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Characteristics +


Some Characteristics

Stabbing death apparently related to a daughter's wish to convert from Islam shows the need for debate on integration in Australia. Many would say this has nothing to do with Islam - but they would only be partly right. Many migrants from South Asia and Arab nations have no desire to interact with mainstream unless it is unavoidable - because of moral degradation revealed by sexual freedom, drugs and unfettered individual expression. Their only interest is in better education and economic prospects. Many Muslims disown their children if they choose to marry a Non-Muslim. Death is more extreme result - but arises because in Muslim communities honour, shame and an obsession with saving face are at the core of identities. Wives and children are viewed as an extension of male honour. Any deviation from authority by children is viewed as fault of mother. This is only partly supported by Koran - and arises mainly from tribal background to Islam - which is concerned to preserve cohesion / honour of the tribe at the expense of individuals. The Gold Coast event is not unique - and many similar situations have been observed. The use of English language is only one of the ways in which migrants reject the country they have adopted (Ahmed T. 'Behind a cultural veil', CM, 16/10/06).

Books that Shook the World  is the title of a series of 'biographies' of telling and troublesome texts (eg The Republic, Origin of the Species, Kapital, Rights of Man). The Koran is most influential text in early 21st century. Muslims believe it is offensive to ascribe authorship to Mohammed - as it is seen as the words of God. The authorship of the Bible is endlessly debated. Though the interpretation varies, given Australia's Muslim neighbours and conflicts with Muslims it is necessary to understand that the Koran is seen as God's official handbook. Bruce Lawrence (Duke University) wrote the Koran's biography. Koran means 'recitation'. Most Muslims recite it in Arabic - even if they don't understand that language.  This degree of devotion helps explain the intense reaction to Rushdie and alleged abuses of Koran in Guantanamo. Most Muslims in Indonesia did not react violently to the Danish cartoons row. There are many moderate Muslims everywhere. Lawrence describes Koran as sublimely poetic - in the world but not part of it. It is a book of signs that requires endless discussion - rather than a book of rules. There is no official interpreter. The text even states that some parts are firm, and the others ambiguous - though it doesn't state which. There is fierce debate between hard-line Islamists and the majority moderates. Islam is a religion of peace - 'islam' (surrender) is almost the same as 'salam' (the word for peace). Islam is a fact of life which is not going to go away - and governments need to realize this.  (Adams P. Weekend Australian Magazine, 11-12/11/06)

Any attempt to translate Qu'ran into another language loses its intent. Qu'ran means reading - and it is meant to be read aloud as epic poem. It is not a logical text, but one which connects words and concepts in lattice structure with all others. English translators see it as wearisome confused jumble. Often the book has been mistranslated. Muhammad Haleem has now produced a text in accessible ordinary English. It is wrong to take a single verse of Quran to reach conclusion - it has to be interpreted in terms of what is said about same matter at other times. (Sardar Z 'Islam's sacred text lost in translation', FR, 13/8/04).

Muslims treat the Koran with reverence. It is seen as the word of Allah spoken in Mecca by the Angel Gabriel. It is not just an ethereal religious text, but a practical handbook for living. Koran is Arabic for 'recitation'. Jews, Christians and Muslims agrees on many things. All believe in one God and claim that their sacred books have recorded his teachings. For all three Abraham (Ibrahim to Muslims) was a vital early prophet and Jerusalem is a holy city. But Jews will not accept Jesus - though he is known to Muslims as Isu (and is respected as a prophet and teacher but not as the son of God). Muslims do not believe that Jesus died on the cross - but was removed from it by God and taken directly to heaven. Muslims believe that God has sent many prophets from the days of the Garden of Eden - to teach humans to live. Muhammad was the last. But it is Jesus not being the Son of God bit that has caused Christians to fight wars. Sharia law is about a Muslim way of life - and its not going to go away, and is very real for 1/4 of world population. Most is very like Western ways - while some a very different. Some minor differences are seen as barbaric. Sharia law is based on Koran and Muhammad's sayings - but it  is not clear whether it is part of Islamic religion. Non-Muslims see Sharia law as only way for Muslims to behave - and it covers religion, politics, society, business, domesticity etc. Think of how the Bible has influenced British and other law. But are the Ten Commandments religious law or common sense. In Muslim history Sharia law has been a legal and religious minefield - often interpreted differently. The two main sector - Sunnis and Shi-ites have different versions. To many, the Koran and its application in Sharia law seem to be at odds (eg noting brutality of Taliban). Moderate Muslims argue that the Taliban (fundamentalists) are not true Muslims. There is a lot in Sharia law that is unfair, unjust, unequal, nasty, inhuman and nutty - as there is in Western laws at times. (Negus G., 'Behind the veil: Whose truth is it anyway', SM,  16/11/03 - extract from The World from Islam)


Divisions within Islam

A cycle of violence has taken over much of the Middle East. The centre has shifted from Iraq to Syria - but it affects Egypt, Yemen, Libya and Tunisia. Afghanistan is suffering a second decade of violent conflict, while Pakistan is perpetually on the brink of war, civil war or social breakdown. Fighting between Sunnis and Shiites Muslims is an underlying threat, while pious conservatives and secular youth who joined forced to oppose dictators have now turned on each other. While Turkey needs to focus on Europe and avoid Middle-East-focused policy, it can't be indifferent to the regions problems - and faces 4 sources of internal tensions (recognising Kurdish identity; tension between Sunni majority and Alevi-Bektashi minority linked to Shiite Islam; differences between those who seek political Islam and secularism that came with the republic; and growing partisanship in public administration [1]

Islamist extremists are creating an existential threat to Islam - and Muslims should not support them merely because they are believers [1]

In Egypt and Syria battle lines are being drawn between secularists and Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and between Jihadists and Hezbollah in Syria. The two groups that pose most threat to the West (ie the Jihadists and Hezbollah) are clashing [1]

Until recently it seemed that Islamists could overcome their internal differences (Shi / Sunni; Monarchical / republican; political / violent; attitudes to modernity (Salafi / Muslim Brotherhood)). But Islamists have recently started fighting each other. There is still a single (supremacist / utopian) movement, but they have different personnel, ethnic affiliations, methods and philosophies). Internal Islamist hostilities have flared up in many Muslim-majority countries - and often members of the same sect fight each other. Minor differences lead to conflicts. This seems like fracturing of pan-Arab nationalists in 1950s. This aspire to unite all Arabs, but collapsed under increasingly minute clashes. Differences amongst Islamists likewise prevent them working together [1]

The Syrian civil war started as a secular revolution against a brutal regime, but has transformed into sectarian and Islamist violence [1]

The displacement of Morsi / Muslim Brotherhood from power in Egypt was celebrated by Syria's president as the fall of political Islam. His regime is locked in a savage conflict with a rebellion that is being hijacked by Sunni-Islamist groups [1]

In times of conflict, religious, ethnic and linguistic differences are accentuated (and sectarian differences are no exception). The Syrian conflict is becoming sectarian. The Shia axis of Iran, Hezbollah and the Alawite regime is balanced by Sunni rebels supported Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt and the Gulf States. Assad is no more religious than was Hussein in Iraq. Both subscribe to socialist Arab nationalism. US intervention in Iraq altered the balance of power and led to Shia-Sunni tensions. Sunni rule was brought to an end in Iraq. Sunnis in Saudi Arabia have suppressed the large Shia majority. Prolonging a sectarian war (divide and conquer) would serve US / Israeli interests in the region. The roots of conflict go back to early period of Islamic Caliphate. Shia's argued that succession should go through Prophet's family, whereas the Sunnis argued that leadership should be based on consultation and merit. With the passing of time the notion of unity in the Muslim world has vanished [1]

Icy joint press conference between Putin (Russia), Obama (US), and Cameron (UK) says something about new shape of outside influence in the Middle East (especially Syria). Putin’s side( that of Syria’s dictator) is winning and Obama / Cameron side) the Syrian rebels are losing. This is a verion of the great Sunni-Shia hatred / war / hostility that has raged across the Arab Middle East. Assad’s regime is based on the Alawite minority (and offshoot of Shia Islam) – so it is being supported by Shia Iran / Hezbollah. Assad’s regime was famously secular – and its alliance with Iran and Hezbollah shows that secular Arab regimes will cooperate with Islamist extremists. Sunnis are the majority in Syria, so they are supported by Sauid Arabia, Qatar and other Sunni states. Russia has a long term relationship with Assad as the main expression of its strategic influence in the Middle East. It has provided advanced weapons. Iran provides revolutionary guards, and strategic / intelligence advice. Hezbollah is providing fighters and training Assad’s forces in urban warfare. Assad’s supporters don’t care about the regimes human rights abuses. Western powers demand Assad’s removal as part of any resolution – a demand that has no traction in Middle Eastern political culture. Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak was a long term US ally, yet suffered humiliation in a fall which has not ushered in a liberal or pro-Western Egypt. The West’s strategic aims for Syria count for nothing. Giving heavy weapons to rebels would risk some falling into hands of Islamist extremists. West’s failure to be involved in Syrian conflict is the first time in recent history, and signals a massive decline in influence. (Sheridan G., Bloodbath exposes West's power failings, The Australian, 19/6/13)

 The murder of British soldier in London was less likely to be the act of a crazy person than a reflection of a dangerous ideology. That ideology is out there and not diminishing. It can’t simply be dealt with at home. Syria is now disintegrating. Sunni may be cleansed from areas under government control resulting in a new state around Lebanon – with the rest of the country a Sunni state cut off from resources and the sea. The Syrian opposition increasingly includes al-Qaida affiliates. Chemical weapons are being used. The West does not want to get involved – but the conflict may destabilize the region. Jordan can’t absorb refugees indefinitely. Lebanon is fragile as Iran pushes Hezbolah into battle. Al-Qaida and Iran seek to destabilize Iraq. In Egypt and North Africa Muslim Brotherhood parties are in power – but the incompatibility between their ideology and the requirements of running a modern economy. This leads to instability and pressure from more extreme groups. Iran’s regime seeks nuclear weapons and to export terror and instability. Nigeria faces terror attacks. France fought in Mali to prevent extremists over-running the country. Then there is Pakistan and Yemen. A border war is simmering between Bangladesh and Myanmar. And the list extends to events in Bangladesh itself and the Muslim majority Mindanao region of the Philippines. The most severely affected regions have rapidly growing populations. The Middle East’s median age is in the mid-20s – and in Gaza (where Hamas holds power) a quarter of the population is under five. These problems are not just associated with ‘crazy people’ or explained by local circumstances. The problem is not Islam – whose true nature is peaceful. But there is a problem within Islam. Other religions have extremists. But the problematic strain within Islam is not limited to a few extremists. Islam’s view of religion (and of the relationship between religion and politics) is incompatible with pluralistic, liberal, open-minded societies. At the extreme end are terrorists, but the world view goes deeper and wider. We have ignored this. Thus extremists believe that we are weak, and Muslims who know that there is a problem (and want to do something about it) lose heart. A struggle is being played out across the Middle East between Islamists (with an exclusivist and reactionary world view) who are a loud, organised minority, and the modern-minded who hate the old oppression by corrupt dictators and the new oppression by religious fanatics. The latter are potentially the majority, but are poorly organised. The seeds of fanaticism, terror and perhaps major conflicts are being sown. Our task is to sow the seeds of reconciliation and peace (a process that is not always peaceful). The West is wary of foreign wars after Afghanistan and Iraq (Blair T, Be honest about problem in Islam, The Australian, 12/6/13)

The emergence of a Shiite-Sunni war in Iraq presages a much greater regional conflict and an Arab-Persian war in the Middle East. Sunnis have no stake in working towards a Shiite dominated Iraq - and so conduct a destabilizing insurgency in Iraq [1]

No one seems ready to confront Shia-Sunni conflict that promises war in Middle East for years. US presence in Iraq unleashed long simmering tensions between Sunnis and long suppressed Shia majority. There is a potential for conflicts involving hundreds of millions of people. Sectarian violence is erupting in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Bahrain and Pakistan. In Syria the Sunni majority is struggling to displace authoritarian Shia rule - and this is drawing in forces from around the region. Arms and financial assistance are flowing to the rebels from the Gulf state and Turkey (all mainly Sunni) [1]

Islam faces the risk of a civil war between Shias and Sunnis (Chehab Z 'The new terrorism: Sunni v Shiite', FR, 2/3/07).

The battle lines for a new Cold War in the Middle East Aare being put in place (Macdonald S 'The Middle East’s New Cold War: Shiite – Sunni Rivalry Constitutes a Growing Risk Factor', World Security Network, 8/1/07)

There is a Sunni-Shia struggle for the control of oil in Iraq. Iraq's population is 60^ Shia with only 12% Sunni Arabs. However the latter have ruled Iraq for centuries. Democracy now empowers the Shia majority - and the Sunni's (who dominate regions with no oil) fear the consequences, Though there are other factors in the conflict, oil can't be ignored [1]

It is common to say that there is a struggle for the soul of Islam - but the depth and significance of this is misunderstood. It is a battle that has been going on for 1400 years. Bab-al-ijihad (gate of reasoning) is central. Ijihad refers to process whereby legal rulings are deduced from scriptural sources. It is about struggle to understand / implement divine will believed to be revealed in Koran / hadith. Both intellectual effort of ijihad and physical effort of jihad are related. Koran is not a logically structured work of theology / law and thus must be interpreted - and means of doing this have changed. In 10-11th centuries Muslims believed problem had been resolved with four schools of law which together formed orthodox (Sunni) school of Islam. Thus it was believed that gate of reasoning had been closed. But by late 18th and early 19th century, thinkers saw this closure as source of backwardness for Islamic world in the face of European science / industry. As many other cultures saw Europeans (with Judeo-Christian heritage) as barbarians their success could only be explained by assuming that (a) local people must be untrue to their own culture - so they had undermined their own superiority and (b) Europe's technological advantages could be learned and copied once original vitality of local cultures were revived / purified. For Islam this implied that closing the gate of reasoning had imposed a dead-hand of obscurantism - and it needed to be opened. Reformers sought to discard the four orthodox schools (as Protestants overthrew Catholic Church's authority) - and sought to recapture original revelation as in Koran / haidith. This led to Islamic Modernisation in late 19th century - which by mid 20th century was a powerful force. It opened doors to Western science and technology - and Western learning more broadly. They conflicted with the Orthodox scholars. The Modernists launched the first renaissance since closing of gate of reasoning. Modernism had two thrusts which initially reinforced each other and later conflicted. Returning to original sources of Islam in life of 7th century was one, while embracing modern European learning was the other. So long as target was obscurantist religious issues, both were aligned. But when this was dealt with, a conflict emerged between religious life of 7th century and rationality / secularity of modern learning. Modernism has led to both the liberal Islamic thinkers that Western observers favour and the extremists they fear. Returning to the original sources has meant puritanism and rigidities. Islamic fundamentalists are likely to have grown out of Modernist Islam, not traditional Orthodox schools - and they have parallels with Christian fundamentalists. Modernism produced innovations in Indonesia (eg Muhammadiyah movement from 1912 which created schools, hospitals, orphanages). But from the ranks of modernists have come extremists. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt had its roots in Modernism. Tensions in Muhammadiyah between 'liberals' and 'puritans' came to a head in 2005 - when liberals were expelled and replaced with puritans. This is associated with attempt to again close the gate of learning. Puritan fear most the homogenising / liberalising forces in modern world. They fear all new ideas - as Muhammad is assumed to have given all that were needed. MUI issued fatwa in 2005 outlawing liberalism, pluralism and secularism - to win the war against 'liberal Islam. Liberals see dangers in communities adopting views that are monocultural. Puritans see multiculturalism as plot to undermine the dominant culture. They favour renewal of management but not new ideas. However now liberal and puritan groups within Muhammadiyah are in open conflict. Closing of gate of reasoning would have profound implications. Powerful voices in Indonesia (and elsewhere in Islamic world) say all important questions have been resolved and there is no room to learn from others. This ia a worrying trend for international relations. However in Australia after the Cronulla riots many saw multiculturalism as the problem rather than the solution. Closing the gate of reasoning is defence by certain types of people - mainly establishment elites. The policy challenge for Indonesia is how to crush terrorists without feeding the sense of threat / marginalisation and disrespect that builds support for puritans who want to shut the gate of reasoning and the multiculturalism that goes with it (Ricklefs M., 'The gate of reasoning', FR, 26/5/06).

Sharia law covers a large range of different matters, and is subject to different interpretations. The interpretation by an Afghanistan court in relation to death sentence for changing religion is a fringe view (Yusuf I 'Muslims must condemn death sentence', CM, 28/3/06).

An Afghan man could be sentenced to death after being charged with converting to Christianity - a crime under Afghanistan's sharia law. Trial illustrates the struggle between religious conservatives and reformers about the future shape of Islam Sharia law says that any Muslim who rejects Islam should be sentenced to death ('Afghan faces death for Christian switch', A, 22/3/06).

In Aceh the suffering following tsunami would have been far worse if not for international aid - and that from elsewhere in Indonesia. But Muslim's in Aceh take a mystical Sufistic approach and have not been susceptible to fundamentalist Islamists of Saudi Arabia - and this is the reason that little aid for Aceh has come from the Middle East. This demonstrates that Islam is not a unity - despite mistaken claims about this by persons such as Huntington. Aceh shows the importance of the brotherhood of humanity - not the brotherhood of religion. The God of Islam is the God of Jews and Christians. Islamic theology no less emphasizes: God's grace and mercy; the importance of human compassion; and the equal worth of all people. The lack of support for Indonesia from Middle East has nothing to do with core values of Islam - and everything to do with regional politics. The pre-occupation of Arab governments, the absence of civil society, and news censorship mean that people in those countries lead different lives to those we know, and thus one can't judge Muslim compassion on the basis of the paralysis of compassion shown towards Aceh. Muslims elsewhere have given generously. (Barton G., 'Compassion breaches Islam's divide', A, 7/1/05 - author of Indonesia's Struggle; JI and the Soul of Islam).

Baghdad is like Tehran. The Shia mosques have become centre of dissent. They protest for Islamic government. Opposing exiles have been murdered. Those endorsing US have been forced out. Shia's share same beliefs as Sunnis (one God; Muhammad as prophet; day of judgment; and life after death). Differences mean little to Iraqis - but are significant to west. In 1920 when Britain tried to set up Iraq state - they found Shia's to be devout, violent and intractable. As Shia's were majority - democracy was impossible - and Britain set up Sunni monarchy. Shia means party of Ali - the cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad - the last of the for 'right guided caliphs'. Muhammad left his followers to decide succession. In 632 his close companion Abu Bakr was unanimously elected as the First Right Guided Caliph. He selected Omar to succeed him, who then established an electoral council. It chose Uthman as the third Caliph. But many argued that Ali should have been First caliph. Ali succeeded to the caliphate after Uthman was murdered. - but was opposed by the Prophet's wife. After Ali was murdered the Muslim community spilt into three groups. The majority favoured election of rulers on the basis of consultation and consensus. A minority favoured hereditary rule by the Prophet's family. An even smaller faction simply wanted to usurp authority. The last group won, and Muawiya became first king of Islam. There were more caliphs - but none were 'right guided'. The democrats (Sunnis) threw in the towel. Those supporting hereditary rule gathered around Ali's sons - who were persuaded to put off claims until Muawiya died. But at this, his son Yasid succeeded and defeated Ali's son in battle at Karbala. This led to formation of Shia sect. Its central institution is the Immimate. The Imam, of the prophet's family, is seen as the legitimate political and spiritual leader of Muslim community. They are also seen as being innocent and free from error. Ali was declared first Imam, followed by his sons. The lineage disappeared in 12th century - with the last disappearing at age 4 and believed to have been 'occultised' to return at the end of time. There are many Shia divisions - Most are 'Twelvers' (followers of 12 Imams). As a persecuted minority - Shia's developed an organised religious structure - unlike Sunnis. Spiritual power passed to religious scholars (mjtahids). Shia's not only venerate Ali - but emphasize martyrdom and suffering. Shia's have adapted better to modernity than Sunnis. Following Iranian experience all reformers reject theocracy as relevant to modernity. Progressive Shia scholars eg Abdhl Karim Soroush and Ayatollah Sayyid Fadhil Milani of Iraq) argue that Islamic law needs to be modernized to include modern notions of human rights. The power and role of religious scholars is being questioned. And the role of democracy is of concern. Bush sees anti US demonstrations by Shia's as sign of benefits of freedom - but it could lead to long lasting creation of kind of democracy that Bush does not recognize. Iraqi's vision of freedom is from misery, impoverishment and dependency. If this vision relies heavily on Islam then it does not have to be another Iran. Iraqis are determined not to repeat a history where others determined their fates for them (Sardar Z. 'The party of the martyrs', FR, 2/5/03)


Radical Islam

Western universities may be sustaining the ideology that supports global jihadism. Prevailing academic anti-Western thought forms the background to jihadism's thinking about the international order. The latter also reflects cutting edge thinking in terror studies. Homegrown Islamist radicalisation threatens open, liberal Western societies We face an Islamist ideology that exploits anxieties of second generation Muslims of immigrant families. Though the ideology is nominally related to Islam, it assumes a particular Western style of thought. Hizb ut-Tahrir is central to promotion of this ideology - along lines developed in 1990s by Omar Bakri Mohammed. Hizb ut-Tahrir exploited any issue that might demonstrate Western degeneracy (eg homosexuality, drugs). Multiculturalism and the politically correct politics in British universities allowed Islamism and secularism to be elaborated. Though officially non-violent, Hizb ut-Tahrir is ideological motor of jihadism. It promotes a post-modern caliphate that transcends secular state through web-sites. A calipate is believed able to restore moral and political authority of Islam. It argues that this, rather than liberal democracy, is best suited to solve problems in Middle East and South Asia. The Islamist ideal involves a rule of law and accountability by the people through an independent judiciary. However it would be Koranic law (including Mohammed's teachings) and religious scholars would preside over the judiciary. This vigorously opposes secular liberal democracy. It also derives in part from radical socialists. It has a hostile understanding of liberal democratic states' foreign policies derived from idealism in British / Australian political science / international studies schools. The dominant idea is constructivism - the belief that knowledge is socially determined and subjective - which views international order as self-serving construct of US and its allies. It seeks an ethical transformation - derived from the state-transcending ethicism of the English school of international relations. The war on terror is considered to be just a narrative told by Western governments. Islamist terrorism is simply a distorted Western construct. Orientalism (Western study of eastern societies) is seen as main cause of Muslim oppression. Western foreign policy is not just viewed as th unacceptable face of Western imperialism - but the true face of Western states pursuing profits, raw materials and cheap labour. Withdrawal of US and other external forces from Middle East is seen as needed to allow caliphate to be developed funded by oil resources. Western ideas such as liberal democratic universalism and free markets would be rejected. The Palestinian question would be resolved by dissolving the Zionist state. Under the caliph all ethnic groups would unite under Islam's global ethic. Critical international relations theorists (eg Tarak Barkawi - Cambridge) encourage support for such ideals. Critical terror studies continue to gain research funding in Australia. The West has a serious problem because it has lost its sense that all people should be united and a belief in progress. The relativist and critical approaches that have come to dominated in academic social sciences reflect this loss of direction and purpose, and give comfort and coherence to our enemies (Martin Jones D and Ungerer K 'Extremism's little helpers', A, 15-16/12/07).

Ismail Yusanto outlined a vision of an Islamic utopia on behalf of Hizb-ut-Tahrir which believes that suffering around the world can be eased by creating Islamic superstate - ruled by Sharia law through jihad. Wassim Doureihi defended the group by arguing that it was only advocating change by peaceful means in the Muslim world (Morello V 'Cleric calls for Islamic utopia', CM, 29/1/07).

