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Tuesday Jan 22, 2019, Jumada-al-awwal 15, 1440 Hijri

Islam And The West-Getting Back To The Basics

16 January, 2006

By Ahson Saeed Hasan

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`The West does not want independence based on Islamic thoughts for Islamic countries`, former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani once said. `They are confronting an important movement, and they do not like it`.

Indeed, in the post 9/11 world, finding a kind word about Islamic fundamentalism is an impossible adventure. An Op-Ed piece in the New York Times characterized this important movement as `rage, religious fury, holy war and political hypocrisy`. And that was well before the explosion at the World Trade Center in the early 1990`s, attributed to Muslim fundamentalists.

Quite apart from the profound injustice done to millions of law-abiding Muslims, equating the religion of Islam and the fundamentalistic tendencies associated with terrorism closes minds at a time when the Western world, especially the American public, badly needs to understand this important world movement, a wave of change that is now transforming the entire texture of global affairs.

To whatever extent it may ultimately prevail in the vast area stretching from Morocco to Mindanao in the Philippines, and in the several former Soviet republics, Islamic fundamentalism is a vital and growing force.

In its various manifestations, strangely, despite all the negativism that has been spread around and Osama bin Laden`s nefarious ways, Islam is well on its way to become the second largest American religious grouping, after Christianity and ahead of Judaism.

Washington will have to come to terms with Islamic fundamentalism, not in a compromising but in a `negotiated` manner. What should be the ideal grounds to start?

First, there is a need to understand that Islam is not only a non-violent and peaceful faith, just like Christianity and Judaism, it is also a politico-legal system and a way of life. Islam is not what Al-Qaeda professes. Its not about killing those who are not `considered` Muslims; its not about `judgmentalism` or arbitrariness.

Condemning Islam to the pitched darkness of the Al-Qaeda confines has only gifted the West replicas of the organization, a mushroom growth of self-proclaimed Bin Ladens and Mullah Omers, the `re-incarnated` messiahs of a `floating movement` to `liberate` the Muslim world from the subjugation of the `non-believers`.

Apart from Al-Qaeda, in Hamas, Israel was and is faced with an uncompromising `maximalist approach`, that of total liberation of the sacred land of Palestine as demanded by God, who will `repay martyrs for this cause with everlasting life`.

In contrast to the somewhat, at times, compromising Palestine Liberation Organization, Islamic fundamentalism as we see and experience it, is a formidable opponent, a highway of devastatingly superfluous radical ideas where there are no limits to insanity. The difference between the PLO`s approach and that of the fundamentalists has to do with how each views the West.

Starting from a position, real and perceived, of inferiority, the Middle East has been trying to come to terms with the West. Its coping device was imitation, perhaps most evident in Western-style nationalism and the evolution of national states, complete with ideologies, parliamentarians, anthems, and flags. Imitative Arab nationalism found its culmination in Gamel Abdel Nasser. Its low point - Nasser`s defeat by Israel in 1967. A great many Arabs concluded that they had been following the wrong model. They could never be successful trying to be what they were not ˇV a point recently acknowledged by US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice in a somewhat different manner. Rice said: ˇ§For 60 years... the United States pursued stability at the expense of democracy in the Middle East, and we achieved neither. Now we are taking a different course.ˇ¨

In the same way, in 1978, in Iran, the Westernizing Shah was overthrown. `We no longer have to be imitating America,` the Islamic revolutionaries cried. `We can be ourselves.` The basic question, `Who am I?` is answered by many in the Muslim countries through a return to their religio-nationalistic roots. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad`s recent election is an reassertion of the Iranian self, the nations expression of what it actually stands for and expects from its leaders, going forward.

Why the deep anger, the rage directed against the United States? One apparent reason maybe the American culture, pervasive and appealing, that the fundamentalists, no matter which part of the world they find themselves in, are trying to expel from deep within themselves and their societies.

Yet, as they reject this culture they are forced to recognize its superiority in many important respects. Finding it hard to break the shackles, the continuing dependence of those around them deepens their anger. Although they are all against the culture`s recreational sex, widespread alcoholism and drug abuse as `Western decadence`, yet their own respective environments are, in a way, `paralyzed` by the same damning culture. By contrast, these religiously inspired Islamists hold themselves to be freshly inspired to decency.

