by Tahir Mahmoud (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 53, No. 7, Safar, 1445)
The anniversary of 9/11 events usually spark discussion pertaining to the attacks. The US response to these events by murdering close to a million people in various places worldwide is also highlighted.
It is important to look at the specific outcomes of Washington’s war of terror and how its failure is rooted in the adherence of Muslims to the Prophetic Sunnah and what Dr. Kalim Siddiqui termed as Islam’s unique regenerative power.
Two decades before 9/11, prominent expert and Columbia University professor, Dr. Edward Said, began informing the global public about the prevailing hostility displayed towards Islamic activism and Islam in the corporate western media. Said’s epic book, Covering Islam, published in 1981, was far ahead of its time.
Washington’s post-9/11 policies simply confirmed the points raised by Professor Said as obvious realities in political, social, and economic spheres. With this in mind, let us return to the contemporary global reality.
In 2001, this reality would have appeared as wishful thinking. Twenty-two years after Washington launched its war of terror, the global Islamic movement underequipped, underfinanced and underorganized, still managed to outmaneuver the forces of western imperialism unleashed against it.
How and why?
In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Muslims faced immense bigotry and hostility for simply being Muslims and being aware of their Islamic identity. Muslim women in hijab and dark-skinned bearded men were the prime target of American vigilantism. Even Sikhs were not spared because, well, they looked like Osama bin Laden!
Mass surveillance of Muslims in various parts of the world became the norm and unleashed violent attacks on Muslim countries and organizations. Every crime was justified as long as the attacking entity was a western state and it used the “Islamic terrorism” card.
Every value that western institutions and statesmen claimed to uphold became legitimately inapplicable to Muslims. From questioning academics to entrapment, all dirty methods were accepted if Islam and Muslims were framed as threats.
Even Muslim minds were seen as a warzone.
According to Dr. Saba Mahmood, in 2003, “the White House National Security Council (NSC) formally established a new program named the Muslim World Outreach with as much as $1.3 billion at its disposal (and with more allocations to come).” One of the aims of this project was “establishing Islamic schools that counter the teachings of the now notorious fundamentalist madrassas, reforming public-school curriculums, and media production (which includes establishing radio and satellite television stations, producing and distributing Islamic talk shows…”
What strategic global results did the US achieve through the policies it launched after 9/11? From political to social levels, Muslims managed to withstand the massive western onslaught.
Muslims were not left unscathed but this was expected. However, considering the multitude of forces and schemes launched against them worldwide, Muslims held their ground with immense poise and dignity.
Western regimes had to accept the reality that Islamic movements are and will remain the leading socio-political force in Muslim-majority countries. They tried to co-opt them, as was the case in Syria and use them for their own nefarious agendas, but failed. Nevertheless, the fact is that Washington and its surrogates realized that to get anywhere in West Asia they must camouflage their ambitions via local Islamic aspirations.
While this led to other types of challenges, when considering the broader picture in 2023, the White House had to “negotiate” with the global Islamic movement in all domains.
Even looked at superficially, the US had to eat crow and negotiate with the Taliban. It had to flee Afghanistan in a manner which can only be described as total humiliation.
In other crucial theaters of struggle, decades of western-zionist pressure on Hizbullah in Lebanon, the Palestinian Islamic movements, Yemen, and Islamic Iran achieved little or nothing. The resistance movements have converted themselves from influential players into powerful regional actors.
Could it have been imagined in 2001 that an Islamic state (Iran) would carry out retaliatory strikes against US military bases and remain unscathed? That is exactly what happened in January 2020.
Following the US assassination of General Qassem Soleimani, Iran destroyed two US military bases in Iraq. Even at the height of the Cold War, the USSR did not muster political courage to directly target US military bases in its proximity. In Iran’s case, Washington had to swallow its arrogance and hide behind media gimmicks to conceal its humiliation. This was truly a geopolitical and psychological paradigm shift of immense proportions.
The war in Ukraine perhaps best exemplifies the broader landscape of contemporary American strategic failures. The US has spent trillions of dollars on surveillance, detention, and attacks against Muslims in different forms and locales. Yet, US imperialism finds itself confronting its most formidable challenge right at the doorstep of its conventional geopolitical sphere: Western Europe. Ironically, this challenge is initiated by a non-Muslim state entity.
Today, Islamic practices have become integral to the mainstream milieu in numerous western countries. This shift can be attributed not to the west’s benevolence but to the diligent efforts and sacrifices of Muslims to preserve their Islamic identity.