Sayyid Qutb, whom Hilali admired, was contemptuous of Western women for exploiting their bodies' seductive capacity. Similar ideas were involved in Hilali's recent sermons. Qutbism (which informed the 9/11 terrorists) is set out in Milestones - which has been likened to Mein Kampf, He argues that most Muslims have reverted to godless ignorance. He advocated sharia law as a complete way of life - not just as sacred law. - and violent jihad to remove godless false Muslim and the Western / non-Islamic world. His disgust for the West led him to describe it as a 'rubbish heap' which hated Islam and planned to demolish the structure of Muslim society. He argued that the West realised that it had no healthy values for guiding mankind - and that Americans blushed at the immorality of their country compared with Islam's logic, beauty, humanity and happiness. Qutb claimed that Jewry was seeking to control the whole world. He argued that Hitler had been sent by Allah to control Jews. He wanted the whole world to submit to Islam - because (as a faith of fair play, balance and humanity) it should rightly do so. He emphasises the offensive nature of jihad - to topple governments. Both Qutb and Hilali were members of Muslim Brotherhood - though Hilali left because it was too extreme. Qutb wrote about the abject materialism of Western societies from 1940s - and about promiscuity between men and women. Qutb and the Brotherhood had a link with Free Officers Movement which supported Nasser's overthrow of Egyptian Monarchy - expecting Nasser to institute Islamic law. Nasser eventually cracked down on the Brotherhood, and Qutb conceived an ideology of pure resistance led by a vanguard of true believers. He speaks of a cadre who hides itself from corrupting forces to establish a true Islamic society. Qutb's younger brother Muhammad Qutb published his book and tutored al-Zawahiri (al-Qa'ida's No 2) (Weisser R. 'Hilali's radical mentor', A, 30/10/06).

Political Islam has replaced communism in war of ideas. The central issue is how to organise society. As Middle East conflict continues the secular influence of Hezbollah and Hamas are not obvious, nor are attractions to young Muslims in Sydney nor professionals in Indonesia. The core problem has been seen as attractiveness of Islamism. In 20th century communism was defeated though millions were attracted to it because they felt poor / downtrodden. It was exposed as a totalitarian system that stifled aspirations of man. But this is now spreading in casing of Islamic fundamentalism - though bin Laden helped defeat communism, and the Iranian revolution was partly motivated by godlessness of communism on its border. But Marxists increase influence within Islamic political parties that arise as result of inept Arab regimes - which only allow politics to be voiced in the Mosque. Political Islam is rising in the Arab world. Communism and Islam are both egalitarian and advocate radical economic change. They both demand domination of public space, and have a dogmatic ideological view of the world. Political Islam is supplying collectivised social services that communism promised. Islam also promises to deliver poor masses from oppression - but instead of rising up against bourgeoisie they are expected to rise against their oppressive western masters or puppet Arab leaders. Islamism also promises a better life for the poor - though it is cloaked in religion. Unless West fights the war of ideas at this level - offering a competing vision of both morality and economics Islamic extremism will continue to flourish (Ahmed Tanveer 'Why Islam is the new Marx', A , 11/8/06)

A global survey shows that many Muslims are at war with reality and bound by extremist theories. In no Muslim country surveyed was it believed that Muslims carried out 911 attacks - as it is viewed as a hoax by US government, Israel or someone else. Muslims are also widely prejudiced against Jews. Conspiracy theories also pertain to lack of prosperity in Muslim countries - where US / other Western policies were seen to be responsible rather than indigenous factors such as lack of education / democracy or the presence of corruption and radical Islam. Most Muslims populations indicated support for Osama bin Laden / suicide bombing. Muslims felt most alienated in Nigeria and Britain - which was surprising as British views of Muslims by others were relatively favourable (ie less likely to see Muslims as violent). Muslim alienation is greatest in countries which are either most or least tolerant - suggesting that a middle path is best. (Pipes D., 'Divided by conspiracy and hate', A, 28/6/06).

What makes young Muslims in West susceptible to radicalism? Many are utterly reoccupied with events in Arab / Muslim world - and they see autocratic countries that seem corrupt and paralysed, and hostility from the West as part of war against terror - which they see as anti-Islamic. Access to the internet draw them into a community that shares their vision / rage and sense of vast conspiracy against Muslims. There is a schism between the successful lives they hope for and the sufferings of fellow Muslims. Messianic waves from the Middle East (through schools / mosques) help draw them to radicalism - eg via Saudi / Wahabbi education system which is based on loyalty to the system and hostility to infidels. This is designed to legitimize Saudi Monarchy at home, and indoctrinates young Muslims with values antithetical to free societies. Defining people on the basis of religion plays into the hands of radicals by making Islam the issue. In 22 Arab countries religious orthodoxy prevents any liberal political opposition - and the mosque is the only place where it is possible to express political views. Politicisation of the mosque has become normal. Islamic radicalism need not flourish in the West despite Muslims disappointments with Western foreign polices. They have been exposed to democratic processes and would not accept rigid parental / Islamic traditions (Yamani M 'Radicalism a by-product of a free society', FR, 21/6/06).

The Islamic fundamentalism purveyed by al Qaida is enemy of moderate Muslims and secular Palestinians. Bin Laden suggested that Western attempts to isolate Hamas mean that West is at war with Islam. Islamic world supports Palestinian cause. However it is wrong to suggest that rise of Islamic fundamentalism is attributable to US support for Israel. Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama bin Laden is required reading for understanding Al Qaida objectives. It actually deals with tendency of Saud House to put big business before Islam - but has been construed to be about Palestine. Left mostly criticizes US not Islamic fundamentalism. But Bin Laden does not want free Palestine, but rather one under sharia law. The heart of problem is war within the Islamic world. Hamas has distanced itself from Bin Laden's statement - but they have some things in common (eg abolition of Israel, and creation of great Islamic state) (King R 'Qsama bin Laden is no friend of Palestinian cause', A, 26/4/06).

[[[As seen from inside]]] Last year, the UK government set up a collection of stooges (‘Moderate Muslims’) to promote the official crusader version of Islam. One such event organised by the Luqman Institute in London had a government-backed ‘scholar’ mouthing off Crusader sound bites e.g. Muslims should ignore scholars who grew up overseas (because these are not likely to be contaminated with Crusader backing), Jews and Christians are brothers to ‘moderate’ Muslims (which puts the ‘moderates’ in the same bracket as Crusaders and Zionists), people defending the honour of the Prophet were Jahil (ignorant) as the Pre-Islamic pagan Arabs (which shows these government stooges are liars). The Crusader Poodle Blair has failed – because the Muslims stayed away from this kind of apostasy fest (as they did with events organised by MCB and MAB). One of Crusader Poodle Blair’s 'tapeworms' appeared at a talk organised by a Kuffar establishment backside kissing ‘moderate’ Muslim organisation in London on 24/3/06. A leaflet asked “Where are we heading? Islam or Jahiliya?” A picture of people praying was on the Islam side of the leaflet, and on the Jahiliya side was a picture of a fully covered Muslim woman with a placard saying, “Behead those who insult the prophet”. The event was organised to hoodwink Muslims into believing that sincerely standing up for the honour of the Prophet (peace be upon him [pbuh]) was ‘Jahiliya’. The Speaker was an Indian subcontinent clown, ‘Sheikh’ Musa Admani, Imam London Metropolitan University. ‘Jahiliya’ is the state of ignorance of the pagan Arabs before the coming of the Prophet, whose ’s mission was overturning Jahiliya and establishing Islam (Submission to the will of Allah). At the time of the Prophet a poet wrote an insulting poem about him. The prophet’s response was not to say, “Lets talk to this man”. Instead he asked his companions, “Who will kill this man?” Some tricked their way into his camp where one of them drove his sword so hard into his guts  that the sword broke when it hit his spine! This is the Sunnah. The Ummah (Muslim community) stayed away from the Luqman Institute event - with only 50 of 600 seats taken. when it started the Blair tapeworm  blurted out well-worn Kuffar sound bites with no basis in Qur’aan or Hadeeth (authentic sayings of the Prophet [pbuh]). The boredom was relieved when some brothers and sisters in the audience showed this to be Kuffar propaganda. The speaker (Director of the Luqman Institute and trained in Deoband, India) had d been to several international inter faith conferences i.e. Kuffar state sponsored junkets/holidays. The Luqman Institute was purportedly a “vehicle to address issues facing Muslim communities in the West”. This claims to be neutral ground where people can express their views - but no one with a different view could speak and critical questions were ignored. The tapeworm showed disrespect for Arab scholars for being non-British! He also said, that what some people are writing is conditioned by situation in their country though it does not apply in  a secular multicultural environment - and (when challenged) they can't justify this on their Qur’aan. As a coward (a pre-requisite for a moderate) he didn’t name any Sheikhs who had been challenged and walked away. Regarding Prophet insulters, the tapeworm said, “We should reach out to those disagree with us'. However people the audience challenged him with Qur’aan and Sunnah, which he could not handle. He gave the game away when he said, “People should come to one platform and discuss…Christian brothers and Jewish brothers. Yes Jews and Christians are my brothers!” - though the latter would not admit to being related to such an embarrassing third rate Indian subcontinent coolie English bud bud speaker like him being related to them! Western Kuffar-backed ‘Muslims’ have been swept into the Kuffar interfaith movement and give Jews and Christians honourable titles, rather than the humiliating ones that Allah gave them, ”And the Jews say that `Uzair (Ezra) is the son of Allah and the Christians say that the Messiah is the son of Allah. That is their words with their mouths and they mouth the words of those who are Kuffar from before. Allah curse them for what they lie about. They have taken their priests and their rabbis as lords besides Allah and the Messiah, the son of Mary. They were not order with anything except that they worship one god. There is no god but He. Glory be to Him from what they are associating in shirk (polytheism)” Surat ut-Tawba, ayah 31-32 .  Allah also said, "And those that are Kuffar from among the people of the Book (Jews and Christians) and polytheists, they are in the Hell fire forever, and they are the worst of creation." Surat-ul-Bayyinah, ayah 6. Only the most ignorant would insist that prophet killers (Jews) and Jesus worshippers (Christians) deserve the same right as us. If you want to know the rights of Jews and Christians, read Surat ut-Tawba, ayah 29. Allah also says about following Jews and Christians “O you who believe! If you obey a party of those who have received the Scripture (Christians and Jews) they will make you disbelievers after your belief (Surah 3 verse 100). Someone in the audience quoted Surah Tauba regarding fighting the Kuffar (including Jews and Christians) for the sake of Allah. The tapeworm’s response was the surah had to be taken context - though didn't explain what this meant. He also said that “Islam is a not a violent religion. Over the years it’s been taken over and verses of Qur’aan have been taken out of context.” However, this is the reality of Allah’s message: (Surah 2 190. And fight in the Way of Allah against those who fight you. 191. And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out. And Fitnah (reversion to polytheism, turning a disbeliever after one has believed in Allah) is worse than killing. The Prophet [pbuh] personally took part in many battles. He either killed Kuffar himself or organised his followers to do it – for the sake of Allah. So saying that Islam does not allow killing or advocates pacifism by rejecting fighting is a lie! The Moderates (Kuffar backed establishment ‘Muslims) have already failed as shown by the reaction to the Prophet cartoons. The first anti Prophet cartoon demonstration was by sincere Muslims who expressed their freedom of speech to denounce the cartoon producers - but were denounced as jahil (followers of Jahiliyah) by Blair’s Luqman Institute tapeworms. Then another group of British establishment-backside kissing ‘Muslims’ (from MAB and MCB) demonstrated against the previous anti cartoon demonstration! They handed out British flags to show how much they prefer the establishment’s backsides to Allah’s ruling system! But the turnout was only 2000 in London’s Trafalgar Square. A week later another anti demonstration at the same venue (organised by various Pakistani groups from the North of England, and with speeches in urdu) attracted 50,000. The Kuffar has lost the propaganda war despite spending millions. The Ummah know what the MCB stands for: supporting the British Crusade against Afghanistan, calling for Muslims to spy on each other for the Kuffar, denouncing the Mujahideen as ‘terrorists’ and ‘extremists’ while making excuses for the Kuffar. The Luqman Institute event was useful in showing up the British Crusader propaganda strategy: (a) Denouncing sincere scholars from abroad as being irrelevant because they grew up in a non-British country. You might as well ignore the Hadeeth (sayings of the Prophet [pbuh]) because the Prophet grew up in Arabia! Yet these Crusader establishment backside kissers never denounce these scholars to their faces or take them on in a proper debate. (b) Moderates claim brotherhood with Kafir Jews and Christians when the Qur’aan expressly forbids taking them as confidants. Brotherhood can only exist between those who accept the Unity of Allah and His Messenger – Muslims. (c) Attempting to pervert the meaning of the Qur’aan, especially the Ayats dealing with fighting the Kuffar for the sake of Allah, as being ‘out of context’. Allah says in the Qur’aan that His message was revealed in clear Arabic so it could be understood, and anyone who tries to re-interpret things is a disbeliever (Kafir) as the Jews and Christians did to the Torah and the Injeel (Allah’s message which was revealed to the Prophet Issa [pbuh]). The establishment ‘moderates’ have conveniently forgotten that the Prophet (pbuh) himself set the example of fighting for the sake of Allah to the point of being personally wounded and getting his front tooth knocked out in hand to hand combat with swords! (d) Touting the lie that Islam means ‘peace’. If you ask a Buddhist, Christian or Hindu what their religion means they will all say that their religions mean ‘peace’. So what’s the difference between Islam and disbelief if they all mean ‘peace’? The basic and most important difference is that Islam stands for submission to the will of Allah and obeying His Messenger!!
The Kuffar strategy of undermining Islam is a failure. ‘Moderate’ Muslims, are just an insignificant rump within the Muslim community. Even when they are backed by the leading white Kuffar, the Ummah don't turn up to their events. No matter how many sincere Muslims the Kuffar jail for speaking the truth, the number of people entering Islam is increasing by the week. The youth are losing their immigrant parent’s fear and respect for the Crusader establishment. The wars on Afghanistan, Iraq, and the prophet cartoons did more to undermine the moderates than any amount of propaganda. When the Prophet [pbuh] started out in Makkah, he just had a small band of the weakest members of his society. He and his companions overwhelmed armies several times their number – and fulfilled the promise of Allah to help believers who fight for his cause! Sincere Muslims don’t need to pander to the Kuffar and that is why the ones referred to as ‘Extremists’ by the establishment are on the path to success! (Shahin, 'Slap for the Moderates (Or: Moderate bull***t)', UK, 27/3/06)

Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami (Islamic Party of Liberation) is an emerging threat to US interests in Central / South Asia / Middle East. It is a clandestine, cadre-operated, radical Islamist political organization in 40 countries with HQ apparently in London. Its goal is jihad against US and overthrowing existing political regimes and their replacement with a Caliphate, a theocratic dictatorship based on the Shari'a. The model for Hizb is the "righteous" Caliphate, a militaristic Islamic state that existed in the 7th and 8th centuries under Mohammad and his four successors, known as the "righteous Caliphs." The 911 attacks showed the need to be alert to emerging threats. Central Asia security situation has deteriorated because war in Iraq has intensified resolve of anti-US forces. US should: expand intelligence collection on Hizb; encourage Central Asian governments to boost civil society and diminish the alienation on which Hizb and fundamentalist Islamist movements are preying. Hizb has 5,000-10,000 hard-core members, and many more supporters in former Soviet Central Asia. Sheikh Taqiuddin an-Nabhani al Falastini, the founder of Hizb, wrote that every Muslim should strive to establish a Caliphate and that this religious imperative (fard) upon the Muslim nation (Umma) is so strong that Mohammad's allies delayed burying his body until a new Caliph was appointed and the Caliphate established. The Caliph would be a supreme, pious leader who would combine religious and political power. A Caliph is a substitute for Mohammad - who would appoint an Amir (military leader), who would declare jihad and wage war against non-believers. According to Hizb's political vision, Caliphate would not recognize national, regional, tribal, or clan differences and would include all Muslims. An-Nabhani drafted the constitution a future Caliphate - which is not a democratic state. Caliph would be appointed by acclamation by "prominent men,", and would not be directly accountable to the people. There would be no checks or balances between branches of government. Succession would be by designation of the Caliph or acclamation of the oligarchy. It is impossible to legitimize Hizb and integrate it into existing political models - as its goal is to smash existing state systems. Since its inception in 1952 in East Jerusalem, Hizb has gained followers from London to Lahore. It was influenced by the anti-Semitism of Sheikh Hajj Amin Al-Housseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who was a Nazi war collaborator. An-Nabhani also drew on the organizational principles of Marxism-Leninism. An-Nabhani was also member of the radical Islamic Brotherhood (Al Ihwan al-Muslimeen), which spread throughout the Islamic world and preaches the establishment of a Caliphate. Hizb's spread is impressive, and was accomplished using 20th century totalitarian political "technology" with 7-8th century Islamic ideas. The genius of Hizb founder was marrying Orthodox Islamist ideology to Leninist strategy and tactics. Hizb is a totalitarian organization and internal dissent is not encouraged / tolerated. As its goal is global revolution, a leading Islamic scholar compared it to the Trotskyite wing of the communist movement. Candidate members must "adopt the thoughts and opinions of the party,". New recruits may be required to start new cells, with a view to violently taking over a country when there are enough cells. Hizb is currently circumspect in preaching violence, but will justify its use when a critical mass is achieved. Hizb's platform conforms with "Islamist globalization"--an alternative mode of globalization based on radical Islam - which directly challenges the Western model of a secular, market-driven, tolerant, multicultural globalization. Hizb has fiery rhetoric of jihad, secret operations, murky funding sources, rejection of existing political regimes, rapid transnational growth, and similar goals to al-Qaeda and other jihadi organizations. Hizb has called for a jihad against the U.S., its allies, and moderate Muslim states - whose goal is to find and kill the Kufar (non-believers). Before 9/11, Hizb accused the US of imposing global hegemony. Later it claimed that the U.S. had declared war against the global Muslim community (Umma), had established an alliance under the "pretext" of fighting terrorism, and was reinforcing its grip on Central Asia. It claimed that the U.S. accused bin Laden of 9/11 attacks without proof. It called on Muslim governments to reject the U.S. appeal for cooperation in the war against terrorism - and suggested they have a divine mission. Hizb ideologists claim that all methods are justified in the struggle against the unbelievers, including murder. According to Hizb, the main targets of jihad are moderate Muslim regimes, America and Jews. The attack on Afghanistan was seen as a crusade displaying enmity for the Islamic Ummah, while the war against Islam and the Muslims was seen to have shown the corrupt nature of US civilization and a colonial world-view. Hizb is likely to participate in next wave of violent political action in Central Asia and other Muslim countries with weak regimes. Hizb sees its struggle paralleling the three stages that Mohammad experienced in establishing the Caliphate 1,400 years ago (spreading the word of God to the communities of Arabia; the flight from Mecca to Medina to establish the first Islamic community there; and the conquest of Mecca, jihad, and the establishment of the Caliphate). Hizb's strategy has three stages: Production of people who believe in its ideas / methods; interaction with the Ummah; and  establishing government, implementing Islam generally. Members of Hizb participated in past coups against pro-Western regimes in the Middle East. Many Middle Eastern countries and Germany, where Hizb has links with the neo-Nazis, have outlawed it. Jihad has to continue till the Day of Judgment. So whenever disbelieving enemies attack an Islamic country it becomes compulsory on its Muslim citizens to repel the enemy. Goals include: (a) struggling against Kufr (non-believer) states which have domination and influence over the Islamic countries - to challenge colonialism in all its intellectual, political, economic, and military forms (b) struggling against rulers in Arab / Muslim countries who fail to comply with rules of Islam. Hizb has begun to penetrate the elites in Central Asia. U.S. strategic interests in Central Asia include (a) access to the military bases for operations in Afghanistan (b) deterring the establishment of safe havens for terrorist organizations (c) preventing anyone gaing hegemonic control in the region (d) preventing Central Asia from becoming an arsenal of dangerous weaponry (e) ensuring equal access to energy resources (f) encouraging development of the East-West transportation and economic corridors and (g) encouraging economic reform, expansion of civic space, democratization, and development of open society. The secular regimes of Central Asia have little democratic legitimacy, and there is no political space for secular opposition. Governing poorly and being intolerant and undemocratic, breeds religious extremism. This has allowed Hizb to capture a niche that otherwise would be occupied by a legitimate political opposition. There is a lot the US does not know about Hizb.  At its inception, Hizb likely had strong connections to Saudi Wahhabism, but it is unclear whether these links remain. The current leader of Hizb is also unknown. Hibz needs to be recognized as a growing threat in Central Asia - and countered with better intelligence; economic reform; democracy and popular participation. These are not a panacea against Islamist radicalism, as the swelling ranks of young Islamic fundamentalists in Western Europe demonstrate, but may diminish Hizb's appeal. The U.S. should encourage local governments to not only crack down on radical Islam, but also encourage alternatives. Secular regimes in Central Asia should stop persecuting new evangelical Christian denominations, Buddhists, and Zoroastrians. U.S. should provide support to local media to cover negative examples of the application of Shari'a law. The consequences of jihad-type civil war, such as in Algeria, which left 100,000-200,000 dead, should also be covered. Positive coverage of the West should also be supported. (Cohen, A. 'Hizb ut-Tahrir: An Emerging Threat to U.S. Interests in Central Asia',  Heritage Foundation, 2005)

Debate over 911 has been dominated by 'culture talk' which suggests that culture is main influence on people's politics and that Islamic culture is the cause of Islamist violence. New books by Gilles Kepel and Oliver Roy take a different approach. Kepel seeks to understand intellectual history of political Islam, while Roy deals with social conditions under which Muslims think and act. Roy argues that Koran is not important for what it says but for what Muslims say about it. Kepel tracks two separate strands of Islamic thought - the ultra strict Salafist / Wahhabi school; and the more political thinking of the Muslim brotherhood. These two have now merged into Osama bin Laden's hybrid ideology. Wahhabism originated in Saudi Arabia where Wahhab agreed to glorify tribal raids on neighbours as jihad if Wahhabism was made state religion. A second strand of political Islam emerged in Egypt in 1920s when Muslim Brotherhood resolved to establish a Muslim state. It lost support there and shifted to Saudi Arabia. This group joined with Palestinians who were concerned with PLOs secular nationalism. The brotherhood took control of Saudi intellectual life. The religious awakening of many young radicals then followed - like the Iranian revolutionaries who combined Shiite rhetoric with Third World anti-imperialism. In Afghanistan in the 1980s, jihad went global. A seminal book (Knights under the Prophet's Banner) by Ayman al-Zawahiri - bin Laden's right hand man - argued for the need for new types of leadership (more scientific, confrontational and rational - able to use inspirational slogans). Palestine is seen as a mobilizing cause. Attacks on western populations are seen as valid because they would only respect others rights by use of brute force. Al Qaeda is a terrorist NGO - an organization that encouraged others to find it - through the Internet - rather than recruiting others by face to face contacts. Culturalists portray bin Laden as descended from esoteric Wahhabism - but Kepel shows he is a product of diverse intellectual traditions. US neo-conservatives are seen as very similar to al Qaeda. Both thought that change could be achieved through destabilizing existing governments in the Middle East. Both are products of the Cold War where ideologically driven violence was embraced by both sides. Roy (in Globalised Islam) sees spread of jihadist Islam as consequence of sociological changes (Mamdani M 'Future of political Islam', FR, 7/1/05).

