Islam at the Crossroads of History
Sink or swim
Islam is at a crossroad of destiny. Muslims face a bleak future as long as they continue to “live in the seventh century” and discuss issues framed by seventh century’s ideas.
The recent rise of Islamic Salafism ( a yearning to the seventh century, the early days of Muhammad and the rise of Islam ) is due to a number of reasons but primarily due to state collapse which provided the fertile breeding ground for the growth of numerous extremist groups representing the two major strands in Islam , Sunnis and Shias. Both operate through their proxy creations in most countries in the region., the Sunnis via a plethora of extremist terror groups such as AL Qaeda , ISIS (aka DAESH), al-Nusra Front and others , while the Shias operate via the Lebanon-based Hizb Allah and other Shia offshoots.
The Sunni groups are nurtured and financed by Qatar , Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. According to a recent Brookings report the majority of funds transfers go via Kuwait which has become the hub for financial transfers to most extremist Sunni groups who are Inspired by the Salafist Saudi ideology of Wahhabism while the Shia’s affiliates are sponsored , finance and armed by Iran . . Both Iran and Saudi Arabia continue to stoke the fires of Sunni-Shia conflict to serve their own ends although the Saudi contribution is far greater than that of Iran as the Shia are a minority in the region.
THE Sunni groups are the deadliest and most dangerous of all the terror organizations .They embrace both the political extremism of Syed Al Qutb, the ideologue of neo Islamic fundamentalism in the 60s and 7os together with the ultra conservative cultural and social tenets of Wahhabism.
The Arabs have always been tormented by the question of why they find themselves at such a disadvantage vis-a vis the rest of the world. They have struggled to understand how they could possibly compete with more developed nations.
Why have Islam Arab countries so totally failed to create democracy for their 400 million people is one of the most frequently asked questions of the twenty first century . . What makes Islam Arab society susceptible to dictatorships and fanatics bent on destroying their countries and people ? Are Arabs so steeped in seventh century tribal patriarchy that they only feel safe and secure under the totalitarian rule of a father figure ? Or do they suffer from a vast inferiority complex viz a viz the West resulting in their reflexive rejection of all Western institutions including Western democracy? To put it differently are Islam and democracy utterly incompatible ? The answer is a resounding yes.
Islam, is at the core of most of the Arabs’ troubles. The faith’s claim, to combine spiritual and earthly authority, with no separation of mosque and state, has stunted the development of independent political institutions. Why bother with building and questioning anything when “the Quran, the undisputed and final word of Allah has all the answers”! ! Consequently Arab countries have failed in fostering the institutional prerequisites of democracy—the give-and-take of parliamentary discourse, protection for minorities, the emancipation of women, a free press, independent courts and universities and trade unions.
In the business and economic spheres Islam’s control of all activities led to the extinguishing and strangulation of all aspects of a liberal economy. The state alone is in the driving seat . To give but one example privatisation in most Arab nations is carried out for the benefits of cohorts of the ruling elites. Virtually no markets are free, barely any world-class companies developed, and entrepreneurial Arabs who wanted to excel in business or scholarship had to go to America or Europe to do so.”
Muslims do not believe in free speech nor in freedom of religion. The mere talk of secularism and human rights is anathema to the Arab mind. Coupled with this is the deeply rooted irrational and self-defeating hatred of Israel, America and the West.
There has been depressingly little discussion among Muslims of what is wrong with the Islamic world to have produced evil killers such as ISIS and Al-Qaida and thousands more like them roaming the world and wreaking horror and indiscriminate murder on innocent civilians. Worse of all the same old Islamic arrogance still prevails: it’s all the West’s fault and it’s the West who must apologise for its imperialism and for being centuries more advanced than the Arabs!
The net result of all this is civilizational decline: pluralism, education and open markets are in decline everywhere in the IslamArabia world Rulers’ narrative consists of one message only “the need for stability and military preparedness for the coming war to destroy and eliminate the enemy, Israel. This narrative is peddled to their hapless populations as the panacea for all societies’ ills. Until these glorious aims are fulfilled all the resources of the state will be deployed for the patriotic achievement of this outcome . Meantime all the ills of society are blamed not on Islam but on Israel and its patron , the “Great Satan” the USA.
The status quo will continue while the traditional crippled Arab culture of the 7th century continues to prevail. This seems likely in the foreseeable future as Muslims are not inclined to accept their own failures whether personally , nationally or culturally.
In other words Arabs have got to accept that the cause of their failure is their own culture based on their 7th century totalitarian religion. Muslims including the few so-called moderates among them do not have a commitment to free themselves from the shackles of their religion’s iron-clad grip on their lives. In the words of Ayaan Hirsi Ali “while all human beings are equal, cultures and religions are not. … It is part of Muslim culture to oppress women and part of all tribal cultures to institutionalize patronage, nepotism and corruption” Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Nomad (2010).
Muslims are the victims of a tyrannical culture embodied in the culture’s main pillar that is Islam which stifles innovation and critical thinking with the result that all Arab states suffer from a low level of scientific and technological knowhow, “knowledge deficit,”
Most Muslims states are “ hollow entities built on weak conceptual frameworks” around individual ruling dynasties. The state’s main raison d’etre is to operate in the service of the ruling dynasties regardless of whether they are republics or monarchies. . That is why Arab states have only been able to function under strong authoritarian regimes . .
Knowledge in the Arab world is not up to par because their schools and universities place too great an emphasis on memorization and rote learning.
Creativity and ingenuity are lacking in the Islamic Arab world. And despite their extremely modern image, even the Gulf states import technology from around the world and the locals have no stake in production.
Modernisation has to stem from “the traditions and culture of the region”. Until these traditions and culture have been updated, no start towards real modernisation will be made. Muslims are now at a historical crossroad . They face a stark choice : sink or swim.