Islam and the West
Allah (SWT) has assured us in the Qur'an that He is the best Protector, the best Guardian and the most Merciful of all merciful. (Qur'an 2:257; 3:150). Islam is under siege in the contemporary world. Siege is a war tactics, an offence and an attack. In the repertoire of war, both as strategy and tactics, to be under siege is to be hemmed in. It connotes a situation whereby the enemy has surrounded the frontiers, the access has been blocked and there is no coming in and no going out. It is meant to snuff out the enemy unless he (the General) or they (the city and its people and all) are ready to surrender. It is either they are enslaved or in most cases they are eliminated. In the alternative, they have to fight back. It is a dire situation!
Apparently, a formidable force hems in the besieged. In most cases it is not a single enemy. Enemies come together in their various forms. Different armies or their states conspire to see the end of a common enemy, to neutralize its forces, to remove or reduce the menace, which it has constituted to them. Conspiracy therefore is a strategy, a preconceived plan to execute on the terrain, as tactics on grounds, in the execution of the war. So, if the battlefield manifests the siege, which is the tactics, the war headquarters of the besieging army/armies conceive the plan, the conspiracy, which is the strategy. And in the Clausewitzian tradition, "the battle... the bloody solution of the crisis, the effort for the destruction of the enemy's forces, is the first born son of war" (0 'Sullivan and Miller Jr 198:52).
The war itself, in Clausewitz's own phrase, "is politics through other means" (Clausewitz 1963:494).
This incursion into strategic analysis is to accentuate the gravity of the problem at hand. If we can agree that Islam is under siege, then we will have to agree that we are in a war situation. And if there is a conspiracy, it means we are not talking about a single enemy but about many. And their method must be manifold.
The question that follows is who are the enemies, the West, who conspire, to do what, against Islam? What threats does Islam constitute to what interest or interests (of theirs) to warrant this gang up? What are the methods used in this conspiracy and how do they execute the plan? What are the implications of the siege? Is Islam in a position to lift the siege? In one word, if Islam is under attack, it means Islam is on the defensive. What (war) tactics are required to lift the siege, (the attack)? Is Islam doing the right thing, in the right way? Does Islam appreciate the precariousness of its situation? Who are the generations and the decision-makers in this situation? Are the people carried along? These are the issues to be addressed in this discourse.
It was Napoleon Bonaparte, the French General who once said that God is on the side of the better battalion. How can we explain the siege that Islam is under? Historically, as the Qur'an has declared, the Truth has come in the advent of Islam, falsehood has collapsed, as it is bound to (Qur'an 3:80). The phenomenal success of Islam in all lands and climes gradually, through time, ended up with the condition, in various Muslim lands, of their outright defeat by the enemies who hitherto had cringed "in the face" of the might of the valiant Muslims. When the Muslim Arabs marched out in hordes immediately after the Prophet's (SAWA) death in mid 7th century, the whole world jittered. Great empires collapsed one after another under the waves of Muslim armies, in Persia (Qadisiyya, 635;Ctesiphon,637), in Chaldea and Mesopotamia (635), in Egypt (Alexandria, 641) in the Maghrib (Qayrawan, 670; Western Maghrib, 704-711, Spain, 711). In these places and other various places the conquests of Islam led to the establishment of Muslim rule and Islamic law. In the words of Professor Gibb, the spread of Islam led the way to a new integration of peoples and cultures (Gibb 1975:3). Soon after, the cracks appeared in the center of the Islamic Empire starting early in the Battle of Siffin (It seems we cannot escape the military analogy). Siffin symbolized the clash, as Malek Bennabi puts it, of the Qur'anic spirit -represented by Imam Ali (AS)- with the Jahiliy spirit -represented by Mu'awiya the son of the Prophet's archenemy Abu Sufiyan. In any case, as Islamic civilization flourished in various Muslim lands, an almost imperceptible internal decay developed. Dynasties were formed, mutual antagonism, rivalry and unhealthy competition flourished.
The Muslims lost sight of the elan, the very dynamism of their call that had seen them triumph over others. Muslims, as it were, rested on their oars, the sea ride slowed down, Muslims neglected their arsenal, they took their enemies for granted.
To borrow the phrases of the Father of sociology, Ibn khaldun, the Muslims like city dwellers became effete population luxuriating in their achievements until the hordes of primitive tribes descended on them. Islam has, for centuries, had to grapple with this problem.