Islamist ideology emerged with Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in the 1920s (al-Banna) - who saw the need to modernize Islam. Aspects of science that were not contradicted by the Koran were accepted (in contrast to a mainstream Muslim rejection of all aspects of modernity). Thus chemistry could be accepted - but theories of evolution would be rejected. This was further developed in the 1950s and 1960s (especially by Qutb, a teacher who spent time in US, and Mawdudi a journalist).   Many Islamists (especially those in SE Asia) are civil engineers or in medicine. Islamism is not only at home in Muslim countries, but in Mosques in the West. There are two major factions in Islam - Shi-ites and Sunnis. Shi-ites seek to follow a God-guided leader. Sunnis seek to follow the traditions of the majority of Muslims. In the 1980s, extremists tended to be Shi-ites (eg the revolution in Iran was supposed to establish a Shi-ite regime), and Sunnis (who dominate in SE Asia) to be moderate / law abiding. The globalization of Islamist ideology (which seeks political power in order to impose Islamic legalism) has lead to the emergence of extremist Sunnis.   All senior personnel in organizations like al Qaeda could  pass as westerners, and have at least BAs from Western universities. (Jones D., University of Tasmania, personal communication)

Osama bin Laden reportedly described the conflict as fundamentally religious - between the people of the East who are Muslims or supporters of Muslims, and the People of the West who are the crusaders. This fact is (said to be) proven in the book of God. Enmity is based on creed. Jews and Christians will not be satisfied unless you follow their religion. The issue is faith, not terrorism. Muslim scholars agree that allegiance to the infidels against believers sullies Islam. For years brothers have been killed, women raped and children massacred in UN safe havens with its knowledge and cooperation. Those who refer our tragedies to the UN for resolution are hypocrites. The UN partitioned Palestine in 1947. Those who claim to lead the Arabs and appeal to the UN are dishonouring the Holy Book. We are being massacred every day, while the UN sits idly by. Consider how the UN and the West divided the people of Indonesia. This should not be seen as an isolated event, but as part of a long conspiracy. The criminal, Kofi Annan, insisted that East Timor be separated - and the crusader Australians enforced this. Thousands were killed in the Sudan and Somalia, but when we move to Palestine and Iraq there are no bounds to what can be said. Over 1m children were killed in Iraq. And we can complain to no one but God about what is happening in Palestine. Muslims, fear God, and rise up to support Islam ('Terror war is all about religion, says leader', Australian, 5/11/01) 

Radical vs Traditional Radical Islamism vs Traditional Islam

Those who pursue Islamism know little of Islam (Husain E (author of The Islamist) 'Faithfully honing the killer instinct', A, 30/6/07).

Moderate Islamic leaders should speak out over extremists. Muslim leaders need to pull their heads out of the sand, because something is wrong in Islam. Most Muslims have sympathy with victims of terrorists - but many assumed that UK brought attack on itself by joining US in Iraq, and that Islam can't be held responsible. Iraq wasn't the factor that has triggered attacks. Islam criticizes killing others - except where this is as punishment for murder or villainy. Moderate Muslims ignore the latter condition, while terrorists rely on it to justify what they do. Muslims agree that passages in Koran are being exploited - but they could not be exploited if they did not exist. Muslims should not assume that Koran is error free. Muslims should join Jews and Christians in admitting (as Spong has done) that there are 'sins of scripture' (Manji I 'Sins of scripture in the Koran, too', A, 25/7/05).

Modern Islamic thinkers struggle with the concept of jihad. Jihad has important place in Islam - and casts long shadow with rise of Islamism and tendency of some political groups to make West their main enemy. Jihad means striving (or at times combat). Two significant streams of Islamic thought are Islamic reformism and political Islam (or Islamism) - and many see these as having converged. However Islamism which appeared with Muslim brotherhood in 1928 is a break with Islamic reformism. Despite common wish to revive Islam, their systems of reference, objectives and social plans are different. For reformism: (a) Muhammad Abduh (1849-1905) grand mufti of Egypt considers jihad in sense of combat only in terms of defending truth and its adherents and to keep intact the message of Islam. Aggression is declared illegal. Combat he argues was never intended to convert by force or seek revenge. He argues that Islam allows a man to marry a person of the Book - and for that person to keep their religion (b) Abd al-Aziz al_Thalabi in Liberating Spirit of the Koran argued that jihad concept was closely related to idea of tolerance in Islam. Islam came for all humanity to bring unity between peoples and recognized the Christian and Jewish religions - so they should be respected. He cited 125 Koranic verses that called for tolerance - and rejects idea of turning Koran into tool of intolerance. Muslims must free themselves of ignorance, illusion and fanaticism and interpret Koran in humane fashion - similar to French revolution which introduced same principles as Koran. For political Islam (a) Sayyid Abul a'la Mawdudi (1903-79) asserts in The Jihad on the Way to God that Islam is a revolutionary idea and revolutionary program whose goal is to destroy the entire social structure of the world and build it anew. Muslims are described as members of a world revolutionary party who should use jihad as revolutionary combat to achieve this goal. Islam is seen as not only a set of theological beliefs but a total and complete system that must overcome other futile and tyrannical systems in the world. Thus everyone who believes must be part of a struggle to put in place a new system of civilizations based on the word of God. Islamic jihad he sees as simultaneously offensive and defensive - offensive because Islamic party opposes Kingdoms founded on principles contrary to Islam and wishes to eradicate them. In the desired Islamic kingdom, other divine religions enjoy freedom of belief but would not be able to take rains of power. They would no longer be allowed to manage their affairs or behave in debauched fashion tat constitutes evil against society. (B) Abdullah Azam (1941-89), in On Jihad: Good Behaviour and Rules, argued that jihad had been forgotten and combat a rare phenomenon. While Abduh (and other reformist) asserted that there is no duress in religion, Azam believed that jihad was prescribed to spread the message of Islam - to save humanity from impiety and make it pass from darkness into light. Participation in jihad is described as an obligation for all Muslims. Muslims are seen to be oppressed in many Muslim countries - that they have been prevented from defending that which they hold sacred and their nations have 'given up' to the enemy. There is an intellectual break between reformists and political Islam. Reformists see a close link between jihad and tolerance, which they see as a fundamental feature of Islam. By contrast Islamists give priority to jihad. They see Islam as a complete and coherent system whose aim is to spread its message, destroy systems of government that are not based on the rules of Islam and to rebuild the world as an Islamic entity governed by Koran and teachings / practices of Mohammad (Charif M. 'The devout caught in a clash of calls', A, 13/7/05).

There is a need for Muslim reformation to combat jihadist ideologues. head of UK Muslim Council described bombings in London as challenge to Muslim community. However he supports UK new religious hatred bill which will make it harder to criticize religion, and expected that it will make it illegal to refer to Islamic terrorism. This illustrates weakness of governments intention to rely on traditional / orthodox Muslims to eradicate Islamist radicalism. Traditional Islam includes many people with antediluvian views and no compatibility with community's around them. This is an environment that allows alienation to deepen. There is thus rather a need for a reform movement that brings Islam into the modern age. This would need to start with a new approach to education, and take a generation to have effect. Muslims should study their religion as an event in history, not supernaturally above it. Islam is the only religion whose birth was recorded historically. The Koran as revealed at time of intense change - from matriarchal nomadic culture to urban patriarchal culture, and it can be read as plea for old Matriarchal values in new patriarchal society. It was revolutionary because it appealed to those who new system alienated. Muhammad, a merchant, heard on his travels accounts of the Bible expressed by Nestorian Christians - and the Koran mirrors this. The Koran is a product of that time and place, and mirrors Muhammad's own experiences. However few Muslims are allowed to study the Koran that way. The traditionalists refusal of history plays into the hands of the literalist Islamofascists - allowing them to imprison Islam in their own certainties. The traditionalists will only be part of the solution when they agree that Islam must be modernised. (Rushdie S 'Islam must open its windows',  A, 15/8/05).

All Muslims need to confront Islam's role in terrorism. Soon after London bombings, UK Muslim groups condemned it - on the grounds that religion can not be used to justify such crimes. This suggests that Islam has nothing to do with the problem. But this is untrue. Most Muslims abhor violence, and most of the Koran speaks against it. But the Koran and Islamic law can be used to justify violence. The terrorists are product of specific mindset with deep roots in Islamic history. Thus it is the responsibility of Muslims to deal with the problem. The tradition that supports extremists has three inherent characteristics (a) it is ahistoric - ie it abhors history though Islam is a religion interpreted in the lives and thoughts of Muslims. Thus it has no notion of progress, moral development or human evolution. Mecca is suffering violence. Wahhabism is seen as largely to blame. They are destroying old buildings that would encourage people to view prophet as a person living in a particular time and place, and responding to pressures of that time and place. Wahhabis want to universalize and externalize every act of prophet - without regard to context. Thus the time of the prophet must constantly be recreated - seen as perfect and unable to be improved (b) it is monolithic - and any contrary view is seen as apostasy or collaboration. An unjust fatwa by Wahhabi oriented clerics in India - on a women who was punished because she was raped - illustrates the point. Any disagreement was seen as betraying Islam. The humanist, rational or spiritual traditions are seen as diversions. Different Muslim sects are killing one another in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Iraq. The Armed Islamic Group in Algeria declared that entire population of the country was deviant and should be killed. There is a view that perfect tradition can not lead to sin - and those who commit sin (ie disagree) can not be Muslim (c) it is aggressively self-righteous and insists on imposing this view on others. It legitimizes intolerance and violence. The Islamic Defenders Front in Indonesia regularly destroys cafes etc which it considers immoral places. The moral police in Saudi Arabia impose a moral code (mainly on women) on the streets every day. The Prophet was succeeded by four Caliphs who were considered 'right guided' because of their close friendship with him - and their rule is regarded as perfect. However it was also a period of dissent, wars and rebellions. Three of them were murdered. The last Ali was killed by Kharjites who declared that after Last Prophet history was at an end and all decisions would then be made by God alone. Everyone who disagreed with them was pronounced an infidel and outside the law. They developed a different view of what it meant to be Muslim - namely being in a perfect state of soul and thus incapable of sin. Sin thus showed that a person was not Muslim. All non-Kharjites were seen as legitimate targets for violence. This type of thinking has recurred several times in Islamic history - it led to several rebellions in golden age of Islam (749-1258). It is also evident in thinking of founder of Wahhabism (1703-87) and Sayyid Qutb (1906-66) who founded Muslim Brotherhood. This influence is now in bin Laden group, in Hizb-ut-Tahrir, al-Muhurajiroun and in some mainstream organizations. All neo-Khajitessee see their religion as best for all aspects of human existence, and do not permit deviance. Those who disagree are lesser Muslims or legitimate targets for violence. All is seen as sacred, nothing secular and retribution is their divine duty. Humanity is left out of the equation, so they have no conscience. This becomes a form of fascism, as exhibited by Taliban. These groups can not be said to be not Muslims - as they are a product of Muslim history. All Muslims need to examine their interpretation of Koran. This can't be dealt with as a 'war on terror' - as this merely feeds the cycle of violence. What is needed is reasoned argument within the politics of tradition. Islam is part of the problem, so it must be part of the solution. The Kharjite tradition needs to be fought with humanistic and rationalistic traditions of Islam. This is how they have been defeated before. (Sardar Ziauddin 'Solving the problem from within', FR, 5/8/05).

A meeting of Muslim leaders in Jordan achieved first step towards breakthrough in ideological war against interpretations of Islam that encourage violence. There was agreement to minimize differences and work together to promote good theology over superficial, violence-promoting interpretations. The shrillest voice in Islam reject the Islamic credentials of all who disagree with them. The scholars also announced scheme of mutual recognition amongst Islam's eight main schools of legal interpretation - for the first time in 1000 years. This is seen as likely to suppress religious interpretations spread by ignorant, self-appointed preachers  (Economist 'Scholars tread moderate path', A, 3/8/05)

Wahhabism, the hardline ideology at the core of current terrorism, has cut deep wounds in Islam. Those involved in London bombings were not sanctioned by Islam. But why should devoted people regard regard terrorism as supported by religion? Western crimes against Muslims justify this psychologically, but not theologically. Others argue that Islam (like other religions) has a lunatic fringe. However there is a need for Muslims to question what is happening, as terrorism for 'Islamic' political ends has increased since it started 25 years ago. While Muslim leaders seek to exoneration - there is a behind-the-scenes disquiet and debate. Established leaders in Islam know that radicals will not listen to them. The radicals have no teaching qualifications - yet they refuse to submit to authoritative muftis. The latter denounce terrorism, yet are denounced by the radicals as weaklings and stooges. From al-Qaida’s perspective, the religion’s leaders have failed to realize that America’s “evil empire” can only be halted when terrified Western civilians vote against their governments’ expansionist policies. However there is a second crisis - a profound doctrinal disjuncture. Al-Qaida sympathizers regard traditional Sunni muftis and imams, not only as spineless, but as heretical. Mainstream imams follow traditional Sunnism, while al-Qaida is rooted in Wahhabism, the eighteenth-century reform movement of central Arabia. Strict Wahhabis consider the theology and piety of mainline Sunnism to be kufr (disbelief). Hence Wahhabi radicals have not hesitated to kill Muslims, including senior scholars and Muslims have been al-Qaida’s principal victims. Wahhabism is a sort of Islamic Reformation: scripturalist, literal-minded, hostile to the veneration of saints and to philosophical theology. Wahhabi zealots are no more likely to heed the muftis than Cromwell would have been responsive to the Pope. This is shown by Osama bin Laden’s 1998 fatwa, where he urges Muslims to “kill the Americans and their allies, military and civilians, in any country where this is possible”. This lacks any reference to the classical methods of Islamic law, and takes its cue from a Quranic verse that runs “slay the idolators wherever you find them” (which classically refers only to Arab idol-worshippers) but the Wahhabi method allows bin Laden to disregard the classical schools. The sanctity of civilian life, affirmed by orthodox jurists, is not even mentioned. The fatwa violates the orthodox consensus - but from his reformed perspective, his followers alone are the true believers, and the consensus is disregarded. Muslim leaders have not discussed this schism - sometimes because of physical threats. In Pakistan or Iraq, it is now possible to be murdered for criticizing Wahhabism. Wahhabism was loathed in the Islamic world when it made its first appearance in 18th  century. The collapse of Ottoman power allowed it to assert itself, while in late 20th century oil wealth allowed Saudi Arabia to export its Puritanism. Saudi Arabia thus maintains a moderate, pro-Western profile, while supporting a doctrinal system that is used to justify mass murder. It is trying to temper its Wahhabi inheritance; but it is still regarded by the Muslim leaders as the heart of darkness in the current crisis. Many are trying to exclude Wahhabi influence in schools. Saudi-backed groups were crucial in shaping the ideology of the terrorists charged with the Bali bombing of October 2002. There is also a Wahhabi influence in UK - while some study at such colleges in Pakistan. Thus the medicine for terrorism must come from within Muslim community.  Legislation, and any other form of government interference, are unlikely to fix the problem; and may make it worse. Moves are under way to challenge the extremists (eg at ecumenical conference in Jordan (4-6 July 2004) where Wahhabi practice of considering other Muslims to be unbelievers was banned - because of Wahhabi violence against Shia and other non-Wahhabi communities in Iraq and globally). UK Muslim community has little time for zealotry (Murad A H 'Islam’s ‘heart of darkness’, Islam Daily, 24/7/05)

Extremists argue that Muslims are the victims of war on terror, while liberals are trying to rescue their religion from extremists. Since 911 the world's 1.2bn Muslims have suffered. Extremists have carried out crimes in the name of Islam - and non Muslim armies have prosecuted war against terror in Muslim lands. Liberals point out that while not all Muslims are terrorists, all terrorists are now Muslims. One the other hand extremists argue that everywhere Muslims are the victims. This leads to competing pressures on Muslim people. There tends to be emphasis on injury to Muslim people, without mention of the reasons that those injuries occur. ('The war for Islam's heart', Economist, 18/9/04)

911 changed political environment in Muslim world. This study examines dynamics driving changes in political-religious situation in Muslim world. First, it develops a typology of ideological tendencies in various regions. Muslims differ not only in religious views but also in political and social orientation. Second it explores the main cleavages (mainly between Sunni and Shi’a branches of Islam and between the Arab and the non-Arab Muslim worlds and those deriving from membership in subnational communities, tribes, and clans. Most Muslims are Sunni, but about 15 percent are Shi’ites. The latter are seen by Saudi Arabia dominant Wahhabi ideology as “polytheists.” Arabs are only about 20 percent of Muslims, yet interpretations of Islam, political and otherwise, are often filtered through an Arab lens. Much discourse on Muslim issues and grievances is actually discourse on Arab issues. For reasons that have more to do with historical and cultural development than religion, the Arab world exhibits a higher incidence of economic, social, and political disorders than other parts of the developing world. Non-Arab parts are politically more inclusive, have most of the democratic or partially democratic governments, and are more secular in outlook. Although the Arab Middle East has long been regarded (and views itself) as the core of the Muslim world, the most innovative work in Islam is being done on the “periphery”. Ethnic communities, tribes, and clans often constitute the principal basis of individual and group identity and the primary engine of political behavior - yet the US often does not understand this. Third sources of Islamic radicalism are examined (conditions, processes, and catalytic events). The condition that has most shaped the political environment of the Muslim (especially the Arab) world is the failure of postindependence political and economic models. The ills that afflict many countries and generate extremism derive from—and contribute to—economic and political failure. This situation leads to structural anti-Westernism - a concept that suggests that Muslim anger has roots in the political and social structures of Muslim countries and that opposition to U.S. policies merely provides the opportunity for it to be expressed. It differs from anti-Americanism that may result from specific U.S. policies. A third condition is decentralization of religious authority in Sunni Islam, which makes it vulnerable to manipulation by extremists with scant religious credentials. Processes include the Islamic resurgence in much of the Muslim world over the past three decades. Outside the Arab Middle East, Islamization has involved the importation of Arab-origin ideology and religious and social practices (Arabization). This has created greater distance between Muslims who adopt elements of the Arab religious culture and those who adhere to local practices. Saudi funding has had a role in exporting its fundamentalist version of Islam. There seems to be a relationship between tribalism and radicalism in that extremism is strongest in areas with segmentary lineal tribal societies. Tribal conservatism and religious extremism can be mutually reinforcing. The development of networks are critical in the growth of Islamic extremist and terrorist movements. Another important process is the emergence of the satellite regional media, (eg Qatar-based network Al-Jazeera, whose political line reflects that of the Qatari Muslim Brotherhood. These media reinforce stereotypes and narratives of Arab victimization.  Catalytic events that have had an impact include the Iranian revolution, the Afghan war, the Gulf War of 1991, the global war on terrorism that followed the September 11 terrorist attacks, and the Iraq war of 2003. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the Kashmir conflict have also shaped political discourse in the Middle East and South Asia for over half a century - and have retarded the political maturation of the Arab world and Pakistan. Operation Enduring Freedom and expanded U.S. counterterrorism operations across the Muslim world, brought about a strategic realignment, as a number of countries  sided openly with the United States or expanded counterterrorism cooperation. The most dramatic change was in Pakistan, where President Musharraf presented himself as a bulwark against Islamic extremism. After Afghanistan, Southeast Asia was regarded as the “second front” in the war on terrorism. The war in Iraq brought U.S. power into the heart of the Middle East. The war in Iraq is the most potentially significant event in the U.S. relationship with the countries of the Greater Middle East in the past half-century. Its medium to long term impact depends on whether the new Iraq emerges as a pluralistic and reasonably democratic and stable state or whether it reverts to authoritarianism or fragments into ethnic enclaves. Radical and dogmatic interpretations of Islam have gained ground in many Muslim societies. The outcome of the “war of ideas” in the Muslim world is likely to have great consequences for U.S. interests in the region, but it is also difficult for the US to influence. US options to respond to the challenges are: promote moderate networks; disrupt radical networks; foster an education system  relevant to the modern world and leads to productive jobs; foster madrassa and mosque reforms; expand economic opportunities; support Islam in civil society; balance war against terror requirements with democracy in moderate Muslim countries; engage Muslim diasporas and Islamists in mainstream politics; rebuild military-to-military relations; and build appropriate military capabilities  (Rabasa A., et al 'Muslim World after 9/11', Rand, 2004)

Muslim reformers are pulling in opposite directions. Islam has not had a reformation, and the latter was hard for Christianity - when religious dogma was abandoned for ethical principles underlying it. Islam has undergone many changes in 14 centuries, and splinted into many sects. The biggest division is between Sunnis and Shiites. Sunni reformers have chosen one of two paths (a) literalists and (b) proto humanists who have sought to break free of the texts by seeking out their essence. These moves have been short lived (eg the Mu'tazelites in 8-9th century Iraq who toyed with free will, rationalism and understanding Koran in historical context - which was seen as too dangerous). Other rationalists were similarly dismissed. Suffism focuses on spiritual content over legalism. Such movements have only ever appealed to elites, and have not been sustained. They have however at times led to less rigid Islam. More often though 'reform' in Islam has pushed to assert primacy of founding texts - which are seen as unaltered word of God. Puritan reformers have used the sword and the book to launch jihad-minded movements. Wahhabists are another example. Although such purges have been few, they have had the effect of narrowing accepted Sunni canon to few sources and interpretations - closing the door to speculation and envisaging a perfect Islam which only requires firm application by a just ruler. Islam is now again in ferment - between literalists and humanists. Western colonisation has led to confusion about the meaning of terminology (eg democracy, republic). The world looks threatening from Muslim viewpoint because of border clashes, and 'liberation'. Muslim politics is dominated by ideas of resistance. The idea of an Islamic state is used, but this confuses issue as to whether Islam defines the state or visa versa. In Iran a small group of conservatives determine what is 'Islamic'. There is also disagreement about what sharia law means. Some see it as comprehensive rule book, but others see it merely as a way of striving towards God's will - following different schools of jurisprudence. Advocating sharia ignores the fact that some Muslim countries have freely chosen western type statutes. Many Muslim countries limit sharia to narrow range of issues, and others understand it as any law made by Muslims. Jihad (which should refer to quest for virtue) has come to be associated with terrorism.. Ordinary Muslims are only dimly aware of such complexities. They do not consider (as many others do) that Islam suffers a malady that needs fixing. Without its political overtones, the religious populism now in Muslim world would be like that at times in West. Graham Fuller's The Future of Political Islam identifies both frenzy of al-Qaeda and increasing numbers who question / reject fundamental tenets of belief. Most Muslims are in between - fearing dissolution of faith. Radical remake of the faith is intent of bin Laden. Attacking US and allies is merely to provoke backlash strong enough to wake Muslims to their predicament, and so purge the faith of alien elements. Promoting clash of civilizations is merely stage one. More difficult part is: to convince fellow Muslims to reject modern world, including democracy; and to topple their own quisling governments. Bin Laden shares this goal with Saafists (who want to return Islam to ways of founding fathers). Political destination is creation of pan-Islamic Caliphate. This goal would require eliminating impurities such as Shiism, Sufism etc. The Saafist version of Islam would be applied in detailed, prescriptive form. This 'reform' agenda has met with success in some places of conflict. Yet without conflict, recruitment has been poor. Countries such as Afghanistan, Algeria and Egypt have passed with varying degrees of pain through militant extremism. Closer to Muslim centre are those who refer to resistance to Western hegemony. Their goal is not religious reform, but imposing Islamic forms on existing institutions. Some see this as modernisation - though the concepts involved are very old. Centerist fundamentalists also use West as point of reference (materialist, aggressive, morally loose) against which to construct Islamic values (spiritual, peaceful, chaste). Centerist fundamentalists have been effective in curbing extreme radicals. However the moderate Islamists approach to contemporary issues are fudges. Application of Islam rightly understood along with democracy in Islamic civilization context is seen to allow provide cultural and social transformation. But what defines this understanding - hallowed texts or modern Muslims? New Islamists extol empirical science but have trouble with evolution. Freedom of expression is supported as long as it promotes Islam. This is not modernism, but a way of moving towards modernism. Muslim modernists have become skeptical of whole Islamic tradition. This is active on the boundaries of Islam. Different ideas of science and distance from Arabic language allow more critical view of Islamic texts. Progressives suggest that lack of structured church could make Islam more relevant. All put forward critiques of Islamism as derived from traditional Islamic scholarship. Islam is seen as able to provide ethical basis for freedom. Traditionalists have power, but dissidents are growing. Much of the dissidents' work is in English or French and has not been translated for reference by Muslim communities (Rodenbeck M 'The war within Islam', FR, 30/4/04).

