by Muzaffar Iqbal (Islamic Movement, Crescent International Vol. 33, No. 8, Sha'ban, 1425)
The West’s war on Islam, designed to prevent Muslims from establishing independent Islamic states in place of the surrent pro-Western Muslim nation states, is not only a political one. MUZAFFAR IQBAL examines its intellectual elements, and how they are promoted in the Muslim world.
One of the most remarkable features of the contemporary Muslim world is the absence of governments based on Islamic principles of governance. With the exception of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the entire Muslim world is now being ruled by those who have sworn allegiance to the United States of America or one of its allies, rather than to Allah, the real Sovereign and Ruler. In almost all cases these rulers have been installed by the Western governments by means of covert operations, rigged elections or military coups. They exist solely to serve the interests of those who have installed them in power. But these rulers do not exist alone; they function within a social, political, and cultural milieu and are surrounded by men and women who are loyal to them and to their masters in Washington, London or Paris. These secondary loyalties have been bought by using state resources, and US dollars that flow out of the Western capitals into the pockets of these men and women who are an integral part of what some have called an “intellectual harem” established by the West within the Muslim world. In addition to the apparent rulers, these men and women constitute a very large number of mini power-centers which act to achieve goals set by the West as part of its agenda for the Muslim world.
The reason for the establishment of this vast network of loyalties is simple: these mini-centers of power are part of a plan to transform the social, cultural, economic and political life of Muslim societies from within. This change is all that is needed by the West to destroy Muslim societies as distinct communities living a life dedicated to the Creator. It is this ultimate goal of transforming Muslim societies that is the driving force behind aggressions committed against Muslims. If this goal is accomplished, the world will become truly unipolar, and the global hegemony of Western civilization will become a reality.
Those who understand the dialectics of this process of transformation know that a Musharraf, Karzai or Allawi is simply incapable of making this happen for his masters; such transforming changes occur in societies by more insidious means and require a different breed of men and women, whose deeds often remain obscure and whose names are seldom in the news. In this overall scheme, the role of a Musharraf, Karzai or Allawi is to provide state-sponsored resources, martial force and political environment for the working of these men and women who have undertaken this agenda of change under the protection of these potentates. Who are these men and women? Why are they working to change Muslim societies from within? What is their methodology? What will be the end result if they succeed? These and similar questions are not only pertinent to the present crisis of the Muslim world, they are the most important issues of our times.
Before we explore these questions, let us note three important aspects of other issues related to these questions. The first pertains to the geographical scale of transformation required by the West: it is not merely restricted to the Muslim world; rather, the West demands that all humanity conform to its cultural, economic, social and political patterns because, according to its own self-assessment, they represent the most advanced state of human development. It is this arrogant assumption that has propelled Western aggressions in different parts of the world during the last three centuries. It was this self-image that was at work behind the zealous efforts of colonization of the world. It was for the sake of exporting their kind of freedom, democracy and human rights that France bombarded the unarmed Vietnamese in the port city of Haiphong in November 1946, ruthlessly killing 6,000 people, and triggering a war that would liquidate more than one million Indochinese during the next eight years. That genocide of an entire people was carried out with the help of weapons supplied by the US, in the name of preservation of the “free world” and “democracy”.
The second point of importance is about the collusion of interests and meshing of agendas of different Western countries. The extent of this collusion can be judged from the fact that the French barbarity in Vietnam had hardly ended in humiliating defeat at Dienbienphu, inflicted by the Vietnamese forces in May 1954, fighting under the command of Ho Chi Minh (1890-1969), when the United States unleashed its forces on this hapless country on a scale so awesome that the cruelty of the French SS seemed benign. In fact one cannot establish clear demarcations between the misdeeds of France, Britain, and other European colonists and the US, because they all spring from the same foul water. The genocide of the Indochinese, for instance, was bankrolled to the tune of 60 percent by American financial creditors. The Dutch onslaught against the liberation movement in Indonesia, which began in 1945 and led to the butchery of over 150,000 Indonesians, was actively supported by the US and Britain; the former provided financial credit, the latter Gurkhas, vast quantities of equipment, and transport facilities. By the time the Dutch were defeated in 1949, the colonial rape of Indonesia had reduced this rich land to an economically dependent country; during the inter-war years (1914-1945), it was the source of 10-15 percent of the Netherlands’ GDP.
