The Real Challenge before Islamophobes
“The existing 57 Muslim states are no more than colonial encroachments on the ruins of an Islamic entity. These encroachments were erected only to make Muslims feel at home rather than to have them think about living as one Ummah. Presently, there are 57 Muslim countries, with 57 policies and 57 Shirk-infested national anthems, divided interests and unclear strategies. The Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Arab League are useless for the same reason. Ummah, thus, is the most dreaded word for those who harbor hatred for Islam. ”
“We are being challenged by Islam these years – globally as well as locally. It is a challenge we have to take seriously. We have let this issue float about for too long because we are tolerant and lazy. “We have to show our opposition to Islam and we have to, at times, run the risk of having unflattering labels placed on us because there are some things for which we should display no tolerance.”
— Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, Daily Telegraph, U.K., April 15, 2005.
To the anti-Islam alliance of neo-cons, Evangelicals, Christian-Zionists and capitalists, the ideology of Islam is the challenge to overcome. According to the principles of Islam, there is no basis for division among Muslims with respect to place of birth, ethnicity, culture, language, national boundaries or nationality. This ideology also nullifies the concept of nation-states as a major foundation for separation among Muslims. These modes and systems of identification are invalid because not only they would force Muslims to worship their respective states and their secular laws, but also because they would divide their interests. That is why the United States and its allies shiver to the core when Muslims refer to the concept of the Ummah and establishing an Islamic state or Khilafah.
In fact the concept of Ummah and Khilafah runs contrary to the totalitarian designs of the religiously motivated persons on the media, academia, political and military form of the war on Islam. Just six days after the fall of Berlin Wall, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Colin Powell presented a new strategy document to President Bush Senior, proposing that the US shift from countering Soviet attempts at world dominance to ensuring US world dominance. Bush accepted this plan in a public speech, with slight modifications, on August 2, 1990. The same day Iraq began invading Kuwait. In early 1992, Powell, counter to his usual public dove persona, told the United States Congress that the United States requires “sufficient power” to “deter any challenger from ever dreaming of challenging us on the world stage.” Powell clearly expressed his desires. He said, “I want to be the bully on the block.” Powell’s early ideas of global hegemony were formalized by others in a February 18, 1992 policy document. The then Defense Secretary Dick Cheney stated that part of the American mission described in the 46-page document was to convince “potential competitors that they need not aspire to a greater role or pursue a more aggressive posture to protect their legitimate interests.” This strategy, called Pentagon’s Defense Planning Guidance for the Fiscal Years 1994-1999, was finally realized as policy when Bush Junior became president in 2001.
Nick Cohen summarized the totalitarian policy in the Observer in these words: “America’s friends are potential enemies. They must be in a state of dependence and seek solutions to their problems in Washington.”[182 ]The policy document was prepared by Paul Wolfowitz and Lewis Libby, who had relatively low posts at the time, but under Bush Junior became Deputy Defense Secretary and Vice President Cheney’s Chief of Staff, respectively. The document conspicuously avoided mention of collective security arrangements through the United Nations, instead suggested the US “should expect future coalitions to be ad hoc assemblies, often not lasting beyond the crisis being confronted.” Senator Lincoln Chafee (R), later noted that Bush Junior’s “plan for preemptive strikes was formed back at the end of the first Bush administration with that 1992 report.” In his last days in office as Defense Secretary, Dick Cheney released a document, called Defense Strategy for the 1990s. This document reasserted the plans for US global domination outlined in an earlier Pentagon policy paper. But because of Clinton’s presidential victory, the implementation of these plans had to wait until Bush Junior came to power in 2001 and Cheney becomes vice president. However, Cheney and others continued to refine this vision of global domination through the Project for the New American Century think tank while they wait to reassume political power.
Zionist influence continued to play a role in this crusade for global dominance. The Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, an Israeli think tank, published a paper entitled “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.” The paper is not much different from other Israeli right-wing papers at the time, except the authors: the lead writer is Richard Perle, now chairman of the Defense Policy Board in the US, and very influential with President Bush. Several of the other authors now hold key positions in Washington. The paper advises the new, right-wing Israeli leader Binyamin Netanyahu to make a complete break with the past by adopting a strategy “based on an entirely new intellectual foundation, one that restores strategic initiative and provides the nation the room to engage every possible energy on rebuilding Zionism …” The first step was to remove Saddam Hussein in Iraq. A war with Iraq would destabilize the entire Middle East, which would allow governments in Syria, Iran, Lebanon and other countries to be replaced. “Israel will not only contain its foes; it will transcend them,” the paper concludes.
These hegemonic designs made the totalitarian feel scared of anything that could challenge the status quo or which could become an alternative to the kind of order they had in mind for re-creating the world in their own image. Thus, any intnetional or unintentional reference of effort in the direction of uniting Muslims is considered a serious threat. The recent statements from U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, President George W. Bush and British Home Secretary Charles Clarke reveal this deep-seated fear. Before we can move toward understanding the root cause of this fear, it is necessary to take a look at these three statements, which appeared within a week’s time. On September 30, 2005, Rumsfeld said:
“Those voters are demonstrating again today that there exists no conflict between Western values and Muslim values. What exists is a conflict within the Muslim faith—between majorities in every country who desire freedom, and a lethal minority intent on denying freedom to others and re-establishing a caliphate.”