As in West, Islamic religion is becoming more personal - and being interpreted by individuals - including militants. Islam is being perceived as political force. Some see it as call to action - others as requiring containment. Islam seems like a religion in West because religion has been de-institutionalised - in the idea that religion can make claims on individual behavior. Yet similar process is occurring in Islam. Politicisation is displacing the authority of religious authorities. Quran teachings are being taken out of context to support political ends. Who can decide what is correct. Activism / terrorism impose new source of legitimacy. Islam is now mainly interpreted through political movements and cultural groups rather than by religious authorities. This has allowed Islam to overcome local boundaries - and become global. Islamism unites adherents who were previously deeply divided. Islam is moving from rural areas to cities - including those in the West. This creates break from social origins. Migrants create a new sense of belonging to Islam in new surroundings. Exposure to modern life is what is triggering a return to Islam. Most radicalism arises mainly in those who are most exposed to secular Western way of political thinking and urban living. In unfamiliar surroundings Islam becomes their anchor. For this to work, Islam must be liberated from its traditional, subservient, passive and docile posture in the face of modernity. By wearing a veil, claiming the right to a place to pray at work Muslims identify themselves overtly and say they are more zealous than those who keep their religious observance private. Non-Muslims see wearing a veil as a sign of debasement from Muslim women - but for them it is a sign of affirmation of their identity. Western Muslims have a double cultural identity and can circulate freely in many different areas. There is a shift from a Muslim identity to an Islamist identity - a shift from private to public identification. The question is whether this can be satisfied by headscarves and prayer spaces - or whether it requires more fundamental renunciation of modernity (Gole N 'From a Muslim to an Islamist', Japan Times, 30/9/03)

Indonesia has been increasingly Islamised - which is a significant breach of the past when pre and post colonial rulers took pride in a syncretism that amalgamated religions and cultural differences. There is an increasingly intolerant mindset. Chinese who are a non-Islamic minority dare not display Chinese characters on shops. In August 2002 that People's Consultative Assembly considered proposed constitutional amendments - one of which sought not to democratise or liberalise life but to restore vision of Islamic founding fathers. This view gained some support though it was ultimately rejected. In December 2001, a survey found that 60% responded positively to the view that Islamic Government (ie one based on Quran and the Sunna and led by experts on Islam) would be best. But Indonesia is only one example of trend towards ethno-religious fundamentalism in SE Asia. Islamisation is expanding its influence in Malaysia. A region that had seemed a global example of successful development has been transformed into instability. Given the need to 'drain the swamp' which breeds terrorism it is important to understand Islam. Militant Islam's rise casts doubt on the mainstream analysis of Western modernisation, democratisation and development theory. Before the 1997 AFC, Indonesia had seemed heading for rapid development. Since fall of Soeharto democracy has not prospered but has bred religious fundamentalism. This shakes the foundations of modernisation theory and liberal orthodoxy - that democratisation in the non Western world would lead to social and intellectual pluralism. Some have sought to explain what has happened in terms of Indonesia's economic problems. The real explanation is probably more linked to slow motion collision between modernity and Islamic social character. Radical Islam in Indonesia appeals to educated middle classes. Whenever centralising, secular regimes in Muslim world have experienced rapid growth and social change, they invariably confront fundamentalist challenge. Progressive secularisation does not thrive. One needs to think about this in terms of the sociology of Islam. In 18th century Europe it was seen that the threat of barbarians had declined - because (a) in order to conquer they would have to cease to be barbarians - because civilization had generated a scientific and technological advantage. This analysis has now broken down - there is no impenetrable barrier against Islamist equivalent of barbarians - because they use Western technology against it. Western civil society includes a modularity - a distinctive capacity to combine in effective association with others without any of those associations subsuming or defining the rest. Traditional society was stable but immobile because external constraints fixed people's definitions of their identity - and this was then internalised. Western man could adopt a variety of roles in society - and then define his identify rather than adopting characteristics assigned at birth. There is a vast chasm between modern flexibility and traditional immobility. Islamic societies have become stronger and purer over the past century - they resist secularization. They sidestepped modularity even as they adopted many modern modes of behaviour. This defied the essence of Western modernization theory - and Gelner developed sociology of Islam that describes what is happening. The macro-social realities of 20th century Muslim world involved a massive shift from ignorant folk Islam to literate Islam of the cities. Authority passed from clan elder to clerics in schools or mosques. This creates a path to modernization that is within traditionalism, not outside it. Islamism is most closely identified with salafism. The modern political impulse has reconstructed Islam not in a traditionalist way but as a total ideological system. The Islamist social vision is founded on pre-industrial scriptualism but thrives under conditions of modernity (ie specialization of work and transformation of communications). What is envisaged is a cyber-caliphate. Islamists seek to purify Islam from its backward traditions and turn it into a rule based social order that is beyond temporal power. This seeks globalization of Islam's pre-modern scriptural injunctions that can leap over centralizing post-colonial arrangements into transnational network of the caliphate. This works best in communities that have broken down. Thus in SE Asia and Middle East it is urban male university students who find the strict formalism of fundamentalism to provide simplicity to complement their education in science and technology. Qutb (20th century prophet of Islamism) argued that science can be civilized only through faith. Only the practice of pure Islam could heal the breach between religion and scientific materialism. This ideological ideal is seen as rescuing humanity from the barbarism of a technocratic culture. Qutb suggested that this required a unified umma (community of the faithful) - that is not territorial but reflects boundaries of the doctrine's acceptance. Where it is the majority it rules, where not it struggles. This Islamist reformation directly addresses the predicament of the third World. It offers scriptualism, ascetism, rule orientation and aversion to backward local factors - all of which have affinity with characteristics needed for modernity. Islamism promotes a rule governed, illiberal arrangement in which society is organized by networks, quasi tribes, alliances on the basis of kinship - and generally based on trust rather than on a defined bureaucratic system. In its most extreme form in al Qaeda and other terrorist groups this community is based on mafia activities and terror franchises. Islamism has many paradoxes. It is a networked based social order without a society. It is atomized without individualism. It can operate in many different settings without intellectual or political pluralism. Islamism has no need of modularity and has an asymmetric capacity to turn the West's strengths against it. It can never be found - because it is unlike anything anyone ever tried to find before. If this sociology of political Islam is correct than war against terrorism can not be conceived in conventional geographical terms. Islamism does not arise from the least traditional, most fundamentalist Muslim state Saudi Arabia - but in locations remote from it. Islamism's cells are not in Arab countries. Many are in SE Asia and the West. The Islamist presence in the West promotes profound difficulties for advocates of liberal pluralism. The West can address the problem in failing states - but is trapped by its own tolerance and multiculturalism in dealing with the problem within. Atta planned September 11 in Hamburg Technological University. Al-Qaeda cells are active in Germany, Spain, Italy and France - but mot particularly in the UK. The UK has fought in the war against terror internationally, yet allowed self-styled sheikhs to recruit for al Qaeda from mosques in London. The leading figures in the Saudi funded Islamic Council of Britain envisage a unified Islamic world that includes the Islamic Republic of the UK. They demonstrate in London is ways that they could not in any part of Muslim world. The mixture of posturing and utopianism appeals to Asian-British youth. There is far greater control of radical Islamist action in Muslim states than there is in the west. Liberals believe that minority differences must be tolerated and will result in emergence of universal truth, and that all ideas are equally valuable from a relativist viewpoint. This allows the illiberal minorities to exist at the expense of their cosmopolitan hosts. However tolerance was endorsed not because of corrosive relativism but because of belief that reason would ultimately prevail over fanaticism. This is not however the view that now is the basis of tolerance. However Islamists see promotion of difference as schizophrenia and a sign of weakness. It is crazy to tolerate intolerance at home while pre-empting its foot solders elsewhere. Liberalism, civil society and the 'modular man' are exceptions to the rule. Western values may not have any universal constituency.  (Jones D. 'The Cyber-caliphate', FR, 11/4/03) [see CPDS Comments]

Islam prohibits both suicide and killing innocents. Suicide bombing is rationalized by (a) assuming that victims can not be innocent and (b) labeling the act martyrdom.  (Margalit A 'The suicide bombers', FR, 24-27/1/03)

How could terrorism be justified in Islamic terms when generally Muslims lead peaceful lives and refer to Islam as a religion of peace. Muslim history is marked by two divergent trends each with reference to Koran and hadith (Mohammed's traditions). Main trend involves deference to authority, social order and peaceful co-existence between 'people of the book'. The more radical tendency emphasizes the supremacy of God's will and the obligation of all Muslims to ceaselessly work for the ascendancy of divine sovereignty. This duality has allowed Muslim societies a dynamic quality - but has always presented political rulers with serious challenges to their legitimacy. Al-Qaida's strike against US fits this mould - though it transcends national boundaries and targets what it sees as source of the problem. The US response risks failure if it does not recognize two essential factors: (a) al-Qaida etc have a claim to Islam - but that claim is not exclusive. Most Muslims see such organizations as fanatical, utopian and out of touch with reality. Islam is enmeshed in their national culture and identity and does not present a political alternative. Moderate and cultural manifestations of Islam are targeted by extremists as much as the West. Western leaders state that they are allies of moderate Islam - but do not follow up on this. Over-generalizations about Islam alienate the moderates (b) Islamic radicalism and its obsession with capture of political power and the Islamisation of society is a 20th century phenomenon. The philosophical origins of modern Islamic radicalism go back centuries - and its rise in the middle east corresponds with anti-colonial movements. But globalization, since 1989, has become more of an existential challenge to Muslim societies than colonization ever was (threatening the essence of their cultures, traditions and value systems) This has led to a huge backlash in underdeveloped and some developing societies - with massive political implications. Aspiring, educated and proud Muslim youth are increasingly alienated from globalization - dismissing it as a Western ploy to undermine their identity and heritage. They are disillusioned with their leaders for not putting up a defense against this cultural onslaught. This provides al-Qaida with recruits. War on terror thus needs to address social foundations of al-Qaida and remedy the unequal relationship that has kept Muslim societies on the receiving end, with no input into the agenda and values that govern an increasingly integrated world. Defeating terrorism by military means is pure illusion. It needs a multi-dimensional approach including both Islamic political philosophy and international relations (Akbarzadeh S., 'There is more to Muslim societies than radicalism'. A, 9/9/02)

Terrorism and Islam have been seen as possible culprits since September 11. But the real problem is a terrorist version of Islam. The establishment and many Muslims see terrorism as the enemy - as evil-doers who have no link to Islam. But this makes no sense, and the people involved are fervent Muslims acting on behalf of their religion. Blaming terrorism means ignoring their beliefs - which leaves only guns to protect oneself from harm. The Western Street prefers to see the Islamic religion as the problem - noting that Arabs and Muslims have been enemies of Christians for 1000 years - and inevitably so because this derives from the Koran. Spokesmen for this view tend to be evangelical and conservative (Franklin Graham in US, Paul Johnson - UK). This does not explain Turkey with its secular culture and good relations with the West. Also seeing Islam as the enemy means that conflict must be permanent. However militant Islam derives from Islam - but is different. It appeals to only 10-15% of Muslims. Thus the solution is to weaken militant Islam, and strengthen the moderate version. Moderate Muslims must be key allies (Pipes Daniel (Middle Eastern Forum, Philadelphia), 'Moderate Muslims hold key to victory over terror', A, 1/8/02).

Zaidan D 'The Islamic Fundamentalist View of Life as a Perennial Battle', Middle Eastern Review of International Affairs, Dec 2001)

'From pillar to Post September 11' (Monk P. Financial Review, 23/11/01). Paul Monk is a senior fellow of Australian Thinking Skills Institute - and convenes graduate seminars on security issues in contemporary Asia at Melbourne University.

The 2001 analysis of terrorism for the CIA by Paul Pillar (Terrorism and US Foreign Policy) concluded that there was no international organization amongst Islamic terrorists comparable to that of communism. This now seems a misjudgment. Terrorists core ideology is based on 11th century Order of Assassins and 18th and 19th century Wahhabis of Arabia - with a more recent impetus from radical Islam (al-takfir-wa-al-hijru = Anathema or Excommunication and Exile) and from revolution in Iran and Ayotolah Khemeini. Bolsheviks were described as socialists who intended to do something about it.  Al-takfir-wa-al-hijru is similar. It is of Sunni origin - but joined forces with Shiite radicals in Iran. It is global in range and more ruthless than all but its most dedicated students could imagine. Its modern origin lies in the Muslim Brotherhood - established in 1928. It developed in the Sunni world in the 1950s and 1960s - while Khemeini was developing radical Shiite ideas in exile from Iran. It sees other Muslims as unbelievers. It calls for withdrawal from established Islam and world-wide jihad. Its manifesto is a book called Milestones by Siyyid Qutb. It was the principal in the assignation of Sadat in Egypt. Atta (who led the terrorists on September 11) was a hardcore Takfiri. Qutb believed that Islam has universal validity and that most Muslims are not true Muslims, because their beliefs are not put into action and have fallen into submission to un-Islamic influences. True Muslims should depose such leaders. Orthodox Islam does not permit ex-communication (takfir) - but Qutb insists that true Muslims are radically different from others in that they put their beliefs into action. The human disciplines of philosophy, sociology, psychology and comparative religion are seen as infringements on divine sovereignty and the root of all problems in Islamic societies. The author speculated after September 11 that this was the first of a long planned international war which was organized in Iran in 1996. This view has now gained widespread support - but it is clear that the roots go back to the 1980s. Integration of radical Sunni and Shiite groups was completed by 1992. Confrontation with the US in Somalia in 1993-94 was coordinated from Khatoum - and the American withdrawal seen as victory for the jihad. The CIA could not see this. The problem wasn't just that the specific threat carried out on September 11 wasn't foreseen (about which information was available 7 years ago - but dismissed because the method seemed improbable). Rather that the very nature of the enemy massing against the US and what it stands for) was not understood. Even tough talks against Al Qaeda since September 11 have not identified the nature of the threat. CIA analysts have massive blind spots. Pillar's book suggested that terrorism had to be managed, not solved - and that management was going well. He saw the number of fatalities due to terrorism as declining. He suggested chipping away at the underlying causes, but saw no hope of ending terrorism. He did not examine radical Islam as a cause of terrorism, or see wider activities as being linked. Youssof's plot to hijack aircraft for use a bombs was not taken seriously - and his jailing was seen as evidence of success, and similar scenarios others developed as the products of wild imaginings. He suggested expecting the unexpected - but limited the range of unexpected things that should be considered. The problem lies in the human tendency to see patterns in events - and neglect other possible patterns that may exist. The solution to this does not lie in wild imaginings but in considering the possibility that several overlapping patterns may exist. Yossaf Bodansky made an overwhelming case showing the existence of an Islamist International 2 years earlier - yet Pillar did not even mention this. Pillar wanted to avoid lashing out against terrorism, and to beat it by out-thinking it. This was a valid approach, and one that is even more necessary now that the existence of a very serious enemy has become obvious. The enemy believes that the whole of the West and all of its allies in the Islamic world are 'jahilya' and must be destroyed. Azzam Tamini of the Institute of Islamic Political Thought says that the core belief is that there is no common ground with the other. Thus the aim must be to rally all such others and deny the Tekfirs any ground to stand on.  This will take time and effort.

'Fundamental Errors' (Sheikh Abdul Hadi Palazzi, Courier Mail,  10/10/01)

Radical Islamists have perverted the traditions of Islam. Though many observers believe that moderate Sunni Muslims are the ones whose faith is mitigated, influenced by syncretism or diluted by secularization and Westernization, the reverse is the case. This cited numerous details regarding Islamic traditions, such as:

  • traditionally a ruler has the right to appoint competent Islamic scholars - but Islamists recognize no authority beyond their own leader;
  • traditionally the authority of a scholar depends on possessing documents signed by his predecessor, where Islamists appoint people without any theological or legal education into positions of Islamic authority;
  • Sunni's do not see Islam as an organization dependent on central leadership, where Islamists see their leading militants as leaders of Islam;
  • Islamists subordinate religion to politics (the reverse of the traditional approach). They are like the fundamentalists of other religions (not in that are more genuine) but that they have introduced totalitarianism - copied from fascism and communism. Muslims agree that being involved in politics is part of Islam, but not that there is a distinctive Islamic political system;
  • Islamists draw on modern European ideas about a scientific revolution, an elitist scheme of rule of society by secret cults and the manufacture of consensus by propaganda;
  • Islamists see themselves a custodians of projects for Islamisation of the world - and anyone who objects (even Muslims) are labeled 'Islamophobes'. Their political approach is supremacist;
  • Islamism is blindly utopian. It implies a wholesale denial of history. The ideal society is based on a idealized version of 7th century Arabia. Modern concepts of pluralism and tolerance are rejected. And it ignores Islam's long history of adaptation to the times;
  • the Koran uses many titles for Muhammad - but none imply that he was the leader of a state. But for Islamists building a state is the central goal of the prophetic mission. They hold that the spread of Islam can not be achieved without creation of Islamic states. They describe Islam as both religion and government - though the latter is mentioned no-where in any authoritative Islamic source.
  • traditionally Jihad has many non-military aspects - including an inner struggle to purify the soul; and is not limited to military means. It implies striving towards a worthy goal. Jihad for a woman might be a journey - or taking care of old parents. Military jihad is traditionally governed by many rules - which prevent it being used to expand Islam, and only used to protect those being persecuted for their religion and of houses of God (including non Muslim churches etc). The principle was one of religious freedom. The meaning of self defense is narrow. War must be pursued by military forces against other military forces. Terrorism is not permitted.  One must stop fighting if an opponent wishes to discus peace. Islamist jihad: involves aggressive guerilla warfare; rejects anything but total victory; and total defeat of enemies (whether non-Muslims or non-Islamist Muslims). It includes terrorism and suicide operations - despite the clear Islamic prohibition of suicide.

Modern Islamism can be traced to the Wahhabi movement in the early 18th century (see Wahhabi and Saudi Arabia). It was a puritanical uprising based on re-interpreting Koranic Law without the support of expertise embodied in the Koran and the Haidiths known as the Sunna. Wahhabis claim to support the Sunna but re-interpret this to suit their own ideology. The American Islamic Association described the purpose of Islamism as rejecting traditional scholarship and practices under the guise of protecting the true tenets of Islam and the concept of monotheism. Abd al-Wahhab encouraged a new interpretation of Islamic law - and for his followers to apply it in the light of their own understanding irrespective of their level of juridical expertise. Whoever disagreed with this revolutionary approach he considered apostates; disbelievers or idolaters of Islam - and thus someone who could be kill, whose women raped and whose wealth confiscated. 

As the Ottoman Empire was broken up at the end of World War I, the Wahabbis captured Mecca and Medina (and transformed them from a Sunni heritage to places of a primitive and literalist Muslim cult) and also set up the Saudi state.  Expansionist Wahhabism (like other totalitarian ideologies) seeks not just to control the whole Muslim world (by replacing Sunni Islam with the Salafi school) but to expand beyond it. 

Since the 1950s the Muslim Brethren, an organization founded in Egypt in 1929, has been the main instrument for propagating Wahhabi influence internationally. When Nasser came to power in the mid 1950s, the Saudis needed support against his secular revolutionary policies - and so financed the Brethren. Governments in some Muslim countries know that human rights, democracy and gender equality represent the end of their power - and so support Islamism. They work against peace between Israel and its neighbors - because a pacified Middle East could create serious problems for autocratic and feudal systems.  The Palestinian Hamas is one of the important Muslim Brethren controlled organizations in the middle east.  Local branches of the radical Muslim organizations that promote terrorism in the Middle East are taking root in Western countries. They represent not more than 10% of the total Muslim populations but they control the main Muslim organizations and most of the mosques. This is a worldwide organized network - using acronyms but always ensuring radicals are in control behind the scenes. They claim to represent all Muslims and get respectful receptions from non-Muslims who know no better.   

While traditional Islam is multifaceted and spontaneous, Islamism is funded by a network of agents funded by the Saudi's and other Gulf governments (ie by countries that are regarded as most friendly towards the West).  Muslim Bretheren are often appointed as imams of important mosques in democratic countries where there is no ministry of religious affairs to check their orientation. 

The West is both loved and feared by Islamists. they can not defeat it militarily - so they hope to influence it from within. So the work is divided between militants (who launch attacks) and moderates (who are guests at the White House). The danger could arise when the radicals become the official representatives of Islam. The Islamic Supreme Council of the US warned the State Department  that that there were dangerous things going on in the mosques which others did not understand. They have gained self appointed leaders with extremist ideologies that makes them very active. Over 80% of mosques have been affected, and the extremist ideology has been spread to the next generation. The Council for American Islamic Relations (with Hamas connections) is a Muslim brethren Organization - which significantly influences what journalists in the US are allowed to write.  The American Muslim Council is another - and it has exclusive control of training Muslim chaplains for the US army.  non-Islamicist organizations in the US are more or less ignored by the US government.

In the former Soviet republics traditional Muslims are beginning to organize to resist the Wahhabi infiltration that threatens to change the nature of their societies. For the West to counter its influence, the best way is to begin dialogue with traditional Muslims who also see radicalism as a disease.

The Chancellor of the University of Religious Sciences (Haqqania) benefits politically in Pakistan from his links to bin Laden and the Taliban government of Afghanistan - who are seen as heroes for standing up to US aggression against the Islamic world. In 1994 the Taliban emerged from Haqqania (and similar institutions for the study of the foundations of Islam). These institutions urged students to fight the Soviets in the 1980s, and then to seize control from the warlords in the 1990s. These universities have enormous influence in Pakistan - and the Chancellor of Haqqania pushed through Islamic Law while a member of parliament.   They believe the Taliban is implementing the true shape of Islam. Many scholars disagree - arguing that the Taliban have been better soldiers than scholars. Haqqania is located in a lawless border region ruled by tribal chiefs and smugglers. Students come from many countries - though most are Afghans. Although it confers degrees, nothing it teaches comes from the modern era. It teaches Islamic sciences (including jurisprudence, saying of Muhammad, and the Arabic language - needed for understanding the Koran). Visiting Haqqania is like being transported to a medieval era. Students believe that the US is against them purely because they are Muslims. Such universities became insular to protect themselves from the threat of colonisation - and the gap widened. (del Castillo D 'Alma Martyr',  Australian,  26/9/01)

Measures taken since the 1993 attack on the World trade centre (long prison terms) did not deter further terrorism. Bin Laden (and tens of thousands of fighters originally from Saudi Arabia, the Gulf, Egypt, Algeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan) are being blamed. Several different responses are needed (a) against training camps and intelligence operations of bin Laden - with care not to harm Afghan hostages (b) crack down on main sources of Islamic terrorism - namely Islamic schools in Pakistan that support bin Laden; and identifying / isolating bin Laden's followers world-wide. Finally it is necessary (but no one has yet mentioned)  to find the real source of the growing destructiveness of terrorism is - the source of the ideology and the finance. The ideology comes from Saudi Arabia (not connected with the government). Traditional clerics have isolated themselves from the rest of the Islamic world and claim sole authority to interpret Islam - and have a very simplistic view. They have influenced some in Islamic societies in Egypt, Algeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The finance comes from within Saudi Arabia. The extremist ideology is not shared by the majority of Muslims - but is attractive where poverty makes people desperate (eg Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq). The danger is that no one can afford to offend Saudi authorities - who control 60% of world's oil. Punishing the terrorists will not be enough to break the back of the problem (Esmaelli H 'Punishing bin Laden won't stop extremists',  Australian,  17/9/01) [see also Wahabbi and Saudi Arabia]

Wahhabi / Saudi Arabia

Wahhabi / Saudi Arabia

The Saudi Royal family gave $560m to bin Laden and the Taliban for an agreement not to attack targets in Saudi Arabia (Fielding N 'Saudi royals gave $560 to bin Laden',  A,  26/8/02)

Many are now questioning the ability of the US to fight a war on two fronts - Afghanistan and Iraq. But Muslim extremists are fighting against many different enemies - against Jews in Israel; against Hindus in India; against mainly Christians in the US attacks; and against others again in the Sudan and the Philippines. While not all Muslims are terrorists, the idea that the forces at work in so many different places are a tiny unrepresentative extremist fringe must be wrong. In Saudi Arabia high school students are required to memorize a Ministry of Education textbook which is full of violent interpretations of Islamic scripture. Furthermore Saudi citizens were mainly involved in the September 11 attacks, and the Saudi Government funds the madrassahs in Pakistan which have been breeding a branch office of Saudi Wahabbism  [[ie of the Taliban]]. The House of Saud is directly or indirectly responsible for the events of September 11 (Steyn M. 'Know the enemy',  Courier Mail,  14/3/02)

Intelligence intercepts from Saudi Arabia indicate growing corruption in the Saudi royal family which is increasingly out of touch with the country's religious rank-and-file. They have been paying protection money to the fundamentalist groups that wish to overthrow them (eg to Al Queda) (Hersh S 'Kings ransom exposes a right royal mess', Financial review, 16/11/01)

