The Muslims who can say ‘No’

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Of all those who will feel the blows of the future, none will suffer more than the Muslims. They will bear the full agony of watching and waiting for signs of change from Obama’s U.S. that may be very long in coming, if at all.

What makes things worse is a pervasive culture of defeat among today’s Muslims, even among their elites. Many Muslim countries are under military occupation; others are politically pressured to hand over their resources to oppressor nations; still others are forced to buy military hardware that they can neither afford nor use to defend themselves. These countries are afraid to say ‘no’ to oppression, even though their Holy Book teaches that Muslims should unite and resist both external and internal oppression.

Sadly, even though the Muslim masses will wish for a just society, they will witness a continuation of the old order: economic, social, and political injustice based on wars that exploit land and people for the rich and powerful few. Muslims may be facing a tragedy greater than any inflicted upon them since 1492 when the last peaceful superpower of Europe came to an end.

If this tragedy is to be avoided, Muslims must develop a new mindset. As the first generation of Muslims did some 1400 years ago, today’s Muslims must preserve human integrity from the destruction and misery caused by imperialism and exploitation. To do that, they must learn to say ‘no.’

Many historians of modern Catholic Spain have admitted that their country was never as prosperous or its wealth as equitably distributed, as it was during the 700 years of Muslim rule. Muslims transformed southern Spain into a superpower that benefited all humanity. Science and literature were world class; large estates were divided among a prosperous class of small farmers; trade flourished as towns exchanged their products for those form Africa, Persia, and India.

The first university of Europe was founded at Cordova under Muslim rule. It had thousands of students from Asia, Africa, and Christian Europe. Learning was greatly encouraged. The people could read and write. Even Catholic nobles were known to come to Muslims for medical treatment.

The Western historian Professor J.J. Sanders described Europe at the time as follows: the West had remained an area of poverty and ignorance until the 10th century, precariously protecting itself from invaders’ attacks from sea and land, whereas Islam had been enjoying internal peace and a splendid and impressive urban culture for four centuries.

Today, Muslims are disoriented and disengaged, for they are living in an age that no longer waits patiently through this life for the rewards of the next. They have become estranged from creating political capital for the public good, and are therefore diminished, as are we all. Muslims cannot help living in history; they can only fail to be aware of it.

If Muslims are to meet, endure and transcend future trials and defeats, for trials and defeats there will certainly be, they must see the future as part of the sweep of history, and know that they have a place in the immense procession of hope for humankind.

Muslims must build their political capital on establishing unity and resisting evil, but they cannot do it alone. They need enablers, including: a strong and fair economy; political reform; an education system that emphasizes languages, religion and literature; high spending on research and development; and military training for the masses to resist aggression.

The road toward saying ‘no’ to occupation, to exploitation, to oppression, to poverty, to economical and social injustice, and to the lack of decent employment, health care and education, is risky. But Qur’anic teachings give Muslims a programmatic approach:

1. God is the real Provider, hence Muslims should not fear that by saying ‘no’ to the powers of evil they would be deprived from material provision (65:2-3).

2. Even if the powers of evil collectively gather against the much weaker power of good, the power of good will triumph (3:173-175).

3. God’s help is the only one needed and is sufficient for the Muslims who follow His guidance (36:39).

4. God makes it a duty for the oppressed to be proactive and resist the powers of evil for they will be greatly rewarded (4: 97-100).

Despite the odds, we have cause for optimism because it, or something like it, has been done before. Over 20 years ago, Shintaro Ishihara wrote a best seller, "The Japan That Can Say No-Why Japan Will be First Among Equals". Every October 28, the Greeks mark "Okhi" Day. "Okhi" means "no" in Greek, and the event commemorates the day in 1940 when Prime Minister Ionannis Metaxas rejected Italy’s ultimatum to allow Axis troops to enter Greece.

Now, it is time for Muslim peoples, not governments, to say ‘no’, and to join a global, grassroots movement to make a just society a reality. Are we ready?

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