Rumsfeld has been constantly repeating this idea for quite some time, using the word “caliphate.” In an interview with Spiegel, he repeated the same theme on October 31, 2005, and specifically mentioned it in his briefing before the Department of Defense on November 1, 2005. On November 20, he said on CNN’s Late Edition, “Think of that country being turned over to the Zarqawis, the people who behead people, the people who kill innocent men, women and children, the people who are determined to reestablish a caliphate around the world.”
Rumsfeld and his supporters continue to ignore this fact: Muslims have never before been bent on killing themselves and others to establish Khilafah. Throughout the bloodshed, these questions have remained unanswered: “Where were these Muslims before the United States invasion? Why didn’t they try to establish Khilafah in Iraq when Saddam’s government was falling?” Even if Saddam’s regime was not on its last legs, according to Rumsfeld’s assumption, more tyranny existed under Saddam Hussain than exists now. Yet Saddam’s military power was a cap pistol compared to United States military power. Why did caliphate-lovers previously not express their determination?
In an historic speech on October 6, 2005, Bush expressed the same fear when he discussed the objectives for the war in these words:
“Some call this evil Islamic radicalism; others, militant Jihadism; still others, Islamo-fascism. Whatever it is called, this ideology is very different from the religion of Islam. This form of radicalism exploits Islam to serve a violent, political vision: the establishment, by terrorism and subversion and insurgency, of a totalitarian empire that denies all political and religious freedom. These extremists distort the idea of jihad into a call for terrorist murder against Christians and Jews and Hindus — and also against Muslims from other traditions, whom they regard as heretics.”
British Home Secretary Charles Clarke repeated the same fear of Khilafah on October 5, 2005:
“What drive these people on are ideas. And unlike the liberation movements of the post World War II era in many parts of the world, these are not in pursuit of political ideas like national independence from colonial rule, or equality for all citizens without regard for race or creed, or freedom of expression without totalitarian repression. Such ambitions are, at least in principle, negotiable and in many cases have actually been negotiated. However there can be no negotiation about the re-creation of the Caliphate; there can be no negotiation about the imposition of Shari’ah law; there can be no negotiation about the suppression of equality between the sexes; there can be no negotiation about the ending of free speech. These values are fundamental to our civilizations and are simply not up for negotiation.”
Therefore, the only justification left for the United States invasions and occupation of Muslim countries is to save humanity from the curse of Khilafah. Is the United States realizing the “curse” of Khilafah now, after invading and occupying Afghanistan and Iraq under other pretexts? No, it is not. It has now become obvious that waging a war on Khilafah was the primary U.S. motive to demonize the Taliban and to engage in pre-9/11 planning for invading and occupying Afghanistan because their presence and policies were considered a threat to the world order envisioned by the totalitarians in the United States.
The Project for the New American Century (PNAC), a neoconservative think tank was formed in the spring of 1997 around the time of appearance of the Taliban on the scene. PNAC issued its statement of principles with the stated aims: “to shape a new century favorable to American principles and interests,” to achieve “a foreign policy that boldly and purposefully promotes American principles abroad,” “to increase defense spending significantly,” to challenge “regimes hostile to US interests and values,” and to “accept America’s unique role in preserving and extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles.” These principles matter because they were signed by a group which has now become “a rollcall of today’s Bush inner circle.” According to ABC’s Ted Koppel, PNAC’s ideas have “been called a secret blueprint for US global domination.”
To understand the motive of these totalitarians behind invading Afghanistan, what we need to understand is the basic concept of Islam, which the Western totalitarians are so strongly associating with terrorism and are attempting to prove as evil without letting people understand the reality of Islamic belief.
Khilafah does not appear in a vacuum without an ideological and spiritual background. Nor is its objective the creation of an empire that will rule the world for the sake of ruling. One has to understand the purpose of life in Islam to comprehend this religion’s requirements for the collective life of Muslims. Islam means submission to Allah and His Will. Once a person submits himself or herself to Allah and comes into the fold of Islam, that individual is required to live in accordance with the way of life prescribed by the Qur’an and Sunnah. From the Islamic perspective, any standard, law, value and way of life to which one submits and follows becomes his Deen (way of life). That is why the Qur’an has stressed: “Lo! The Deen with Allah is Islam” (Qur’an 3:19). At another place in the Qur’an, Allah has pointed out that with the establishment of Islam, He has rewarded the people completely: “This day have I perfected your Deen for you and completed My favor unto you and have chosen for you as Deen Al-Islam” (Qur’an 5:3).The overall objective of collectively submitting to the Will of Allah is to establish a society and system of true justice on Earth. The current political establishments in Washington and allied capitals would consider such an idea to be a threat to their power.
To achieve worldly objectives, human beings have been submitting themselves to different powers and ideologies throughout human history. In the present age, most of humanity has submitted to the power and authority of the state and the ideology of the separation of power between church and state. In Islam, both religion and state are part of the Deen, and submission is allowed only to Allah and His Law. It means that no sphere of life is free from living according to the Will and Law of Allah. Living according to any standard other than Allah is the greatest sin (Shirk, as it is called in Islam).
In the Muslim world today, all discussions on Shirk and Tawheed (the oneness and uniqueness of Allah) have been limited to religion. The concept of state has been left alone, as if Allah’s Will, Law and Standards do not apply to the state at all and as if the state acts in a vacuum without any dealings with human beings for whose guidance the Qur’an is revealed. That is why present-day Muslims consider someone bowing down before a statue as Shirk, no matter how much that person may insist that he or she believes in the oneness of Allah—the prerequisite for being a Muslim. However, at the same time, a majority of Muslims do not consider submitting themselves to laws, standards, systems and a way of life other than those prescribed by Allah as Shirk. This is because the self-proclaimed “moderate” Muslims in particular have diminished the concept of Deen in modern-day thinking. The overall thinking of Muslims is shaped in world where the secular European model or a public order (or state) has replaced the concept of Darul Islam. The secular model has taken sovereignty away from Allah and given to the State. And that is an act of Shirk!
