Backward Steps in the Muslim World – Part 1
It was a pleasant day, temperatures in the 70’s, so a few days ago my wife and I decided to walk about town. It is summer; where we live has a small upscale village of shops and restaurants, along with too many realtors’ offices, so window shopping and eating can be fun. We passed a thrift store and curiosity pulled me in. Attracted to a wall of books I began pursuing the shelves. Two books popped out, one about Carmen Bid Laden, the other The Future of Freedom, by Fareed Zakaria. Both focused on areas of personal interest, one on Islam, the other ‘freedom’, since it was around Independence Day. Taking them to the check-out, an older women, seated behind a table and cash register, held out her hand. “That’ll be $2.” What a bargain, I thought, wanting to return to the shelves and search for more. But others were waiting. I took my book-prizes and left.
In short order I read them and found them informative and of value far greater than the $2. Both published after 9/11 and contained commentary on changes in the world of Islam. This Blog is influenced, inspired, by the reading, mostly the Zakaria book.
Islamic World Composition
The Islamic world is comprised of a variety of people with the Arabs only 20% of the total. About 23-25 Countries are in the Arab League, representing over 360 million people. In the Arab World you have Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Yemen, Egypt, Sudan, Tunisia, Morocco, Oman, Kuwait, and a few others. An Arab, defined by the Arab League “is a person whose language is Arabic, who lives in an Arabic-speaking country, and who is in sympathy with the aspirations of the Arabic-speaking peoples.” Outside this area large Muslim populations are found in Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and Turkey. Iran, also, which considers itself Persian, speaking Farsi, not Arabic. [What are the aspirations of the Arabic-speaking peoples I ask?]
A chart of Muslim Countries by largest population would show the top 3 are Indonesia, Pakistan and Bangladesh, none of which are Arab. Osama Bin Laden came from Saudi Arabia; his father a wealthy building contractor, not of the Royal family, but with close ties.
Until 45-50 years ago all of the Muslim areas were focused more on religion than politics. Governments were more secular with autocratic, father-figure type, leaders. Religion was separate and the devotion to their god, his positive elements, was a focus on ‘good’ outweighing ‘evil,’ the creator giving humans their intellect and heritage, and a practice of prayer to remember and love Allah dominated. Cultures were more pluralistic than today and tolerance of other faiths among them was apparent. Rule may have been autocratic but the people, if their leader did not live up to good faith principles, could be ousted. Separation of mosque and state was common.
Egypt was the preeminent head of the Middle-East until the vast oil resources of Saudi Arabia and Iran, and other gulf areas, were discovered. Nasser set the stage and his vision was embraced. His rhetoric gave way for a leaning towards modernization, the West the example as a way of life, not as a military power.
The wealth of the regions was minimal and the people had a greater say, even though they enjoyed a patriarch as a leader. But the dollars from the oil fortunes caused change. Families, monarchies, political leaders experienced untold wealth. Along with that came a concern for their positions of power and stature. They felt threatened. So they began to grow their military, police forces and intelligence agencies to control their own people more than as a defense against invaders. Along with the infrastructure changes oriented towards security and self-preservation, came a reversal in the tendency towards modernization.
The romantic father figure as a leader of multitudes of Bedouin tribes, living in tents with flowing entryways, beautiful, world-class steeds to carry the community from one location to another, one oasis to another, bedecked in full length colorful regalia, turban headdresses, much ornamental jewelry, variegated clothing, with sumptuous banquets arranged in areas whose floors were covered in the finest of finely woven, intricately designed and varied rugs, with entertainment by belly dancers, their midriff exposed, a precious stone dangling from the belly, clanging tiny cymbal-like instruments attached to their fingers in time, a handsome dark-skinned unshaven figure standing guard, his sword exposed at his side, as progress in the world occurred, gave way to more powerful figures able to control the people with the might they could afford. Instead of swords, there were camouflaged figures with AK-47’s on every street corner.
Zakaria mentioned a jailed Muslim protester, Sayyid Qutb. Nasser was a Muslim with little interest in “mixing religion and politics.” (141 FOF) The Muslim Brotherhood, a minority faction, arose to oppose Nasser. Many dissenters were imprisoned, including Qutb. He wrote a book, Signposts on the Road, which according to Zakaria, “in some way marks the beginning of modern political Islam or what is often called Islamic fundamentalism.” (141 FOF) That was around 1955. From the book Nasser was condemned for his secular government, which would be the case also today by the ‘pure’, and the ‘moderate’ Muslims were condemned as well, suggesting they were ‘un-Islamic’ and they were ‘impious.’ The objective became a “more virtuous polity based on strict Islamic principles.” (142 FOF)
Historical rule in the Muslim world had no universal overseer, no papal authority, relying on local leaders to guide them. Organizations, like the Muslim Brotherhood “at least tried to give people a sense of meaning and purpose in a changing world” (142 FOF), but at the same time regressing towards a 7th century ideal. ‘Tradition’ became the conceptual unifier, tradition born out of the Quran and other works attributed to Muhammad. “The result has been a ruthless, winner-take-all attitude toward political life,” according to Zakaria (142 FOF). The mosque has become the center for political debate and “where all hate and opposition towards the regimes (those more liberal towards Western ideals) collected and grew.” (142 FOF) This continues today in mosques throughout the world. The greatest change has been the rule of man, not Allah, using Sharia Law as a religious-governance, to exercise authority over others.
