by Graham E. Fuller
Imagine, if you will, a world without Islam - admittedly an almost
inconceivable state of affairs given its charged centrality in our daily
news headlines. Islam seems to lie behind a broad range of international
disorders: suicide attacks, car bombings, military occupations, resistance
struggles, riots, fatwas, jihads, guerrilla warfare, threatening videos, and
9/11 itself. Why are these things taking place? "Islam" seems to offer an
instant and uncomplicated analytical touchstone, enabling us to make sense
of today's convulsive world. Indeed, for some neoconservatives,
"Islamofascism" is now our sworn foe in a looming "World War III."
But indulge me for a moment. What if there were no such thing as Islam? What
if there had never been a Prophet Mohammed, no saga of the spread of Islam
across vast parts of the Middle East, Asia, and Africa? . . .
But the question remains, if Islam didn't exist, would the world be more
peaceful? In the face of these tensions between East and West, Islam
unquestionably adds yet one more emotive element, one more layer of
complications to finding solutions. Islam is not the cause of such problems.
It may seem sophisticated to seek out passages in the Koran that seem to
explain "why they hate us." But that blindly misses the nature of the
phenomenon. How comfortable to identify Islam as the source of "the
problem"; it's certainly much easier than exploring the impact of the
massive global footprint of the world's sole superpower.
A world without Islam would still see most of the enduring bloody rivalries
whose wars and tribulations dominate the geopolitical landscape. If it were
not religion, all of these groups would have found some other banner under
which to express nationalism and a quest for independence. Sure, history
would not have followed the exact same path as it has. But, at rock bottom,
conflict between East and West remains all about the grand historical and
geopolitical issues of human history: ethnicity, nationalism, ambition,
greed, resources, local leaders, turf, financial gain, power, interventions,
and hatred of outsiders, invaders, and imperialists. Faced with timeless
issues like these, how could the power of religion not be invoked?
Remember too, that virtually every one of the principle horrors of the 20th
century came almost exclusively from strictly secular regimes: Leopold II of
Belgium in the Congo, Hitler, Mussolini, Lenin and Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot.
It was Europeans who visited their "world wars" twice upon the rest of the
world - two devastating global conflicts with no remote parallels in Islamic
Some today might wish for a "world without Islam" in which these problems
presumably had never come to be. But, in truth, the conflicts, rivalries,
and crises of such a world might not look so vastly different than the ones
we know today.
[Graham Fuller is a former vice chairman of the National Intelligence
Council at the CIA.]
Paul R. Dunn, "Islamic Fascism: The
Propaganda of Our Times," The Wisdom Fund, September 6, 2006
Zbigniew Brzezinski, "Terrorized
by 'War on Terror'," Washington Post, March 25, 2007
John L. Esposito and Dalia Mogahed, "Who
Speaks For Islam?: What a Billion Muslims Really Think," Gallup Press
(February 28, 2008)