Despite the fact that Muslims say that Islam is a way of life, there is hardly any reaction to the reality that the prevailing mode of life in the Muslim world is un-Islamic. Similarly, none of the Muslim states conducts its business purely in accordance with the Qur’an and the Sunnah. State and public life are free of religion, but when it comes to religion itself, we witness extreme reactions. For example, any blasphemous remarks or physical desecration of the Qur’an automatically receives a knee-jerk reaction from Muslims, such as the reaction to the publication of a cartoon of Prophet Mohammed (pbuh). The basic reason is that despite rejecting the concept of separation of church and state, this concept has still heavily influenced and affected Muslim mind. They have literally accepted this concept and find no problem living by it. Similarly, they think that the state is the ultimate form of human governance. In addition, even the best possible Muslim efforts at living according to Islam are limited to thinking inside the box of the nation-state system.
With the nation-state system, the world map is set in one style in which each state has the legal authority to make rules binding on its inhabitants. The relationship between government and religion varies from state to state. At the minimum, governments are not hostile to religion as was the case in the former Soviet Union. Most governments accept at least minimum respect for religion because of popular feelings and support for religious beliefs.
Similarly, efforts are underway to standardize and reduce cultural differences as much as possible. The speed of these changes varies from region to region, but the ultimate objective and direction are the same everywhere (except in the United States where Bush and company are establishing theocracy with no qualms). Not only is the separation of church and state globally established, but also religion—even in its limited and misunderstood form—is not considered the basis of human organization anywhere in the world. The single, authentic standard for human organization is state and nationality. Therefore, development of the human mind has taken place within the framework of nationhood since the introduction of the concept of nation-states. In fact, adding Islam before or after a country’s title shows only ignorance about Islam as well as the concept of the modern state.
Modern-day religious, political, military and intellectual crusaders are fully aware of the basic requirement that Muslims must live by Islam. In their view, verbal submission to Allah’s Will by itself has no meaning. However, today’s Muslim leaders in all walks of life are trained to adopt the principles of imperialist powers, which are focused on maintaining the existing state of affairs. Thus, for Muslims the problem of division, external interference and subjugation begins at home. In total contrast to common practice of limiting Islam to a few rituals, Islam is the basis, not only of the overall governing system, but also of human organization among Muslims at the local level. The only basis of social organization and collective identity for Muslims is no less, and no more, than the Deen of Islam. The concept of separation of church and state is contrary to the basic principles of Islam because it is a form of Shirk—the greatest sin in Islam. Separation of church and state means living by standards other than those revealed by Allah (Qur’an 5:48-49, 6:89). The whole concept of separation of church and state is in opposition to the concept of Tawheed. The reason is simple: according to the Qur’an, the only standard for human organization is Islam (Qur’an 21:92 and 23:52-53). In Islam, the basis of system and organization is the Deen of Islam. The limit of this organization is the Ummah of Islam—the nation that fully believes in Allah’s oneness (Milat-e-Tawheed), and applies that belief to practical situations in their everyday lives.
The concept of Darul Islam (the home of Islam) is too broad to be accommodated within the modern concept of the state. It is impossible to have both at the same time. The ultimate form of organization of the Muslim Ummah is Khilafah, which is a complete negation of the concept of the state. That is why the mere mention of Khilafah forces the well-established major powers of the day into quick knee-jerk reactions. No matter how rudimentary and flawed were the attempts of the Taliban at establishing an Islamic Emirate, the modern-day religious crusaders were scared because this process of establishing an emirate was leading Muslim minds to many questions and clarifications. The influence of these religious crusaders, as mentioned in chapter 1 and 2, forced activists in the political, academic and military ranks to join the 21st century crusade.
The chain reaction of questions and answers as a result of the Taliban’s actions could lead to an understanding of the Islamic concept and standard of human organization. A continuation of the Taliban government would have led to purification—not domination—of Islamic thought. This purification of thought in the Muslim world is the first step towards the establishment of an Islamic society, free of every kind of un-Islamic influence.
The fear of discussion, debate, and crystallization of Islamic thought among Muslims is evident from Patrick Buchanan’s declaration of war on the Muslim world. Writing in his book, Where the Right Went Wrong, Buchanan makes a case for religious war in these terms:
“If a clash of civilizations is coming, the West is unchallenged in wealth and weaponry. Yet, wealth did not prevent the collapse of Europe’s Empires, nor did awesome weaponry prevent the collapse of the Soviet Empire. Rome was mighty, Christianity weak. Christianity endured and prevailed. Rome fell. America’s enemy then is not a state we can crush with sanctions or an enemy we can defeat with force of arms. The enemy is a cause, a movement, an idea.”
Accordingly, following this line of thinking, the Taliban were not a military threat. They did not challenge the United States. Even the Taliban had no clear thought-out strategies. They only had a strong determination and intention to make living by Islam possible despite claims to the contrary that the 21st century is not a time to fully live by Islam. This attitude was giving rise to a debate among Muslims and a movement in the direction of Taliban’s stated intentions. The fear of discussion and debate on this issue is evident from Rumsfeld’s statement, saying: “There can be no negotiation about the re-creation of the Caliphate; there can be no negotiation about the imposition of Shari’ah law; there can be no negotiation about the suppression of equality between the sexes; there can be no negotiation about the ending of free speech.”