Islamic fundamentalism has, believe it or not, its own very positive side. Its medical ethics in the poorest parts of Cairo, for instance, evidencing in a practical way the duty of Muslims to care for the poor are a source of popularity and respect. Islamic law, the Sharia, or `path to salvation`, is the sum of duties required by God of human beings, with respect not only to God, but also to one`s fellows. It is the infusion of divine purpose into human relationships that distinguishes Islamic law from the secular (but yet caring) jurisprudence of Western countries.

The restoration of the Sharia, as the operating national legal code, is a cardinal feature of Islamic fundamentalism. However, the fact that propagators of the movement so keenly want the system to be implemented, it is rather realistic to think that many of the main tenets of the Sharia are still fixed in the 10th century norms and traditions. As a social statement of ethical principle, without doubt, the Sharia is hard to surpass.

How, then, can the United States come to terms with this vital and important movement? Trying out these basic steps might not be a bad idea:

  • Work hard on the flashpoints. For example, the longer the Arab Israeli peace process is delayed, the stronger will be the influence of the extremists. For whatever reason Washington goes out of the way for Israel, all and sundry acknowledge that the Bush administration has overdone many of the previous administrations to favor Israel. United States must provide Mahmoud Abbas with the adequate diplomatic support and effect a balanced approach in order to really move the peace process in the right direction.

  • The Bush administrations Iran policy is least impressive. Threats and intimidation may work on some countries but this hardly holds true for Iran – a battle-hardened nation that has faced years of sanctions, yet, has survived well enough to regain goodwill in most of the Western world. A persistent across-the-table effort is required to get around Tehran to give up its nuclear program. Ahmadinejad`s aggression can indeed be pacified/subdued by Washington through subtle gestures of goodwill, instead of condemning the country and branding its leader as a hostage taker.

  • Stop harassing Muslim countries: Once again intimidating tactics against countries like Iran, Yemen, and Syria must come to a halt. A concerted thought process needs to be employed within the parameters of various think tanks rather than rash decisions reached within the confines of Pentagon or at the National Security level.

  • Future flashpoints should be identified and stress should be laid on peaceful and diplomatic resolutions of conflicts. Compassionate representation from various religions is required in the process of discussion and decision-making to reach amicable conclusions.

  • Understand motives: The key to reconciliation with Islamic fundamentalism is understanding. Unless the reasons for anger against the United States are understood, which drove the believers insane on the part of an extremist fringe, the actions they are likely to take cannot be effectively anticipated and countered. Failure on this `engagement` extends beyond the loss of life and property, it also poisons the domestic atmosphere with heightened discrimination and threats against the rights of the significant minority.

  • Set a better example: The more uncaring and corrupt the US society, including the political process, appears to be, the more the US strengthens that side of Islamic fundamentalism that more resents America. Domestic reforms make effective propaganda abroad. In the post 9/11 era it seems that the US has made more enemies rather than attracting friends. In the same vein, the treatment meted out to the so-called functionaries of Al-Qaeda in Guantanamo Bay and Abu Gharib have only tarnished Washington`s image. A good beginning would be to close down such centers of doom and darkness and hence show the Muslim world that the war on terrorism is after all not about one-sided fear and blood.

  • Take it seriously: Evidence greater understanding and sympathy for fundamentalism`s more praiseworthy goals. Identify the positive aspects that can unite both sides.

At the end of the US-Iran hostage crisis in 1979, a senior State Department official remarked: `Who would ever have thought that all this could have happened because of religion?` Unfortunately the same disdainful attitude continues to prevail in Washington. Has anyone in Washington thought to publish a comparison between the better goals of the Islamic fundamentalists and those expressed in President Clinton`s inaugural speech in 1992?

Those who care to think are calling upon the West to grow up, to stop being afraid of what they are unwilling to understand, to accord to others rights that they claim for themselves and their allies and to have the courage to make common cause even with those whose means appear unfamiliar, bizarre or even dangerous. In short a rational and prudent approach is required instead of offence and aggression.


Reader Comments:

Great Article

This is one of the best overall articles on Islam vs West I have ever read.

However, I think there is a very serious problem overlooked by the author.

The religion of Islam can be peaceful and tolerant, but as you stated, Islam is also a political, social, and economic system.

It is the economic aspect of Islam that is the most troubling. While based on the best intentions, Islam as an economic policy is as a much of a failure as communism or any other Utopian solutions.

Any society based on fundamentalist Islam, instead of neo-liberal capitolism, will no doubt fail.

As islamo-economic poverty sets in, so does violence, intolerance, and backwardness.

