The misconceptions about Islam, “Islamism,” al-Qaeda and “jihadism” are so well consolidated that there are no signs of any change in the foreign policies of Western capitals in the near future. Nevertheless, it is time for those, who believe the war on terrorism is wrong and misdirected, to understand what policy changes are actually needed to address the well-entrenched fear of “jihadism.”
The starting point of that understanding will be a recognition that America’s efforts to crush the imaginary al Qaeda have had the opposite effect. Contrary to what analysts like Bruce Riedel in May/June 2007 edition of Foreign affairs tell us about the gaining strength of Al-Qaeda, the reality is that it is not the ideology of Al-Qaeda that is strong than ever, it is a resistance to the centuries old injustice, oppression and continued colonialism that is getting stronger.
It is misleading to ask: Is challenging Al-Qaeda and the philosophy it espouses a task that the United States is competent to assume? The right question is: What is it that turns hundreds if not thousands of people against the US and its allies on daily basis? Why are thousands out there ready to give life? Is it only the wish to win virgins in paradise or there is something more to it?
Thus far, the paradigm that has dominated the U.S.’s so-called counter-terrorism strategy is that of defining the enemy, its intentions and future plans out of context and then move on to crush the enemy. The war on terrorism has been engaged as though it was somehow akin to the World Health Organization’s campaign to eradicate smallpox — even though everyone knows that labelling a people killing terrorists and killing them in mass together with civilians does nothing to remove the problems that are leading to resisting the US and its allies in the first place.
The so-declared war on terrorism has absolutely not served as the “greatest terrorist recruiting exercise in history” as someone has put it. It is simply subjecting tens of millions Muslims to direct colonialism once more and awakening many more to realise the depth of perpetual exploitation at the hands and systems established by former colonial centres.
As a campaign of subjecting Muslims to the will of Washington the war of terrorism has been worse than a failure.
An intelligent response to the so-called “revolutionary jihadism” must not begin with asking, what would make a “terrorist” choose a different vocation? It must begin with, how does one become a “terrorist” in the first place? This question would lead to the acknowledgment that what is considered as “revolutionary jihadism” is not a vocation.
The willingness to die in the service of a greater cause and a level of passion and intentionality does not come without a serious reason. If merely the desire to have virgins in paradise were the cause of motivation, out of 1.4 billion Muslims, we would lead have point seven billion people ready to blowing themselves up any time. However, as the latest, neglected EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Report 2007 from Europol suggest, that is not the case.
Once this conception is thrown out of the window that there is no place for suicide in Islam, nor millions of Muslims bent upon committing suicide, energies could be redirected to understanding the reality and finding the right solution. The idea that the so-labelled extremists can be persuaded to opt for moderation without their core sense of deprivation and alienation still being served is simply unrealistic.
We must know that “revolutionary jihadism” is not fuelled merely by the sense that Islam is under threat from infidels and that the political regimes and religious establishment across the Muslim world do not serve as defenders of the faith.
The problem lies in the 800 years of direct and indirect colonialism and the systems of mass exploitation it has established.
It is not Muslims who are diligently involved in exposing the roots of disparity, the causes of injustice and mechanisms of exploitation which the imperial centres in the West are employing. It is non-Muslim scholars such as J. W. Smith, author of the Economic Democracy and founder of the Institute of Economic democracy, who are underlining the root causes of resistance in the Muslim world.
Muslims under direct occupations in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya and Kashmir are reacting to the immediate oppression the face. They just don’t understand the 800 years history, approach, system and tools of colonialism, which non-Muslim scholars are exposing.
So it is not the so-painted international terrorist network of Muslims, which the US and its allies couldn’t succeed to eradicate in the past five years. It is that the colonial systems of exploitation are being exposed in this age of information.
The more we see the faÃ§ade of sham democracy crumbling before our eyes, the more we realize that there is no real democracy in practice anywhere in the world. Over the last seven hundred years a ‘democratic’ faÃ§ade has been used to mask the political and economic exploitation of the weak and the vulnerable.
A majority of the masses are coming to the rude realization that today’s inequalities and poverty at global and local levels stem from the prevailing rule of law and governing systems put in place over the last seven centuries by wealthy and powerful colonialists.
The first of those seven hundred years saw plunder by trade between city states and the countryside and the slow evolution of the current rule of law.
Then came a long four hundred years of battle between the colonial empires. Only after WWII did these imperial nations ally together to maintain control over the rest of the world. The resulting economic power structure they realized allowed them to quit fighting each other and ally together to maintain their monopoly position. That alliance is desperately attempting, world-over, to sustain both its international rules of law (plunder by trade) and its internal rule of law (control of domestic populations).
It follows therefore that an alternative path is not going to arise out of the very elements that have huge stakes involved in maintaining the status quo.
An intelligent response to global “jihadism” lies in listening to non-Muslims demand for economic democracy and Muslims demands for exercising their right to self-determination.
Muslims engaged in the struggle for self-determination don’t want puppet regimes and foreign interference in the internal affairs. These two elements are needed for what non-Muslim researchers are rightly pointing out as monopolization of land, technology, and finance capital; plunder by trade, and imperial democracy.
It is time colonialists started listening to what majority of Muslims and non-Muslims have to say as a result of growing awareness.