Dr Kalim Siddiqui’s lessons for all Muslims today

Developing Just Leadership


Muharram 18, 1423 2002-04-01


by Editor (Editorials, Crescent International Vol. 31, No. 3, Muharram, 1423)

This month marks the sixth anniversary of the death of Dr Kalim Siddiqui (r.a). On April 18, 1996, he suffered his last heart attack in Pretoria, South Africa, at the end of another successful Crescent International conference and lecture tour. It was an appropriate finale for a man whose understanding of Islam and the contemporary historical situation had informed and inspired Islamic movement activists around the world. For those who were fortunate enough to work with him, he was a constant source of guidance; since he died, much of our work has been determined by a simple question: how would Dr Kalim have understood this issue or situation, and what would he have said or done? Such was the range of issues in which he took an interest — many people tend to remember only a part of his work and think that it was his main area of interest — that this is almost always a rewarding approach.

The world situation as it has emerged since September 11 would not have surprised Dr Kalim. He often said that as the West found its dominance threatened by Islamic movements, it would become increasingly aggressive and ruthless, pushing its democratic and humanitarian facade aside and exposing its imperialist reality. He saw through the West’s self-image to understand its true nature at a time when many Muslims were still besotted with the ideas of democracy, universal values and the possibilities offered by working within western systems (as, indeed, many still are). He was wryly amused by Samuel Huntington’s thesis of a "clash of civilizations", saying that it was not Islam that was incapable of living with the rest of the world, but the West that was incapable of living with any value system that challenged the right of a Western elite to exploit everyone and everything else for its own interests. Preparing Muslims for the inevitability of deepening conflict with the Western world powers, with all its implications for Muslims at every level of their lives, was a major theme of his work.

Dr Kalim’s understanding of the nature of the West is now widely shared by Muslims. His understanding of the nature of the Islamic movement, and the way forward to meet its challenges, is also well known, even if many refuse to accept it. There is one other area of his work, however, that is in danger of being forgotten, at a time when it is perhaps more important than ever before: his understanding of the challenge facing Muslims living in Western countries. In the US and Britain in particular, but in other places as well, events since September 11 have confirmed his thesis that our situation will always be defined by the state of relations between the West and the Islamic movement at a global level, and that expecting to be able to live peaceably as Muslim individuals claiming the rights and freedoms of Western democracy will not work. This understanding was a major part of his reasons for the establishment of the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain in the wake of the Rushdie affair. At a time when thousands of Muslims are interned without trial in the US and other western countries, when Muslim charities, institutions and homes are being raided on fishing expeditions, and in Britain an alim is facing trial for reciting Qur’anicayaat in his speeches, the fact that the leadership that took over the Muslim Parliament after Dr Kalim’s death have effectively destroyed it — because they were more interested in the status that came with the name than in the institution and its work — should not blind us to the validity of the project’s original principles.

Dr Kalim understood that Muslim communities in Western countries need to organize themselves to promote and protect their own needs and interests because their situation will become harder and harder, and appeals to justice and claims for equal treatment will not work. He also recognised that it would be both wrong and pointless to try to isolate ourselves from the global Islamic movement and its struggle against Western domination; instead we must become a part of it and draw strength from it for our own struggle. He also pointed out that it is when we can deal with Western governments and other institutions from a position of organized strength and confidence that we will be heard. Muslim voices in the US, Britain and other countries are at present divided and taking different approaches. This can be a source of strength if they have a common understanding and unity of purpose derived from the sort of approach proposed by Dr Kalim in the context of the Muslim community in Britain a decade ago.

Also see this issue: Muslim political culture as a basis for the unity of the Ummah

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