or lingual lines. The spread of Nationalism in mid 19th century furthered the descend of Muslims and paved the way to total submission to supremacy of the “West”. The events following the September 11 demonstrated the deep penetration of the “Western” culture into the mind and soul of Muslims. The lust of material and concept of godless secular code of ethics and moral standard has taken roots into larger Muslim Population. And larger pockets of Muslims have accepted dominance of the “West” and accepted the combined system of Secular values and Capitalist economics.
Hence, Islam today doesn’t have a larger country or community that can be presented and showcased to the rest of world as the viable alternative to the “Western” culture and way of living.
Despite the bleak picture I portrayed to you, Islam Today stands as the fastest growing religion2 and only second to Christianity on world canvas. Some scholars see patterns of emerging Muslim renaissance as Islam takes root in many traditionally Christian communities. Many Islamic countries that were considered more moderate such as Turkey and Egypt are becoming more conservative. And “young” Muslims are once again seen as engaging in learning Islamic values and culture. Events following September 11 and invasion of Muslim countries including Iraq and Afghanistan, and prior history of invasion in many Muslim Countries like Palestine, Kashmir, Chechnya and Bosnia etc, and further fuelled by proxy governance, corrupt administration and general looting and plunder has created sense of desperation and deep frustration even amongst secular Muslims. Muslims once again are trying to find their roots and opening the Book of Guidance to find out the cure from such chaos and disaster. There is a genuine resistance at grass root level that rejects the “West”. Regardless, if this resistance is due to historical conditioning or rational analytics, the larger Muslim community believe that the “West” is largely responsible for all ills in their countries and if “West” stops their proxy governance and arm twisting of their State Governments, they may be able to come out of this chaos.
However, the primary concerns remains that how will Muslim world forge ahead with all the latest challenges of new century while it has still yet to settle the problems from last century? That how will it rise from decadence within, and at the same time confront the growing might of the “West” that is marching deep into their territories without any respite.
As a result, the Muslim community today is divided into following groups:
- Those who advocate complete acceptance of the “Western” culture and way of life as the only way to achieve freedom and harmony in society. They are accommodating to redefine aspect of faith to harmonize is with global “Western” values. Some of them considered Shariah as outdated and inferior to the “Western” Legal System, and they were bold enough to declare that Islam will perish until it comes to terms with the modern world. They declare Islam way of living as medieval. Their dialogue to present Islam to “West” is merely apologetic with convenient ignorance to the fact that Islam has not failed them; rather they have failed the Islam.
- The second group is of the zealots who oppose the “West” in its entirety at all cost. They raised the flag against the corruption and encroachment of the “West” in to their lands and vehemently rejected it. They called on to Muslims to return to original purity of Islamic values and system, and in the process rejected any advancements of “West” that could’ve been beneficial for rehabilitation and empowerment of Muslim Society.
Unfortunately, both of these groups went towards opposite extremes, and none tried to meet the “West” on terms of equality and mutual understanding. While one group did not realize the power of research and scientific inquiry, the other became the blind follower of everything “West” offered as modern. Either way, it created an intellectually stagnant and politically dumb society of followers. The result, leadership disappeared from Islamic World.
Relationship between West and Islam
Perception in the West is that “Islam” is against the “Western” world, and these views have been further intensified after the incidents following September 11.
In the Muslim world, there is deep frustration over the “West’ and west is perceived as enemy of Islam based on long historical experiences of crusades, invasions, colonialism, support for Orientalism, fall of Caliphate in Turkey, Palestinian occupation, Gulf wars, invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan etc.
Both of these points of views have to be debated and understood from either side of the spectrum to validate if West is really against Islam or if Islam is against the West? However, before we get into that discussion, let’s first examine the laundry list of issues that are often pointed out in this relationship.
From Islamic world point of view it can be divided into two:
- Ideological and Cultural:
- West is often identifies as flag holder of Christian faith, hence the relationship is judged based on the historical context with Christian world.