Failure of political institutions in the Muslim world have allowed for the rise of fundamentalism. Qutb allowed for criticism of other Muslims, those not closely aligned with the ideology (government, justice and religion as one) whereas historically “no Muslim really (had) the authority to question whether someone was a ‘proper Muslim’” (144 FOF). Now a worldwide umma (community of ‘all-for-Allah’ defenders) is being stressed by the many organizations that have been formed, from the Muslim Brotherhood to Hamas, CAIR to the Cordoba Initiative, among others. Sharia Law has always been included by these groups as a component of the route to revisionist Islamic religious practice.
America, a Fire Starter
America was helpful is fueling this fire of hatred, but not in the way you may be thinking. It was an indirect assist, intended to provide, yet enabling the spread of the ‘pure’, the fundamental Islam. As the industrial leader of the world oil was of value, and cheap oil was so plentiful from the middle-east that drilling in America, despite early historical finds (like the Texas oil fields), became more costly than just buying elsewhere. Never was there any consideration a significant percentage of the dollars used to purchase oil from Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq, and others, would be used to grow the ideological side of Islam, and not only in the oil rich Muslim countries, but outside their borders as well. As the price and demand for oil grew, so did the dollars available to initiate and advance the cause for a ‘pure’ Islam, Wahhabism-like, everywhere possible. Starting in Muslim dominated areas, mostly secular at the time, more religion, less politics, fertile ground was readily available. The Qutb theory that the ‘moderates’ were impious could be used against them, making them feel guilty, and punishable once Sharia was in place, if not already established. Sharia-lite would become Sharia-hardline. Dollars flowed from Saudi Arabia to the PLO, to organizations hating Israel, Hamas, Hezbollah (as well as Iranian dollars) to mosques and madrassas where education of the ‘pure’ and the institution of Islamic Law (Sharia Law) was firmly established, promoted and grew to be seen as mainstream and required. The Muslim world that progressed from its 7th century roots, loved Allah and not the government, was being turned around, made to face their past, to see Muhammad in ancient dress and be like him. This is an on-going process.
Wake Up, America! Wake Up, World!
American needs a wake up call; as does the World at large. An alert needs to go out to Congress to become more knowledgeable and aware of Islam. The need to Understand Islam is universal. A need to cut off the head of that which is a snake invading not just non-Muslim areas, but the moderate Muslim communities, exits. All the help possible is welcomed, but none more than that of our political leaders, our legislative bodies that can do something about it. More is necessary. Clarity is necessary. Everyone must understand the tactics, the defenses, the rhetoric of the ‘pure’ and how to react. Everyone must resist the minority Muslim support groups that make every effort to thwart objections by claiming persecution, hate or religious intolerance. Know that is not what is taking place. Thus far the world has failed and allowed threats of harm, examples of death threats, even actual murder, honor killing, to instill fear. Calls for images to be suppressed, and claims of persecution (no matter how mild, or even only as seen in the eyes and mind of the Muslim) is hatred at work, against the innocent, in favor of the radicals. We hear Allahu Akbar and believe the violent acts are a call for religious freedom for Muslims, showing some sympathy, when in fact they are calls for a suppression of the entire world, asking the world to submit to Allah, but more so to the powers of fanatical power-hungry factions of Islam. By force they will take over the world, and only by force, if necessary, hard won battles, must we resist and allow freedom to continue to ring out.
Ring your bell of freedom today and never forget. If America is not of your liking, or Great Britain or France, and you have a desire for a life under Sharia Law, there are places where you can go. Safe passage can be assured.
More on this topic will be continued in the next Blog.
We must all get on our knees and pray to the heavens that God’s voice will be heard, the sword of the Spirit will appear in dreams, and the leaders of the free world will recognize the call for Sharia Law as an impediment to freedom, and encroachment on the objective nature of mankind, and an effort to oppress and suppress religious freedom and free speech. Oh Lord, hear our prayer.
Grace and peace.