The Crusades, from late 11th century marked the beginning of formidable attempts by Christendom (the Christian West) to offset the Muslim dominance of the world. It was an invasion, it was a siege and it was effected by a gang-up of all Christendom in a conspiracy against Islam. It is in the career of a Muslim Sultan and General that we can appreciate the enormity of this problem for the Muslim world. It is also in this one Muslim's leadership that we can encompass the commitment needed by Muslims from their leaders to offset the menace of the West. Lane-Poole has captured the gravity of the daring and determination of the West in the treatment of the career of Salahuddin al-Ayyubi (Saladin to the Christian West). A quote from this account is illustrative of our point:
In 1096 the first Crusade began its eastward march; in 1098 the great cities of Edessa and Antioch and many fortresses were taken; in 1099 the Christians regained possession of Jerusalem itself. In the next few years the greater part of Palestine and the coast of Syria, Tortosa, 'Akka, Tripolis, and Sidon (1110) fell into the hands of the Crusaders, and the conquest of Tyre in 1124 marked the apogee of their power. It was the precise moment when a successful invasion from Europe was possible. A generation earlier, the Seljuq power was inexpugnable. A generation later, a Zengi or a Nur-ed-din, firmly established in the Syrian seats of the Seljuqs, would probably have driven the invaders into the sea. A lucky star led the preachers of the first Crusade to seize an opportunity of which they hardly realized the significance. Peter, the Hermit and Urban II chose the auspicious moment with sagacity as- unerring as- if they had made a profound study of Asiatic politics. The Crusade penetrated like a wedge between the old wood and the new, and for a while seemed to cleave the trunk of Mohammadan Empire into splinters (Lane-Poole 1968:163-164).
Starting with Salahudin al-Ayyubi, and followed by other valiant Muslim warriors after him, the Christian successes were reversed; The Second Crusade (1130) was defeated, the Third (1189) was defeated as the "Siege of the Besiegers"; the Children Crusade (1212) ended in disaster. The Hungarian-led Crusade (1217) was a failure, even the crusade led by Frederick the Great (1228) still was a failure. In 1239, the Crusade led by the king of Navarre was defeated, so also did the one led by King Louis IX of France (1249) end in disaster (Lane - Poole 1968; 163-165, 173; 174; 209-211; 218; 225-229; 230,31, 231,239, 256).
One great fall-out of the Crusades was the realization by Christendom of the profound literary, cultural and scientific achievements of the Muslims. They learnt from and borrowed ideas from the Muslims. The contact of the West with the East inspired in Christendom the determination to improve itself. No less a phenomenon than the Renaissance was inspired by this contact between Islam and Europe (lzetbegovic 1999: 143).
It must be realized that Christendom did not give up on its hope of undermining Islam. Following the defeats of the West in the Crusades, Islam passed through a doldrum. But even in the century of the final defeat of the Crusaders, the Ottoman State was founded (1299). By the next century, the Ottoman Empire had become a formidable power. With its conquest of Constantinople in 1453, the Ottoman Empire had established itself astride Europe by mid-15th Century. In fact, for the next three centuries after its founding, (14th to 16th Centuries), the Ottoman Empire became the ‘'Menace of Europe" and in fact, "the present Terror of the World'' (Lewis 1974:198-199). The Turks became 'Infidel Turks' to Europe and the embers of enmity grew between the East and the West. Just as it happened to Islamic Empires before it, the Ottoman Empire was soon to rest on its oars. Internal decadence set in and for the next three centuries (17th to 19th Centuries), the great Ottoman Empire decayed. And this decadence culminated in its defeat (in war) in early 20th century in the First World War. So, internal decadence attracted external aggression (Oluwatoki 2001 :29).
It must be noted that the West that was defeated by Islam in the Crusades learns its lessons. Inspired by the achievements of Islam, it turned inward, went through the Renaissance and then through the Enlightenment. At the Age of Reasoning, and discarding the predominance of religion, this West came out with superiority of scientific and technological knowledge.
It was this west, this Christendom that now took the shape of imperialism to conquer the world. It was in the 19th century at the height of the decadence of the Ottoman Empire. By 1830, Colonialist France had occupied Algiers (Abun-Nasr 1973:311) and the height of it was the Balfour declaration (1917) that promised Palestine to the European Jews(or more properly the raciest Zionists) for the creation of a supposedly ‘National' Home for them. In 1948, the illegal Zionist entity, Israel was declared and since then the Palestinian Question had become the Arab-Israeli conflict. So, through imperialism, colonization and then neo-colonialism the World of Islam had been besieged by Christendom, which for centuries had been the underdog. The great lesson of all this is that the Muslims has fallen into a condition that made them vulnerable. This, in the words of Malek Benabbi, is "colonisibility". In other words, a people are colonisable only if they have put themselves in the condition.