- West has cultural and ideological differences from Islamic World
- Political and Economical
- West has vested interest in the resources of the Islamic World, such as oil
- West is against Islamic System of governance and way of life, hence, West doesn’t allow the establishment of any Islamic State
From Western world point of view,
- Ideological and Cultural:
- Faith based, Islam is anti-Christ and hence must be demolished
- Islam is against Western Way of Life and Western Freedom. Islam revives medieval culture and has serious human right violations
- Political and Economical
- Islamic System threatens supremacy of Capitalism.
- Islamic world is buffer zone between “West” and communist “Russia & China”, hence, it must be managed to retain world leadership and dominance.
Most of these lines are drum repeated at various political, cultural and religious forums to fetch various gains. One can’t deny that there may be some level of truth to these statements. However, for centuries West and Islam have remained at distance due to various reasons. Either side has found some reason to find weakness and ugliness in other rather than finding commonalities. Such behavior has led to the atmosphere of suspicion, fear and scorn, and resulted in many wars in the past.
What separate West and Islam
The gulf between West and Islam that separate them seems to be unbridgeable and there seems to be no hope for reconciliation and harmony. There is long list of issues that are responsible for these situations, i.e. ignorance and superficial knowledge, distortion of facts, conflict of interest either due to economical factors or political factors, religious zeal etc. Some of the factor that are the cause of divide, political or ideological, are following:
- Historical Context
- The sour relationship between Christians and Muslim goes back into medieval times that involves many political and religious battlefronts, like Crusades, Recon quest of Spain, Colonial dominance of Islamic world, removal of Ottoman and Moghal empires, Middle eastern conflict, Gulf wars, September 11 etc.
- Struggle for Economic Dominance
- Today’s World economy and vested interest of World Supreme powers to hold their dominance on World economy and resources that led to two World wide wars and the Cold wars mainly one between Russia and United Sates. This has caused major chaos in Islam World, as it has often been caught in major conflict between super powers.
- Way of Life
- The Western Way of Life differs drastically from Islamic Way of Life. In West, Individual freedom and autonomy is preferred.
- Islam emphasizes on Community, kinsman bond, solidarity, family value and high obedience of parents and respect for elders. West emphasize on Nationalism, Islam emphasize on One Ummah-without-borders.
- Constitutions and Legislation
- The Western Way of constitution building is through the parliamentary system where majority dictates the law.
- In Islamic System the Sole Legislator is the God (Allah), and none has the right to declare legislation to others. This is considered unjust that majority forces their law on minority, Hence, Law making is right of the Creator.
- Ethics and Morals Values
- In Islam the Shariah (Islam Law) encompass every activity in life, e.g. the ethical and moral standards, economy, financial transactions, military engagements, interactions between various members in society, charity, and rituals etc.
- In West though the laws are codifies, the moralities are loosely defined and are not considered detrimental to larger society, rather its considered activities in private domains and left to individual’s moral sensitivities. So, while alcohol, gambling, and open sex is prohibited in Islam, in West it’s considered as celebrated values of free society.
The deep tension between West and Islam really goes back to 7th Century when Islam began to develop and within no time it united the regional nations under the banner of Tawheed and Islam.
Islamic teachings of One God and root into monistic faith of Ibrahim (as) was in complete harmony with Jews and Christian of the time. Hence, large number of Jews and Christian reverted to Islam at the time of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh). Islam honored the status of Moses and Jesus, and declared Maryam (Mary) as the most virtuous woman of all times. The main contention between these two faiths was that Islam considered Jesus as Messenger and slave of Allah, and did not regard him as son of God.
However, Islam never made contention out of it, and it was willing to co-exist with Christianity based on its teaching “Your faith is your faith, and our faith is our faith”. Quran rather called on Christian and Jews to a dialogue on the basis of their common agreement on One God.