The third important point pertains to the collusion of economic interests of major transnational corporations (TNCs), which control international finance, and the governments of the Western world. In the case of the US, there has been no US president since World War II who has not been involved in big money drenched in the blood of innocent people. Bush senior, for instance, whose personal fortune is estimated at US $210 million and who is the high-profile progeny of one of the most important US petroleum dynasties, used his presidential powers to initiate the Gulf War that helped to secure US financial and oil interests in the Gulf.
To turn to our questions, let us begin by noting that all aggressions against Muslims come with a verbal sophistry that attempts to transform these heinous crimes into acts of benevolence in the name of “freedom and democracy”. The men and women who are the subject of this article are partners in this dreadful act of sanctification of these crimes. They have a dual role: (i) they often provide moral, political and social justifications for invasions and aggressions; (ii) they are active agents in the cultural and social change that aims to destroy Muslim societies from within.
These people, who have decided to betray their religion, people, culture and homelands, are present everywhere in the Muslim world: they are to be found in the universities, print and electronic media, cultural institutions, even in mosques. It is one of the most heart-wrenching and undeniable facts of our times that their number is not small, and that the reach of their influence is so long that the entire spectrum of Islamic tradition and culture is now under attack. Like the many channels they use, their mode of operation is also multidimensional. They hold conferences, they use television and radio, they control newspaper empires, they work through the Internet, they write books that are promoted by shadowy organizations. Through these activities, they provide a cover for the worldwide cultural terrorism aimed at transforming Muslim societies fundamentally.
The success of these men and women can now be observed all over the Muslim world. From Sudan to Malaysia and from the Arab heartland to the Central Asian steppes, the entire Muslim world is undergoing an inner transformation of momentous nature—a transformation that is propelled by technology on the one hand and secular western ideologies on the other. The role of these men and women is to provide ideological justification for this massive change that is tearing apart the Islamic fabric of the Muslim world. For all practical purposes, this merely is the Americanisation of Muslim societies from within.
At the most obvious level, this breed of men and women provide role-models by becoming widely visible through state-sponsored media coverage. They set trends in social customs, eating habits and clothing; they popularize their mannerisms through television, which has become the most important instrument of change in the Muslim world. At more intellectual levels, a key part of their strategy is to hold so-called international conferences in various parts of the Muslim world. These conferences bring together Muslim and non-Muslim scholars and attempt to build public opinion in favor of America; this is done under the garb of academic activity. By now, the recipe for such conferences has been perfected. An apparently academic-sounding theme is selected. The head of the government or one of his ministers is invited to inaugurate the conference, thereby ensuring public attention and headlines in the media. The conference participants are chosen in such a manner that they include regulars of the international conference circuit, highly qualified men and women with experience of using subversive tactics to influence their audiences.
To be sure, this is a war of ideas and ideologies, and those who understand the importance of this war know that ultimately it is this war that produces historical change. It is for this reason that the US has invested millions of dollars in programmes aimed at improving its image around the world. In a recent speech at the US Institute of Peace, a neo-conservative think tank, Condoleezza Rice said that the Bush administration has “made global outreach a priority” and “is making important progress”, citing among other things increased broadcasting in the Middle East and programmes to encourage literacy, democratic reform and education. “The basic goals in the war of ideas are to dispel destructive myths about both U.S. culture and policy and to encourage voices advocating moderation, tolerance and pluralism in the Muslim world,” Rice said. It is precisely these initiatives that attract “moderate Muslims”, who thereby end up working for the cause of the US. “The victory of freedom in the Cold War was won only when the West remembered that values and security cannot be separated,” Rice said in the same speech, “The values of freedom and democracy as much, if not more, than economic power and military might have won the Cold War.”