Of course, there can be no negotiation with Rumsfeld and company on the issue of how the Muslims need to live their lives after they submit themselves to Allah. But Rumsfeld’s repetition of “no negotiation” reflects the morbid dread of the purification of polluted Islamic thought as well as attempts at suppressing free speech when it comes to making the public understand the basic concepts of Islam. For example, it is a revolution in itself for Muslims to realize that there is no basis for classifying human beings on the basis of ethnic origin, language, place of birth and nationality. Allah does say, however, that He has made people into different tribes only for the sake of identification. The sin comes in treating others differently on the basis of these classifications and erecting the wall of nation-states between them, which pits one Muslim state against the other for worldly interests.
Anyone who accepts Islam becomes part of the Ummah and is obliged to live by the Law and standards of Allah alone. Unless one leaves the fold of Islam, there is no compromise on this basic principle. But with this obligation, one is bestowed with some inalienable rights as well. Unlike Israel, where an estimated 300,000 immigrants are considered non-Jews by the rabbinate and the government, and face problems in getting citizenship, just coming to the fold of Islam is good enough for one to immediately become part of the Ummah and a citizen of the Islamic State/Emirate/ Darul Islam regardless of the place of birth and ethnic origin.
Both Muslims and non-Muslims routinely call Muslim majority countries Islamic states. Muslims are made to believe that even if all Muslim countries are amalgamated into a single Islamic entity, it will still be comprised of land, population, rulers and the ruled. So what’s the difference? Therefore, the Muslim mind has accepted the present divisions of territory into several Muslim countries as perfectly valid. Furthermore, some Muslims believe that if some “Islamic” articles are added to the constitutions of Muslim countries, this change will make these states Islamic. Others are of the opinion that there is no need for such additions to the constitutions. All these distinctions are part of the attempts to limit Islam by putting it into the box of “nation” and nation-states.
For nationalizing Islam and eliminating differences between a single Islamic entity (Darul Islam) and un-Islamic states, many countries with Muslim majorities have been attempting to model themselves on un-Islamic states for a long time. As a result, even well-known scholars and leaders of religious parties are confused about the difference between an Islamic and an un-Islamic state. They try their best to avoid discussion on the difference between a Muslim and Islamic entity. As a result, most Muslims are under the impression that if the majority of the population is Muslim and their “leaders” proclaim to be Muslim, the difference between an Islamic and an un-Islamic state is reduced to an Islamically permissible fraction. In fact, even if the division of Muslims into several states is perfectly valid, still it does not help Muslims become a single Ummah as required by the Qur’anic injunctions.
Dictators, such as General Pervez Musharraf, feel proud to speak on the issue and tell the world that Muslims cannot live by Islam the way they lived under the Khilafah in the 7th century. He hardly realizes that the existing 57 Muslim states are no more than colonial encroachments on the ruins of an Islamic entity. These encroachments were erected only to make Muslims feel at home rather than to have them think about living as one Ummah.
Ummah is the most dreaded word for those who harbor hatred for Islam. For Islamophobes, Muslims division in many nations and many states is not a problem at all. However, any thought of the emergence of a single Ummah on the part of Muslims becomes extremism and totalitarianism for Islamophobes. The reason is simple: In the absence of divided Muslims; in the absence of Muslim puppet kings, dictators and generals, the occupiers—along with their multinational corporations and IMF and World Bank—will have no way to carry out their policies of social, cultural and economic exploitation. Edward W. Said noted in 1996:
“…[no wonder] that most Islamic countries today are too poverty-stricken, tyrannical and hopelessly inept militarily as well as scientifically to be much of a threat to anyone except their own citizens; and never mind that the most powerful of them — like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Pakistan — are totally within the US orbit. What matters to “experts” like Miller, Samuel Huntington, Martin Kramer, Bernard Lewis, Daniel Pipes, Steven Emerson and Barry Rubin, plus a whole battery of Israeli academics, is to make sure that the “threat” is kept before our eyes, the better to excoriate Islam for terror, despotism and violence, while assuring themselves profitable consultancies, frequent TV appearances and book contracts.”
If there were an Ummah, it would be unimaginable that a part of the Islamic state would be reeling under foreign occupation, with the rest of the Ummah standing on the sidelines. Presently, there are 57 Muslim countries, with 57 policies and 57 Shirk-infested national anthems, divided interests and unclear strategies. The Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Arab League are useless for the same reason. It hardly hurts the interests of any of these states if the United States is occupying Afghanistan and Iraq today, plans to invade Syria tomorrow, or attacks Iran the next day. The United States has cut the body into pieces and feels free to attack any part of that body when it sees fit with no fear of any real opposition or resistance. Interestingly, many of the leading warlords, such as Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, present Arabs different from Muslims. While referring to Muslims, they would write “Arabs and Muslims,” as if Arabs are not Muslims. The effect of such propaganda is extremely serious. Even those who are against occupation and oppression of Muslims around the world start speaking in the same language that confirms these divisions among Muslims.