Unfourtunately, unlike communism, Islam is divine. Fundamentalist will never blame Islamic ideology for their economic failure... it is blastphemous.

That leaves only one other option... blame the rich, namely Israel and America. They are the bullies, the evil ones who kept these societies in poverty... it is a cold-war flashback.

How do you convince a population to keep the religion, but abondon all the economic and political aspects of the Koran?

Jordan, Canada - 16 January, 2006

Americans will start to respect Islam when Muslims treat Islam with respect and defend it against terrorism. Thus far -- with notable exceptions in Jordan and Bangladesh where great efforts against radical Islamism (which I agree is not Islam at all) have been made -- Muslims remain silent and inactive, apparently expecting the West either to tolerate terrorism done in the name of Allah (swt) and the Prophet (bpuh) or fix the problem for you. In America, which has the richest, best educated, and freest Muslim population in the world -- and the most SPOILED -- there are no efforts to remove Saudi- and Pakistani-trained terrorism-advocating preachers of violent, militant jihad and world domination. They make no effort to rid even their own mosques of the cancer that threatens the survival of Islam. And while Muslims worldwide bury their heads in the sand -- or smugly give tacit agreement to terrorism while pretending not to -- Islam as a precious, revered, beautiful religion is beaten eaten alive by radicalism while Muslims go on an ego trip about how everybody has to listen to them now that the dirtiest one of them has killed 3,000 people from 80 countries in New York. The faces of Muslims cheering and dancing in the streets when those people were killed is etched in the minds of Americans forever.

Before 9/11 Americans didn't know much about Islam. What they knew was that they had Muslim neighbors who were kind, respectful and exemplary citizens. They were well-educated, polite, and their children were well-behaved. What they know now is that when Americans die Muslims dance in the street. What they know now is that hatred is being preached from 80% of the mosques in America (using free speech rights that don't exist in much of the Muslim world) and that Al Qaeda leaders living in Pakistan regular call for the killing of Americans. What they also know is that not once in America since 9/11 has there been a Sunni rally against terrorism. The Shi'as have held a few but the Sunnis could give a damn whether Al Qaeda takes over all of Islam and whether extreme, brutal hudud punishments replaced the pluralistic, healthful, kind, just shari'a that existed in the Ottoman Empire.

America doesn't owe Muslims "understanding" as long as they will not rid their house of the evil ones who are the real infidels. The simple fact is that as an interfaith activist in this country, I work harder than ANY of the Muslims I know to try to protect the reputation of Islam while smug U.S. Muslims -- and Muslims around the world -- play mind games like the one in this article. How many Muslims do you know that are out there fighting Al Qaeda for possession of Islam??? How many??? But you guys get into trouble with a bad dictator, and you expect the takfir Christians to come fix it for you. The Shi'as in the United States lobbied the American government for 25 YEARS to take Saddam out of power. And you'll notice it's not the Shi'as who are complaining in Iraq. It's the Sunnis who behead people when they don't get their way and say it's Allah's (swt) will. It's not Allah's will. It's greed.

Now, if you're willing to have Islam and the names of Allah (swt) and the Prophet (swt) dirtied by thugs who rape women, torture journalists, behead translators and bomb children when they're getting toys from U.S. Marines in Baghdad, then don't blame us if Islam is destroyed as a religion in the next century.

Because, I can tell you this: If you guys screw around and let bin Laden and that idiot Al-Zawahiri detonate a nuclear device any place on this planet, it's over. Every government in the world will make Islam illegal as a religion and start deporting Muslims. And whatever country they do it to will lay an nuclear egg on wherever these guys came. If there's a nuclear, chemical or biological attack on any country in the world that is the size of 9/11, it's OVER for Islam all over Asia, Europe and the Americas.

So I would suggest rather than whining about what America should do for you next -- in foreign aid, in "understanding" -- you get off your lazy, arrogant butts and shed YOUR BLOOD to rid your beautiful religion of Al Qaeda, tawdry madrassash, and your own arrogance that you can play "footsy" with the very people who are destroying Islam while you stand by and take whatever gains you can from the violence while pretending it's just that you're so misunderstood. Your silence is NOT misunderstood. Everybodsy in the world knows what you're doing.



Lee Normandy, United Kingdom - 16 January, 2006

What, Islam is peaceful riligion?? Am I reading correctly??

