by Zafar Bangash (Reflections, Crescent International Vol. 34, No. 5, Jumada' al-Ula', 1426)
There are two distinct but diametrically opposite views competing for dominance in the Muslim world today. The ruling elites, totally subservient to the West, while paying lip service to Islam for fear of their people, promote secularism and the Westernization of society; the Islamic movement insists on the establishment of Islamic values and principles. The secular elites, though numerically a tiny minority, control the levers of power in all Muslim societies except Iran, yet under their stewardship the Muslim world remains mired in poverty, corruption and stagnation. This is not due to any lack of resources; the Muslim world is endowed with enormous material, natural and human resources; the real problem is their improper utilization. This is compounded by the intellectual stagnation that grips the Ummah. While the ruling elites decry such stagnation, they starve the very institutions of much-needed resources that could help lift Muslims out of their present state of decline.
The Islamic movement, standing at the opposite pole, represents the aspirations of the Muslim masses but finds itself under attack not only from the ruling elites, who use the myriad State instruments of oppression against them, but also from their foreign backers and sponsors. In many parts of the Muslim world, members of the Islamic movement languish in jails in appalling conditions, and suffering physical and psychological torture. Many have been killed; an even greater number have simply disappeared without trace. Human rights organizations in the West seldom bother to express concern about such State oppression.
Such degrading and inhuman treatment is meted out to members of the Islamic movement under the rubric of “fighting terrorism”, promoting “moderation” and preserving “freedom”. The real sponsors of such policies are the Muslim rulers’ foreign masters, who have launched a full-scale war on Islam and Muslims. Islam – or, to use the West’s favourite expression, “Political Islam” – is perceived as a challenge to their imperial designs. They know that only Islam is capable of mobilizing the Muslims to confront the exploitative policies of the West, led by the US. Muslims who want to end US occupation and exploitation of their lands are branded as terrorists; since the Islamic movement also opposes US policies, it too is tarred with the “terrorist” brush.
In this war – and let there be no mistake, it is total war – no effort is spared to undermine the Islamic movement while propping up the corrupt Muslim rulers and their regimes. The Islamic movement promises change that would lead to a dignified existence; the ruling elites offer more of the same: subservience to the West that only brings greater humiliation. Another characteristic of the ruling elites is their gross incompetence; even if one were to ignore the political mess that is the natural consequence of oppression and unrepresentative rule, their failures are equally glaring on other fronts. Despite massive military spending, for instance, not one Muslim army has won a single battle against any enemy; in contrast, major victories have been achieved by ordinary Muslims led by muttaqi leaders in defence of their honour and their lands. The Hizbullah are the outstanding example but there are others too: the Afghans who fought the Soviet Army, and Chechens, who are continuing a valiant struggle against the Russians.
The Islamic movement insists on changing the status quo so that an Islamic system can be re-established in Muslim societies. The struggle, however, is neither simple nor so straightforward because of intense propaganda. This has confused even some members of the Islamic movement, who have also been lured into the trap of working within the jahili system in their societies. Recent reports suggest that the US is trying to co-opt members of the Islamic movement as the Muslim regimes crumble under the weight of their own incompetence. In the past, when parts of the Islamic movement – in Pakistan and Jordan, for instance – joined the existing systems, they were used and then discarded, causing them great loss of credibility. A similar scenario is being worked out now. It is disturbing to note that even in Islamic Iran, a country whose people brought about a glorious Islamic revolution that had to be defended for eight years against a Western-backed war waged through Iraq, there are some people who talk about “making up” with Washington despite US-run torture camps at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and Bagram airbase, and repeated desecrations of the noble Qur’an. Why should there be such confusion in the minds of Muslims, even those with impressive revolutionary credentials?
Muslims must strive to overthrow the oppressive systems in their societies through Islamic revolutions, and not by participating in fraudulent elections organized by the elites operating through various political parties that actually divide the people. And they must keep well away from the US, the greediest, most exploitative, most manipulative, most hypocritical and most ruthless power that the world has ever known. The Islamic movement cannot afford the luxury of making faulty assumptions; those who do cause great harm to themselves as well as to their societies.