Crisis of Arab and Muslim Communities in the West: Intellectual challenges between the Inevitability of the Clash and the Reconciliation
By Mohamed Masharqa
Translated from Arabic by the Center for Arab Progress
This analysis stems from the main idea of whether the Islamists and the nationalists will continue to promote endless wars with the West under the banner of combating infidelity, arrogance and imperialism. In return the conflict is projected to extend to the Day of Judgment, and conversely impact the lives of about 25 million Muslims, where about one-third of them are Arabs. These ideologies belong mostly to the historical background and tension between Christianity and Islam since the Crusades, the conquest of Constantinople, and Ottoman expansion in the European continent. Those of which are classified in the Islamic literature of the Golden Age, since the Crusades were repulsed in the waves of five wars and the liberation of Jerusalem by Saladin. Furthermore, the banners of the Islamic Caliphate state reached to central Europe. This was under the banner of justified conquests for religious purposes in order to “to spread the religion of God in the land of the infidels and the Cross.” At the beginning of the twentieth century, the countdown backwards began. For the Western colonial powers went towards dividing the world east and west for economic purposes motivated by Christianity.
The final hit for the defeated Ottoman Empire, which was the center of the Islamic Caliphate, was when the victorious Western Countries from World War I imposed their conditions. These included for Turkey to establish a secular system, and Britain and France took the spoils of war in sharing their influence over the Arab region. In retaliation against the religious dimension, as the Islamic literature claims, the region was divided by new maps that took into consideration the interests of the “Western Christian” countries and planted a Jewish state in the heart of European settlers to become an advanced guard center in defense of Western interests. This process culminated in the defeat of 1967 and Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Sinai and the Golan Heights.
This tragic historical conclusion of the reoccupation of Jerusalem with all its symbolism and religious status was the main reason for renewing tension between the Islamic world and the West, whose leadership has grown unquestioned by the United States. Political Islam, represented by the Muslim Brotherhood, is competing with the leftist and nationalist movements to carry the banner of hostility to the West and the United States. The slogan “Islam is the solution” and that the cause of all calamities and defeats suffered by the nation caused by the move to religion. The rise in oil prices in the mid-1970s helped Saudi Arabia to supply the Islamic project with its Wahhabi version with enormous financial potential, which spread in the Islamic world and among Muslim communities in the West. Then came the Islamic Revolution of Iran in the late seventies to strengthen the project and the wave of hostility to the United States and Western values.
Muslim Brotherhood: The Dual Discourse
Hence, political Islam became represented by the Muslim Brotherhood. They have become the legitimate representative to reap the benefits of the return of the Islamic caliphate, the advancement of the nation to preserve itself, and resume the historical glory from the past. This way the message of a Muslim who belongs to the group is a legitimate duty in all the countries of God.
The analysts note that the situation of the Muslim in the West shows that the Brotherhood institutions have formed their political arms, services and religious pillars of since the early fifties. Further, it was at the beginning of the clash with the Nasserite regime (in Egypt) and the flight of the leaders to the European countries. They have allied themselves with Western circles in the struggle with communism and Arab nationalism since the 1940s and formed the solid fronts of intellectual and political confrontation with the leftists and the nationalists. They called the PLO and its factions an enemy on the pretext that they were secular and nationalistic.
At the end of the 1970s, the various Islamic organizations, in cooperation and coordination with Western countries, formed the first wave to ship young Muslims from Muslim societies in the West to Afghanistan to fight the Soviets, the Balkans and Bosnia. The analysts can also note that the extent of the confusion surrounding the positions of European countries on the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood. On the one hand the Muslim Brotherhood are treated as an experienced ally, who provides a great services in the struggle against the common enemies: the communists and Arab nationalists. Therefore, all attempts to include the Brotherhood in Europe on the lists of terrorism have failed. Further, the Brotherhood’s discourse in the West shows confusion and intellectual failure to deal with the emerging phenomena of European Islamic reality. They lack the ability of integration into Western societies, traditional stochastic attitudes about the concept of the nation and the community against individualism. They are against the concept of spiritual mediation represented by clerics and cadres of political organization, which makes the Islamic groups a parallel authority living from isolation and segregation.