, Pakistan - 17 January, 2006

Criticism gears Islam

I appreciate Hasan`s article. How I wish the west know one of the sayings of Prophet Muhammad [S.A.W] reported by Al-Imam Al-Bukhary in his SAHIH [No;3493, 3496, 3588]. The hadeeth was reported also by Al-Imam Muslim [No;2526] that "YOU WILL CERTAINLY FIND THAT THE BEST PEOPLE IN THIS AFFAIR [OF ISLAM] ARE THOSE SAME PEOPLE THAT HATE IT MOST, THEY WILL FALL INTO IT!" I believe, very soon Islam will take control of western world.

Abdur-Razzaq, Nigeria - 17 January, 2006

islam and west

this kind of rediculous writer are creating a false sense of victim within muslim youth. Muslim youth has to watch out of these poeple, and should differentiate between right and wrong.

vp, Pakistan - 17 January, 2006

Conflict is between believers, not nations.

Conflict between Islam and christianity is not entirely of 20th century origin. During the entire Islamic history we will find many such examples, when muslims and christians were fighting against each other, sometimes it was for the cause of controlling the holy lands of Palistine and at others the reasons were simply religious. History tells us that during the last thousand years it happened many a times that muslims have defeated christians and vice versa.

To date, this situation continues to remain the same, the only difference lies in the fact that this happened to be the 21st century and humanbeings as a civilization had evolved to a much higher level, as compared to the centuries of the past, if this is seen purely from a materialistic point of view. A muslim living in any part of the globe, however backward or advance may be, simply cannot live in dark ages without having any link with modern day world's realities, whether he is against the present policies pursued by the west or not. There may be some points over which muslims does not agree entirely to the world view and that may had cause decadency and backwardness in their thoughts, but that is not to be seen as a sign of war like conflict with the world. We should need to equip ourselve with the same development and progression which the west had gone through earlier and this in no way means that we will be adopting their ways , but we should live ourselves for what we believe in and should make it an example for the rest of the world to follow.

The problem is that many amongst us live in a world which they believe is overwelmed by west but neither fully understand and follow the western school of thought and nor they have made there own system. I think we should address more to our own ignorance and prejudices then just to be criticizing those who are not following our values and judjments. If I were to be absolutely realistic, at this stage a world with muslims as a large power will only be a "dream not come true". We will never become super power by just bearing with the threats made to us by the super powers and surviving but will require more ability then that.

Shuja, Pakistan - 17 January, 2006

Islam & The West

Firstly what is "West"
For that matter what is "Islam"
The west will take islam seriously when it displays the eagerness to advance that countries like Japan after 1945, and Korea after 1957 and the Latin American societies displayed after the Faulklands war. All anyone sees in the Moslem states is people scream at the top of their lungs and waving their fists in the air, or old men (old = 55 years or more) sitting around a hookah, or refugees holding out their hands for free western food and blankets. The Palistinians are in the ghettoes only because their leaders need them there to use as a boiling pot ready to pour over Israel at some undefined time in the future. If you read your Bible you would know that Israel will be re-established in their home land in "troubled times" and that they will never again be removed. If you read your Bible you would also know that the last great empire that the earth will ever see will make war in the middle east the like of which has never been seen before. It all there, in the Bible, if only you could bring yourself to read a little more widely, even writings you may not agree with.

Mark Hunter, Aruba - 18 January, 2006

Islam is a methodology

Prophet of Islam revealed there is no God but Allah. Islam
Is a management methodology? Sustainable journey of life
Using help of one and only helper Allah can cut short million
Of twisted mileage by going in a straight path. That is true
Story of my career. I went to see my relatives. I found them
Highly successful and adanced without moving to the west
From India – Pakistan. Muslim dress code vary and alqaeda
Appearance should be discarded. In all home of relativity, I
found them highly educated and very wealthy or poorer .I
cannot tell if they lived wisely lifestyle equal to poor people
by giving bulk in Charity(instead). But seeing life style without
luxury and bulky goods with children grandchildren
great-grandchildren and parivar at young age reflect success
story (satisfied life) with high Tech mfg small businesses with
other honest income .This Convinced me that this Islam way
of life is one and only Sustainable way. Probably their going
to mosque promptly few times a day none stop for decades
praying even for Absent relatives also may have helped me
To keep in focus. Many decades later my focus body feel
as if I was remembered in their prayer all the time.This Islam
way of life proved to be highly successful.When Turkey
bragged a highly successful family life ,like Iranian, Pakistan
should make effort We are on the way with education.