The sovereignty and independence of Muslim nation-states are yet another big joke. On the one hand, school textbooks in these countries are filled with patriotic lessons, and national radio and television stations never stop blaring songs to deify the state and promote national chauvanism. On the other hand, however, these states are no more than mere puppets in the control of their colonial masters. Pakistan is a sad story, but a very important example in this regard. There are certain aspects, such as occupation of the country by the national army and being a nuclear power, that are worthy of attention. Pakistan has failed to use its military power to deter enemies and defend the country’s much-vaunted sovereignty in a global order in which independence of Muslim states is hardly more than a joke.
As discussed in detail in chapter 1, for modern-day crusaders, sovereignty and independence of states mean nothing. Vittorio E. Parsi’s, who teaches geopolitics at the Catholic University of Milan, presents the crusader’s vision as described in chapter 1 and 2 of this book and support to the renewed alliance between the United States and Europe in his latest book L’alleanza inevitabile: Europa e Stati Uniti oltre l’Iraq (The Inevitable Alliance: Europe and the United States Beyond Iraq) published by Bocconi University in Milan (2003). To the author, “equality of all states” is an “untenable legal fiction.”
Giving one’s life in defense of so-called sovereign Muslim states has no value or permission in Islam. These Muslim states give priority to defending the interests of the United States and its bullying allies over protecting the rights of their people at home and other oppressed Muslims abroad. In the context of suffering Muslims in Palestine and Kashmir, did General Musharraf not clearly tell his nation in a televised address on January 12, 2001, that we are not responsible for Muslims and Islam everywhere? His exact words in Urdu were: “Hum Koi Islam Ke Tekkadar to Naheen.” The use of this slang in the context of Palestine and other trouble spots throughout the world means that we are not solely responsible for defending Islam and Muslims in other places in the name of Islam.
Thus, the state and Ummah (Millat) are two extremes at the opposite ends of the spectrum. States limit Muslims to specific geographic boundaries and make them think about their internal affairs alone. In contrast, Ummah makes Muslims think globally about living by Islam as well as addressing problems and needs of all Muslims. However, in most Muslim countries these extremes—mulk-o-millat(state and Ummah)—are put together by the media and public in their daily routine and used as complementary or inseparable realities. State and Ummah are in total contrast to each other. However, their combination in daily speech shows Muslims’ ignorance of the basic concepts behind these terminologies. This way, Muslim loyalties and patriotism have been divided. Ummah or Millat has been subordinated to each Muslim state. So is Islam. For some, their respective nations have become Millat for them.
As a result of nationalizing Islam in nation-states, Islam in every Muslim state requires loyalty to the government. Islam in Kuwait, for example, has the responsibility to save the Kuwaiti Sheikhs and support their policies. In Saudi Arabia, Islam requires support for the King. In every Muslim country, it is considered Islamic to save the state. There is an army of religious scholars in every state. When it comes to defending the rulers and state in the name of Islam, there is no dearth of Qur’anic verses and Ahadiths to which reference is made. Things take a strange turn when the interests of Muslim states clash with each other. In that kind of case, Ijthihad in one state stands in total contrast to the Ijthihad of religious scholars in the other. Popular Ijthihad of religious leaders everywhere has to follow state policy because they are bound to look at the problem from the state’s perspective. Thinking or working for Muslims’ collective benefit has no place in Muslim thought or action today.
Every state has to put its interests at the forefront and give priority to addressing its own national problems. During the first Gulf War, for example, supporting American forces was absolute Kufr (disbelief) for Iraqi scholars; whereas for Saudis, inviting and hosting American troops were not only valid but also compulsory from their Islamic perspective. This is exactly how the architects of dividing the Muslim Ummah into nation-states wanted it to be. They could then favor one side and watch as Muslims fought against one another over who would be the lucky recipient of their good graces.
As a result of the Ummah’s division into several nation-states, Islam has had to remain under government protection. In return, it has to serve the government’s agenda as if it were a slave. Muslims are trained to think in terms of their respective states before interpreting Islam. The recent barrage of French and American fatwas by local Muslims against “terrorism” is a telling sign of progress in this regard. A serious question in this regard is: If application of the same Qur’anic injunctions starts changing at different places and times, how many different types of Islam would emerge with the passage of time? That is why secularists in Muslim countries argue that religion must be kept out of state affairs to avoid such confusion. Setting Islam aside is not so difficult. What is difficult for Muslims is to toss out Islam from their public life and still remain Muslims.
Therefore, the roots of present confusion in the Muslim world lie in the introduction of nation-states—not the “misinterpretation” of Islam. Western colonialists have erected state boundaries among Muslims to such an extent that Muslim masses and scholars can hardly overcome these barriers. With all their flag-waving and nationalistic slogans, Muslims can hardly see or recognize themselves as a single Ummah. These boundaries are as much ideological as they are psychological. To possess an Islamic perspective, it is imperative to set aside various national perspectives and all lessons of living and dying for the respective 57 Muslim states. Working for the cause of Islam, and working for the cause of a nation are poles apart.
Swimming against the flow of the so-called national interest is almost impossible for any single individual or organization in the Muslim world. It is not only nerve-wracking and exhausting, but is also impossible. To the contrary, swimming with the flow of the so-called national interest is both convenient and satisfying. It gives one the opportunity to taste success. It is not that all Muslims are blind to the reality that there is no place for secular systems and nation-states in Islam. It is actually almost impossible to overcome the prevailing mindset and ignore the established national slogans and priorities against public views.