قُلْ يَا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ تَعَالَوْاْ إِلَى كَلَمَةٍ سَوَاء بَيْنَنَا وَبَيْنَكُمْ أَلاَّ نَعْبُدَ إِلاَّ اللّهَ وَلاَ نُشْرِكَ بِهِ شَيْئًا وَلاَ يَتَّخِذَ بَعْضُنَا بَعْضاً أَرْبَابًا مِّن دُونِ اللّهِ فَإِن تَوَلَّوْاْ فَقُولُواْ اشْهَدُواْ بِأَنَّا مُسْلِمُونَ
3:64 Say (O Muhammad SAW): "O people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians): Come to a word that is just between us and you, that we worship none but Allah, and that we associate no partners with Him, and that none of us shall take others as lords besides Allah. Then, if they turn away, say: "Bear witness that we are Muslims."
Number of Christians and Jews accepted the dialogue. Unfortunately, some of the early Christian did not take such a tolerant view of Islam, but rather took serious offensive on its status of Jesus. By the 11th Century, the voices of Islam as wicked religion and Muslims are evil people from papal reign of Pope Urban II. They denounced Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) as liar and impostor as he didn’t regard Jesus as son of God. This verbal accusation was followed up by one of the most barbaric invasion in the name of Jesus and Crusades under leaderships of Pope. And instead of following teaching of Jesus in living with peace and harmony, the early Christian chooses intolerance.
The Crusades were a series of religion-driven military campaigns waged by much of Christian Europe. The European Christian was not strong enough to take on to the Muslims. However, with the arrival of Scandinavian Viking warriors tilted the balance. Christian leadership accepted their political might, but quickly worked to bring these pagans into fold of Christianity. These Viking warriors eventually took the shape of Christian Crusaders.
The crusades were conducted under Papal leadership. The Crusaders pursued a policy of terror against Muslims and Jews that included mass executions, the throwing of severed heads over besieged cities walls, exhibition and mutilation of naked cadavers, and even cannibalism, as recorded after the Siege of Maarat in 1098. Crusaders committed unspeakable atrocities against Muslims as well as Jews to annihilate the “evil” people. The barbarous brutalities and the enormous bloodshed had even ashamed good-hearted Christian of what these crusaders did.
The Papacy continued their propaganda against “evil” Muslims, and sowed all kind of permanent seeds of hatred into the hearts of Christian, that till today they see “all evil” in Islam and Muslim, and it’s now integral part of their Western frame of mind.
From Western Perspective, they were simply reclaiming Holy Lands from Muslim. Crusaders were made to believe false report on regarding Muslims’ believes and practices. They were told that Muslims were pagans from whom the Holy Lands should be liberated.
From Muslim Perspective, these Crusades were invasions by Western forces, merely was their greed and hatred towards Islam. It left a lasting impact on Islamic World, and until today Crusades are considered as a symbol of sheer barbarism and West’s hostile attitude towards Islam.
Ironically, in 2002 US President George W Bush used the term Crusade for his invasions in Iraq and Afghanistan. This in light of historical context and the neo-cons Armageddon’s theory created serious stir in Muslim World. Even his use of term “Evil” has lot of historical context in teachings of Pope Urban II.
Ironically, that these Crusades may have bee “Will of God or wished by God” for Pope, but there is certainly no evidence that the Christians of Jerusalem had ever wished it, or any injustice was happening to Christians or pilgrims that can prompt such a barbaric act.
When crusaders stopped the colonist started. The Colonialists and European imperialists are the heirs of the Crusaders. They used their military might and economical power to suppress Islamic States much more brutally then ever done before.
Colonialism not only impacts the Islamic World but East in general. Their main aim of invasion of East is political and economical dominance. The result of this invasion is that Muslims were hampered to transform their own society. They were left behind in social, scientific, economic and industrial progress
Other the other hand West brought with them everything, Western culture, civilizations, science, technology, its system of governance and administration. They enforced their civilization, their culture, their administration and their view of existence on Islamic World.
The Islamic world was dumbfounded by this onslaught. While the imperialism was a major cause that kept Muslim world from progressing, it is also their own internal weaknesses that caused them further damage. Their own internal rifts, their patronage of Western forces, their blind following of Western values and culture also took as much tall.