Relationships between Saudi Arabia and the US have deteriorated since September 11. 15 of the 19 terrorists were Saudis - which has upset the US, while many in Saudi Arabia seem secretly happy about what happened (Reed S. 'A not so enchanted kingdom', Financial Review, 24-5/11/01)

Can Saudi Arabia master the contradictions at the heart of modern Islam? Saud royal family formed an alliance with the fundamentalist Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab in 1744. Since then stability (as in all Arab regimes) requires inspiring and manipulating religious fervour. But when religious fundamentals threaten, Sauds use foreign aid to destroy them. Bin Laden has declared the Saud family religious apostates and US stooges. Many September 11 terrorists in America were Saudis (though some may have involved stolen identities). Can Saudi Arabia cope? It has been a source of stability for 100 years - but now? Saudis state (set up in 1902) has two gifts of heaven, Namely: Islam (involving Koran and strict Wahhabian interpretation but also Mecca and Medina (the birth and burial places of Muhammad); and oil (with 960bn barrels proven reserves). This has been turned into a curse. Palestinian leaders have seen the road to Jerusalem leading through Saudi Arabia (because of its oil). Thus the Saudis turned to the West for support. Saudi Arabia combines technical modernity with medieval morality. Wealth has permitted education - but created no jobs. Involvement in the war in Afghanistan was exhilarating for some. The Saud regime is weak - yet without it the situation for the West could be far more difficult. A takeover would result in democracy being replaced by ruling clerics - as the population is far more conservative than the currently ruling elites (Buchan J. 'The house of Saud falls on hard times', Financial Review, 2/11/01)

The Saudi royal family is shuddering. The fundamentalist groups which it has supported with protection money are intent on overthrowing it. The family is divided. The US will not confront this problem, and the threat it poses to oil supplies. Since the 18th century the Saudi royal family has fallen twice due to infighting - so this is carefully avoided. There is little chance that a religious faction overthrowing it - though Osama bin Laden has been seen to wish strict sharia law to be introduced - which he believes that the royal family has not supported. The real danger would be a groundswell of frustration and religious fervour amongst the ordinary populous. Oil income has fallen - and living standards are declining. The pervasive role of the mutawwa religious authorities have meant that 2/3 of Saudi PhDs are in religious studies - for which there are few professional jobs. Unemployment is high (37% for males and 95% for women). The monarchy has lost touch with a radicalized generation - fed with new ideas from satellite TV and from Palestine and Iraq. Censorship and double standards are major problems. The royal family, which is seen as Western and fundamentalist in upholding strict Islamic laws, can not manage this tumult (Wavell S. 'House built on sand', Weekend Australian, 27-8/10/01)

The roots of terrorism lie in Saudi Arabia and in the UK / US decision to support the Saudi royal family to gain access to oil (Hilsum L. 'With friends like the Saudis', New Statesman, 22/10/01)

See also Radical Islamism and Traditional Islam; Energy

Islamic Science Islamic Science

George Sarton's Tribute to Muslim Scientists in the "Introduction to the History of Science," says "It will suffice here to evoke a few glorious names without contemporary equivalents in the West: Jabir ibn Haiyan, al-Kindi, al-Khwarizmi, al-Fargani, al-Razi, Thabit ibn Qurra, al-Battani, Hunain ibn Ishaq, al-Farabi, Ibrahim ibn Sinan, al-Masudi, al-Tabari, Abul Wafa, 'Ali ibn Abbas, Abul Qasim, Ibn al-Jazzar, al-Biruni, Ibn Sina, Ibn Yunus, al-Kashi, Ibn al-Haitham, 'Ali Ibn 'Isa al-Ghazali, al-zarqab, Omar Khayyam. .... If anyone tells you that the Middle Ages were scientifically sterile, just quote these men to him, all of whom flourished within a short period, 750 to 1100 A.D.". The Prophet Mohammad died in 632 after uniting the tribes of Arabia into a homogenous and powerful nation. Persia, Asia Minor, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, the whole North Africa, Gibraltar and Spain had submitted to the Islamic State, and a new civilization was established. The Arabs assimilated the culture and knowledge of the peoples they ruled, while the latter in turn adopted the Arabic language. The nationality of the Muslim thus became submerged, and the term Arab acquired a linguistic sense rather than an ethnological one. Once the Islamic state was established, the Arabs encouraged learning of all kinds. Scholars were invited to Damascus and Baghdad without distinction of nationality or creed. Greek manuscripts were studied in large numbers. The old learning was infused with a new vigor, and the intellectual freedom of men of the desert stimulated the search for knowledge and science. Muslims were eager seekers for knowledge, and Baghdad was the intellectual center of the world. The school of Baghdad was characterized by a new scientific spirit (proceeding from the known to the unknown; taking precise account of phenomena; accepting nothing as true which was not confirmed by experience, or established by experiment, were fundamental principles). (Ead H., 'History of Islamic Science' - based on Sarton G., Introduction to the History of Science).

It is widely assumed that most progress in science has been made in the West - whereas many discoveries attributed to the west had been made earlier in the Muslim world ('Setting the Record Straight: The Miracle of Islamic Science' from  Appendix B of 'The Miracle of Islamic Science' by Dr. K. Ajram, 1992)

An account of references in the Qur'an to issues addressed by science (Zahoor A. and Haq Z., 'Qur'an and Scientific Knowledge and a Brief Background to the Holy Qur'an', 1996)

Islam is a religion based upon knowledge for it is ultimately knowledge of the Oneness of God combined with faith and total commitment to Him that saves man. The Quran has many verses that invite to use of intellect, to ponder, to think and to know, for the goal of human life is to discover the Truth which is none other than worshipping God in His Oneness. The Hadith literature is also full of references to the importance of knowledge. Such Hadith sayings of the Prophet as "Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave", and "Verily the men of knowledge are the inheritors of the prophets", incited Muslims to seek knowledge wherever it might be found. The history of Islamic civilization has witnessed a celebration of knowledge. All traditional Islamic cities possessed public and private libraries and also bookstores. The scholar has always been held in the highest esteem in Islamic society. (Islam, Knowledge, and Science)

The history of science is often seen as progressive. This sees current concept of science as valid, and judges other civilizations in that light. But Islamic science needs to be evaluated from Islamic point of view. To the Muslim, history is a series of accidents do not change the nontemporal principles of Islam. He wants to know and "realize" these principles rather than cultivate originality and change. The symbol of Islamic civilization is not a flowing river, but the cube of the Kaaba, the stability of which symbolizes the permanent and immutable character of Islam. Once Islamic revelation had created Islamic civilization, interest turned from change and "adaptation." The arts and sciences gained a stability and a "crystallization" based on immutability of the principles from which they came. This stability is seen in West as stagnation / sterility. Islamic arts and sciences are based on the idea of unity (the heart of the Muslim revelation). All Islamic sciences reveal the unity of Nature. Their aim is to show the unity and interrelatedness of all that exists, so that, in contemplating the unity of the cosmos, man may be led to the unity of the Divine Principle, of which the unity of Nature is the image. To understand Islamic sciences requires an understanding of some principles of Islam itself (even though this will be hard for those used to other ways of thinking). Islamic civilization is based upon a point of view: the revelation brought by the Prophet is the "pure" and simple religion of Adam and Abraham, the restoration of a primordial and fundamental unity. "Islam" means both "submission" and "peace" or "being at one with the Divine Will." The creed "there is no divinity other than God and Muhammad is his prophet" summarizes in its simplicity the attitude and spirit of Islam. The essence of Islam is that God is one, and that the Prophet, who is the vehicle of revelation and the symbol of all creation, was sent by him. This simplicity implies a type of religious structure different  from Christianity. There is no priesthood. Each Muslim is a "priest" - and this role is not diminished by role of the imam. The orthodoxy based on this is intangible, and not closely bound to dogmatic theology as in Christianity. While there has been sectional fanaticism and even persecution the larger orthodoxy, based on the doctrine of unity, has prevailed and all that is not contradictory to the Muslim creed has been absorbed. In its universal sense, Islam has three levels of meaning. All beings in the universe, to begin with, are Muslim, i.e., "surrendered to the Divine Will." (A flower cannot help being a flower - God made them so; they must obey) Secondly, all who accept the sacred law of the revelation are Muslim in that they surrender their will to that law. Finally, there is the level of pure knowledge and understanding (the contemplative / gnostic ('arif) level that has been recognized in Islamic history as the highest and most comprehensive). The gnostic is Muslim in that his whole being is surrendered to God; he has no separate individual existence. He is like the birds and the flowers in yielding to the Creator; he reflects the Divine Intellect (though actively and consciously). Thus "knowledge" and "science" are different from curiosity and analytical speculation. The gnostic is "one with Nature"; he understands it "from the inside,". The intellective function may be hard for Westerners to grasp. Most of the great scientists and mathematicians of Islam operated in this matrix. It is close to the contemplative strain of the Christian Middle Ages and to the German school of Naturphilosophie and the Romantics, who strove for "communion" with Nature). The analytical functions of the mind are different from the contemplative. The attitude analysis implies toward Nature was deplored in early 19th century by Goethe was as N attitude that resolves, conquers, and dominates by force of concepts. It is essentially abstract, while contemplative knowledge is at bottom concrete. The gnostic's relation to Nature is "intellective," (which is neither abstract, nor analytical, nor sentimental). Nature is a fabric of symbols, which must be read according to their meaning. The Quran is the counterpart of that text; its verses are ayat ("signs"), just as are the phenomena of Nature. Both Nature and the Quran speak forth the presence and the woks of God. To the doctors of Law Nature is present in their minds only as the setting for men's actions. To the gnostic or Sufi, the Quranic text is symbolic, just as Nature is symbolic. If the symbolic interpretation of the Sacred Book disappeared, and the text had only its literal meaning, man might still know his duty, but the "cosmic text" would become unintelligible. Nature would lose connection with the higher orders of reality - and become mere "facts." The intellective capacity (and Islamic culture) will not accept this. Islam emphasizes the unity of Nature. The idea of unity dominates the expression of Islamic arts. No individual object can be portrayed as it would be a "graven image,". Unity alone deserves representation - but this is only possible symbolically / by hints. A central issues is whether our minds can grasp the individual object by itself? or only in the context of the universe? Is the universe the unity, and the individual event or object an ambiguous sign. Or is it the other way around? These alternatives go back to the time of Plato. The Muslim accepts the first -- giving priority to the universe as the concrete reality, which symbolizes the Divine Principle. This was inherited from older traditions - to which Islam brought a strong unitary point of view that, along with a dedication to the Divine Will, enabled Islam to rekindle the flame of science that had been extinguished at Athens and in Alexandria. The sacred art of Islam is abstract (combining flexibility of line with emphasis on the archetype, and uses regular geometrical figures interlaced with one another). This is why mathematics makes a strong appeal to the Muslim - its abstract nature gives the bridge between multiplicity and unity. It provided a texture of symbols for the universe -- like keys to open the cosmic text. Muslims practices two types of maths: algebra (related geometry and trigonometry) and science of numbers (in Pythagorean sense). The Pythagorean number has a symbolic as well as a quantitative aspect; it is a projection of Unity, which, , never leaves its source. Each number has a power of analysis due to its quantitative nature; but it has also the power of synthesis because of the bond that connects all numbers to the unit. It connects the quantitative with the qualitative domain by virtue of its inner polarization. To study numbers thus means to contemplate them as symbols and to be led to the intelligible world. This is true of other branches of mathematics - even where the symbolic aspect is not explicit. Gnosis in the Alexandrian world used mythology for its symbols. In Islam, the intellective symbolism becomes mathematical. The instrument of gnosis is always the intellect.Thus Muslim metaphysicians say that rational knowledge leads to affirmation of the Divine Unity. Although spiritual realities are not merely rational, neither are they irrational. Reason can bring man to the gateway of the intelligible world. Rational knowledge can be integrated into gnosis (even though it is partial while gnosis is total and intuitive). It is because of this relationship of subordination between reason and intellect, rational knowledge and gnosis, that the quest for causal explanation in Islam rarely sought to, and never managed to, satisfy itself outside the faith, as was to happen in Christianity at the end of the Middle Ages. This hierarchy is based on the belief that scientia (human knowledge) is legitimate / noble only if subordinated to sapientia (Divine wisdom). Muslim sages would agree with Saint Bonaventure's "Believe, in order to understand." They also insist that scientia can truly exist only in conjunction with sapientia, and that reason is noble only if it leads to intellection, rather than when it seeks to establish its independence, or tries to encompass the Infinite in a finite system. In Islamic history some rationalist groups did try to establish their independence of the gnostics - but they were always defeated by the spiritual forces of Islam.The treatises of al-Ghazzali, in the fifth/eleventh century, against rationalistic philosophers mark the final triumph of intellection over independent ratiocination a triumph that did not utterly destroy rationalistic philosophy, but did make it subordinate to gnosis. As a result of this the Islamic gnostic tradition has survived and remained vital to the present present day, instead of being stifled in a rationalistic atmosphere. The reaction against the rationalists coincides with the spread of Aristotelianism in the West (which led ultimately to the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Counter-Reformation such as never occurred in the Islamic world). These led to new types of philosophy and science that are as profoundly different from their medieval antecedents as is the mental and spiritual horizon of modern man from that of traditional man. Europe began to develop a science of Nature that concerns itself only with the quantitative and material aspects of things, while Islamic thought moved back to its traditional bed - the conceptual coherence of mathematics. The traditional Muslim looks upon all of science as "sacred," and studies this three ways. First, within the reach of all, is the Law, contained in essence in the Quran, elucidated by tradition and jurisprudence, and taught by the doctors; it covers every aspect of the social and religious life of the believer. Beyond that lies the Path dealing with the inner aspect of things, which governs the spiritual life of those who have been "elected" to follow it - various Sufi brotherhoods. Finally, there is the ineffable Truth itself. The Law is like the circumference of a circle, the Path is the radius, and the Truth the center. The Path and the Truth together form the esoteric aspect of Islam, to which Sufism is dedicated. At its core lies a metaphysical intuition, knowledge that comes only to the right "mode in the knower." - a science of the universe; of the soul, and of mathematics (all of which are settings for that one science that the mind strives after). This explains why mathematicians played a central role in Islam from the start. Then philosophy reached out into the mysteries beyond reason. The men who embody the theoretical outlook of Islam have remained unchanging (unlike situation in West). He is the haklm, (sage; scholar, medical healer, spiritual guide - and perhaps a wise merchant too). They are seldom specialists (as adoption of one mode of knowing would forfeit higher knowledge). Thus intellectual achievement is always patterned upon the model of the unattainable complete, that "total thing" that is not found in the Greek tradition. Avicenna's treatise (The Book of Healing) implies the work contains the knowledge needed to cure the soul of the disease of ignorance. Newton's Principia by contrast implies a foundation / "beginning" rather than a knowledge that is and sufficient for man's intellectual needs as the titles of medieval Islamic texts imply. Islam started in 622 A.D - and when it spread it contacted and absorbed many sciences. The confidence that it was expressing the Truth at the heart of all revelations, permitted Islam to absorb ideas - especially the science of nature most of the ancient cosmological sciences -- Greek, Chaldean, Persian, Indian, and Chinese -- had sought to express the unity of Nature and were in conformity with the spirit of Islam. Muslims united these sciences into a new corpus - and integrated it with the basic structure derived from the Revelation itself. The most important source of those sciences was the heritage of Greek civilization. Muslims distinguished two schools: the Hermetic-Pythagorean school, was metaphysical in its approach, its sciences of Nature depending upon the symbolic interpretation of phenomena and of mathematics; and the syllogistic-rationalistic school of Aristotle whose point of view was philosophical rather than metaphysical, and whose sciences were therefore aimed at finding the place of things in a rational system, rather than at seeing, through their appearances, their heavenly essences. The first school was regarded as a Greek continuation of the wisdom of the ancient prophets (eg Solomon and Idris), and was considered to be based on divine rather than human knowledge The second school seen reflecting the best the human mind could make to arrive at the truth, an effort limited by the finite nature of human reason. The first school became part of Islam, with its cosmological sciences integrated into parts of Sufism. The second school had some early disciples, but lost ground and remained a secondary aspect of Islamic intellectual life. The hierarchy in Islam are as presented by  'Umar Khayyam (a mathematician and poet).  He divides seekers after knowledge into: (1) theologians, who become content with disputation .and "satisfying" proofs, and consider this much knowledge of the Creator as sufficient. (2) philosophers who use rational arguments and seek to know the laws of logic, and are never content merely with "satisfying" arguments. But they cannot remain faithful to the conditions of logic, and become helpless with it. (3) Ismailis [a branch of Shia Islam] who say that the way of knowledge is receiving information from a learned and credible informant; for, in reasoning about  the Creator, there is much difficulty. Thus it is better to seek knowledge from a sincere person. (4) Sufis, who do not seek knowledge by meditation or discursive thinking, but by purgation of their inner being and purifying their dispositions. They cleanse the rational soul of the impurities of nature and bodily form, until it becomes pure substance. It then comes face to face with the spiritual world, so that the forms of that world are reflected in it. This is the best as none of the perfections of God are kept away from it, and there are no obstacles (due to the impurity of human nature) put before it. Mathematics is not mentioned in any of these modes of knowing (though it is contained in them). This is significant contrast with the Greek world - because its Pythagorean doctrines (which Islam restored) had become almost extinct by the time of Aristotle. So the West gained more from Islam than from antiquity directly. The "atomistic" school of thought (of Ash'arties) which flourished in Islam after the fourth/tenth century (which the West might see as scientific), Khayyam regarded as not science, but theology. They saw "the continuity of external forms  broken by an "atomistic" doctrine of time and space, and by the denial of the Aristotelian notion of causality. For Ash'arites (as for Sufis), the world is annihilated and recreated at every moment; the cause of all events is the Creator and not a finite, created agent. A stone falls because God makes it fall, not because of the nature of the stone or because it is impelled by an external force. What appears as "Laws of Nature," is only a matter of habit, determined by the will of God and made "law" by Him. Miracles, which break the apparent uniformity of natural phenomena, are simply going against the "habit" of Nature; the Arabic word for a supernatural event means that which results from "rupture of habit." This is a strict "consequentiality," which has its parallel in Western thought of the seventeenth century (from Descartes to the Occasionalists). In Khayyam's second group (philosophers) are the famous names of Islamic science. There is a sharp distinction, however, between two schools (noth of which profess to be disciples of the Greeks). Peripatetic school doctrines combine ideas of Aristotle and of some Neoplatonists.  Its science of Nature is syllogistic: it seeks to find the place of each being, in a system based upon the philosophy of Aristotle (eg The Book of Healing). The Illuminatist (ishraqi) school followed Pythagorean-Platonic - and asserts that its doctrines also come from ancient Prophets, the Hermetic Tradition, and ancient Zoroastrian sages. Its sciences of Nature and mathematics are primarily symbolic. Nature is a cosmic crypt from whose confines they must seek to escape and on in doing so they read signs guiding towards final "illumination." Many have also been Sufis. The Ismailis (in Khayyam's third group) are a branch of Shia Islam - whose doctrines are esoteric, based on numerical symbolism and the symbolic interpretation of the "cosmic text." The symbolic interpretation of the Quran, which is basic in Shia Islam and in Sufism, became the basis for the symbolic study of Nature. Alchemy and astrology became integrated into their doctrines. They were  interested in the sciences of Nature; in integrating the rhythms and cycles of Nature with the cycles of history and with the manifestations of various prophets and imams, their works rank among the most important Islamic writings on Nature. Khayyam fourth group was the Sufis or gnostics (his own group). One cleanses and focuses the instrument of perception (the soul), to see the realities of the spiritual world.  Khayyam's view becomes clearer in the light of a doctrine of the universal man, who is the final goal of spiritual life, and the archetype of the universe. If the gnostic can purify himself of his individualistic nature, and thus identify with the universal man within him, he also gains knowledge of the principles of the cosmos, as well as of Divine realities. Knowledge of Nature is secondary to knowledge of the Divine Principle; yet, because of the rapport between the gnostic and the universe, Nature plays a role in guiding him to his ultimate goal. The phenomena of Nature become "transparent", so that in each event the gnostic "sees" the archetype. The symbols of substances -- geometric forms and numerical quantities, colors, and directions --  are aspects of the being of things. They increase in reality -- a reality independent of personal taste or of the individual -- to the extent that the gnostic divorces himself from his individual perspective and limited existence, and identifies with Being. For the gnostic, the knowledge of anything in the universe means knowledge of the relationship between the essence of that particular being and the Divine Intellect, and the knowledge of the ontological relationship between that being and Being itself. There have been conflicts between these various schools, but the problem is viewed not as one between incompatible orthodoxies but of the lack of a sufficiently universal point of view. Only the gnostic, who sees things "as they really are," is able to integrate all these views into their principal unity. There schools posses a certain "philosophy of Nature" and cultivate the sciences dealing with the universe - and their writings have influenced the West. The above attempts to dispel the common conception of the Muslims as Puritan warriors and merchants, whose strange bent for the "subtleties" of algebra and logic somehow also enabled them to become the transmitters of Greek learning to the West. It is a culture whose spiritual values are inextricably tied up with mathematics and with metaphysics of a high order, and which once again fused the constituent elements of Greek science into a powerful unitary conception. The elements of the Islamic sciences, most responsible for providing the tools with which the West began the study of the already secularized Nature of the seventeenth century, had become secondary in the Islamic world. The Western world has since concentrated on the study of the quantitative aspects of things, thus developing a science of Nature, whose fruits in the physical domain have won for it the esteem of people everywhere. "Science" is identified with technology and its applications. Islamic science, by contrast, seeks to attain knowledge to contribute toward spiritual perfection and deliverance. Its fruits are inward, its values more difficult to discern. To understand it requires accepting as legitimate a science which has a different end, and uses different means. If it is unjust to identify Western science solely with its material results, it is even more unjust to judge medieval science by its "usefulness" alone. It may have been useful in calendarial work, irrigation, architecture, but its ultimate aim has been to relate the corporeal world to its basic spiritual principle, through the knowledge of those symbols which unite the various orders of reality. (Nasr S. Science and Civilization in Islam, 1968).


Reform in Islamic Societies

Some key characteristics of contemporary Islamic conscientiousness - Salafism - are an intense belief in the self-sufficiency of Islamic texts; literalist interpretations; a supremacist and arrogant mindset; pervasive misogynist attitudes; and hostility towards the indeterminacy of the modern world. Salafism is a product of history, and compensates for feelings of alienation and powerlessness arising from economic, social, military and technological backwardness (Hassan R, 'Cracks appear in the monolith', A, 1-2/3/08).

Pakistan and Indonesian presidents are to host a conference of Islamic scholars with a view to bringing peace to the middle East (Fitzpatrick S 'Leaders promise Muslim summit', A, 1/02/07).

Abdullah Saeed will head new centre of excellence in Islamic studies to serve as counter to extremism. Despite controversial statements by some Muslim clerics, Muslim academics have remained silent. Bashir Goth (a Muslim journalist) argues that Muslims may have many virtues, but lack the West's self criticism. Another Muslim academic argued that Arab culture promotes severe deference to authority and discourages initiative. Conformity with group norms is promotes over innovation and independent thinking. It also promotes fierce loyalty to group - which shields others from shame and reinforces conformity. Under such circumstances clerics may know little of Australian society and thus cause offense. There are many questions that need attention: why Muslims are under-represented in public life; why do authoritarian government persist in Arab world; why are liberal elements on the defensive in much of Muslim world. There is great variation within Arab-Muslim community. Some are arabic but not Muslim. Arab identity is seen by some as resting on islam - but this is not so. There is a need for self-criticism amongst Muslim academics in Australia (Ata Abe 'Muslim academics must speak up', A, 24/1/07).

Ameer Ali has done Australia a favour by opening debate on the correct interpretation of Islam in the modern world. He has been been predictably criticised by Muslim leaders - but the fact that the reaction was in terms of rational debate rather than mindless violence that occurs elsewhere says a great deal about Australia's Muslim community ('Brave stand on Muslim honesty', editorial, A, 5/10/06).

