How we got here [Archives:2002/49/Focus]

December 2 2002

By Hassan Al-Haifi
As we approach the finale of the Holy Month of Ramadhan, it might be appropriate for Moslems – and to a certain extent non-Moslems – to focus their attention on the conditions facing the Moslem Nation and the Islamic religion. This focus should not be expected to follow a uniform perspective, even amongst the Moslems themselves.
Perhaps this would be the major impediment towards reaching a unified consensus as to what needs to be done to put the Moslem world back on track as a leading civilized movement that fosters peace, tolerance and the well being of all of humanity.
Many skeptics will come out and say that Islam is now confronting its worst and most serious conditions since the emergence of the religion as the most dynamic spiritual and social development in human history. They see the Islamic world fragmented, with 57 countries making up the Islamic World, each seemingly going in its own direction without any evidence of real unified feelings or actions, even when concerning Moslem issues and interests. Perhaps Iran is the only Moslem state that has managed to convey that Islam is the real raison d’être of the regime there, and that it seeks to follow through with the major task of protecting Islam and promoting the interests of the Moslems of the world, albeit in a civilized manner worthy of respect.
The rest of the Moslems are bogged down in political, social and economic disarray. Even in those Moslem states, which may be enjoying some semblance of prosperity and stability, one can sense that such prosperity and stability are respectively superficial and surely fragile. Furthermore, it appears that most of the Moslem states are far from being under the control and directions of their respective regimes let alone their respective constituencies.
It might be worthwhile at this juncture to take a glance back in time to understand some of the developments that brought on some of the predicaments facing the Moslem World today.
At the outset of the last Century most of the Moslem World was under Ottoman Turkish rule or Colonialist administrations of some form or another. With the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War II, with the insistence and prodding of the West, the Caliphate in Istanbul was abandoned all together and the last semblance of a universal Islamic Nation was shelved. Moreover Islamic traditional institutions in most of the other areas of the Moslem World were either suppressed or subdued by the Colonialist administrations as part of the Crusader element in the “White Man’s Burden.”
In addition, with Western support (yes, with Western support) a puritanical movement emerged out of the Arabian Desert, and was allowed to take over the traditional regimes that used to prevail in the region. With British arms and early royalties from petroleum finds, this movement was able to establish firm footing in Arabia and institutionalized the movement to gradually take on international footings as well. With most of the traditional and more rational renditions of Islam either eliminated or weak, and surely marginalized, a religious vacuum developed in many of the Moslem countries. Armed with petrodollars and, again Western support, the excessively puritanical movement was allowed to establish breeding grounds for constituents of this dubious movement and thousands of schools were established in most Moslem countries, under the guise of teaching the Quran and the puritanical religious rites of Islam, as its propagators used to insist.
Most Moslem states that emerged, after the colonialists left, also carried on with the marginalizing and elimination of the remaining traditional Islamic institutions, although it was the constituents behind these Islamic institutions that played a pivotal role in the fight against colonialism. The succeeding regimes to these “liberated” Moslem states were usually helped to power by the former colonialists, who refused to ever deal with any of the sponsors of these traditional movements, notwithstanding their large popular backing. This is evidenced clearly by what happened in Algeria, Egypt and some of the other Islamic states, where the prevailing regimes suppressed the traditional Islamists to the point of excessive violations of human rights and civil liberties, which supposedly these regimes were established to uphold. We continue next week with the rest of the history.