The attitude of Western forces was of masters of East. This attitude was further aggravated due to feeling of individual superiority that was present in West’s individual behavior. Such colonization didn’t help at all in improving sour relationship of West and Islam, rather it fueled it further.
From Muslim perspective, the West’s advance in their land was based on their greed to occupy the territory and all its resources. The removal of Islamic laws and governances and their replacement with Western Laws and way of life is still a thorn in Muslim World.
Consequence of colonization created a disparity in Islamic world with one group of Muslim rejected everything that has affiliation to West, other group blindly followed the West without any due regard to its purpose and origin. Such blind following cased the Muslim World lost of their personal identity and their Islamic way of life, and part of their one-Ummah were absorbed by idea of Nationalism and separated their borders. The idea of one-State for all Muslim completely perished in Islamic world. Most Muslim hold Western Colonization responsible for destruction of Islamic Empire.
Fall of Ottoman Empire
Sultan of Ottoman Empire decided to side with Germans in First World War that made him target for Colonial forces, mainly France and Britain. In 1915, a secret treaty was signed in London between their allies to divide the Ottoman Empire between France, Britain, Russia and Italy.
Though, Italy end up getting nothing as it didn’t do much to impress allies. After the fall of Ottomans, the final partition came out to be what Britain and France wished:
- Britain took control of Iraq, Trans-jordan and Palestine.
- Britain carved Kuwait out of Iraq as separate state in 1913 and assigned to Mubarak Al-Sabah.
- Britain also conspired to take control of Egypt with rebellious Ottoman governor Mohammad Fuad
- Britain gave charge of Hijaz to Ibn Saud / Malik Abdul Aziz in 1932 who became first Monarch of Saudi Arabia.
- France took Syria and carved out Lebanon for Arab Christians.
- France also seized Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria
- Russia was allowed Caucasus, Azerbaijan and Central Asia
Hence, majority of Ottoman Caliphate was seized by Britain and France. They kept tight control and frequently visited these countries to ensure these countries remain weak militarily and economically, and especially they do not start perusing policies of Islam.
- Whatever was Left of Turkey was left to Kamal Ataturk to finish off. He adapted European secular culture and demolished Islamic Legislative System in the name of modernity and reforms. And he left his inspiration for Turks to amalgamate with Europe.
- On the other side, the Britain divided Moghal Empire into two states including Pakistan and India. Over the period of time, Pakistan destabilized and separated from Bangladesh. Pakistan succumbed to US and Britain pressure, and became proxy agent during the cold war era against Russia.
The Islam world was left dumbfounded with Colonization. They faced serious identity crises. On one side they were ruled by Rulers whose stronger allegiances were certainly not towards Allah or Islam, rather they were patronage of West willing to “do more”. On other sides, they have Muslims who are not willing to let go of their Islamic Identity, values and culture. Hence, the entire Islamic world reflected state of chaos and confusion.
This era of Islamic History can be considered one of the worst in history. The Rulers met both of their objectives; they looked after the interest of their patrons, at the same time they ruled brutally to ensure that entire population remained submissive, backward and illiterate. So that it would be easy to control such a population and it will cause no threat to military and economic dominance of Colonial forces.
After the Second World War, Americans took the mental from Britain and France. During the cold world era, The Muslim Afghanistan was used against Communist Soviet Union. In 1970s, Russian toppled the King Zahir Shah and replaced him with Noor Mohammad Taraki who was die heart communist. Muslims were already outraged. American put more fuel on it and called for Jihad against Russians. American provided training, technology and weapons to Afghans, while their clients in Pakistan provided the logistic support. American eventually toppled Russian in Afghans and with it drained their resources. Russia was military and economically dead and eventually fell into pieces.
West & Islam Today
However, from the “West” perspective, Islam is a term generally associated with dogma, sectarian violence, rigidity and denial of scientific evolution and rational reasoning. Post September 11, the term “Islam” now is often associated to “terrorism”, human right abuse, general rejection of basic human rights of freedom and free way of living.