This is not merely the voice of a paranoid neo-conservative; the need to wage a war of ideas against Islam was also recognized by the Commission that was set up to investigate the events of September 11, 2001. It called for reorganization of US intelligence and counter terrorism activities, but also urged a diplomatic offensive: “If the United States does not act aggressively to define itself in the Islamic world, the extremists will gladly do the job for us,” the report said. Among the initiatives launched by the US is a new exchange-programme for Arab and Muslim high-school students that brought 170 students to the United States in 2003, 480 in 2004, and will bring 1,000 in 2005. The new Middle East Partnership Initiative, housed at the State Department, had $100 million for the fiscal year 2003 to help create non-government groups, particularly among women and youth, and to link businesses to support political and economic reforms. And since 2001 the US Agency for International Development has increased its focus on education and job creation in the Muslim world. The Bush administration has also launched a major new broadcasting effort with Radio Sawa in Arabic and Radio Farda in Farsi, as well as al-Hurra, an Arabic-language television-station, to counter the growing influence of regional broadcasting outlets such as al-Jazeerah and al-Arabia.
The democracy initiative, formally launched at the June 2004 summit with countries in the Group of Eight and NATO, is the most ambitious US effort to transform the Muslim world. (For perspective on this initiative, see Crescent International, 2004). This and similar initiatives have recruited a large number of Muslims who now work for the implementation of American plans in their own lands.
At a recent conference on “Islam and Muslims in the Twenty-First Century: Image and Reality”, held at Kuala Lumpur (August 2004), I was shocked to see the success of these efforts. The conference was a show-piece of the recipe described above: it was inaugurated by the Malaysian prime minister, and it included a large number of “moderate Muslims” in the roster of speakers, along with non-Muslim academics, some of whom are well-known “agents of change”. In his inaugural speech, the Malaysian prime minister called for all past fatwas to be reviewed, and insisted that “we must conform Islam to modern times”. Most of the Muslim speakers were the “self-critical types” who at all such forums repeat their favorite mantra: “we must stop blaming others for our misfortune, the problem lies within us.” This is precisely the kind of “openness” and “inward-looking approach” desired by the US. These “Muslim intellectuals” are the darlings of Washington because the Americans want us to believe that we are being bombed back into the stone age because of our own faults.
To be sure, there is nothing wrong in a self-reflective, analytic approach to our present situation; in fact, such an approach is absolutely essential. The problem with these self-serving “intellectuals” is that they want us to display our shortcomings in public, not to correct them along Islamic lines, but to justify the importation of Western non-solutions as offer by those who can line their pockets with dollars provided that they offer the correct, west-friendly analyses and prescriptions. What was shocking in Kuala Lumpur was the organized manner in which these “thinkers” tried to defuse any criticism of the US during the three days of the conference. Whenever a speaker drew attention to the US atrocities and barbarity against Muslims, one of these “intellectuals” stood up to neutralize the impact. “Brothers,” he would say, “we must not blame others for our faults. Why do we always try to put fault on others?”
Kuala Lumpur is not the only venue for such conferences; they are being held all over the Muslim world. These Muslim “intellectuals” are working in various media outfits around the world to promote American values among Muslims. Some of them even do this with naive sincerity, believing that they are serving the Ummah; others are conscious of their misdeeds but justify themselves by some convoluted reasoning. In effect, however, all are siding with those who want to destroy Islam and Muslims.
By comparison, even committed Muslims are not fully aware of these heinous efforts and their impact on Muslim societies. Many things are being taken for granted, as if ordinary Muslims are immune to the efforts being made by their enemies and as if the full-scale war of ideas, aimed at destroying Muslim societies from within, is being waged on another planet. Even dedicated Muslim intellectuals have failed to grasp the impact of this global effort aimed at destroying their faith, way of life, ethical and moral values. There is not a single Muslim institution dedicated to fighting this terrible onslaught that is rapidly eroding values in the Muslim world. While the great satan is working around the clock, the believers are mostly asleep.
What we urgently need to recognize is the fact that young Muslims are not immune to this terrible onslaught, and that modern secular education, internet, television and encroachment of Western modes of behavior and thinking have so transformed the mental and emotional fabric of our youth that they have very little desire for traditional religious teaching. In order to provide an adequate response to the Western war of ideas, a new approach is needed. Nothing can be taken for granted. The destruction of the moral and ethical system of Islam will inevitably lead to a total destruction of Islamic civilization. Signs of decay are already apparent all over the Muslim world, and unless systematic, organized and well-planned efforts are made to counter the poisonous infiltration, it may soon be too late.