In Muslim countries, the masses can hardly think outside the box of the concept of nation-states. Anything other than the prevailing system and order seems like implausible ideas with no link to realities on the ground. Of course, some organizations have taken a stand on principles. The result, however, is obvious. The public in general, has lost interest in these organizations. In some cases, they had to give up and quit their stand on principles. Public acceptance and a stand on Islamic principles have become inversely proportional to one another: The more one takes a stand on Islamic principles, the less popular acceptance he or she receives. To put pressure on existing governments in Muslim states, selfless religious leaders have to understand the broader context of the challenge before Muslims. They also have to take masses into confidence. Without winning the hearts and minds of the public, it is impossible to make an impact on a national level.
Unfortunately, public opinion is shaped by the media, school curriculums and other indoctrination centers, working day and night to promote the concept of nation and state since the inception of each Muslim state. Behind these institutions, there is only one mindset at work: Governments come and go, but the institutions that shape public opinion stay and work incessantly. The challenge before Muslims is to change public opinion. Putting pressure on governments as a result of popularity among the masses is not difficult. In fact, governments are not the real enemies. Even in the United States, presidents and Congress are mere puppets in the hands of the power behind the scene, which is never known to the general public. These are the real molders and shapers of public opinion.
Today, media, education systems and other sources of indoctrination act as a chain around the neck of all nations. Acceptable terminologies, such as public opinion, national interest, national needs, public emotions and public trends, are creations of the hands that rock the national cradles as well as rule the world.
In the Muslim world, both religious or political parties and other organizations always look for a niche in public opinion for their survival and growth. One has to be acceptable to public emotions and trends to prosper. Even writers, columnists and political observers cannot progress unless their views are in consonance with the so-called national interest and the established order. Lists of such patriotic slogans and phrases are so meticulously and intelligently crafted that irrespective of one’s political or religious school of thought, everyone fits well in one or another category that directly or indirectly sustains the nation-state system. Further individual success in such an opportunities-lacking environment depends on one’s ambitiousness, courage and level of struggle. The ultimate contribution to Islam and Ummah that a critic of the government can make remains naught.
So, the impact of much-vaunted public opinion on national security and national priorities is the beginning of a vast quagmire. One can stand up to a corrupt, repressive government, but it is hard for anyone to ignore the indoctrinated public opinion and the media. No matter how much one may curse the powers behind the scenes, public opinion and national priorities always remain locked in the iron grip of those powers. The masses live in denial of reality. This problem is not limited to Muslim states alone: According to Jacob Hornberger, the founder and president of the Future of Freedom Foundation:
“Denying reality, the average American exclaims, ‘We live in the freest nation on earth. We can write letters to the editor and publish books.’ Suppose Egypt’s pharaoh had decreed, ‘From this day forward, the slaves shall be permitted to complain openly about their condition and to write pleas to their taskmasters regarding their poor living conditions.’ Would this have made the slaves free? …Johann von Goethe once wrote that ‘none are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.’ No words could more accurately capture the plight of the American people. Having been indoctrinated for so long in their government-approved schools, Americans rank among the most enslaved people in history. And their denial of reality does not free them. It simply produces a psychosis marked by high levels of alcohol and other drug addiction.”
Unfortunately, Muslims in most of the Muslim states cannot even claim to be as free as many Americans. Free people can say “no”. Free people can resist plunder of their resources. They can refuse unjust demands for their time and children. Slaves cannot. There is no freedom without the freedom to say “no”. If someone demands that you do something and you can say “no” and refuse to do it, then you are a free human being. If you can be forced to do something or surrender something that you do not wish to do, then you are a slave. No other tests need be applied. If you are in a Muslim state and your government cannot say “no” to an outside government, asking it to sacrifice your sons and daughters, you are a slave of the slave. This is exactly what a Muslim state, Pakistan, did after receiving Bush’s “with us or against us” threat in 2001. Pakistan had no option but to justify its full-scale assistance both in Afghanistan and later in Pakistan in the mass murder of fellow Muslims and invasion of their homes in the name of national security.
A national agenda and priorities never allow one to take a stand on principles in a Muslim country. This problem further intensifies when the struggle is extended beyond national boundaries to address the cause of Ummah or international change. Of course, Ummah is not limited to one Muslim state alone. How can one think of facing the challenge of organizing a mass movement against the flow of 57 different national agendas and priorities, when it is so hard to take a stand on principles within a single Muslim state against the tide of established norms and mindset? One has to make many compromises on one Islamic principle simply to stay alive and keep moving within the national flow. The prevailing cluelessness among religious parties and Islamic movements about how to proceed is the result of facing the same dilemma of working for Islam and national interest at the same time.
The challenge of staying in the national mainstream has become a curse for those who want to make living according to principles of Islam possible in society. For establishing Islam and also staying in the national mainstream, one has to water down his or her agenda according to the whims of puppets put in place for the modern-day colonialists. This is as true for a single individual, such as an analyst, as it is true for the religious parties and organizations. The moment one adds “unnecessary” items to his or her agenda, that individual is out of the national mainstream, which is equivalent to pronouncing death on that individual or organization. A serious discussion with leaders of national movements and religious parties would reveal a long list of problems they face. If one does not consider leadership of religious parties and movements as superhuman, one has no option but to accept their argument for being ineffective and clueless. One has to appreciate their courage, but it does not mean that one has to agree with their approach as well.
