Islam And The West: Between Harmony And Discord
‘Why do Muslims Hate Us’? This was a thought on every ‘westerner’s’ mind right after 9/11. There are many ways of looking at the world, of looking at the ascent and descent of civilizations, of looking at man-made divisions and rivalries, between the Franks and the Moors, between the Muslims and the Kafirs, between the Christians and the Infidels. Both parties have historically detested each other because both are so different and yet so alike.
Islam and Christianity are the only religions which lay a claim to universalism and world domination. In both theologies, proselytizing is a central tenet of the faith. Either the whole world is with them or against them. While the other religions which came before or after were regional and played to a provincial crowd with no worries of amassing followers, Islam and Christianity had to spread either through conquest or through the toil of the preacher. Converting the heathen is a fundamental aspect of both religions but things came to naught when one confronted another because the followers of both religions were equally zealous in their profession of the faith. Matters came to a head in the two centuries’ long holy war fought in what was later termed as the Crusades by the people of the Christendom and always called Jihad by the Mohemmadans.
Europe might have become secular, the people across what is known colloquially as the ‘west’, spanning from Australia to the heartland of the mighty United States of America, might have in all matters divorced from the Church, yet all cultures carry their cultural baggage with them. The modern westerners might look to the Grecian and more so to the Roman civilization for inspiration and profess to follow their dictums, but they derive their lineage from German tribes which marauded the Roman Empire and later converted to Christianity and always had an aversion to a religion which had similar roots to their religion and to the ‘Quran’ which asserted that Islam was the final religion rather than Christianity.
It is not as if their ancestors colonized only Muslim lands. Far before that, the sailors, explorers, adventurers, and others of the ilk from all over Europe were pillaging lands all over South America and North America, bringing an end to civilizations they came in contact with such as the Aztec Empire, rooting out the natives from their land. Only a few of them survived such ‘exploration’. Even China was not shown mercy. Though never formally colonized, but imperial officers of the British Empire always made sure that the Chinese too bent to their ways. True, the Allied powers dealt the final deathblow to the flailing Ottoman Empire in the Great War and the British and French irrevocably changed the map of the Middle East, sowing division and discord within the Arabs, and it is true that the British brought an end to the other great Muslim empire of the Mughals, but the Europeans colonized and terrorized both the Muslims and the Hindus in equal measure. Outside of India, they imposed their technological, military, educational and what they deemed as cultural superiority on people of all faiths, never betraying any hint of discrimination while exercising brutal forms of subjugation.
Despite this, the Hindus or the Buddhists or the Zoroastrians or the Sikh or the remnants of the Native American people have never seen westerners as their sworn enemies. It was only in the Muslim polity that after the end of colonialism thinkers such as Maulana Maududi and Sayid Qutb emerged, who urged resisting the infidel westerners who were corrupting the world. The other side of the Islamic divide was not far behind. Ayatollah Khomenei came ready to establish a modern Islamic state. Heretical Islamists such as Osama bin Laden took this to another extreme when they began engaging in wanton and prolific acts of terror to display how Islam would resist the West. The consequences were dire. Like the recalcitrant child who goes a step too far, the Islamist organizations previously nurtured by the United States to thwart the Communist advance were slapped hard and beaten to a pulp with the USA not just invading Afghanistan but also Iraq while naming their operations after figures from millennia old Crusades.
There is a difference between Islamism and terrorism though. One resists by not accepting the domination of the west and sticking to its own creed, the other corrupts religion to display the basest human emotions of envy and channels them to inflict massive pain and trauma on innocent civilians. Sadly, in the west’s quest to re-understand Islam it has confused both and thinks they are two sides of the same coin. Now, the mainstream thinking on Islamism and its effects might be muted with commentators even unwilling to express themselves out of the fear of being labelled as bigots, but the alt-right forums populating the internet spew the most vicious form of hatred against law-abiding Muslims who have immigrated to the west in search of security and a better life.
In the doldrums of the pandemic where no one had much to do other than spend time with themselves and the only entertainment was offered by the various blogs and posts on the internet, young, impressionable, would be killers like Nathaniel Veltman who pummeled three generations of a Pakistani Canadian family because of their faith, must have been coming across material which must have forced them to think, ‘Why do Muslims Hate Us’. The straightforward answer by an equally bigoted and uneducated Muslim might be: Because the West Hates Us. The answer might not even be wrong, but the question definitely is.
History can either be used to sew hatred and discord amongst people, make one brother kill another, or be used to bring people together. While the threat of Islamic terrorism might have abated for now, the threat of its reaction in the form of grisly lone wolf attacks has not. Violence against Muslims in Western countries from New Zealand to Canada is on the rise. Politicians in the west can do their part by encouraging better understanding of Islam, making common folks realize how similar the traditions and values of all Abrahamic religions are: that despite their different ways of dressing and following customs, the Anglo Saxons amongst them have more in common with Muslims than any other cast, creed, or religion. In the vast Muslim orient, rather than enshrine the west as the enemy, preachers and teachers alike should instill in young children the idea that the highest form of ‘jihad’ is the one you fight against yourself, in controlling your desires and by bettering yourself in every way possible. Hatred based on history and rancor over the ill effects of colonialism will not achieve the economic growth which is necessary to sustain the exponentially rising population in all Muslim countries.
The author works in alternative financing on Wall Street, and has a fascination with modern history and politics.