by Tahir Mahmoud (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 45, No. 2, Jumada' al-Akhirah, 1437)
Muslims face multiple challenges from foreign imposed wars to gross incompetence and corruption of their rulers. Imperialists and Zionists also continue to secularize Islam and divide Muslims by promoting sectarianism.
As Washington deliberately sets the Muslim East (aka the Middle East) on fire prior to its tactical retreat from the region, its agenda to discredit Islam and specifically the aspirations of Muslims for Islamic governance is manifesting through two parallel projects. One track aims to promote “secular Islam” and the other to secularize Islam by promoting the Saudi obscurantist takfiri trend manifested today through neo-Salafism, Saudi palace “scholars,” and Da‘ish. The takfiri line aims to create a “natural” flow of Muslims out of the idea that an Islamic political system is viable in the contemporary world. We must ask: what are the key features of these tactics? Prior to looking at this issue, let us briefly look into the origins of the strategy of the parallel project approach.
The strategy of the current parallel project has been made public by the US government-financed research center, the RAND Corporation back in 2003 (updated in 2007). The report (a must read for Muslims) by Cheryl Benard, a hawkish American political propagandist, proposed a straightforward neo-colonization roadmap.
Benard wrote, “to encourage positive change in the Islamic world toward greater democracy, modernity, and compatibility with the contemporary international world order, the United States and the West need to consider very carefully which elements, trends, and forces within Islam they intend to strengthen… support the modernists first, support the traditionalists against the fundamentalists, confront and oppose the fundamentalists and selectively support secularists.” From an imperialist perspective her proposal offers a sound model. The strategy proposed by Benard was evident prior to her report, as Imam Khomeini had identified the concept of “American Islam” as early as the 1970s (Sayyid Qutb had identified this trend even earlier before his execution in August 1966), but the tactics of the strategy are constantly being modified and updated to fit the changing geo-political situation in the Muslim world.
At the moment the biggest emphasis of the secularization track of the project is made on normalizing non-Islamic interaction among genders within Muslim communities worldwide. This project is heavily reliant upon pre-Islamic and customary “norms” in Muslim societies. Customary taboos on polygamy, marrying widows, turning dowry into an obstacle for marriage and other types of pre-Islamic notions in Muslim societies are used as a magnet to attract the Muslim youth toward secularization by offering them “freedom.” Until Muslims become confident in projecting the Islamic vision of gender relations not rooted in cultural norms, the gender interaction tactic will remain one of the most useful tools of mean-hearted infiltration and intellectual colonization.
A policy paper published by the Air Force Research Laboratory in 2011, titled “Countering Violent Extremism: Scientific Methods & Strategies,” states that headscarves worn by Muslim women represent a form of “passive terrorism.” This automatically implies that abandonment of hijab is a sign of “peacefulness.”
Another key emphasis of the secularization track relies on the education factor in the majority Muslim world. Curriculums and lessons in Muslim classrooms are only ritualistically linked to Islam in order to advance the secular ideology within Muslim societies. Secular institutions formulate educational tools and curriculums used in most parts of the Muslim world today and Muslim teachers and most Islamic educational institutions possess no comprehensive alternative.
The second line aims to introduce Islam to the global public through Islamophobic methods by a strong emphasis on projecting the Saudi obscurantist thought. It aims to dishearten Muslims from living Islam as a comprehensive system offering a set of principles for a complete way of life by projecting the takfiri trend as the true face of Islam. The neocon think tank, the Hudson Institute, pointed out, “…some evidence indicates that ISIS is using textbooks in schools in Raqqa and Jarabulus whose contents and covers have been plagiarized directly from the Saudi Ministry of Education. The textbook on Tawhid (Monotheism): a Central Doctrine in Islam, is the most noteworthy example.” While this is an open fact, in March 2016 French President Francois Hollande awarded the Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest honor, to visiting Saudi crown prince and Interior Minister Muhammad bin Nayef.
Apart from promoting the Saudi version, the fundamental pillar of the second line of the project is sectarianism. While Washington and its allies are investing vast amounts of human and financial resources to promote sectarianism, it can be confronted through some simple but effectives means. Joint Jumu‘ah prayers, informing Muslims of differing views in a scholarly manner and condemning sectarianism by exposing its external backers and internal agitators can achieve significant results. This must be done in a systematic and perhaps institutionalized manner; otherwise its results will be limited.
Sectarianism among Muslims in Western countries is very limited since any promotion of sectarianism by Western governments would also harm domestic stability in these countries. Muslims in the West should use this aspect to their advantage and begin serious systematic work toward eliminating sectarianism. There are hundreds of social and cultural practical methods that can be implemented using media tools, masjids, schools and different events to eliminate sectarianism, but the first step that needs to take place is a simple comprehensive sit-down by community leaders with the aim of charting specific practical steps in countering sectarianism.