In short, if an individual or political party has to stay in the national mainstream, it would have to keep the load of its principles and ideology as light as possible. If it is concerned about its ideology and is not ready to compromise on it, it has to stay out of the national mainstream. Dr. Israr Ahmad, the founder of Tanzeem-e-Islami in Pakistan, is a living example of this phenomenon. He sacrificed staying in the mainstream for the core principles of Islam and paid the price with remaining on the sidelines: totally marginalized. One has to pick one of these options: staying in or out of the mainstream. We are well aware of the insurmountable hurdles faced by those who have opted to stay in the national mainstream, even if they do not talk about it.
The concept of Ummah and the national mainstream are totally incompatible. The problems faced by those who are struggling to establish Islam on the local or national level are an indicator of the bigger problems that a people will have to face if they challenge nation-states, national boundaries and national governments on the international level. Defeating such a challenge on the part of Muslims has now become the sole justification for the United States invasions and occupations of Muslim states. For example, no one has so far claimed that the resistance to the United States occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan is for the sake of establishing Khilafah. Yet, repeated statements of Bush and his fellow crusaders, intending to demonize the very concept of Khilafah, expose their intentions about launching these wars in the first place.
For Afghanistan, the United States had not even as much justification for launching a war of aggression as it had for invading Iraq. Without producing a single shred of evidence about the involvement of the Taliban or other alleged perpetrators, 9/11 was not good enough an excuse to overthrow the Taliban government and occupy Afghanistan. The real problem was that the Taliban, irrespective of their “misinterpretation of Islam” and “crimes against women,” were gradually moving towards establishing a society in which nationality, national interests, and the national agenda and priorities were gradually losing their influence on Muslim minds.
Any Muslim could go and live in Afghanistan for as long as he or she wished. Anyone could go and invest in Afghanistan without prior permission of the Taliban leadership. Social scientists were as keen in helping Afghanistan, as were nuclear scientists, business people, anthropologists, religious leaders and technical experts. Most importantly, an environment was leading to open thought and discussion about the application of Islamic principles in modern-day life. Regardless of the faulty application of those principles in some cases in the beginning, the system was gradually moving in the direction that could have given Muslims an idea about life in an Islamic society and model of governance. Many religious leaders in Pakistan had already accepted the broader approach of the Taliban. Input from religious scholars from abroad would have refined ways to implement the basic principles of Islam and pave the way to live according to Islam. That is why the global machinery that maintains the status quo churned into action against the Taliban quite early and did not stop until the job was done. That is the reason that Bush and company has now publicly declared their so-far hidden war on Khilafah. They have done so well before anyone stands up and demands an end to nation-states in the Muslim world.
The situation under the Taliban was not forcing religious scholars and leaders to remain in the national mainstream. In fact, there was no national mainstream in existence in Afghanistan. Religious scholars were not bound to worry about molding their opinion not only in favor of the “national interest” but also in favor of Washington’s interest. For example, the visit of Akram Khan Durrani, the chief minister of the North West Frontier Province in Pakistan, to the Pentagon on July 12, 2005, to explain the content of a pro-Islam Hasba Bill, which would introduce a step towards implementation of Islamic way of life, is an excellent example in this regard. Durrani said that he “hopes the US will not oppose the Hasba bill.”
Religious scholars in Afghanistan were not obliged to appease policymakers or the United States government or seek approval from the Pentagon. They were part of the policymakers and legislature. They were not worried about the constant need for promotion on the national media. In other states, the apparent opportunities, which give religiously devoted people the illusion to be working for Islam, are actually resulting in the dumping of the energies of these people rather than channeling them in a positive direction. This was not the case in Afghanistan. The religious leadership in Afghanistan was not stuck in a quagmire.
Unlike the rest of the Muslim world, there was no system established in Afghanistan for officially promoting Shirk. If the Taliban rule was not fully established on the basis of revealed Deen, at least, there was an intention to do so; and efforts were underway for improvement and course correction. None of the rest of Muslim states tried to establish Islam (as defined in the Qur’an and Sunnah as a belief and way of life), nor does any Muslim state use Islam as a basic reason for any conflict it faces with the outside world.
Of course, the Taliban may not have been so farsighted. Yet there is no doubt that freedom with regard to discussion, deliberation and implementation of Islam was good enough to pave the way in the right direction. Challenge to the status quo of the established division of territory based on nation-states among Muslims was the most possible, yet an unintended consequence of the Taliban’s approach. The Taliban’s approach to international relations was more pragmatic than the approach of any of the other 57 Muslim states. For example, their approach to the issue of Chechnya was totally different from that of other Muslim states.
The Taliban’s support to the victims of Russian aggression in Chechnya was one of the crimes of the Taliban government, according to the Taliban’s opponents. The Taliban not only gave de jure recognition to the de facto Republic of Chechnya, but they also extended clear political support for the legitimate rights of the Chechen people. A foreign ministry spokesman in Kabul said on December 20, 1999:
“The Chechen question is the question of the whole world of Islam. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan considers the silence of the international community and, in particular, that of Islamic countries in reaction to the brutal reaction against the Muslim nation of Chechnya, as unkindness and ignoring the rights of the nation.”
The Taliban were supposed to be a bunch of rather uncouth and fanatical newcomers in the world of high diplomacy. Yet none of the other Muslim states had the same clarity of thought and the same political sophistication as shown by these madrassa-educated newcomers to the world of realpolitik. The Afghan deputy minister of foreign affairs, Mulla Abdur¬Rahman Zahid, reminded Muslims of the world not to “keep silent about the cruelties, oppressions and crimes committed by the Russians and to support the legitimate rights of the Chechens because the colonialist powers are always striving to hinder the unity and solidarity of the Muslim
Ummah.” This was a crucial time in which the Taliban’s minister emphasized:
“It is incumbent upon the Muslims of the world to strengthen their unity and their solidarity in the light of Islamic guidance against suppression and infringement upon the rights of the Muslims of the world. The Muslim Ummah is capable of resolving its problems itself, thanks to the economic and political potential at its disposal.”
