Thursday, December 2, 2010

Towards Understanding Islam in the Postcolonial World Order 1/5

Understanding Islam in the Postcolonial World Order

by Taj Hashmi
As the discord between modern and traditional Muslims is ideological by nature, so is the conflict between Islam and the West. And ideology is more about power, influence and identity than a mere reflection of culture and belief system. While modern Muslim elites are unwilling to concede power and privileges to the mullahs, most mullahs and their followers – mostly rural and small town lower elites with traditional Islamic or “vernacular” education – are also unwavering about not conceding any ground to non-traditional “Westernized” Muslims.


The Iranian Revolution and the Taliban/al-Qaeda experiment in Afghanistan have inspired mullahs and their followers to go the Khomeini or Taliban way. Meanwhile Western duplicities and open support for Islamists during the Cold War had further emboldened Islamists within and beyond the Muslim World. State-sponsorship of Islamism by Saudi Arabia, Gulf States and Pakistan, among other states, has also been a contributing factor to the rise of political Islam. Arab autocrats promote Sunni orthodoxy to contain Shiite Iranian influence; and Pakistani rulers sometimes promote Islamists to bleed archrival India and to neutralize secular democratic opposition at home.

For distancing ourselves from any pseudo-history of Islamism, we need to understand that postcolonial Islamist re-assertion is a legacy of defeats and humiliation for the Ummah. “The death of Nasserism… in the Six-Day War of 1967”, one analyst observes, “brought Islamism as the alternative ideology in the Muslim World.”   We also need an understanding of the Muslim psyche vis-à-vis the Muslim experience in Palestine, Kashmir, Iran, Algeria, Egypt, and among other places, Iraq and Afghanistan. How the Cold War allies – Muslims and the West – turned into adversaries or competitors in an uneven “elite conflict” in the Globalized World for conflicting hegemonies and ideologies demands our attention.

We also need to discern the Cold War Islamism from the post-Cold War one. While during the Cold War, Muslims considered the West a “suspect-cum-ally”. Nevertheless, Muslims regarded the West as a friend against their common enemy, Communism. Although the end of the Cold War following the Russian withdrawal from Afghanistan had heightened Muslim optimism, they were soon crestfallen by the not-so-benign role of the West. Instead of ushering in a new dawn of hope and empowerment for Muslims, the New World Order did not bring anything new to the Muslim World. By 1991, almost all the Muslim-majority countries – barring Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Malaysia – had remain autocratic; and by 2003 three of them – Iraq, Sudan and Afghanistan – had been invaded by Western troops. In short, the cumulative unpleasant post-Cold War Muslim experience has led to the beginning of another Cold War. “Islam vs. the West” has become the new catchword. Meanwhile, pre-modern ultra-orthodox obscurantist forces had gained upper hand in many Muslim-majority countries.

Interestingly, enamoured by the concept of transnational Muslim solidarity, Muslims in postcolonial societies are grabbing the elusive Ummah as their security blanket as weak and marginalized people find security in number.

We may impute the prevalent obscurantism among sections of Muslims to their backwardness, lack of education and opportunities for various historical factors, but we cannot turn a blind eye to Western duplicities and hegemonic designs in the Muslim World. One can at best consider the Western lip-service to “democracy and freedom” in the Muslim World as condescending, insincere and deceitful; its insistence on bringing peace without justice from Algeria to Iraq and Palestine to Kashmir is simply shocking and terrifying.

Since most Muslim countries with a handful of exceptions were European colonies, the Muslim-West conflict is at least as old as colonialism. One may trace the roots of the conflict to early medieval era, even predating the Crusades. The inter-state conflicts between Muslim neighbours are by-products of colonialism. European colonial powers’ arbitrarily drawing lines “across the desert”, which created the states like Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait, Pakistan, Indonesia and Malaysia and truncated entities like Syria and Iraq; have further accentuated the conflict. The postcolonial ascendancy of the Pax Americana, which coincided with the beginning of the Cold War, divided the Muslim World between pro-American and pro-Russian camps. However, the end of the Cold War signalled the beginning of another between the Muslim World and the West. In the wake of the Cold War, the overwhelming Muslim majorities globally turned anti-Western in general and anti-American in particular. They were disillusioned with the West for its continued support for Israel and regimes hostile to their interests in the Muslim World.  As substantial part of the global disempowered people, they also believe the West-sponsored Globalization process has not been beneficial to their interests at all. We must contextualize Islamic reforms, resurgence and Islamist militancy and terrorism to the dilemma of postcolonial Muslim community. They can neither forget their pre-colonial and colonial pasts, nor can they fully integrate themselves into the modern world due to various cultural and economic constraints.
The Ummah represents a racially, culturally, politically and economically diverse global Muslim community. As Muslims have economic, political and sectarian differences, they also have different ways of resolving problems, organizing dissent and protest, violently or peacefully, in the name of Islam or with secular agenda. Algerian Muslims, for example, fought a protracted bloody war of liberation against France. Algerian Muslims having the tradition of fighting a people’s war against oppressive regimes are more likely to take up arms against their enemies than Muslims in some other countries. They are not that different from Afghans. As the French colonial rulers did not allow representative self-governing institutions and relatively free press, unlike what the British experimented in its colonies; Algerians lack the tradition of organizing protests and demonstrations against their rulers in a peaceful constitutional way. The French allowed no Gandhis in their colonies either. Consequently, as Fanon has argued, the “colonized, underdeveloped man” in Algeria metamorphosed himself into a “political creature in the most global sense”. Unlike the “colonized intellectual”, the relatively free peasants posed the biggest threat to the French in Algeria. [1] The postcolonial Algerian government’s maintaining the colonial hierarchical systems, especially in the realm of education by continuing with the French and Arabic medium schools to create the employable and under-employable, French and “Vernacular” elites respectively. According to Roy, Algerian Islamist “lumpen-intellectuals”, mostly with science or engineering background, had been striving for “lumpen-Islamism”. He has demonstrated how corrupt autocracy in Algeria was responsible in culturally Islamizing the polity by toying with Islamism for the sake of legitimacy.[2]  

Source:  Wichaar
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1 comment:

  1. My research has shown that planet earth has been under one world governance for the last 309,000 yrs, and that there is so much more to the New World Order story than most people are even willing to consider...., and that whether it be Judaism, Muslim, Christian, Catholic, Protestant, Anglicans etc..... is all the same basic product being marketed under various brand names.



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