The Muslim moment of truth has arrived. One cannot forget the day of March 15 this year when more than 50 Muslim worshipers praying in two mosques of Christchurch, New Zealand were a victim of mayhem and carnage unleashed by white supremacists who openly call for expelling Muslims from the Christian West.
If the Muslim community, whether living in the Christian, Jewish, Hindu or Buddhist world, has been singled out and reminded by the right-wing ultra-nationalist groups that they are responsible for violence and terrorism and they are not wanted, it means the absence of a counter-narrative dispelling the propaganda unleashed particularly after 9/11 against the Muslims.
All in the name of religion and race is a reality whether it is persecution, humiliation, occupation, genocide, violence and terrorism. A wake-up call for the Muslims is the need of the hour with growing intolerance, racism and xenophobia.
When in 1993, a noted American political science Professor at Harvard University, Samuel P Huntington wrote an article in a leading American journal Foreign Affairs under the title “Clash of Civilizations” it became a source of great debate not only in the West but also in the non-western world.
In that article, Huntington had made a central argument that after the end of the Cold War, the paradigm shift which has taken place in global affairs will be based on clash between the Christian, Islamic and Confucian civilisations. That article became so controversial and popular that after two years he wrote a book titled The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order advocating that the threat faced by the western civilisation is primarily from Muslims.
The baggage of history is a reality and it is a historical fact that for centuries conflict between the Christian and Islamic civilisations in the form of crusades dominated their relationship. It was only after the ouster of Muslims from Spain in 1492 and the defeat of Ottoman forces during the siege of Vienna in 1683 that the chapter of Islamic threat to Christian Europe was closed.
Deep down in the psyche of Christian West, no matter how secular, there still exists paranoia about what is called the “Islamic threat.” When Ottoman Turks defeated a Christian prince Lazar in Kosovo in the battle of black birds on March 15, 1389, that day became so entrenched in the memory of the Christians of Balkans and Europe that it was officially celebrated in 1989 with a resolve of Serbian nationalists to avenge that defeat by denying Muslims of former Yugoslavia, particularly Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, a statehood.
The Serbian-led ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo is still fresh in the minds of people and so in Myanmar of Rohingya Muslims by the fanatic Buddhist groups and the military.
If the battle of ‘black birds’ established Ottoman tutelage in the Balkans, end of Muslim rule in Spain in 1492 and the defeat of Ottoman forces in 1668 opened floodgates of Christian European colonial and imperial surge in vast parts of Americas, Asia and Africa.
Back-to-back events following the end of Muslim rule in Spain like the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus under the royal patronage of Queen Isabella, the movement of renaissance, age of enlightenment, geographical discoveries, reformation, counter-reformation leading to the treaty of Westphalia in 1648 resulting in the separation of church and state laid the basis of modern Europe.
Furthermore, the emergence of European colonisation and imperialism in Americas, Asia, Africa and Australia, the process of discoveries and innovation, unifications of Germany and Italy, and the World War I and II shaped the transformation of the western world. The culture of research, discovery, exploration and scientific innovation followed by proliferation of centers of knowledge and universities further strengthened the western hold over the instruments of economic, political and military power.
Unlike the West which has since 1492 followed the path of knowledge, exploration, innovation, discoveries and research, the process of degeneration among the Muslims led to their incremental decline and colonisation by the West. As years passed by, the knowledge gap between the West and the Muslims widened to an extent that unlike pre-1492 and 1683 eras when Muslims dominated in the fields of science, medicine, architecture and astronomy, the paradigm shifted in favour of the West.
Lagging behind in education, science, technology and industrial progress, Muslim countries, whose majority remained under European colonial tutelage, felt it increasingly difficult to compete with those who several centuries ago were termed as backward and disempowered. The ‘golden era’ of Islam lasted from 8th century AD till 17th century during which the edge of Muslims vis-à-vis Christian Europe was a well-established fact.
Muslim moment of truth has arrived not only because of carnage in two Christchurch mosques, but also because of endless humiliation being faced in the shape of persecution of Muslim minorities, occupation of Muslim lands of Palestine and Kashmir and large-scale violence and armed conflicts from Libya to Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan. Will 1.5 billion Muslims continue to face the Christchurch-like situation and wars imposed on them by the pro-western elites? How can Muslims bridge the knowledge gap with the industrialised world so as to protect themselves from periodic humiliation, persecution, occupation and economic subjugation?
If analysed objectively, the degeneration of Muslims has much to do with the persistence of undemocratic political order, backwardness and retrogressive mindset than the policies of the West. It is time for one to reject conspiracy theories blaming the West for all the ills and must contemplate the fault lines within the Muslim societies responsible for economic and social backwardness.
Corruption, nepotism, authoritarian political system, lack of proper culture of research, professionalism and innovation are some of the issues which widen knowledge gap between the Muslims and their counterparts in the West. More harm has been caused because of those Muslims who managed to enter and live in the West, taking all the benefits but condemning their cultural and religious practices.
There is no short cut to save Muslims from future carnage, ethnic cleansing, humiliation, persecution, discrimination and occupation unless the process of enlightenment, reasoning, education, research, innovation and political pluralism is unleashed.
Unfortunately, majority of Muslim countries are controlled by authoritarian and monarchial despots who are responsible for keeping their people backward and poor. From Morocco till Indonesia, the absence of a cogent and prudent leadership is responsible for keeping Muslims backward, and economically and socially disempowered.
Unless Muslims revert to the original principles of Islam, they will continue to face bashing either in the form of white supremacists or the Jewish, Hindu or Buddhist fanatics. When Tariq Ibn Zayid conquered Spain in 711 AD or Salahuddin Ayubi conquered Jerusalem in 1187 AD, the strength of Muslims was their faith based on courage, pursuit of knowledge, rendering justice and mastery in the art of war.
The fall of Constantinople in 1453 led to Ottoman rule in the Balkans and Central Europe, and was only possible when Muslims followed the cardinal principles of Islam based on truth, honesty and bravery. Islam’s emphasis on seeking knowledge, innovation, liberating women from the clutches of slavery and protecting the rights of religious minorities became a model in Europe which at that time was passing through dark and medieval eras.
It was only when Muslims deviated from their religious principles that they faced decline and degeneration. Now, the gap in science and technology between Muslims and their western counterparts seems to be unbridgeable along with a shift from conventional to technological warfare.
A wakeup call for the Muslims needs to be taken seriously particularly in the aftermath of the Christchurch carnage. If white supremacists feel insecure from what they perceive ‘Muslim peril’ in the West through both illegal and legal migration, their high population growth rate and declining population growth rate of white race, then a wakeup call for Muslims is genuine.
When the mindset of racist and white supremacists is owned by those wielding power in the West like the United States, Hungary, Poland and Italy in the form of so-called ‘populism’, it means more anti-Muslim violent and terrorist acts are in the offing.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 22nd, 2019.
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