West accuse Islamic world that they are against Western Freedom, values and their free economy. They say Islamic Ideology drives the terrorists to kill indiscriminately. They say Islamic Radicals exploits Islam to serve a violent and political vision. They say Islamic terror is waging war against civilized world. President GW Bush stated in his addresses “Some call this evil Islamic radicalism; others, militant Jihadism; and still others, Islamo-fascism. Whatever it's called, this ideology is very different from the religion of Islam. This form of radicalism exploits Islam to serve a violent and political vision: the establishment, by terrorism, subversion and insurgency, of a totalitarian empire that denies all political and religious freedom. These extremists distort the idea of jihad into a call for terrorist murder against Christians and Hindus and Jews -- and also against Muslims who do not share their radical vision, whom they regard as heretics.”
These are the sentiments that are echoed freely in US political and religious forums after September 11. A survey conducted in fall of 2002 to identify Evangelical Views of Islam found following results3:
- Overall view of Islam : 77% Unfavourable
- Evangelize U.S. Muslims: 81-83% agree
- Islam oppose freedom: 76% agree
- Islam is religion of peace: 10% agree
Evangelical Christians views have been thundering against Islam, both from the pulpit and on television4.
- The conservative preacher Jerry Falwell said in televised interview “I think Mohammed was a terrorist,"
- The Rev. Jerry Vines said at a Southern Baptist convention, "Islam was founded by Mohammed, a demon-possessed pedophile who had 12 wives, and his last one was a 9-year-old girl."
- Televangelist Jimmy Swaggart said, "You know what we ought to do? We ought to take every single Muslim student in every college in this nation and ship them back to where they came from."
Another survey5 identified the great divide between Muslims and West. Majority of the West believes Muslims are not respectful of their woman. On the other hand, Muslim opinion about the West worsens by overwhelming margin. It says that Muslims and Westerners blame each other for deteriorating relations.
Secondly, the larger community in “West” looks at Islam merely as a “religion” of personal experience with no connection to it as civilization or community or source of law, constitution and governance.
With the rise of secular New Right wings and Christian fundamentalism by evangelicals (of Rev Jerry Falwell) during late 70s right created a negative Media coverage of the Muslim world. The New Right wing called for tougher American attitude towards 3rd world radical regimes. They used developments in Iran in late 70s to call for increased funding and aggressive campaign against these “fanatics of Islam”. Three points6 that are worth to note in these campaigns are:
- The attitude of the right wing and the fundamentalist towards Israel
- Their idea of Islam and the Muslim World
- Their views of the employment of military powers in world politics.
The support for the Jewish state is conditioned by biblical considerations that seem to overtake the political interests. The secular right wings supports that US has vested interested in Israel against its Arab enemies, however, their support is mainly driven by political consideration under the pressure from Jewish Lobbies that can make or break them. Christian fundamentalist rather supports Israel based on expectation of fulfillment of biblical prophecy, that end of times is near and Jesus the savior will return to earth. They say creation of state of Israel as the fulfillment of Prophecy7.
The election of President Jimmy Carter brought the first born-again Christian to White house in 70s. While President Ronald Regan era saw the rise in hostility amongst American conservatives with regards to Muslim World. Although these views were not shared by mainstream Christian churches.
This pro-Israel relation of the “West” also makes it difficult to have an open dialogue between the “West” and Islam, and breaking out of this impasse requires demystification of this belief in imminent end of time and Armageddon syndrome.
Ironically, such theories of Hall Lindsey are not accepted by Orthodox Jews who do not see hand of “God” in the creation of Israel after the 2nd World War.