Ameer Ali has attacked Muslims who blindly follow their faith and fail to question veracity of Koran. Islamists will continue to breed jihadis until Koran is reinterpreted for today. Mosques are used increasingly by imams to deliver sermons that could not be questioned. Most Muslim clerics have impose literalist interpretations of Islam - but times are changing. Koran speaks of being kind to slaves, so some believe they should have slaves. Ali is writing 'Closing of the Muslim Mind'. French philosopher, Robert Redeker, has been forced into hiding for describing Mohammed as a ruthless warlord and mass murderer.. Ali criticised Muslim community for playing victim, when its communities reacted violently against criticism. Ali wanted Hezbollah removed from list of terror organisations as they were freedom fighters defending against Israeli invasion. (Kerbaj R 'prophet not perfect, says Islamic scholar', A, 4/10/06).

The core of the Muslim problem for the world is the essence of Islam. This is a culture that has failed for 500 years because of its inward looking theocracy - and this sense of failure motivates the most extremist Muslim teachers. Islam is fiercely exclusivist rather than inclusivist; holds that church and state are inseparable; that women are inferior; and that extreme violence is justified in Islamic causes. Until this changes, and it can only be changed internally (if at all) Islamic culture will never reside in harmony with others (Stone J 'Why are Muslims not integrating into Western societies', A, 30/6/06).

Wafa Sutan delivered a provocative critique of Muslims on al Jazerra - in relation to: backwardness; shunning knowledge and embracing terrorism. Islamic clerics are to blame for encouraging others to reject progress and resort to violence. There is no clash of civilizations but rather between a mentality from Middle Ages and 21st century. Self-criticism in the Muslim world is rare. There is evidence that Islamic fundamentalists want to change western culture to suit their own - eg impose sharia law in parts of Britain dominated by Muslims; intimidate or kill those who criticize Islam (Albrechtsen J 'Hope in heretical voices', A, 22/3/06).

Governments should deal with extremists where they exist. But adverse remarks about Muslims generally are inappropriate. Malaysia established a development strategy which linked East Asian dynamism with traditional virtues of Islam. This shows that there is nothing in Islam that is inconsistent with political moderation, social tolerance and economic development. PM noted in referring to Muslims that were hostile to West that he was referring to only a small minority. Indonesia also is a nation in which Muslims have chosen moderation. (Sheridan G 'Danger that idle rhetoric demonizes Islam', A, 25-26/2/06).

Mohammad brought one religion, yet now there are a thousand religions that claim to be Islam. Divided by different interpretations, Muslims do not play the role they once did. Shias and Sunnis condemn each other, and each has many divisions. Ulamas (religious instructors) say that their teachings should not be questioned. Islam is a faith in which logic and reason play no part. According to the Koran a Muslim is anyone who bears witness to the fact that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad his messenger. The isolation of Islam from rest of the modern world is a problem. Many things learned from science seem to contradict Koran - because religious leaders study only religion. Their fatwas (legal rulings) seem unreasonable to those with scientific knowledge. This failure is largely responsible for sad plight of Muslims, and is quite different to the past. Koran's injunction is to read - but it does not say what to read. Early Muslims read everything available - which led to a flowering of science and mathematics. But around 15th century those learned in Islam started to curb scientific study - and stressed study of religion alone - especially jurisprudence as means to gain extra benefits in after-life. As Muslims regressed intellectually, the west advanced. Many condemn the founder of modern Turkey because he tried to modernize Islam - but by doing so he saved turkey for Islam. Limiting reading to religious works and neglecting science has destroyed Islamic civilization. Allah will help those who improve their minds. (Mahathir M 'Muslim scholarship must flower again', FR, 12-13/11/05).

Islam was neglected in education when Tery Lovat (Newcastle University) found himself drawn into it in the early 1990s. It is now harder for more tolerant voices of Islam to be heard. Evidence from Koran is that Islam was meant to be a religion of extreme tolerance (eg in fair attitudes towards women). There is a need to encourage groups such as Affinity Intercultural Foundation - which does a lot of outreach, and also promote more interfaith dialogue (Lane B 'A long study of 'extreme tolerance', A, 9/11/05).

There is a need to do more than ask moderate Muslims for support against extremists. There is a need to ask fundamental questions (eg why is the West being held hostage to Palestinian / Israeli disputes; why is their stubborn anti-Semitism in Islam; who is colonizing Muslims (US or Saudi Arabia?); why have fatwas against extremism only started recently?). Islam's problem today is that literalism is mainstream. The Koran is treated as final world of God. Faith becomes dogma. Imams argue that Muslims are subject to a backlash / hate. But Koran preaches hate against Jews. Despite Western colonization more Muslims have been murdered by other Muslims over past 100 years. Islam ideally is wonderful - as communism is. But the reality is not as good as the ideals - as shown by poor human rights record for women and minorities. Muslims need to snap out of their self-denial (Manji I 'Denial is scourge of Islam', A, 23/8/05).

Islam as become an increasing imperative for Muslims - acting for the sake of religion and in the name of Allah. This has resulted in violence that Islam condemns. In Malaysia the intent is to direct religion towards good - towards progress. . This is Islam Hadhari (Civilizational Islam). It seeks to show Muslims that progress is enjoined by Islam. It is rooted in modernity - yet compatible with Islam's principles. It suggests 10 fundamental principles for Muslim nations (a) faith and piety in Allah (b) a just and trustworthy government (b) a free and independent people (d) a vigorous pursuit of knowledge (e) balanced economic development (f) good quality of life for the people (h) protection of the rights of minorities and women (i) cultural and moral integrity (safeguarding natural resources / environment) (j) strong defense capabilities . Malaysia could be model for Muslim world. Malaysia currently chairs OIC. Reforms in Muslim world must be accompanied by changes to foreign policies in West. Islam Hadhari puts large emphasis on education. Terrorism and extremism have become scourge of world - but should not just be associated with particular races or religions. There is a need to understand the enemy. Extremism must be renounced, radicalism eradicated along with violence. Islamophobia must also be removed. The marginalisation of Muslims must end. (Dadawi A 'Working towards an Islamic renaissance', FR, 16-17/4/05).

Over the past 25 years the political influence of Islam has increased - sometimes as radicalism and terrorism. Muslims do not all agree on whether this is compatible with true Islam. There are varying views of Islam - as peaceful or as violent. There is an incorrect view that holy texts can be interpreted either way - but this results from taking parts out of context of whole. Doing so calls into question compatibility of Islam and democracy, and whether it is compatible with peace and moderation. But democracy is compatible with Islam and can be seen as a religious rule. This follows from Islamic theory of legal reasoning - that when a particular path of action is the only way of achieving religious goals that path is no longer a matter of choice but is also a religious rule. Thus if democracy is only way to achieve interests of Muslim community then it is a religious rule. Even if democracy is an evil from an Islamic viewpoint, there is a principle of interpreting religious laws in Islam that a minor evil is permissible if it is the only way of avoiding a greater evil. Muslim interest in democracy can best be understood by looking at how Muslims live. Iraq is home to diverse populations. Thus religion can't be imposed - as enforcement only creates hostility. There are only five alternatives to democracy in Muslim country (a) secular dictatorship - of which Middle East has a lot of experience (b) religious dictatorship which would associate Islam with injustice (c) democracy with secular restrictions on religious parties - which would be a pseudo democracy (d) Islamic democracy with restrictions on non religious parties. True democracy is the only real alternative (Sheik Dai al-Shakarchi 'Islam and enfranchisement', FR, 21/1/05).

Many in Muslim world are seeking to develop a more contemporary and humane version of Islam. Much attention is focused on sharia law - which traditionally was seen to be unchangeable and to have to be imposed as developed in 9th century. Many see that it is dangerously obsolete. Muslims in India may run communal affairs according to own law - and have adopted more just version of laws about marriage. In Pakistan the Mullahs are still in virtual civil war with reformers over Hudood Ordinance which prescribes death by stoning for adultery, cutting hands off thieves etc. Law changes must be approved by religious authorities. Morocco has made major contributions in this regard by reforming laws related to women. Every change is justified from Koran. In Malaysia the fact that Islam is everywhere associated with violence and extremism, led to calls for concept of progressive Islam (Islam Hadri) opposing the conservatives. Islam Hadri emphasises: the central role of knowledge in Islam; preaches hard work, honesty, efficiency, good administration; and appeals to Muslims to be inclusive, tolerant, outward looking. It advocates secular rather than religious schools. Reform is being promoted bottom up in Indonesia - linked to promoting civic society and reforming sharia. A model of Islamic reform called 'deformalisation' is promoted - because over-emphases on formality and symbolism has drained Islam of its ethical and humane dimensions. Another goal is to separate sharia law from politics (Sardar Z 'Isam and the need for change', FR, 17/9/04)

Given the level of Islamist terror, it is clear that Muslims worldwide need new leadership. This requires Muslims to speak out against abuses being committed in their names. Some do so, but most are silent. Being a Muslim dissident is a risky business (noting situation of Ralman Rushdie). Problems in Islam include: treatment of women; anti-Semitism; literalism of Koran. Dealing with this attracts death threats - though support comes from young and women Muslims. Muslims in West have opportunity to revive Islam's tradition of independent reasoning - because of the freedoms they enjoy. There is some harassment - but no risk of being raped, flogged, stoned or executed. There is a battle for the soul of Islam (Manji I 'For God's sake rescue Islam from killers', A, 13/9/04)

The Trouble with Islam (by Irshad Manji, a Muslim from Uganda) deputed view that women are inferior and that Jews are treacherous. Islam is seen to have a supremacist complex - and to be the only faith with worldwide literalism. Most past reformation has been about taking adherents closer to Arabic tribal life of Mohammad's time. The real fear is not American imperialism but Arab cultural imperialism - because only 13% of Muslims are Arabic - yet the only legitimate tongue to communicate with God is seen to be Arabic. Why face Mecca, the heart of Arabia to pray? Arabs from the beginning grafted their culture onto principles of Koran. The culture of 'honour' applied to Muslim women requires then to sacrifice their individuality to maintain men's prerogatives (Callick R 'Islam's rebel who has kept the faith', FR, 9/9/04).

Islam's radical fringe can be found on the internet - and have an audience because of deep dissatisfaction / alienation amongst so many Muslims. The West sees this as some sort of clash of civilizations which only one side can win. But their anger is mainly against their corrupt leaders. The problem starts at top in Muslim societies. Authoritarian regimes tend to control and propagate exclusivist Islamic dogma. For many years the Shia of Iran and Wahabbi's of Saudi Arabia have repressed pluralism and individuality. But as their regimes came to be seen as illegitimate, so their brand of Islam lost support. Now the opposition is on the Internet and speaks with authority. Islam traditionally was tolerant and pluralistic. For 1000 years under Mecca's traditional rulers, all sects exchanged knowledge. The Wahabbis have tried to appropriate Mecca for their own version of Islam. Ignorance, combined with corruption / hypocrisy, has emptied these sects of meaning. Some fatwas are intolerant and appear backward and anti-modernist - and clash not only with West but also with golden age of Islam - when science, philosophy, art flourished. Many websites now compete to be the new Mecca. The most extreme preach the ideas of al-Qaeda - while others extend the idea of sin to include study of science. They call for action not only against the west, but against other Muslims. These fanatics are modern phenomenon - a product of failed political systems (Yamani M 'Alienated Muslims build internet shrine', FR, 30/6/04).

US is seeking to establish exemplary democracy in Muslim Iraq as model for Middle East - but such a state already exists (with UN support) in Western Sahara (Hope D 'One the road from Morocco', WA, 15-16/5/04)

US is seeking to encourage Islamic reformers who wish to separate mosque and state - but needs to be careful in doing this. Religions attract fundamentalists. Sects thrive on persecution. And Muslim societies are desperate after centuries of failure.  (Dickey C and Power C 'Rethinking Islam', Bulletin,  16/9/03)

Iraq could see the emergence of a new style of Muslim politics. 3/4 of people are Shiite Muslims - though there is not any united Shiite party. At the modern end are democracy, tolerance and other religious groups. The Islamic model involves a set of fixed religious values which cut across national, ethnic and cultural boundaries. One Islamic model is that in Iran - which would be vetoed by US. Getting mass support however involves opposing US role - without being vetoed. Leader of Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq initially called for Islamic, anti American approach - but has now advocated a modern Islamic government. Clerics recently called for banning of indecent films and alcohol (Hordern N 'After the war comes Iraq's revolution', FR, 23/5/03)

The Arab rulers of the Middle east are autocratic, corrupt and heavy handed - but are still liberal, tolerant and pluralistic. The alternative is seen as Islamic fundamentalists similar to bin Laden. The emir of Kuwait proposed (with US encouragement) giving women the vote - but this was rejected by by the parliament controlled by Islamic fundamentalists. Saudi's crown prince tried to get approval for women to be allowed to drive - but was force to back down.  In many countries monarchs are more liberal than their people. The Arab world is trapped between autocratic states and ill-liberal societies. Repression fuels violence which results in more repression. This is the reverse of the Western situation where liberalism produced democracy and this reinforced liberalism. Terrorism is only the most noticeable symptom of this dysfunctional relationship between state and society - others are economic paralysis, social stagnation and intellectual bankruptcy. What is the problem. Bin Laden thinks that these countries are insufficiently Islamic. He sees democracy as a western invention that results in social decade and licentiousness. Some western critics of Islam also think that Islam is the reasons for the Middle East's turmoil. Classical Islam has few ideas linked to democracy. The Koranic model of leadership is authoritarian.  But the Old testament has similar ideas about autocratic rulers. Western scholars in the 18th and 19th century argued that Islam bred authoritarianism. But while Islam respects authority it also has an anti-authoritarian streak reflecting the view that obedience to rulers is only needed if they comply with Islamic law. Islam has no religious establishment - so anyone can declare himself opposed to government. In many places there are campaigns against states accused of betraying Islam. And why has Islam suddenly flared up now. It has coexisted with the west for 14 centuries - and was seen in 1940s as more tolerant than most of minorities. The majority of the world's Muslims live in electoral democracies today eg including Turkey and Indonesia).  The real problem is not the Muslim world - but the middle East. There dictatorships flourish - and Islamic fundamentalism seems strong.  The task of reform must fall to people in this region themselves. The place where reform should be pressed hardest is in Egypt (Zakaria F., 'Islam no bar to political change of face',  A,  19/5/03)

Surin Pitsuwan (Dr Surin, a former foreign minister of Thailand and leader of the Muslim minority party), one of the greats and goods of international Islamic politics, called for Western cooperation to educate Islam's heartland in the Middle East about democracy. Cooperation is needed to transfer Western achievements, developments and innovations to the Islamic world - so that it could achieve renaissance denied by colonisation and injustice.  US-led war in Iraq will not result in democracy without education, progress and opportunity for the people. World can't ignore 1.5bn people and leave them behind. West needs to understand the frustrations and sense of injustice felt by Muslims - after 200-300 years of interference, invasion and colonialism - which meant that process of development, evolution and diversification have not been continuous. Muslims have been denied the opportunity to develop own democratic traditions - and Islam can inspire people to be democrats. There is a strong distinction between the Middle east and Australia's neighbours such as Indonesia and Malaysia. The Middle East has achieved modernity through oil wealth not development. However Malaysia and Indonesia are making genuine efforts to develop their human resources and to diversify. Scholars can not work in some Islamic countries with regimes looking over there shoulders - and Australian universities could help by setting up departments of Islamic Studies to attract Muslim scholars. Universities could help train Islamic students in science, technology and Islamic studies. Religious fundamentalism has to be brought into the open (Barker G., 'A call for democracy', FR, 2/5/03)

After September 11 the leaders of Iran, Malaysia, Jordan, Syria Pakistan and Saudi Arabia urged the US to focus on the 'root causes' of terrorism. However they are the root cause. The September 11 killers mainly came from Saudi Arabia and were middle class. Thus poverty is not the root cause of terrorism. Rather it is the prevalence of autocratic and tyrannical government in the middle east. The New York Freedom House annual survey shows that elected governments have become the norm except in Islamic societies. And other criteria for freedom (eg a rule of law, civil liberties and citizens rights) are fully developed in only one of 47 Islamic countries (and are poor in the majority of such countries). And 7 of the 10 most repressive states in the world are Muslim. This cannot be attributed to overall underdevelopment - as neighbouring non-Muslim nations are much less repressive. This does not prove that democracy is incompatible with Muslim values - as the same caution had been expressed about other countries. And repression in Islamic countries has increased over the past 20 years - probably due to the emergence of radical Islam. repression breeds terrorism, and the lack of a free press causes an epistemological retardation similar to paranoia and lunatic conspiracy theories. The US should topple more tyrannies to create rounds where freedom may take root.  Outsiders have a better chance of spreading democracy than they do of inducing economic development (Muravchik J. 'When tyrants rule, terrorists will rise',  Australian,  28/12/01)

The Islamic world is the poorest, most illiterate, most unhealthy, most un-enlightened most deprived and weakest of all human race - according the Pakistani president, Musharraf. But when a non-Muslim expresses these views it is seen as arrogance. Musharraf called for self assessment by Islamic countries. Such countries, he said, pay too little attention to education and science. They control most of the world's oil resources, but are relatively poor. The US, by contrast, is highly self critical - and everything bad about it is known. But serious self criticism is not welcome in Islamic countries. 47% of Muslims deny that Arabs were involved in the September 11 attacks. It is easier to blame the West and Israel for the problems that Muslim nations endure than to re-assess themselves. Saudi Arabia turns out many graduates in Islamic Studies - but few in medicine or engineering. (Albrechtsen J 'Ignorance is Muslims worst enemy',  Australian, 10/4/02)

Some thinking about what might be done to address the root cause of Islamic terrorism has now appeared in Foreign Affairs. Islam is neither inherently warlike nor peaceful. It is a religion that has more grip on its believers' lives than Christianity has exerted since the middle ages. This grip can be manipulated to produce various outcomes - but it has a power that the West finds hard to understand. The religious power of Islam exists in a particular political context. There are 48 countries with Muslim majorities - yet none have a stable democratic political system. All involve self-serving corrupt elites who cynically advance their personal interests and steal resources from the people. This guarantees unhappy people fighting against oppressors - each using Islam to bolster their cause - while the state may be propped up by Western nations. Thus the West needs to stop the cycle by ceasing support for Muslim dictators. In the US there is a call for an Islamic Reformation - involving the notion of secularizing the religion. Islam could not survive only in an Islamic state run according to sharia (Islamic law). Muslims need a secular and democratic state that respects religious freedom and human dignity and is founded on the idea that power belongs to the people. While there is a risk that governments emerging might be even more anti-Western, the process of democracy should eventually produce countries that do not breed terrorism. One difficulty is that Islam has no recent tradition of self-criticism. One writer has suggested that freeing up the press in Muslim states would do a great deal to encourage democracy.  (Duffey M. 'Moves to change the heart of Islam',  Courier Mail,  27/4/02)

The war on terrorism has eroded the position of Al Queda - and burst the bubble of euphoria by Islamists arising from the defeat of Russia in Afghanistan. The WTC attack was either a success (showing that small groups could attack the powerful) or a failure (as the small group was then wiped out). US says war is not against Islam - but the reality is that Islam and politics are inseparable across the Muslim world. Islamism refers to the idea that the Koran has important things to say about government. There are many forms of this - and it is the main language of political discourse in the Muslim world. Islam is not a fixed thing - but can be changed in different ways. Islam has been in intellectual stagnation for many centuries - though change is now being driven by many forces which depend on local and global politics. There is skepticism about the ability of Islamists to run effective modern states (noting Iran, Sudan, Taliban). Westerners who separate church and state find it hard to see how a religious state can be democratic and tolerant. A liberal revolution for Islam faces many obstacles (a) local politics (b) global politics (c) grievances by Islamists against West for backing authoritarians (d) radicalism. Those in Islamic world see global order as threatening to their interests. A vicious circle evolves. Dissatisfaction leads to anti-regime action, which leads to repression, which leads to terrorism, to US military intervention and further dissatisfaction. Some regimes have tried to out-Islam the Islamists with harsh regimes. Islam provides identify for people trying to protect themselves from Western cultural assault. Islamism can become embroiled in existing conflicts. Thus Islam is being pushed in different directions - as some liberalize other become even more intolerant. This can not (in a globalised world) be treated as someone else's problem. At present Islamists and Muslim liberals have very low profiles - and are unwilling to review problems in their own societies.  Even if political dissent is impossible, there may be ways to achieve change through demands for better services. Muslim world led the world in arts and sciences for 1000 years - but now has the lowest literacy level. Others should engage with overseas Muslims in discussing such matters. Various models exist that could be considered (Fuller G. 'What now for the many faces of Islam',  Financial Review,  26/4/02)

Riaz Hassan (Adelaide academic) argued that militant Muslims who want an Islamic state need to consider that they could have power or trust, but not both. This is based on a study in Indonesia, Pakistan, Egypt and Kazakhstan. The study revealed susceptibility of Muslim mind to conspiracy theories involving Western efforts to undermine the Islamic world. Conclusions were (a) and Islamic state (often seen as natural outcome of Islam) would not be good for Islam - because religious leaders then are not trusted. In Muslim societies today a weak state and lack of popular trust in politics are normal. The resulting corruption, poverty and injustice offers religion an opportunity - but only if it is independent of politics (b) increased interest in Muslim piety and identity is occurring at the same time that support for militant Islam is declining. Muslims attached to images of piety also support liberal principles such as human rights.  The resulting lack of support has a perverse effect on the militants making them more radical and secretive. Militants used to be concerned with building legitimacy of political goals, not they are concerned with fanaticism, destruction and revenge. (c) and Islamic state creates strong forces for secularization. When the Shia religious elites came to power they believed this would allow them to impose their religious programs - but found that they had to make concessions due to resistance. They thus set aside Islamic legal principle - and could only get away with this because they were an Islamic state. An Islamic state would be much more secular, even fascist, than (say) Indonesia. (Lane B 'Islam's power paradox',  Australian,  1/5/02) 

Two analyses of political Islam are What went wrong by Bernard Lewis and Jihad: Expansion and Decline of the Islamist Movement by Giles Kepel. Lewis seeks reasons why once brilliant society declined into economic collapse and political authoritarianism. Kepel argues that the Islamist movement has largely passed. Lewis seeks to encourage Muslims to re-examine where they have gone wrong - rather than to be content with victimhood and blaming the West. By not seeking to understand the West they have fallen prey to predatory authorities in their own societies that purport to bring modernization (Piscatori J. 'The many possible futures of Islamism', Financial Review,  15/5/02)

When Edward Said reviewed Lewis's What went wrong? Western Impact and Middle Eastern response he called it an intellectual and moral disaster - an ideological portrait of Islam and the Arabs suited to US foreign policy. He objected to the view that Islamic world has become poor, weak and ignorant, ruled by shabby tyrannies whose main opponents are theocratic revivalists more opposed to modernity than the despots. Disagreements between Lewis (professor of Middle Eastern studies at Princeton) and Said (English and comparative literature professor at Colombia) have been ongoing since Said published Orientalism in 1978. However a group of Muslim scholars is now beginning to consider issues such as Lewis posed - from the viewpoint of making things better. Lewis argued that though the Islamic world was at the forefront of human achievement for several centuries - it has been in protracted decline during the modern era. Once vitally engaged with the world it has turned inward and views the West with hostility and paranoia - becoming intolerant, insular and obsessed with its own victimization.  Many Muslims react to Lewis, not because of what he says but because of his reputation as a leader of intellectuals connected with Zionism. Dissident Muslim writers oppose not only authoritarian regimes, but also Islamist movements - and seek a radical transformation of Islamic civilization towards tolerance, pluralism, women's rights and civil liberties. There are passages in the Koran that lend themselves to intolerant interpretation - though other passages permit other views. Thus the Koran can support diverse views, and Islamic societies were highly tolerant for centuries. Problems for the dissidents is that they will be perceived as selling out. The dissident differ from US conservatives, in being supportive of Palestinian cause and opposed to many aspect of US policy. They call for rethinking of the role of Muslim intellectuals. The intelligentsia has failed to challenge the regions widest and most paranoid fantasies. They also criticize Middle Eastern studies that treat Islamism as an expression of civil society in opposition to the state - because this is too soft on their reactionary, repressive policies. One such view was that it was Eurocentric to regard the Sudanese Government that made political dissent into as capital offense as undemocratic. Critics argue that such rationalization allows the crimes of indigenes oppressors to be ignored. In debating Islamic politics - a transition has taken place as the deeply authoritarian Islamic fundamentalist has absorbed the rhetoric of leftist anti-imperialism. Many Islamic scholars identify militants as grassroots rebellions against US backed authoritarian regimes. By approaching the matter from this viewpoint, scholars have been blinded to internal problems in Islamic societies (eg Wahhabism). Said suggests that the dissidents are wrong to claim that Muslim intellectuals have avoided critical introspection. In relation to the need for tolerance etc, Said argues that more is needed in the West also. Dissidents are concerned that Islamic societies lack the most basic liberties of Western democracies - and that Said's work is not about the Middle East but about the West. Some reformers believe that conflicts between traditional Islamic law and universal human rights can be resolved within Islam. The fundamental message of Islam is seen to be about justice and the solidarity of all humanity. Islamic scholars in the West are not heard in their own countries. Most of the dissidents have come from outside the disciplines of Middle Eastern studies where Said's views are hegemonic. The tide may be turning. The UN has enabled a group of Arab intellectuals to study Arab human Development - which highlights problems resulting from the oppression of women, the absence of political liberties and self-isolation from ideas from the outside world. A new journal, Salam, is to allow critical introspection and dialogue.  Dissidents want to shift the concept of authority in the Islamic world from clerics to a secularized, liberal discourse (Postel D 'Islam's dissident Diaspora',  A,  18/9/02)