Whether it is the consumption of halal meat, daily prayers, construction of mosques, beards, or wearing the hijab—these were all once subject to pressure and disapproval. Today, they are embraced as the norm. Muslims mobilized effectively at various levels, revealing the true nature of oppressive structures which masquerade as champions of freedom and supposedly concerned with public safety. In doing so, Muslims exposed the cynical and Machiavellian nature of these entities.
From Edward Snowden to Julian Assange, many non-Muslim members of western societies came to witness that institutions claiming to safeguard them from “Islamic extremism” were corrupt and authoritarian. They were simply more sophisticated than their vassals in Saudi Arabia or Egypt.
Muslims in western societies won over a substantial number of citizens who no longer see Islam and Muslims as a threat. Anti-intervention and pro-Muslim organizations and trends led by non-Muslims in western societies have become part of the mainstream socio-political culture.
From Jeremy Corbyn in the UK to Dimitri Lascaris in Canada and Richard Boyd Barrett in Ireland, Muslims gained influential allies beyond their own constituency. Societies that viewed Muslims as pariahs and a constant security threat, no longer hold such views.
While one can list several American political and geopolitical defeats because of its imperialist hubris in the post-9/11 world, the cultural and ideological breakdown of the US is even a bigger dimension of its decay.
Specifically, the emergence of Donald Trump has completely obliterated American soft power at the global level. The rise of Trumpism politically and intellectually harmed many of the gung-ho regimes comprising the so called “Coalition of the Willing.”
From France to Sweden, Trump-like, primitive socio-political groupings have thrown the domestic political scene into disarray. Even though for decades these regimes tried to brainwash their societies that Muslims are the greatest threat facing them.
From a strictly materialistic perspective, the western geopolitical crusade against the Muslim world should have resulted in their comfortable victory. Forces unleashed against Muslims had a clear financial, military and political advantage. Yet today, they are on the decline.
The ability of Muslims as an Ummah to withstand the massive war of terror after the 9/11 events was only possible due to the regenerative power of Islam. Throughout history, Islam has been able to absorb societies and geographies due to its dynamism and depth, not force.
As pointed out by William Cleveland and Martin Bunton in their book, History of the Modern Middle East, “for at least two centuries the majority of the inhabitants of the Islamic empire were non-Muslims.” The entire myth titled as “Islam was spread by the sword” does not withstand elementary research.
Today, in places where Islamic movements enjoy some success in a formal sense, it is because of the socio-political programs and framework they offer. Their adversaries are able to hold ground not due to popular backing, but due to the massive military and financial support they receive from western regimes.
While the post-9/11 world inflicted immense suffering on Muslims, with developments slowly progressing in the emerging multipolar order, many Muslims can once again witness the reality of the following Qur’anic ayat:
“Struggle is ordained for you, even though it be hateful to you; but it may well be that you hate a thing the while it is good for you, and it may well be that you love a thing the while it is bad for you; and Allah knows and you do not know.” [Al-Baqarah: 216]
The practical application of the above ayat can be observed throughout the life struggle of all the Prophets sent by the one and only God, Allah.
The Roman empire mobilized its entire imperial machine to crush the followers of Prophet Isa (Jesus [as]), only to see Rome adopt Christianity as its official religion, even if only in name. Broadly speaking, the Roman empire crumbled ideologically and psychologically due to the relentless dedication of the adherents of Prophet Isa (as).
The mushriks of Makkah left no stone unturned to keep the Arabian Peninsula mired in idol-worship, yet today Arab identity is synonymous with monotheism, be it the Muslim or Christian conception of monotheism.
The United States of America spent two decades waging wars on Muslim countries under the rubric of “anti-terrorism.” The aim was to prevent Islamic movements from gaining political power. The US ended up in economic hardship, military degradation and geopolitical loss. This was achieved not so much by Muslim hard power, but through the persistent dedication of Muslim masses to Islamic causes, regardless of costs.
The last two decades offer a great lesson to the oppressed and the oppressors. In the long-run, the oppressed win and the oppressors lose.
The supplications of three are never turned back: a fasting person until he breaks his fast, a just leader, and the supplication of the oppressed is raised above the clouds by Allah, the gates of heaven open for it and the Lord says: ‘By My might, I will surely help you in due time.’ (Sunan al-Tirmidhī 3598)