Hostile Western Media
Western media has always been hostile towards Islam. Prior to Iranian revolution American media has only few cases of negative reporting on Muslim world, generally as response to an event in an occasional outburst of anger or emotions. But they were countered by US propaganda efforts to woo Muslims away from the communist influence in the Middle East. However, the general hostility of US media against Islam continues to rise. Edward Said motioned once that anything said in defense of Islam is more or less forced into the apologetic form of a plea for Islam's humanism, its contributions to civilization, development and perhaps even to democratic niceness. Along with that, there is the occasional foolishness of trying to equate Islam with the immediate situation of one or another Islamic country. He further adds that any talk about Islam was radically flawed, not only because an unwarranted assumption was being made that a large ideologically freighted generalization could cover all the rich and diverse particularity of Islamic life (a very different thing)8.
From a Muslim perspective, and more so since they are under constant campaigns from aggressor “West”. It is regrettable that despite such advancement in science and technology West was not able to come in terms with their religious bias towards Islam. They still have same frame of mind with their spiteful attitude towards Islam which was once was the hallmark of their predecessors, the Crusaders and the Imperialists. It was Pope Urban II in the past and it is born-again Christians Evangelist now. The imperialists are replaced with Neocons. Their ideas are same - they have simply exchanged hands. The crusade is now called the New World Order, announced by the father GW Bush.
West blames Islam endlessly and maligns religion Islam by connecting it to terrorism and violence, and in their political and religious circles a lot of focus is put upon the line that violence are bred by “Islamic” religion. In the media, there is no shortage of people who becomes overnight expert to pour their venomous opinion to tarnish the name of Islam and to concoct it with violence and terrorism. The words like “Islamic Terrorism” are created that scroll on News Channels, as if terrorism is the product of “Islam”. Most of such broadcasting incites hate and Islam-o-phobia. There is no statistics to support that this means of mocking and spreading hate against Islamic System, value and culture is resulting in any success or fruitful dialogue between the two civilizations.
Fanaticism, radicalism and killing is rejected by all religions, and the act of violence are unanimously rejected either they are done by a person with Muslim origin or with Christian faith or no faith. But what is more concerning today is the rise of fundamentalism in United States. The influence of Evangelical Christian fundamentalist and their unholy alliance with ultra-conservative Judeo-Christian forces have not only stirred White House, but it has shifted the control of the largest military and economy in the hands of radicals and fundamentalist. Their growing influence in US politics and Whitehouse has devastated the Islamic world in recent years.
United States today has complete dominance and control over international scene. It is unilaterally dictating its own version of peace and democracy using the might of its military and economic powers. United Nations or any other international forum is totally helpless to stop this violent peacemaking that has completely devastated Islam World - from Morocco to Indonesia. This peacemaking has created a great hardship in Muslim’s lives not just in Iraq and Afghanistan, but people in 57 Muslim majority countries are strangled and helpless. These suffering of Muslims in their own homelands are root cause of their further descend into corruption, violence and fanaticism. And as the Wiseman said it, Violence begets violence -- every payload that is dropped off American plane not only kills large number of people on the surface, but it generates another wave of hate and violence.
People of the Muslim world are right to ask, if secular democracy is the best form of governance then why not leave it to choice of people.
- Why that is US is imposing his version of democracy on Islamic world from thirty thousand foot height on a missile?
- If Capitalism is the best form of economic system, then why not leave it to choice of people. Why that is US is imposing its version of best economic in Islam world through its own hired Muslim leadership and likes of IMF?
- If peacemaking is the ultimate objective here then why US version of peace? And that too under the shades of US cantonments. Why not leave it to Muslims to define their own peace?
So far what Muslim has seen of this peace is destruction of their property, death of their families, and complete annihilation of whole society in general. What is visible in Afghanistan and Iraq that the objective is not really peace rather the objective is to transform the Islamic religious and cultural heritage, so that Muslim’s commitment to Islam is weakened and perhaps one day this heritage can be replaced completely by Western values and system?
In the past Islam world has faced similar situations more than once. They have encountered terrorism from Crusaders in 11th century, and later from barbaric invasion of Mongols that terrorized Iraq. When US President GW Bush decided to invade Iraq, he accused Saddam Hussein was supporting Bin Laden, and that he has WMD. Later, both of these pretext of war turned out to be blatant lies. But the lie it was, it caused Iraqis direly, their lives were ruined, their children were killed, and their women were raped. What did humanity achieved from such a stupid act of violence and terror? Neither a Muslim nor Islam brought Saddam Hussein to power? But Muslims paid the price. Is there a law in American Judicial System that can hold GW Bush accountable for such an error?
