We live in strange times; only a few decades ago nobody with interest in Islamic matters could have predicted the scale of the Islamic resurgence that has swept the world. Today, Islam is a truly global religion that is no more confined to the Muslims’ countries but has reached all corners of the world. Islamic words like Jihad, Sharia and hijab have become parts of all languages. Nowadays, on daily basis,Muslims practice terrorism, which they call jihad, on daily basis and seem to get away with it, or even get praised as peace loving people. Even though many Muslim countries are excessively rich but they do not have any responsibilities towards the welfare of the world’s impoverished.
The Gulf Arabs are among the richest people on earth but spend their wealth lavishly on a modern Arabian night’s life style and allowed to get away with only nominal contributions to the world’s charities. The human rights record in the Gulf States is appalling by all standards but they seem to get away with it. When the Muslims’ terrorists attacked Madrid in 2004, the Spanish people responded by electing the party favoured by the Muslim terrorists to form a government. The Muslims terrorists attacked America on 9/11 and declared war on the American people, but only seven years later the Americans elected a Muslims’ favourite to the white house.Islam related activities are dominating everyday news, and they are always bad news. The shadow of the Islamic terror has changed our lives for the worse, possibly forever. Our security, travel and freedom of expression are only a few of the many casualties of the Islamic renaissance. What makes all this especially painful is that it is happening against all the natural laws that control human behaviours. The Muslims nations in general are among the least developed in the world, their survival depends completely on the technological, and in most cases, the financial help they receive from their enemies, yet they seem to be able to get away with anything. I cannot help wondering is this the golden age of Islam?
Islam half a century ago
I grew up in the Middle East in the 1950s and 1960s and remember well how the Arabs looked up at the west with admiration to their life style and a desire to follow their example. Doctors and other professionals who had their education in Europe or America were ‘westernized’ to some degree and were respected in their societies and were considered good examples to follow. On the other hand, the word ‘ikhwanji’, which means a member of the Muslim brotherhood or an Islamist, was a dirty word associated with backward thinking. The applicants for the ‘sharia’ colleges were those with the least marks in the high schools. I remember that the sharia colleges used to have a high proportion of disabled and blind students, who stood no chance of making it to the other universities, which sadly reflected the social and moral injustice in the Arab society. The vast majority of the students in the sharia college in Damascus rejected the traditional Islamic dress and opted for an ordinary western style look. Even the Al Azhar University, which was the undisputed leader in Islamic education, was transformed to teach modern sciences like Medicine, chemistry and physics to both sexes. Only a minority of the teaching staff and a handful of the male students had beards and even fewer girls wore headscarves, and that was in Al Azhar!
The traditional hostility to secularism among the Middle Eastern Arabs started to wane as more and more Arabs were happy to copy the western model, not because they loved the west but because they admired their achievements. Muslims outside the Arab World, lead by Turkey which used to be for centuries the centre of the Islamic khilafa, were also moving towards secularism. Islam didn’t seem to have a chance and there were indications that it would remain confined to the mosques.
Against all the odds, Islam was revived and the kiss of life came from the most unlikely rescuer- the west. We generally blame the Saudi oil money for the resurgence of Islam but I put the blame mainly on the west. Saudi Arabia and its oil wealth as well as the Muslims brotherhood movement have all been with us since the 1920s with little effect on the Islamization of the world or the Middle East. If anything, there were signs of a receding Islamic influence even in Saudi Arabia itself. The country was humiliated by a series of embarrassing defections of senior members of the Saudi air force to what then was considered a secular Egypt. A group of members of the royal family led by the current prince Talal Ibn AbdulAziz also defected to Egypt, but the climax was when King Saud himself defected, again to Egypt, after a conflict with his brother Faisal.
The fortunes of Islam changed completely in the 1970s when the west opened its gates to the Islamists. The influx of Muslims to the west, and the generous welcome and support they received had only one equal in the history of Mankind, which happened in the year 622 AD. That was the year when Mohammed and his companions emigrated from Mecca to Yathrib. The Arabs of Mecca, called Quraysh, knew Mohammed well because he was one of them. The Quraysh treated Mohammed with the contempt he deserved; they isolated him as they would do with any mad person. On the other hand the Aws and Khazraj, who were the Arabs of Yathrib, made him welcome and sheltered him. It didn’t take Mohammed long to take over his host city from its accommodating inhabitants, change its name and enforce his sharia law on what has become an Islamic state. There were a handful of people in Yathrib who tried to stop the madness, like Ibn Ibu salul, but nobody would listen to them. The word Islamophobia was not invented yet so they were branded as munafikeen. This is exactly what happened to Mohammed’s followers in the last forty years, who also were disliked by their own people, but were sheltered and made welcome in the west. My only worry with this comparison is that the Aws and Khazraj ceased to exist after their excessive generosity.
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
Muslims Never Had It So Good
This is the opening part of a longer essay, but it is well worth the read.