The timing for such a comment and stand on the part of the Taliban was crucial because the world was totally silent in the face of a Muslim nation’s extermination. In the first Chechen war, 1994-96, Russia killed 100,000 Chechen civilians, razed much of the small country, and, in an act of monumental terrorism, scattered 17 million anti-personnel land mines across the tiny nation. Russia was driven from Chechnya in 1996, but its hardliners and Communists vowed to exterminate the “Chechen bandits”.
The world started considering the Taliban as a threat because the rest of the Muslim world was well in line with the oppression of Muslims in Chechnya. For example, two weeks after the OIC delegation’s visit, the Russian Information Agency (RIA) reported from Tehran:
“Iran does not oppose the Russian campaign in Chechnya and supports Russia’s territorial integrity, though it calls for a political solution to the conflict, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi told a news conference after meeting his Ukranian counterpart, Borys Tarasyuk, in Tehran. ‘Proliferation of any form of terrorism and religious extremism is unacceptable,’ the minister said.”[ 222]
This was the time when the United States was proposing sanctions on the Taliban and at the same time the administration of Bill Clinton was largely financing Russia’s genocide in Chechnya. The United States supplied Russians with attack helicopters loaded with advanced night¬-vision devices “to combat terrorism,” said the White House. Clinton’s national security adviser, Sandy Berger, had conceded: “Clearly Russia has the right to fight terrorism within its borders.” At a time when U.N. sanctions were imposed on Afghanistan for being under the “tyranny” of the Taliban, Clinton called for the “liberation” of Grozny by Russia.
This straightforward approach and stand on principles was considered as Talibanization. That is why the world had to face the chorus of “Talibanization of Pakistan” and other Muslim states in the Western media. The Taliban were unknowingly challenging the standards of Muslim organization in the world. Their standards were no more a person’s place of birth, race or nationality. As long as one claimed to be Muslim, the secular standard of citizenship hardly mattered for the Taliban to forge strong bonds of brotherhood. They declared the Qur’an as their constitution, which was the first step towards removing secular standards for human organization and governance. The Taliban were not focusing on changing the faces in power. They were changing the system and the whole approach to governance. Modern-day elections are nothing more than changing faces and gaining legitimacy to the established order. The big threat is when there are calls to change the system and not just the faces. Unlike Pakistan and other Muslim states, the Taliban not only achieved physical independence but also psychological and ideological independence to go about making such changes.
That is why the “stealth crusade” had to target Afghanistan. In the planning for doing so, it is not easy to point out just one group of the stakeholders in the prevailing international order. For example, from a close examination of the agenda of evangelical groups in the Muslim world, it appears that, as a whole, Christian fundamentalism is no longer just a religious mission. It has become part and parcel of the mainstream politics and foreign policies of the West. According to Yogindar Sikand, an analyst from India:
“As is widely believed, many evangelical groups working in the ‘Third World’ are simply fronts for Western agencies and governments, helping to promote their vested interests and strategic goals. This is most readily apparent from the cozy relationship between Christian fundamentalists and the current Bush administration. Right-wing American Christian groups are known to be sources of immense financial support to Israel. They are also vociferous backers of America’s imperialist designs on the Muslim world, seeing these as a divinely mandated crusade against the forces of ‘evil’. These Christian groups also served to promote American interests abroad. Several of them received generous funding from far-right American government lobbies, CIA front organizations, American big business and right-wing think tanks. Many missionaries were appointed as sources of vital information for the CIA, and were used to bolster American hegemony by indoctrination and spreading American propaganda.”[ 226]
To consolidate the fear of having Muslims live according to Islam, this mission against Islam is carried out on all fronts, particularly the media front. The Taliban happened to be just one target of this global struggle. Even thinkers such as Edward Said did not get it specifically right when he concluded that books, like Miller’s The Islamic Threat, “are symptomatic because they are weapons in the contest to subordinate, beat down, compel and defeat any Arab or Muslim resistance to US-Israeli dominance.”227 Unfortunately, it is not the matter of the United States and Israel alone. When it comes to a very different way of life and law, the Muslim world stands in total contrast to the rest of the world. All those who have a stake in the prevailing world order would do anything to not let Muslims live as an Ummah with their own way of life according to the Qur’an, because this will put before humanity another model of social organization and governance: a step towards establishing a just order.
That is why Muslims who aspire and struggle to live by Islam are demonized as extremists, who want to work for the dominance of “political Islam.” To further dehumanize a whole culture on the ground that it is (in Bernard Lewis’s sneering phrase) “enraged at modernity” is to turn Muslims into the objects of a therapeutic, punitive attention, and close all doors to the possibility of even discussing whether living by Islam is really a threat to humanity. These Islamophobes took full advantage of the Taliban’s rule by magnifying their shortcomings to the extent that Muslims can hardly muster enough courage to stand up and say they want to establish a society in which they can live by Islam, let alone demand unity of Muslim Ummah, and live under a single Islamic entity: Khilafah, Caliphate, Emirate, Islamic State or whatever one may call it.