President GW Bushed promised democracy and freedom to people of Iraq. Mr Bush may not be thinking to fulfill his promise, as a lot of those he promised freedom no longer live. And remainder of those who survived lost sense of life.
What really is happening behind the smoke screen of invasions is attack on Islamic values and culture. Slowly, but gradually their values are replaced with Western values. In the name of modernity, progressivism and enlightenment Islam is slow removed from their daily life.
So far colonial tactics have been counterproductive. Instead of removing Islamic way of life, they have triggered chaos and crises that have incited rate and hatred that is fueling the radicalism and revenge.
Regrettably, it leaves no hope for sane minds on either side of spectrum to think that under such situation any meaningful dialogue can occur between two civilizations. Especially when one side is under constant occupation of foreign forces, under the shadow of F16 fighter jets and under the threat of sending the entire nation into Stone Age, they are not in the state of mind that can allow for any meaningful discussions.
What do we go from here
In current circumstances, we need to find out some middle grounds to extinguish the fire and reduce the rhetoric on either side. We need identify how we can learn from general principle of religious tolerance and humanity. Obviously in this great Imperialist game, most Muslims of World are minor players as they carry no power, might or weight. And whatever little voice they may have is crushed by the faithful regimes in their lands. Hence, a lot more responsibility of defusing this situation is for people in America. Americans are the one leading the world power. They have to play bigger role to rein in the wars, invasion and imperialism.
In the Muslim world, we need to find a less violent way to find freedom. The senseless killing and indiscriminate bombing, and destruction of our own resources is not helping Islam either. The Prophet (pbuh) never approved of indiscriminate killing.
We need to rethink and align ourselves to Islamic values. Islam value life and taking innocent life is declared absolutely unjust. Remember that Allah (swt) said:
And even if one takes life unjustly, Muslims don’t respond in kind. Islam asked Muslims to be patient in even the worst of situation. Patience is virtue of have strong Iman (faith). Remember that Allah (swt) said:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ اصْبِرُواْ وَصَابِرُواْ وَرَابِطُواْ وَاتَّقُواْ اللّهَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ
3:200 - O you who have believed, persevere and endure and remain stationed and fear Allah that you may be successful.” Remember that entire life of a Muslim revolves around avoiding any unlawful activity and to perfect its Moral and ethical values. So, remain steadfast in your behavior and have faith in Allah (swt).
On the other hand, firstly, from Muslim point of view, we must educate the West that the Papal seeds that incited the crusade were based on misinformation about Islam. Islam is not a pagan religion. Much of the chaos and confusion that is spread in the name of Ideological differences between Islam and Christianity is based on the myth then fact. Such as two religions are against each other, Islam is anti-Christ, Muslim worship idol black cube etc. While the reality is opposite to this myth. This is very important, and those Muslims who lived in America will testify that lots of Americans do not really know the facts. They listen to generally accepted myth and portrayal of media. Hence, we need to find ways to break this myth with persistence and perseverance. We need to tell the Christian West that,
- Islam is not opposed to Christianity, rather Christianity has special place in Quran. Jesus is considered as the most honorable and mightiest of all the Messengers. Islam is the only religion that vigorously defends the honor of Mary (Mother of Jesus) and Quran declare her the best of woman of all times. وَإِذْ قَالَتِ الْمَلاَئِكَةُ يَا مَرْيَمُ إِنَّ اللّهَ اصْطَفَاكِ وَطَهَّرَكِ وَاصْطَفَاكِ عَلَى نِسَاء الْعَالَمِينَ - 3:42 And [mention] when the angels said, "O Mary, indeed Allah has chosen you and purified you and chosen you above the women of the worlds.”