II THE CONSPIRACY AND ITS CORRELATES
I am sure we have established the Conspiracy of the West against Islam. What remains is to enumerate the various manifestations of this conspiracy. Apart from the military efforts, which failed woefully (Oluwatoki 2001: 16), other areas of the manifestation of the conspiracy are in the following:
Through colonization the West attempts to acculturate the Muslims by way of its education system, which plays down the Islamic principles and inculcates Euro-American ethos. This is one avenue through which the West has created the westernized elite in various Muslim countries who have become vanguards of European cultural penetration into Muslim lands. Just like it happened in many colonies, this education, to start with, started and ended with the three R's - writing, reading and arithmetic. It was a restricted education but through the Missionaries, it was meant to be an instrument of conversion to Christianity and a means of creating a Europeanized and later Americanized natives. It is perhaps the strongest weapon of the West.
2. LEGAL SYSTEM
In various Muslim lands where the West had a foothold, it eroded the legal Principles of Islam by the abrogation of the aspects of the penal Justice of the shari'ah and imposed its own, criminal code. It has always grudgingly allowed the civil aspect of the shari'ah. This erosion of the shari'ah is systematically aimed at a neutralization of the all-pervading influence of Islam in the Muslim life. With its (western) education and the inculcation of its civilization, the West presents anything western as best. Its man-made law with all its natural deficiencies is supposed to be superior. And with all its contradictions and its unabashed protection of the power that is and the establishment, canon law is imposed on Islamic law. The problems associated with this imposition are the sources of contention in many Muslim lands today.
3. FINANCIAL SYSTEM
Since the ultimate aim of imperialism is creating the enabling environment for the development of capitalism, colonization is the highest level of imperialism. The main thrust is integrating various parts of the World into world capitalism. Usury and profiteering are main features of capitalism, and they are a negation of the Islamic financial system. After the era of the monopolistic practices of the oligopolies (The multinational corporations), we are now in the era of globalization where the frontiers of states are brought down to allow for the penetration of transnational capital. It is the 'conspiracy' of the transnational elite of the West with their collaborators in other parts of the world to concentrate the greatest part of the wealth of the world in the hands of the smallest part of the population of the world. AB Robinson points out, the Human Development Report 1992 has more than illustrated the perpetual imbalance that is created by the contradiction between neo-liberalism and polyarchy (American brand of democracy specially meant for the Third World. Actually, the report shows that the richest 20% of the world population receive 82.7% of the world's total- income. The poorest 20% of the world population receive 1.4% of the world total in come. This is coupled with the widening gap between the haves and the have-nots in the individual countries. Nothing can negate Islamic social organization more than this (Robinson 1996: 340-341). The Muslims have been victims like others. Suffice it to say that this economic imperative informs western intervention in various parts of the World since the 19th Century. Throughout the latter half of the 20th century, the West endeavored to entrench its financial system in Breton Wood institutions - the World Bank, International Monetary Fund etc. Globalization is its apogee in the 21st century.
Starting with the Radio, then the Television, then the Cinema, then the Computer and now with the Internet, Information Technology has succeeded in transforming the so-called global village into the global sitting room. Events from the remotest parts of the world are reported to you instantly through the tube. So also are cultural influences in all ramifications passed on to you and your wards, challenging age-long values and practices and jeopardizing important institutions? One big target of this instrument is in the area of dressing (especially for women), drinking, (of alcohol), gambling and a myriad of other distinct cultural values on which Islam put much premium. The rate at which the West disseminates vices to the youth and even to all and sundry is alarming. In the tabloid, on the television, in the cinema and now on the internet, readers, viewers and browsers are free to 'suck in' into their system, such daunting negative influences like violence, pornography, drinking (of alcohol), gambling and a host of others. All these are taken for granted. But the fact is that the media of communication make the individual subscriber almost helpless. Communication has also afforded the West a press war on Islam especially in the area of spreading negative reportage on the Faith. We are all familiar with the negative connotation given to "fundamentalism" as an attribute of Islam and its movements.
On the political plane, countries of the West led by the USA continue to predominate in Muslim countries where they could influence policies, executing development projects and affecting the lives of Muslim peoples. Saudi-American relations are illustrative of this. Any Muslim state where this Euro-American domination has been resisted has been dealt with out-rightly through invasion, military bombardment, regime change and other means. Or such states become targets of negative propaganda. Illustrative of this point are Imam Ayatollah Khomeini's Iran, Iraq, Nasser's Egypt, Libya, Afghanistan, to mention but a few.