The al Jazeera Arab news network provides a means for expressing different viewpoints which are not traditional in Arab societies - including criticism of Arab regimes (Sardar Z 'Airing a different point of view', FR,  4/10/02)

Islam can not survive as a static religion. Islam has always had to justify itself - more so since 911 when it has been seen as violent. Islam is presented internally as a simple graceful thing. But Muslims need to confront the question about why Islam today devours people. Why are pious Muslims nasty and intolerant individuals? Why is it that adoption of the Shari' a results in countries retreating into medieval barbarity, Fanatics can be dismissed by liberal Muslims. But the problem is that there are four serious mistakes at the core of Islam. This has transformed Islam into an authoritarian creed. Mistakes are (a) human quality of prophet have been lost - and he is seen as superhuman (b) most of Shari 'a is not from Koran - and thus not divine (c) only an elect few are seen as able to reinterpret Shari 'a (d) everything about Islam is seen as eternal (Sardar Z 'The agonies a 21st century Muslim', FR, I7/3/03)

US plans for democracy in Iraq are risky, but could spark wider Arab democracy. The Japanese precedent needs to be considered - despite differences. The victors tinkered with the media, the education system, the textbooks. Such things are needed again. The US can not defer to Arab fears about Shiites or Kurds coming to power. The rule by Sunni minority (<20% of population) cannot be the goal. [Sunni's are ethnic Arabs] Arabs see themselves as victims, while overlooking what Arab rulers do. Kurds are now proposing a federal, decentralized polity - a complete break from the command states that dominate in the Arab world. (Ajami F) Arab authoritarianism is deeply rooted, and there is little demand for democracy. Arab states exhibit variations on autocracy (military, monarchical, pseudo-socialist). There are elections but this does not change who rules. The press is censored in the Arab Middle East. Some opposition is tolerated. Given that most regimes have failed militarily and in economy, why have they not been removed? Secret police are one answer. Acquiescence is also achieved by ensuring that many people have a stake in the regime. The regime is the fountain of power - and good things flow from it. Patronage relationships are embedded in Arab societies. Access to the flow of patronage is summed up in the word 'wasta'. This is learned in family and carried into all areas of life. The client is drawn closer to the network of extended family, clan, tribe that defines place in society. People expect much less of the state than do people in the West. Voting is less important than living without fear of torture. Bernard Lewis in What went wrong argues that authoritarianism roots go back to Islamic golden age. According to classical Islam, the legitimate ruler ruled in conformity with the sharia. So long as this was so, he could be a foreigner, or a slave. It was more important to uphold the law than the will of the people who lived under it. Consensus was built in as law could only be administered with consent of urban elite. But in 19th century authoritarianism increased - as Arab leader sought to propel their peoples out of backwardness. Given multi-religious, multi-ethnic populations in Middle East, nation states that incubated democracy in Europe could not emerge. Democracy in Middle East can not grow without peace between Israel and Palestinians (Banerji R) If Middle Eastern democracies emerge they will nt be on Western lines. Middle Eastern nation states were imposed by western colonization and 20th century Arab modernist movements. Legitimacy and authority are major problems. (Khalidi A) Democracy is the only option that can work in Iraq. Examples elsewhere (eg in Confucian societies) show that societies where democracy was supposed to be impossible can succeed (Pollack K and Byman D.) (series of articles   ('On democracy and the Arab world', FR, 28/3/03)


Islamism - Political islam

Foucault identified a new form of political spirituality in Iran when US-backed Shah was deposed in 1978. However Khomeini kept Iran's authoritarian state intact - and (after putting clerics in powerful positions) started using Shah's methods. However Foucault could see why many Muslims in urban centres turned to Islam which had long regulated everyday life. Islam, being an entire way of life not just a religion, has the potential to be a powder-keg affecting millions. First global jihad in modern history emerged in Afghanistan (with US backing and that from Pakistan's Islamist dictator Zia-ul-Haq and Saudi Arabia) in action against USSR. This created international community of Islamists. Enemy was defined as materialist and imperialist civilization of the West in which both communists and capitalists were complicit - and fed fantasy of global Muslim ummah (community). Returning Islamists have declared jihad against Westernisation and Western elites in their respective countries. Many trying to understand this see Islam itself as the problem. Defenders of Islam point to Ottoman empire which accepted Jewish minorities expelled from Europe. Resa Asian's No God but God explains Islam's internal complexity. He disputes the idea that war is ever 'holy' (as it is merely just or unjust). Jews and Christians are seen as spiritual cousins. Muhammad is seen to have preached radical message of sweeping social reform - upholding rights of underprivileged and oppressed. This crucial message was distorted by political and religious elites to create concept of Shariah law (as a comprehensive code of conduct for Muslims). Political Islam arose from fear shared by many educated Muslims in 19th century that their coreligionists were helpless before European imperialists. Muslims in oil rich countries gained no relief from foreign domination on decolonisation. In the 1980s a more educated / politicised generation emerged aware of aggressive past foreign meddling and inclined to turn anger and frustration against US. This is why there is resistance to democratisation and secularisation under Western auspices. Asian argues that reformation is already underway. Attacks in US are seen as part of clash between Muslims who seek to reconcile their religious values with realities of modern world, and others who react to modernism fanatically. Asian does not believe that Muslims need to de-politicise their religion to be modern. Building democracy can only be based on Islamic traditions / values. Prophet said nothing about government, but fundamentals of Islam seem compatible with democracy. However recent attempts to build democracies in Iran and Pakistan warn against under-estimating clerics who wield power of shariah law. Traditional concepts of Shariah can't be reconciled with modern ideas of democracy and human rights. However Asian sees role for clergy in Islamic state - as reflecting morality of the state. However given Islam's communal character this seems to risk giving clergy power to dictate community consensus and stifle dissent. Such questions won't be settled by writers in West. Iran elected hard-line president. In Pakistan state has authorised clerics to discourage singing and dancing. US efforts to build democracy in Iraq have resulted in Shi-ite dominated Islamic republic backed by Iran. Moderate Muslims in US continue to support Foucault's view of Islam as a continuing problem. Political Islam may influence West long after those associated with extremism and violence have been contained (Mishra Pankaj 'The trail of political Islam', FR, 7/4/06).

West see secular democratization as solution for Iraq. Others have suggested Singaporean stye secular autocracy. Secularism in West is logical response to dark period of persecution and entrenched ignorance under theocratic dictatorships. History of every advanced Western nation involves progress through separation of church and state. Secular democracy has become axiomatic prerequisite for freedom, peace and enlightenment in Western imagination. But this is Eurocentric - and Iraq is not Europe. Iraq is in Muslim world with different socio-political history. Islamic experience is reverse of that in West - as Islamic governments presided over periods of relative tolerance, social justice and intellectual growth. Religious minorities prospered. Muslim women in eighth century had rights Western women gained only last century. Pre-modern Islamic governments were not perfect - but they were Muslim golden age. Muslim world's present condition involves: low literacy rates, no intellectual freedom, little modern intellectual contribution, misogyny and many oppressive and dictatorial regimes. Most of these regimes are secular. Muslims are aware of bad present political conditions - and see problems in role of Islam in public life. In 1991 military prevented Islamic Party's victory in Algeria - and in 2002 Islamic parties made electoral gains in Turkey, Pakistan, Morocco and Bahrain. There are many in Muslim world who want governments to rule with reference to Islamic imperatives - and will object to Western imposed secularism. Modern attempts at Islamic government (eg Iran, Afghanistan) have been unacceptable perversions. But they arose from revolutions, rather than organic development of governance. Those who want to impose a secular democracy (or autocracy) in Iraq need to realize it would create a fertile ground for uprising of regressive Islamic regimes. A non-secular Iraqi government may not be the answer - but western political analysis (to provide meaningful solutions) must shift its Eurocentric paradigm (Aly Waleed 'West must think again on Iraq's future', FR, 6/7/04)

Economic Development

Economic Development in Islamic Societies

A major conference of Islamic leaders has been told by Malaysia's Mahathir that world's 1.3bn Muslims should unite against the few million Jews who control the major powers. He suggested that Muslims should not see scientific studies as un-Islamic. Guns are needed for defence. Jews were seen to control the world by thinking. They invented socialism, communism, human rights and democracy so that persecuting them would appear to be wrong. He suggested new tactics other than lashing out violently - such as leveraging the political, economic and democratic forces at disposal of Muslim nations (Sullivan R., 'Mahathir calls for Muslims to fight Jews', CM, 17/10/03)

Muslims have never been so looked down upon, disrespected and oppressed. Everywhere they are bullied, detained, bombed and massacred with impunity. Muslims can not defend themselves, and some leaders collaborate with the oppressors. Many Muslims try to explain the problem by looking to heavenly rewards, and punishment of others. But did the Prophet accept his persecution in hope of heaven, and belief in hell for his Quarish persecutors? The Prophet struggled against his enemies, sent his followers to safe places, and retreated to Medina to build up his following. In the end he defeated his enemies and spread Islam to build the greatest Empire and Civilization in history. Clearly the Prophet did not believe that the world is not important for Muslims and that this life is only for the infidels. He believed that Muslims must have a share of Allah's bounties, and must fight for their earthly share. The idea of suffering in silence and await heaven in the next world is not Islamic. The Koran enjoins us to prepare to deter and defeat the enemy with force of arms. This requires the ability to develop our own weapons. This requires scientific and technological knowledge - and those who acquire this are obeying the Koran. Those who prevent this by arguing only for the study of religion are going against the teachings of Islam - because they weaken the Muslim community by making it impossible for them to defeat others. Those who prevent Muslims having their own defence capability are helping the oppression of Muslims. Enemies will always attack because we are weak - and will only cease doing so when we are strong. During the glorious years of Muslim civilization, there was no oppression. Muslims were respected and feared - because Muslim nations were strong militarily and economically. Europeans had to learn Greek knowledge (and other) from Muslim peoples. The Prophet only brought one Islam - but now there are many Islamic religions as a result of different interpretations. And followers of these different sects accuse each other of not being true Muslims. Disunited, Muslims have reached a low point in their development. Frustrated some have resorted to terrorism - which has merely allowed the enemies of Islam to justify putting more pressure on Muslims, and treating them and their religion with contempt. The must fundamental teaching of Islam is peace - and Muslims should strive for this at least amongst themselves at first and then with people of other faiths. In making judgments it is not justice that matters but the process followed. Even if injustice results we will have done what the religion requires if the process is followed. By ignoring this we create an image of Islam that is unjust and uncaring. Misinterpretation and ignoring the teachings of Islam is the reason that Muslims are backward, lacking in knowledge, unable to defend themselves and their religion and forced to resort to terror to seek revenge. The Koran states that Allah will not change  our fate until we strive to change it ourselves. And so we will continue to be attacked, and our religion condemned as false. (Mahathir M, 'Muslims must fight for earthly share', A, 10/2/03 - speech 'Muslim Unity in the Face of Challenges and Threats', Cairo)

CPDS Comments:

Islam's concern for worldly success, which Mahathir argues that Mohammed practiced, was quite different to Jesus' teachings which Mohammed endorsed.

And ironically any religion's search for worldly success through economic activities must be self-defeating. The economic weaknesses that many Muslim societies experience seems largely a product of the inflexibility that results from legalistic prescriptions about individual behaviour, and the inability of states to effectively manage the complexity of an economy if they are under pressure to consider mainly much simpler religious principles.

Moreover Dr Mahathir's call for scientific and technological understanding to strengthen Islamic societies will encounter obstacles. Such knowledge (and also post-positivist interpretations of such knowledge) must prove as challenging to the Islamic religion as it has been to Christianity over the past two centuries (see Eroding the West's Foundations) - and this is presumably the major reason that Muslim leaders have tended for centuries to turn their backs on modernity.

Malaysia is to start using gold Islamic dinar as the basis for some international trade, to reduce dependence on the $US. This concept is being promoted by  the Morabeteen International Organization established in South Africa in 1983, which advocated the establishment of an Islamic economic union based on a common currency. Gold is seen as a stable basis for a currency system because of its intrinsic value Hanafi K. 'Islamic gold dinar will minimize dependency on US dollar', IslamOnline, 8/1/03)

CPDS Comment: Was there not a distortion of economic management at the time of the Great depression which was linked to reliance on an inflexible gold standard?

'Prophet and profits' (Werde I., Financial Review, 6-7/10/01)

The assets of Islamic financial institutions are now $230bn - a 40 fold increase since 1982. Most large western banks have an Islamic subsidiary. This is strange as it is said that Islam is incompatible with the new world order. How can middle-ages institutions work in technology-driven global finance, and those suspicious of interest operate in an interest-based financial system? How can financial Islam - traditionally seen as part of political Islam - grow while political Islam declines?  

Modern Islamic finance emerged from two developments - the rise of pan Islamism and the oil boom. The 1967 six-day war ended the pan-Arab Nasserite movement [[ie the sense of unity amongst Arab peoples based secular philosophies of Egyptian President Nasser]] and led to the regional dominance of Saudi Arabia. The organization of Islamic Countries emerged in 1970 - and one key idea was to update Islamic banking. The Islamic Development bank was started in 1974. In 1975 the first modern non-government bank built on Islamic principles was started. In 1979, Pakistan started the full Islamisation of its banking system.

In developing these institutions legalists drew upon a rich pre-capitalist tradition. A central problem was seen to arise in profits gained from pure finance.  Islam prohibits 'riba' - seen as excessive profit or often any form of interest. It is accepted that time has to be priced, but rejects fixed, pre-determined aspects. In early Islam the dominant form of business was partnership between lender and borrower - a logic similar to modern venture capitalism. A distinctive feature of Islamic banking was its focus on developmental and social goals. Profit and loss sharing (partnership financing) has different economic implications than collateral based lending which favours established firms. Also banks were to manage charitable funds. 

In practice banks avoided charging interest by buying suppliers for the borrower, and selling them to him at a profit. After some years Islamic banking looked like nothing but an exercise in semantics. Thus profit and loss sharing was disappointing - and was abandoned. Islamic banking was then largely dismissed - but was actually on the point of a major development.

When de-regulation and technological change created a revolution in global finance, it created a world in which Islamic banking could prosper - because interest was now less important to bank earnings than fees. Islamic objections to 'statism' merged with the new 'Washington consensus'. Islam's commitment to private property, free enterprise, deregulation and the rule of law meshed with the emphasis being given to privatisation, deregulation and the rule of law. Thus Islam became a tool for entrepreneurs getting around restrictive states (eg in Malaysia and Bahrain). Islamic institutions now often at the forefront of innovation and dynamism - especially given the excesses of global finance. Whereas Western finance has become thoroughly secularized (and lost the religious roots of its financial institutions), a niche has been created for Islamic finance. 

Techniques for achieving change from original Islamic traditions have been devised - on the basis of local customs, the public interest and necessity.

.. and the West

Islam and the West

A wave of rationalism is spreading from émigré Muslim intellectuals. Many Muslims see imagined West as the source of their problems - while many in the West see imagined Islam the same way. A new wave of Islamic rationalism may arise in West. Islamic resurgence of 1970s strengthened religious orthodoxy and spectre of political Islam, but did nothing to rekindle rationalism that once placed Islam to frontiers of science and modernity. This failure was compounded by rise of tyrannical regimes in Muslim world. Intellectual pursuits that challenged this state - mullah alliance was curtailed. One result was that Muslim intellectuals left for the West. These people are now challenging centuries old interpretations of Islamic texts. There may not be religious scholars by training - but rather social scientists, in medicine / engineering / physical sciences / law. Mohammed Atkoun (Sobonne) approaches Koran and other classic Islamic texts from historical, social, psychological and anthropological angles - producing results that a dynamite to traditional Islam. Others include Bassam Tibi, Amina Wadud and Abdullahi An-Naim. A new wave of Muslim rationalism is radiating from West. Internet has revolutionised production / distribution of knowledge - and this has become a tool subverting the power base of traditional clerics. Traditional views that only trained Imams can interpret the Koran is disappearing. Western governments are too pre-occupied with fighting Islamist militants to see the more positive developments that are taking place. (Ali A. ;Islam's coming renaissance will rise in the West', A, 30/4/07).

Edward Said would have had useful contribution to debate about cartoons of Muhammad. His work on Orientalism showed the distorted perception Europeans had about Muslims. Little has changed - and this leads to one of most pressing issues facing Europe - Islamophobia and Muslim integration. PM of Denmark hides behind freedom of speech but won't take affirmative action. Vilification of a race / religious minority is allowed in the name of free speech. Free speech must be considered in terms of consequences. Islam has same notion of free speech as others. Prophet encouraged others to challenge him. Cartoons in Denmark merely offended Muslims and amused Islamophobes. A fatwa was issued 20 years ago against author of Satanic Verses - which was inappropriate because Muslims must accept that world is diverse. Muslims have a right to be offended. Serious Muslims do not depict Prophet in any form. Images of God or Prophet are regarded as blasphemous. There is a need for debate about terrorism to be conducted in a way which respects all parties. (Seyit K 'Freedom has its limits', CM, 6/2/06).

A leading Muslim scholar (Tariq Ramadan, Switzerland) has called on Western Muslims to integrate and modernize. Old traditions do not provide the answers to new challenges. Secular does not mean no religion. Ramadan is author of Western Muslims and the Future of Islam, and suggests that Islamic scholars should stop obsession with law and jurisprudence and advocate integrating everything from new culture that is not forbidden ('Muslims urged to integrate', A, 28/10/05).

A secret plot by Muslims to take over the West seems like a mad conspiracy theory - despite bin Ladens' ambitions and the Muhajiroun waving 'Islam is the future of Britain' placards'. However some in Islam take such ideas seriously. Dr Yusaf al-Qaradawi was supported by Lord Mayor of London - though he supports execution of homosexuals, the right of men to indulge in domestic violence, the murder of innocent Jews, and the conquest of Europe (see Sharia and Life on al_Jazeera TV). The conquest will not necessarily be by the sword if an army of preachers and teachers present Islam to all. Islam is what will save Europe from its materialist culture. He is also spiritual guide of Muslim brotherhood - whose leader Muhammed Mahdi Othman Akel declared faith in Islamic invasion of Europe and America because Islam has logic and a mission. Sheik Abd al-Rahman al-Sudais (imam of Islam's most sacred Grand Mosque in Mecca, a role analogous to the Pope) called for annihilation of Jews and overthrow of Western civilization. He argued that: Islam was most noble civilization, that Western civilization is a product of its encounter with Islamic civilization in Andalusia. It is now bankrupt through detachment from religion and values - which has also been responsible for misery of whole human race  a problem which can only be solved by Islam. Saudi Arabia's Islamic Affairs Department declares that 'all Muslims are required to raise the banner of jihad to make the World of Allah supreme in the world'. Saudi Arabia uses petrodollars to promote Wahabbism - a harsh form of Islam which controls 80% of Mosques in US. Saudi education ministry encourages children to despise Christianity and Judaism, and the school book Studies in Theology requires teaching that jihad and fighting in God's cause is a particularly noble element of Koran. Arabic TV channels frequently discuss the best strategy for conquering the West - and Muslim immigration and conversion are seen as the best path. Islam is second largest religion in US, Europe and Australia. Al-Qaida is criticized for being impatient and waking the West up. Islam is a universal religion which hopes to bring its message to all. In Muslim tradition the world is divided into Dar al_Islam (where Islam rules) and Dar al-Harb (the field of war where infidels live). It is presumed that conflict will continue until all the world adopts Muslim faith or submits to Muslim rule. The first jihad involved Mohammed's conquest of Mecca in 630AD. Within 100 years of his death they had many conquests in the Middle East and southern Europe until stopped at Poitiers in 732. They overthrew ancient Zoroastrian empire in Persia and conquered much of central Asia and Hindu India.  Ibn Warraq (a Pakistani convert from Islam) argued in Why I am not a Muslim that though Western societies are blamed for imposing their decadent values, culture and languages on Third World, no on points out Islam colonized ancient and advanced civilizations. The Spanish took 700 years to get their country back, while the Turks (a central Asia people converted to Islam) conquered the ancient Christian land of Anatolia (now Turkey). The Turks capture Constantinople and occupied Greece and much of Balkans for 400 years until their power waned.  In the Middle East there are many calls for Muhammad's second call to come true (conquest of Rome). Not all conversion has been by the sword - eg consider influence of traders in Indonesia. But conquests have not stopped 9eg in Sub-Saharan Africa - Nigeria / Sudan). Ethiopia was predominantly Christian until 100 years ago, as was Lebanon until 50 years ago. Christianity has been just as much a conquering religion. But it has now stopped doing so, and in Europe has stopped believing. By deposing Saddam, who ran most secular Middle Eastern state, US transferred power to imams. There should be a free market in religions. But the market is rigged. In Saudi Arabia all churches are banned, while in Europe governments pay to build Islamic cultural centers. In many Islamic countries preaching of Christianity is banned, and converts can expect death threats or a death sentence, while in Western countries the right to preach is enshrined in law and Christians are free to convert. The Pope keeps apologizing for attempts to get back Christian lands through crusades while opposite numbers call for overthrow of Christendom. In Christian countries those who warn about islamification are prosecuted, while those who call for islamification in Muslim countries are national heroes. Western schools teach comparative religion, while Muslim countries teach only Islam. Last century some justified persecution of Jews because of concerns about their desire to take over the world (in The Protocols of the Elders of Zion). Now Muslims are open about their desire to conquer the West (Browne A. 'The triumph of the east', SM, 5/9/04)

It is easy to see pacifying Iraq as the US's major problem in Iraq - but it isn't. This is merely symptomatic of broader issue of how West and Islamic world can exist in harmony. Battle of ideas between West and radical Islam will dominate global politics for a decade. The US is not winning. The goals of Islamic militants are clear - role back US presence, reduce American influence, eradicate governments friendly to US and install Islamic rule. The problem this raises isn't just in access to resources - but in suppressing US's friends in region and hijacking its politics. Many Muslims value western political ideals - but have distain for Western cultural values. Despite this radical Islamic figures want others to think that political system of Islam and West are incompatible. This ignores real desire for democracy and freedom in Islamic world. US administration has done a good job militarily but a poor job in waging war of ideas. The need is to explain America's values to world's Muslims. State department has intent to address this. The message is not that US intends to defend status quo represented by corrupt Arab regimes nor be a military occupier - but to help Muslims themselves find freedom and democracy within their own cultures (Seib G 'Waging the long war of ideas', FR, 21/8/03 - from Wall St journal])

Young Muslims need to get out of ghettos and interact with society they live in - according to Muslim moderate (Dr Zachariah Matthews, head of Australian Islamic Mission) - who argues that they are otherwise in danger of becoming alienated and thus targets for extremists to recruit. Muslims face major problem with alienation - and must fight against it. Muslims have much to offer mainstream society, and nothing to be defensive about. Shi-ite conference heard that terrorism was always incompatible with Islam (Harris T and Roberts J 'get out of ghettos young Muslims told', A, 15/8/05).