benz m Ispahani, India - 18 January, 2006

Islam-Christianity How - Raah Bridge

HowRaah Bridge above Hoogli River in the capital Calcutta
Is masterpiece of engineering built by Christians. Somehow,
In my right hand is designed Right half (Calcutta) and in my left
Hand is carved left half (adjacent to Howraah railway station
Of London model) shape of bridge linking heart line.I crossed
The bridge took a train to Bombay and arrived in London.
Now I can see how communication between Islam –Christianity
Commenced in greater scale since 1947 despite conflict.
Common in this specific case is the God of the earth and universe.
Purpose of religion is to promote sustainable God for all religion.
Education and trade skill is for the benefit of all the people. World
Oilfields reveal that Muslims had conquered the world retaining
oilfields. Car based economy of Japan Korean Eu N Americans
Created alqaeda hookah image. Within few years Muslims changed
from Tatar Stan to Bosnia to Jakarta.without army or wmd.Muslims
cannot be excluded in the oil based economy science or eng based
economy.Once mind bending tactics removed muslims could be
as good worker as Japanese Chinese Russian or European.Christian
and Islamic people comprise 50% of the world population.One own
resource and one is customer.Both follow book of God.They might
as well as learn to live and trade peacefully without bullying each
other and invite other religion people to live in peace and harmony.

M.B.Zakaria, United Arab Emirates - 19 January, 2006

I read theses treads as an American and a person who has lived in that part of world for years. I spend five years in Pakistan as a young man and attended the International School Islamabad from 1977 to 1980. I was a witness to the beginning of the anti-American sediment that has swept the Muslim world. I was in Islamabad when the US embassy was destroyed, and the the school attacked in November 1979. My travels lead back to Afghanistan in 2002 as a soldier fighting against the Telaban. I am an educated man, I am not a blind follower of American policy, and do not think it was the best decision to invade Iraq. That said, i would like to put forth an analogy of what I see happening in the Sunni world.

Imagen a US government that actively supported a right wing brand of the Christan religion that spreads the word of hatred of Jews, Catholics, Blacks, Muslims,and any people that were not white and participated in their interpretation of the Christan faith. Make no mistake, these people are alive and well in the United States right now. Now imagen if the US government not only supported them, but used the full might of its economy to export their message and spread that word of hatred and intolerance.

What you would have is very similar to what is and has been happening with the Wahabi message that has quietly spread out of Saudi Arabia, fueled by the war in Afghanistan against the Soviets, funded by the royal family in their sick attempt to remain in power and protect their own filthy lives, and has now made the world a very different place then it was a few years ago.

The followers of Wahabi Sunni Islam do not have a vision of peace. If you need an example of what they want for Pakistan, Iraq, and even the entire world, you need only look as far as the Telaban government that ruled Afghanistan until 2001. The contradiction was that once these people were in power they acted like mad men have throughout history. They abused their power, enriched themselves, and murdered people for sport. Pakistan (the ISI), and Saudi Arabia are the father of that horrible period in Afghanistan's past. Not something would be proud of.

Pakistan is a poor country. It is not a very strong democracy. What makes this even sadder for me is the manipulation of those poor souls into believing that the answer to their problems, which are poverty, lack of education, and a lack opportunity, is to hate others based on religion and culture. At some point I hope the Sunni people of Islam take a step back and recognize what they are becoming. Pawns in game where the rules are set by people like Bin Ladin, Al Qeada, and the Wahabist. Hate, murder, intolerance, bigotry, fear, loathing, war, and death.

I am confounded by the contradiction in what I read on these posts. It is consistent that there is a double standard. A lot of harsh words about the west, and not much introspection. If we (the US) used a philosophy like a Wahabiest, we would invade and enslave the entire region. We would use nuclear weapons to destroy your cities and our Army and Air force to destroy your populations. We do not, nor would we ever. We are free. We do respect others. We go to war because we have been attacked. Obviously the issues that confound our plant in these sad time are not so clear cut, and there is a lot of blame and short sight policy that comes from the US, but that said, the path to peace and prosperity for Pakistan and the US is not going to come from a religious philosophy that states as its goal to kill Americans. We will protect ourselves – beware.

Adam, United Kingdom - 19 January, 2006

i love hookah

hooka is one of my favorite things to do.
Its very relaxing and gives you a awesome buzzz

hookahshisha, - 04 March, 2008

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