Palestine remains the quintessence of Western conspiracy against Islam and an eternal indictment of the West in its double play. In the execution of the first World War, Britain (the then World Greatest Power), promised the Arabs independence if they would fight against the Ottoman Empire, their overlords. This promise applied as well to Palestinian Arabs (Muslims and Christians). At the same time and in Western characteristic double-face, Britain promised the European Jews the creation of what it called a Jewish National Home in Palestine. This was in 1917 (Hence, the 1917 Balfour Declaration). This promise, it must be noted, was given in response to the pressure of International Zionism, which was the response of the Jews in the Diaspora to the inhuman treatments they have had from Europe, the West. So, the inadequacy of the Judeo-Christian civilization, the failure of Christendom to be its brother's keeper must be ameliorated by denying Islam, the Muslim peoples, their own rights.
III CONSEQUENCE AND CAUSE
The consequence of the two centuries of Western domination of the Muslim peoples; subjugation of their lands and onslaught on their cultural values is very obvious. The Muslims have lost confidence in themselves. They erroneously attribute the successes of the West to science and technology. They succumb to the temptation and the trapping of materialism, which is the cardinal philosophy that drives Western civilization. They fall for the unrestrained freedom entrenched in individualism and liberal democracy, which promises capitalist prosperity through the economics of the free market. The Muslims began to doubt the superiority of their Islamic culture and the profound achievements of their Islamic civilization in the sciences, in literature, in politics, in military strategy, in family relations, in social cohesion and in collective effort. More devastating is their helpless acquiescence to the Westphalian nation-statism jettisoning once and for all the universal state of Islam. This consequence has been grave and it has demobilized the Muslims, deadening their sinews so much that they seem not to know what to do.
Yet, the seriousness of the situation is such that it has imposed on the Muslims the need to wake up to the cause of Allah for their own sake. It is a call for Jihad in the cause of Allah. Muslims need to wake up to their duty to defend their stronghold from the formidable attack of the West. This cause should be on all fronts. The Education system in all Muslim lands should be consciously guided by a policy that sets out to create true Muslim educated citizens who are mindful of their responsibilities to Allah. Education is a serious matter. It is a cardinal principle of socialization. Through education, the cultural values of a people are transmitted down the generations. Any people that neglect education and allow the dissemination of just any ideas to its youth is gravely endangered. Muslims cannot afford to be despondent. Islam has always put a great premium on education. The present generation is being careless by leaving the education of its younger generation to whatever comes up from its adversaries.
The shari'ah should be entrenched in all Muslim lands as the supreme law. There is a need to be cautious in those states like Nigeria, where a substantial part of the population is Muslim, but where anti-Islamic sentiments are strong from the Christian members of the population. But we cannot give up the struggle until the rights of the Muslims to their own legal system within the purveyors of the Constitution are realized.
Muslims should endeavor to entrench their own Islamic financial system. They should showcase the possibility of running an interest-free banking system. The JAIZ endeavor is a step in the right direction in Nigeria.
Islam and Muslims must of necessity exploit the possibilities inherent in Information Technology. Every Muslim must be computer literate and participate actively in the dynamic world of Information Technology. The cyber-world is open to everybody. Muslims should harness its potentials to further the cause of Islam, disseminate Islamic ideas and ideals and promote Islamic cultural values.
Muslims should conscientiously participate actively in politics. This they should do with a mind to better the lots of the people, to show that through their attitudes Islamic precepts of governance are possible. In any case, Muslims must be empowered politically and economically to be able to withstand the problems inherent in neo-colonialism and the questionable "promotion of democracy", which is the vogue in the world today. There is no gain saying it that the USA is actually promoting 'polyarchy' in its so-called promotion of democracy (Robinson 1996).
Muslims have it as an obligation to identify with the Palestinian Arabs who have been under siege of West-supported and West-sponsored Zionism since 1917. This is a problem we cannot afford to abandon to our Arab brethren. They are divided well enough. The West has put a strong wedge in the Arab line of resistance. Moreover, Muslims all over the World have the duty as an Ummah to do something about the Question of Palestine. It is a task that must be done! If all Muslim peoples in all lands will let their governments know that they are serious about the Question of Palestine, these governments will consider the Question in their respective foreign policies.
This paper has attempted to establish the fact of the conspiracy of the West against Islam in the military, education, legal, financial, information, and national political and international political systems. We have also tried to proffer solutions to these problems for us as Muslims to regain our dignity and lift the siege, which has been used to hem us in. Like Salahuddin al-Ayyubi before us, all that we need is a "Siege of the Besieger". Doing this we shall triumph and regain our freedom. But it requires dedication, determination and diligence. We should remember, "Allah does not change the condition of a people unless and until they changed the condition of their souls". In the same vein, "Allah does not change His blessing that He has bestowed on a people until they changed what is in their souls'' (Qur'an 8:53).