The Islamic literature contradicts the human rights and social philosophy on which Western societies are based on. This is what appears in the legislative structure and system of Fatwa (advisory opinions by Muslim clerks) run by Islamic institutions outside the official western legal system, specifically in matters of divorce, marriage and mating. Further, they advise on the whole system of education and values behaviors advocated by groups in mosques and weekly schools to teach Arabic and Islamic religion. In the view of Western institutions the matter became an obstacle to integration in local communities. Especially that they and promote isolation in the Muslim neighborhoods, and pave the way for the spread of Takfir and jihadist currents. This today has spearhead of confrontation with the West. Islamic Salafism, in its various expressions, has an appealing intellectual representation better than that of the Muslim Brotherhood. It is a source of attraction for younger generations, who are rediscovering their original identity which is a byproduct of discrimination, marginalization, and failure in integration.
The West: Restoration of the Discourse of the Clash of Civilizations
With the end of the Cold War and the fall of the communist system, the literature that raised the Islamic threat to Western civilization emerged. Samuel Huntington’s book “The Clash of Civilizations” marked the beginning of the conflict with Islam becoming an inevitability that coincided with the American policy of that period. The struggle against a new enemy is Islam, which after 2001 carried a new title: terrorism. And reproduced a stereotype of the Muslim as a symbol of bloody wars and terrorism and oppression and contempt of women, and the atonement of Western societies and jihad re-linking wars from the Crusades to the day.
Today there is a trend in the world of academia and culture in the West, which depicts the revolutions of today’s Islamists and Salafi jihadists against colonialism, Western arrogance and corrupt regimes as a reaction against globalization, and its harmful effects on inherited cultures and traditions and against the failing nation-state in achieving development, progress and justice. There is an expression of the failure of Muslims in keeping up with the pace of the rapid change in the areas of digital technology and the global economy. As well as it highlights the Orientalist readings of the revolutions of political anger sweeping the Arab and Islamic world as one of the reasons is for the tense relationship between Islam and the West. In recent years, there has been an American and Western attack all liberation movements, including the Palestinian national movement and Palestinian struggle against Israeli colonialism, marking them as terrorism.
The growing criticism of the international financial system and any protest on the recommendations and policies of the International Monetary Fund, caused severe damage to all the economies that agreed on these terms. The claims are that it is the act of the evil Islamists to call for anti-globalization, anti-West and anti-international regime. A series of issues fuel the fire in the context of calling for extreme grievances, starting with the composition of the Security Council and the five permanent members (a fully Western council), excluding one and a half billion Muslims. In addition, there was a realization in the deep popular consciousness of the Arab that the royal or republic Arab regimes are more like the puppets in the hands of the West. These regimes and systems play functional roles in the service of American policies.
So the Islamic rift and clash with the Western world was elsewhere, yet it intersects at the end at the point that great power is the United States, which is a beacon of Western civilization. Inclusive US support for Israel and its aggressive foreign military policies places it as a permanent enemy of Muslims. Therefore the continuation of the conflict between the two sides will always exist until the causes disappear and a new world order is formed that is more humane, just and moral.
Thus, the bitter experience of the Islamic countries with the West and the United States in particular, in the form of a religious and sacred conflict with globalization and Western understanding of democracy and liberalism, expressed itself by emphasizing the concepts of the community, the nation, succession, identity and the definition of the other. These are the ideas that paved the way for the thought of the Jihadist Salafis and their emergence from extremist organizations, the most prominent of which was al-Qaeda and Daesh (ISIS).
There is a danger to the rise of ideas and political trends and extreme right-wing intellectual in the West, which is hostile to immigrants and Muslims in particular. Further, the US policy that is represented in Trump has become the the main leverage of these ideas and their extensions in the European continent and find a great support in the centers of studies, research and information. This restores the intellectual current of the neo-conservatives who have failed within the Democratic and Clinton administrations. The call to reform the religious discourse that is spreading in the Arab world today is also needed by the Muslims of the West. The Islamic trends have failed in attempts to govern in some Arab countries and the Arab revolutions that the Muslim Brotherhood tried to lead have reversed. The insistence on the application of the fundamentalist Islamic understanding in the West led to the call of the Salafi-Takffiri (extremists), and the claim that “the Muslim Brotherhood is the wall of resistance in the face of extremism and terrorism” in Western countries. This calls for serious and profound intellectual review, which has been seen by reformed Islamic reformers, despite the war launched by the traditional Islamic trend in the West. It offers a moral vision involving Western societies threatened by unemployment and curtailing social, health and educational services by means of the new technological revolution instead of isolationism and secrecy.