- Islam emphasized that it originates from same Divine Source as Christianity from the well-guarded “Tablet” in heavens. It shares same Prophets as Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus etc. Same concept of afterlife, heavens and hell, resurrection and day of judgement etc.
- Islam is the most Pro-Christ. Though Islam doesn’t regard Trinity and Jesus as God, It gives Jesus the highest status and most honoured place. No Muslim is a Muslim until it accepts Jesus as the Christ and the Messenger, and Holy Spirit (i.e. Angel Gabriel) as his support. Islam considers all the Prophets as brothers and doesn’t distinguish between them and consider them within the fold of Muslim Community. قُولُواْ آمَنَّا بِاللّهِ وَمَآ أُنزِلَ إِلَيْنَا وَمَا أُنزِلَ إِلَى إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَإِسْمَاعِيلَ وَإِسْحَقَ وَيَعْقُوبَ وَالأسْبَاطِ وَمَا أُوتِيَ مُوسَى وَعِيسَى وَمَا أُوتِيَ النَّبِيُّونَ مِن رَّبِّهِمْ لاَ نُفَرِّقُ بَيْنَ أَحَدٍ مِّنْهُمْ وَنَحْنُ لَهُ مُسْلِمُونَ - 2:136 Say, [O believers], "We have believed in Allah and what has been revealed to us and what has been revealed to Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the Descendants and what was given to Moses and Jesus and what was given to the prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and we are Muslims [in submission] to Him."”
- In Islam, Muslims worship none but one Allah - they do not worship the black cube. Muslim says their prayer facing Makkah, but they don’t worship black stone, rather they are asked to form lines towards specific direction. This is exactly how Jesus prayed in a specific direction, For instance, in Paslm, “I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy loving kindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name” . In Islam, that Template is the Kabba in Maakah.
Islam is not against the West, neither it is against research, freedom, development and betterment of life. Rather, Islam calls for peace, prosperity and justice. Muslim world has lot of learn from the West in the field of science and technology. At the same time West needs to look at Islam and understand it. Islam has lot to offer to the world. Despite that there are over billion Muslims in the world; they have not properly introduced their Deen (System) to the world. There is great opportunity to learn from each other.
Islam is neither against Jews nor Christian. In fact, it promotes living in harmony with other. All it’s asking from the West is right to co-exist and allow freedom in their homelands.
The violence in last 300 years has effective Muslim World drastically. They have seen lot of violence and destruction. The recent wave of radicalism and fanatic is the result of Colonization, injustice, economic deprivation and constant imperialistic campaigns. While Muslim world is suffering from radicalism, so as the West. The rise of imperial rulers and descendents of Crusaders, and their resurging in United States in form of neocons and Evangelical is more worrisome, as these fanatics have managed to control the resources and weapons of the mightiest military ever assembled. Hence, it is the responsibility of sane people to keep these fanatics out of power.
It is unfortunate, that these two great Civilizations do not get enough opportunity for dialogue and sharing ideas, except that when they meet in media to accuse and defend. And whenever such an opportunity seems closer, some event or fanatic spoiled it, either in West or in East.
- The context and definition of words Ibadah, Illah and proclamation of Tawheed (la illah illa Allah) are all defined in this paper. Read: The Deen - A way of life
- Only Allah (swt) can describe how this happens, as no Muslim can take credit for this.
- Sponsored by the Ethics & Public Policy Center, a non-partisan think tank, and Beliefnet http://www.beliefnet.com/News/Politics/2003/04/Evangelical-Views-Of-Islam.aspx
- ABC News, http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/Beliefs/Story?id=130008&page=1
- Pewglobal.org, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/5110364.stm , http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/23_06_06_pew_global_attitudes_project.pdf
- Dr Sulayman S Nyang, Islam in United States of America
- See Authors like Hal Lindsey and preachers like Herbert W Armstrong. Lindsey’s widely published books were phenomenal in spreading widespread belief in this prophecy. See The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon
- From Edward W. Said, 26th April 1980 -- http://www.thenation.com/doc/19800426/19800426said