Ziauddin Sardar believes that the Islamic world is in a miserable state - politically, economically, morally and intellectually. There are many important Muslim thinkers - but few intellectuals - which is hardly surprising as theologians have little role in the cultural life of the 'Christian' world. Syed Abul A'la Madi is always seen as most rigorous thinker of Islamic revivalists. But his work was repetitive, anti-Semetic and anti-Hindu. Sardar's work covers both Islam and the West. Islam, Postmodernism and other futures: a Ziaddin Sardar reader (by Sohail Imayatullah and Gail Boxwell) speaks of Sardar's concern for renewal of Islamic thought; the critique of postmodernism; and the potential / limits of futurology. This is stimulating even if wrong. Does reconstructing an Islamic civilization make sense? Was there one in the past? In defending Islam against Euro-centrism, cultural imperialism and postmodernism (which Sardar identifies as the latest deadliest manifestation of the first two) is he merely upholding a mythical construct. Euro-American concepts of modernity, rationality, history, personhood and so on have been globalized. They are not external forces pressing on India, China or Africa but part of the social and psychological make-up of the whole world. Sardar wants this undone as a desperate act of faith. But why should one want an Islamic future? Sardar is committed to rational argument and universalism - and so can't fall back on relativism. He has not made the case for a world based on Islamic values as compared with secular liberalism (Howe S 'Imagining an Islamic future', FR, 23/5/03)

The difference between West and Muslim world is about sex not democracy. Bush administration is promoting democracy in the Middle east - rejecting the condescending idea that freedom can not grow. Middle East Partnership Initiative is to encourage political and economic reform. But others are less sure about the absence of a clash of civilizations. Polly Toynbee argued that a globalized force of extremists on many continents is united in hatred of western values that they believe come from Judeo -Christianity. Huntington argues that democracy does not emerge in the Middle East - because value needed do not exist - separation of religion and state; rule of law; social pluralism; parliamentary institutions; individual rights and civil liberties. However surveys show that there are large differences in attitudes between countries - ie culture matters a lot - but the core issue is not political. All countries see democracy as the best form of government. The real difference is in attitudes to gender equality and sexual liberation - which Huntington ignored. Muslim's want democracy - but democracy may not be sustainable in their societies. Huntington argues that ideas of individualism, liberalism, constitutionalism, human rights, equality, liberty, rule of law, democracy, separation of church and state have little resonance outside Western societies, Despite this, democracy has overwhelming positive image world-wide. But on attitudes to gender equality and sexual liberty the gap becomes a chasm. Attitudes to homosexuality are similar. One cannot establish democracy in the Middle East by merely establishing the institutions - there must be a real commitment to human development (Iggelhart R etal 'The true clash of civilizations', FR, 15-16/3/03)

Islamic societies are throwing up the strongest resistance to modernisation. They reject Western values and institutions - particularly that which would separate politics and religion. However this is much less of a challenge than socialism. Many in Western societies believed in socialism, yet none would want to shift towards societies run under principles of radical Islam - and people who have lived under such an order clearly haven't liked it much (Fukuyama F 'Has the challenge of militant Islam postponed the end of history',  A, 12/8/02)

Rapid Muslim migration poses a significant threat to Western liberal values, because liberalism has lost its moral foundation (Phillips M. 'How the West was lost',  Sunday Mail,  2/6/02)

'Danger within' (Dhondy F. Financial Review, 14/12/01 - the author is described as an Indian Zoroastrian)

In India Muslims were observed to believe that: theirs was the only creed; their book was dictated by God; that Hindus were idolaters; that Zoroastrians were fire -worshiping infidels; and that Christians were ancient military enemies. Their faith excluded all that it had not invented. As India tried to come to terms with democracy and liberalism only Muslims seemed impervious.  They had an inbuilt view of the world from the Koran. Muslims migrated to Britain and presumed that they would prosper in its cultural and religious freedoms. But they worked in antiquated industries - and were often out of work in the 1980s. They exploited the Left's demands for multiculturalism and so insisted on an Islamic ethos in their children's education (eg separating boys and girls and teaching that Britain is an exploitative demonic nation). The Rushdie affair in 1989 exposed a multicultural fifth column in UK that supported book burning and death threats. Muslim spokesmen insisted that the British Law on blasphemy be extended to Islam - so that Muslim clerics could determine what was blasphemous. Nothing came of this attempt to stifle the freedom gained from centuries of struggle against censorship and obscurantism. In the 1980s political movements based on fundamentalist Islam started.  Their puritan disgust for popular British culture, and their support for stoning of adulteresses and beheading of apostates was supported by the freedom Britain allowed to express these opinions. The moderate Islamic views of parents were supplemented by the extremist views of various mullahs paid for by various Islamic states. Schools were established that teach primitive and radical religious instruction. They offer a single minded, simplistic explanation of the cosmos and membership of an organization that would dominate the world. Prostrating themselves frequently to an unfathomable being and being impervious to the literature, art, historical debate and all that nurtures Western civilisation led to fanaticism. They could be used for world-wide suicide missions - organised by mosques in Britain. In the summer of 2001 riots broke out in several British mosque-towns. The Home Office who examined this were bewildered - and blamed years of failed race relations and resentment about poverty. But Britain had gone to extremes to be multicultural - while ignoring the rot that this was allowing to grow. Analysts said that the rioters were 'Asian' and didn't recognise that they were Muslims imitating the behaviour of Arab youth in street battles with Israeli police and that they were members of semi-clandestine Muslim fundamentalist organizations that were supported by mosques and college societies. Personal discussions with rioters showed that they believed Western civilisation had to be destroyed - and that attacks would be launched 'everywhere'. After the attack in America, moderate Muslim organizations denounced it, but radicals publicly supported the atrocity and demanded that others join the jihad. Police stood by protecting their freedom of speech as they said so. Such terrorist cells must be rooted out from Western societies - not encouraged to preach. Ironically the situation will bring judgement on Islam. In its 1400 years, Islam has inspired and incorporated a great mystical movement - the Sufis. It has also suppressed it. It has spawned great progress in its time - based on the idea that what is not prohibited in the Koran is permitted. But funded by oil and inspired by Wahhab (and 18th century fundamentalist) it has retreated into the book. This barbaric interpretation of Islam has come into conflict with the West. The solution has to be a revolution in Islam itself. Islam needs a reformation - and, though this is forbidden in the Koran, there is Islamic history which supports it. Surely Muslim communities in the US must be able to lead this - through recognition that there is something wrong with a Koran that belittles all prior human history and refuses to consider Enlightenment, scientific advances and social liberty. Though constantly hijacked by fundamentalists, Islam has always had a strong Sufi current - which favours reason over dogma and is equivalent to the Christian reformation. Certainly there are segments in the Koran which urge believers to kill infidels wherever they find them - but there are also many passages urging tolerance. An Islamic reformation would de-legitimise the literal interpretation of koranic passages which stoke intolerance  [CPDS comment: the author clearly has a point of view which colours this account. None-the-less it appears likely that multiculturalism as it has been practised in the UK may need to be re-thought]

Ideas: In publishing a history of the main ideas developed in the 20th century based on inquiries to eminent scholars (including 150 from non-Western societies) - all of the key ideas which could be identified came from Western societies with none from Islamic or Chinese / Japanese societies. Post-modernism has been introduced to emphasize the role of the other, the non-Western, the unorthodox but even the concept of post-modernism is a Western idea.  Lewis's History of the Middle East included a section on new ideas, but the most recent quoted was dated 1896. The conclusion is that Islam derives its strength from its past. Landes' Wealth and Poverty of Nations (1998) showed that Islam turned its back on printing press at an early stage (fearing sacrilege) - so most important Arab books were not printed until recently. Terrorism is a result of the inability of the Arab world to compete with the West (Watson P. 'Lost in the swamps of modernity', New Statesman, 29/10/01)

The hostility of the Muslim world towards the west predates the Jewish state - and has its roots in the west's growing cultural, political, economic and military dominance - a dominance that has been building for centuries, though it was by no means inevitable, and which has many Muslims baffled and infuriated. Hundreds of years ago, Islamic societies stood at the pinnacle of global achievement - and ruled vast empires from the Middle East to Spain in the West and near China in the East. Then something went wrong. In the 13th and 14th centuries, Islamic theologians closed down liberal philosophical schools. By banishing heresy an increasingly dogmatic Islam lost capacity in its high culture for adaptability. Subsequently reactionary features hardened (eg slavery, exclusion of women, vast wealth inequalities). At the same time Western competitors grew. As influence was lost they sought refuge in the past. Perhaps a major factor in the problem arises from Islam's suppression of women - which not only makes such societies less productive but inhibits a meritocratic spirit in men.  Any recovery in Islam's position can be done by others making concessions, but only by self criticism and receptivity (especially regarding women) in Islam (Landes D and R 'She devils', Australian, 10/10/01)

Muslims invoke the name of God – and God is seen to be merciful and compassionate. In the 1840s Muhammed was seen by some in the West as a great hero – one who contained all the ideals of the west – brave yet liberal, noble but simple, irreproachable on morality. But other images have been more common in the West – more demonic than divine. From its formation in Arabia in the 7th century – Islam pushed against the borders of Christendom. After 100 years, an Arabian empire extended from India / China to the south of France. Muslims see the Koran as the final word of God. English translators have seen it as full of errors, a forgery concocted from Jewish and Christian sources, incoherent / repetitive and vague. Christian saw Muhammad as an imposter, as the anti-Christ or as a deluded religious fanatic.  Seldom far beneath the surface of such views was the image of a progressive West compared with a passive, inert and fatalistic Islam.  Islam was pictured as a religion of the sword - and its success as being due to the sword, whilst Christianity’s success was due to the hand of God. These views were mythical, and often wrong.  But the myth of Islam’s violence (and of the demonic character of its leaders) remains – and has been renewed. But demonisation is a two edged sword – and Islamic leaders have also demonised the West – especially the USA. There is a violent edge in Islam  - as to Christianity and Judiasm. And where God is seen to require acts that transcend the good, then evil can be done. Nazism, for example, justified unethical behaviour on the grounds of superior ideology.  (Almond P ‘In God’s name’, Courier Mail 22/9/01)

.. and Australia

See Islam in Australia

.. and Christianity

Islam and Christianity

Christianity was the religion of the 17th century - despite the emergence of modern science, the Renaissance, and the Ottoman expansion into Europe, Christians took the religion worldwide - and the Muslim Empire collapsed. But in the second half of the 20th century a different picture emerges. In its European heartland Christianity was yielding to Marxism, scientific humanism and secular materialism. Now theologians confront the post-Christian age, and there is a question about what might take its place. Marxism imploded. Scientific humanism dominated academia but nowhere else. Democratic secularism prospered - but religion did not whither. Strange new cults blended Christianity with eastern religions and pseudoscience. But Islam which had only 12% of world's population by 1900 now has 20% and is likely to be the religion of 21st century. Allah commands more genuine allegiance under Islam than the Holy Trinity does in Christendom. Theological freethinkers reject all religions but think some (eg Christianity) more incredible than others. It was just a system of ethics attributed to Jesus of Nazareth - but there is no religion of other moral philosophers. The difference is the paganism reflected by quasi polytheism of Holy Trinity, the incarnation, sacrificial death, sacraments, and bizarre miracles. Islam rejects this baggage. The main attraction for believers in both religions is their similar eschatology - personal resurrection, final judgment and salvation. Islam is better for men. Islam has five or six essential beliefs, and five or six essential practices. Most Muslim sects have no priests (no intermediaries between Allah and man) and no sacraments and a simple creed. These features are ideal for isolated communities in third world. There is debate in Islam about the meaning of jihad - war; activism to Islamize society or internal struggle. For men, the faith is very democratic. There is a tradition of community - despite the existence of sects. Islam's laws are restrictive of individual liberty. The least attractive feature of Islam is its treatment of women. It is asserted that women like to be protected. Islam's problem is said to be that it has never had a Reformation / Enlightenment. But it has had many- that have not endured. Under Islam, science and culture flourished while Europe was in a dark age. Islam is a religion of the brown world - where Christianity has become a religion of the rich white world. Islam is becoming religion of black world - in sub Saharan Africa and underprivileged ethic minorities in the first world. Apart from commitment of individuals, Islam is prevailing over Christianity in terms of demographics. White populations have stabilized or declined, while black or brown have boomed. Muslims have joined with Roman Catholics in opposing family planning programs through UN. The negative feature of Islam should be reduced as a result of democratization, education, secularization, female emancipation and prosperity - though this could take 100 years as under Christianity (Tribe D 'The rise and rise of Islam', FR, 24-28/3/05).

The recognition of the distinctives of Islam has given meaning to the concept of clash of civilizations. Theories about civilizations' rise and fall have been developed by Spengler; Toynbee; and recently Huntington. There have been a number of different civilizations. Ataturk referred to relative conditions in civilizations in urging Turkish republic to modernize. Only two civilizations have been defined by religion. Buddhism has been major force - and was the first to bring universal message to mankind - and may have influenced Judaism. Christianity and Islam are the two religions that define civilizations and are similar. Christianity is a religion and Christendom is a civilization. There are not two words in Islam to clarify this distinction. To what extent is a religiously defined civilization compatible with tolerance of difference. The relativist view is condemned by both Islam and Christianity - which each see only one true faith. Tolerance is extremely intolerant - because it requires that it be the 'boss' and allows others to express some of their ideas within the framework that it defines. The historical relations between religions is a problem - because the earlier can be seen as incomplete. Jews and Christians are accused of distorting their books. Traditionally Islam tolerated others as second class citizens - while Christianity had much greater problems in tolerance. Conflict between Christianity and Islam has been ongoing - as both claimed to be recipient of God's final revelation. Across this divide there could be communication because each used basically the same concepts. Christians learned the languages of, and studied the Islamic world, because this was where the holy places were and could only be visited by permission. Islam had no such need - and was self contained and originally successful. They had no interest in study of Western civilization - which initially seemed to be barbarians beyond their border. The West sees itself engaged in a war against terrorism - but the terrorists present this as war against unbelief. Some on both sides see this as struggle between civilizations - or between religions. This common ground may eventually provide the basis for better communication (Lewis B., 'The relativity theory of us and them', FR, 16/5/03)

Church leaders need to defend hard-won heritage against spread of militant Islam. Islamic terrorists who launched attacks in Bali and US did so because, under their misguided interpretation of Islamic religion, infidels have to be destroyed. Yet Anglican Primate warned that Australia would be a victim of attacks because of support for US stance on possible war in Iraq. This reveals misunderstanding of terrorists' hatred of freedom and envy of Western success (especially of Christian concept of importance of individual which has contributed to material gains). It is this emphasis on freedom which caused Christians to campaign aggressively to end slavery - even in the Muslim world (where it still exists).. The Christian church needs to recognize that this freedom - which resulted from centuries of struggle - is being threatened. There is no denying decadence and arrogance in the Christian world - but this is not the reason that potential destroyers of civilization have descended. This was the view taken of Hitler's original aggression in the 1930s. Revolutionary Islam is active - and has the potential to cause great harm. Yet bishops have been silent of given aid to the enemy. There must be a vigorous defense of civilization and faith against those who seek to dictate to the world. Church leaders should focus on real evil in the world - not claim that it is due to our sins. The battle must be religious, cultural, economic and also military (Howson P 'Christians rise up and defend realm', A, 24/12/02)

'The Appeal of Islam' (Pawson D. Session 2 on video series, The Challenge of Islam to Christians, Cutting-edge productions)

Islam reflects 4th century Arab culture. However from the viewpoint of 'consumers' in the UK who believe in God and shop around for a religion, Islam has six advantages over Christianity as currently presented.

Simplicity: Islam is simple and easily understood. Its creed is just that 'There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is is prophet'. Scriptures are simple, and were written by one author in a consistent style. The theology is simple (a) monotheism (b) God is creator, ruler, and judge. Muslim means 'one who submits'. Fatalism is one consequence. Angels (to record good deeds) and demons (to encourage bad deeds) are accepted. Becoming a Muslim is simple - requiring recitation of the creed in the presence of a witness.

Christianity is much more complex - with a longer creed and scriptures that comprise dozens of books by numerous different authors. Christian theology requires belief in 'impossible' things (a) God is a trinity (b) God became man - incarnation (c) virgin birth (d) payment for sins - atonement (e) a man never dies - resurrection (f) ascension (g) second coming (h) Holy Spirit. Admission is complex - involving issues of morality - through a process involving repentance; belief in the Son; and receiving Spirit with formality of baptism.

Easy: Islam is easy. It has 5 pillars (a) its creed (b) prayer 5 times daily (c) giving alms (2.5%) direct to poor (d) fast during daylight hour for one month and (e) make a pilgrimage to Mecca, Koran says that religion is no hardship. Its requirements are clear and specific.

Christianity on the surface seems similar - but (a) nothing is laid down (b) there is a need for self assessment of what is good and (c) there are no rules for devotion. Those attending church are exhorted to the highest level - and one can never say when one has done what is required. Christianity is not a religion of rules - and rules are much easier to cope with.

Morality: Islam has a clear teaching on what one must do - and Muslims do not change those teachings. There is punishment for breaches - which can be extremely severe. The ultimate sanction is hell. Muslims have a fear of God. Children are more secure where parents provide clear rules.

For Muslims the West is immoral. The West does not accept retributive punishment - only that which is corrective or designed to discourage offenses. Churches are in clear moral confusion - and follows desires of society. The insecurity that moral anarchy causes is leading to a reaction.

Newer: Islam is the most recent major religion - and thus (as the 'newest model') can be seen to be better. Islam includes comment on Judaism and Christianity - which naturally does not apply in reverse. Islam acknowledges 25 earlier prophets - including Jesus. In the UK Islam is the new thing - and has the second largest number of adherents (by a small margin and a much faster rate of growth.

Christianity presents as an old religion - and past its use-by date. Cathedrals are museums. Priests wear Roman togas. Language is Elizabethan and music is Victorian. Ethics are seen as Victorian.

Masculine: Islam is masculine - whereas Christianity loses men and is seen as a religion for women - which is significant as society is shaped by men.

Christianity is a feminine religion - and women are usually ahead of husbands spiritually - even though the Bible was addressed to men (not women).

Reverence: Islam is a reverent religion. Men bow before God.. There is reverence for the Koran - and worship is God centred. In worship everything is done together. Islamic worship can be more impressive. Islam respects the wisdom of elders.

Christian worship now often resembles a disco - and God is seen as a 'mate'. Youth culture has taken over. Christianity is not God-fearing. Holy days have become holidays.

Islam sees amorality in West - and blames it on Christianity - though Christians see the problem resulting from the absence of Christianity and of undisciplined Christianity.

People leave churches when they lose discipline - and seek a clearly moral religion. The question is whether the UK would be better under Islam. It would certainly be safer.

Australian Muslims are more likely than Christians to believe that the devil exists, miracles happened, that unbelievers were politically dangerous and to reject Darwinian evolution. They were also better educated, more religious and much more likely to fear divine punishment. For most their experience of God was one of fear - which is quite different to that of Christians. Muslim hostility to those who do not believe in Allah is a function of the devoutness of their own beliefs (Lane B 'The devil is more real for Muslims',  Australian,  8/7/02)

In October 2002, bombing directed against Christians in Zamboanga (the Philippines) by Muslim extremists killed 6 and wounded 143. In September 2002, militant Muslims executed 7 Christian Pakistanis in Karachi - the fifth attack in a year.   There is no Western media or government attention to such attacks. Few realize that the 30 year civil war in Ethiopia was a religious war between Muslim Eritrea and Christian Ethiopia. There is recognition that the people of East Timor were savaged - but not that they were Christian and that the militants who killed and brutalized them were mainly Muslim.  The war in the Sudan pits the Muslim government in the north against the Christian and animist south. In Nigeria attempt to impose a strict version of the sharia legal code have been followed by armed conflicts between Muslims and Christians.  On the Ivory Coast Muslims in the North have been attacking Christians in the south. On a smaller scale many Coptic Christians were killed in Egypt in January 2000; and churches were burned in Kenya in 2001.  While it seems inflammatory to point out the religious dimensions to these conflicts because Islam is supposed to be a peaceful and loving religion. From the beginning Islam distinguished Christians and Jews ('people of the book') from other non-Muslims. They had to pay special taxes and wear special clothes - but gained respect from what Muslims saw as their adherence to an earlier and corrupted revelation in the Bible. Now Christians and Jews are called Kuffr (infidels). In countries under strict sharia, apostasy is a capital crime. In the minds of extremists, infidels also deserve death. While Muslim societies differ widely in their level of tolerance, full respect for Christianity is virtually absent. The issue came up at a 2001 conference held by Iranian reformers in Isfahan - which involved Islamic and Western intellectuals opposed to to Huntington's thesis that Western and Islamic civilizations had to clash. Ebrahim Moosa (an imam from South Africa) urged three liberal changes in Islam: equality for women; toleration of capitalism; and recognition of the dignity and humanity of non-believers. Other Muslim leaders have yet to express a view about such reforms. The US states that its fight is only with terrorists, not Muslims - yet the terrorists gain great support in Islamic world because they are killing infidels.  Other religions have passed through a violent and intolerant phase - and perhaps moderate interpretations of Islam may come to predominate, but the fact is that violence erupting in the Islamic world is directed not only against the leadership of the West, but also against its Judeo-Christian tradition (Etzoni A (email) Killing Christians, November 2002)

Arabic thought

Arabic thought (see CPDS Comments in Arabic Thought and Islamic Science)

Rothwell N., 'End of a rich Arabian journey', A, 6/6/05

Medieval Arabic Philosophy: Problems and Solutions (Centre for Oriental Philosophy Studies, Moscow) identifies issues such as:

  • the five traditional philosophical schools of classical Arabic civilization: Kalam, falsafa, Isma‘ilism, Ishraqism and Sufism;
  • the wujudiyya doctrine, such as unity of being, as well as the concept of ‘new creation’ (khalq jadid), by which is meant the constant renewal of being in every single moment of time, and not a single act of creation from nothing; self-manifestation of God in created beings; the Perfect Human Being (al-insan al-kamil) as the ‘All-encompassing Logos’; and noumenal essences. The author claims that wujudiyya asserts pre-determination of created world, which embodies the primordial Divine will developed in space and time.
  • a sophisticated doctrine of ‘aql (reason, nous). Thinkers held different points of view on the topic of reason, and this diversity made possible to add substantially to the Greek notions of reason that were assimilated and developed by the Arabs;
  • the irresolvable question of how it is possible to know the uncognisable God presents another facet of the problem of knowledge and cognition. The chapter ‘To know the uncognisable (al-Ghazali on the rational cognition of the transcendental)’ discusses another quest for the way out of theoretical deadlock and demonstrates that the rational cognition is a blind-alley for those who strive to achieve that goal.
  • the relation between unity and multiplicity, general, specific and individual which stressed the priority of unity and generality thus diminishing the role of the individual. Ontologically this view is presented by structure of being in which the One (the God) is the absolute principle which, producing out of itself essences and substances and digressing from one to another, generates the multiplicity of things. In the realm of epistemology, this principle presents itself as domination of speculative knowledge and deductive logic while paying less attention to the individual and to induction. This worldview expressed itself in the widespread concepts of society, where the importance of individual gave way to overwhelming significance of the general. Nonetheless, Arabic medieval thought presents us a very instructive experience of understanding the individual and individuation (the chapter ‘Individual being, striven for but not found’).
  • classical Arabic notion of justice as natural, and in a sense even logically inevitable, consequences of understanding the nature of what is truth and true, of qualities of time and space and peculiarities of the notion of ‘law’ and ‘lawful’ following from these philosophical assumptions. This set of ideas, functioning as a complex entity, presupposes the treatment of justice concept not as an aspiration to achieve maximum of benefits and guarantee their equal distribution among the members of society (however this equality might be understood), but rather as an actual state of society immanent to its ontological foundation and being true unless it is violated. For the justice to be established, from that point of view, it has to be restored, not achieved anew.