by Enver Masud
WASHINGTON, DC -- When one examines the West's fear of Islam, and tries to relate it to the reasons usually given -- Muslim fundamentalism, militancy, radicalism, terrorism, totalitarianism -- it is difficult, if not impossible, to justify this fear on the basis of reasons given. One has to believe, however, given all the facts and expertise available to the West, that the fear has to be rational. What is this fear that causes enemies of the Muslim world to play subtly on the theme of the Crusades in order to demonize Islam and Muslims? Let us first examine what it is not, before we draw our conclusion as to the real reason why the West fears Islam.
The fear of Islamic fundamentalism, militancy, radicalism, terrorism, totalitarianism, and the West's discovery of the "rogue states," appeared quite conveniently with the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Former Defense Secretary McNamara, in his 1989 testimony before the Senate Budget Committee, said U.S. defense spending could safely be cut in half. It became clear that the U.S. had to either undergo massive shifts in spending, a painful and unwelcome prospect for the defense establishment, or find new justification for continuing high levels of military expenditures. To provide this justification the Pentagon manufactured the threat of "rogue states and nuclear outlaws." The Gulf War was a contrived opportunity to sell this justification to the American people, to protect oil company profits, and to control the flow of oil to Europe and Japan which need it much more than does the U.S.
The International Institute for Strategic Studies calculates that the $262 billion U.S. defense budget accounts for about 37 percent of global military expenditures. Russia, Japan, and China each will spend about $80 billion, $42 billion, and $7 billion. The six "rogue states" -- Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, North Korea -- have a combined annual military budget of $15 billion. The U.S. budget for covert operations (U.S. terrorism?) alone is double this amount. Given the paltry defense expenditures of all the "rogue states" combined, even after correcting for differences in costs, one has to believe that the "rogue states" are no match, militarily, for the West.
And, leaving aside the morality of U.S. covert operations which invite retaliation, Muslim terrorists should not be a major fear. Far more acts of terrorism and violent crime in the U.S., according to government statistics, are committed by non-Muslims than Muslims. And if Muslims do pose a terrorist threat to the U.S., one hears little discussion of what it is that the terrorists really want. Perhaps, all they want is for the West to stop interfering in their countries, in ways that we would never tolerate in the U.S.
Islamic totalitarianism, an oxymoron to anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of Islam, should not be a Western concern. A Muslim ruler may be totalitarian, but then her rule would not be Islamic. Furthermore, the Western record on supporting totalitarian Muslim regimes -- Iran under the Shah, Iraq before the Gulf War -- and doing business with non democratic regimes -- China, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia -- speaks for itself.
As for fundamentalism, Islam has no parallel to the U.S. Protestant Christian movement which opposed modern scientific theory, and which coined the term in 1920 to designate those "doing battle royal for the fundamentals." Rather Islam has from its birth stressed the use of reason and logic.
Islamic law is based upon the Quran, examples and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, analogical deduction, consensus among the learned, and individual reasoning. When the Prophet's contemporaries heard the words islam and muslim, they understood them as denoting man's "self-surrender to God" and "one who surrenders himself to God," without limiting himself to any specific community or denomination, eg. in the Quran, 3:67, where Abraham is spoken of as having "surrendered himself unto God" (kana musliman), or in 3:52 where the disciples of Jesus say, "Bear thou witness that we have surrendered ourselves unto God (bianna musliman)." In Arabic, this original meaning has remained unimpaired.
Absent a generally accepted definition, the label Islamic fundamentalism serves only to obscure issues, rather than to resolve them. Meanwhile, the Christian Coalition, and the Zionists and their biblical claim to Palestine appear fundamentalist to many, yet both are courted by U.S. politicians, and not viewed as a threat.
One can go on eliminating Western arguments against Islam and Muslims. Eventually, one has to ask, what then is the source of the West's fear of Islam and Muslims?
The late Marshall G. S. Hodgson, in Rethinking World History, states: "[Islam's] conscious hopes for a godly world order represent one of the most remarkable undertakings in world history and because its less self-conscious general cultural heritage is laden with human values." Muslims see the West beset with broken families, violent crime, drugs. They see a society divided by race, religion, and huge disparities in income. They long for a peaceful life in which they may provide for the basic needs of their families, and enjoy the respect due to all mankind regardless of their race, religion, position, or wealth.
These Muslims see their goals for a more just and compassionate society thwarted by a corrupt Muslim elite who pursue wealth and power regardless of the cost to their fellow human beings. They see these elites, who govern not by consensus as Islam prescribes, permitting outside powers to exploit their country while they derive few benefits, and find themselves subordinated by Western influences driving them down the troubled road taken by the West. They see few opportunities to earn a living because most opportunities are withheld for the elites and their sycophants. And they see these elites remaining silent when their faith, which offers solutions to the many social problems that plague the West, is denigrated in the propaganda which serves to maintain these elites.
The Muslim elites' allies are the defense establishment and the neoimperialists. Islam's mandate for justice and compassion opposes the primary objective of these neoimperialists who seek to follow policies outlined in 1948 by "the leading dove and peace prize winner" Mr. George Kennan, for the U.S. Department of State. In his top secret Policy Planning Study 23 Mr. Kennan stated in part: ". . . we have about 50% of the world's wealth, but only 6.3% of its population . . . Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity . . . To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality . . . We should cease to talk about vague and . . . unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of living standards, and democratization."
To avoid exposure these neoimperialists and their allies in the U.S. defense establishment, spurred by the enemy within, divert attention by demonizing Islam and Muslims, thereby fanning the fires of bigotry and raising unrealistic fears among the people of the West.
David Stratman, "Inventing the Enemy," AxisofLogic.com, July 29, 2004
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