More than two weeks after the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Centre, the initial shock has worn off and the prevalent mood has changed to nervous anticipation as the world waits to see what the US will do next. The broad terms of the west’s response are already clear, however. Although George W. Bush and his cohorts were swearing bloody vengeance in the immediate aftermath, behind the scenes they were obviously quick to recognise the attacks as an opportunity rather than a problem, and set about planning how best to use them to advance the US’s hegemonic interests. Talk of a quick, hard strike against the supposed perpetrators turned into attempts to construct a global coalition against ‘terrorism’, with the potential of course of being turned against any or all of America’s enemies and critics around the world, particularly Islamic movements. It is also clear now that Washington plans the effective occupation and domination of Pakistan and Afghanistan, although what form that domination will take remains to be seen.
The implications of all this for the Islamic movement and Muslims generally are, on the face of it, grim. Islamic movements comprise the main opposition to Western imperialism in the non-Western world, and will inevitably be the main target of this new western coalition. Already the list of ‘terrorist’ organisations identified by the US includes groups in Kashmir, Palestine and Arab countries, as well as Afghanistan. When Russian president Vladimir Putin signed up to the coalition, the US immediately identified the Chechen mujahideen as terrorists, calling on them to end their supposed links with Osama bin Ladin. The West has long been at war with Islamic opposition movements around the world; this war is clearly about to get much bloodier, and a great many Muslims are going to pay a high price for their determination to oppose the forces of kufr that are bleeding our lands dry, and to establish Islam instead.
Muslims in western countries are also feeling the heat. In the US, Britain, Europe, Australia and elsewhere, Muslims are facing increasingly hostile Islamophobic pressures, resulting in murders, arson attacks and drive-by shootings on mosques and Islamic centres, and other kinds of harassment. Despite the protests of Western politicians such as Bush and British prime minister Tony Blair that they have nothing against Islam and are not fighting ‘good’ Muslims, many westerners see that their enemies are all Muslims and that effective opposition to western domination is almost invariably in Muslim countries, and draw their own conclusions. This situation is inevitable, even understandable, and is likely to get much worse unless Islamic movements collapse and disappear under the West’s onslaught, which is unlikely.
Muslim communities in Western countries must therefore be prepared to defend themselves, politically and if necessary physically, although the latter should only be necessary if they fail politically. This demands that they organise themselves and have leaders and institutions that can stand up to Western governments and represent Islamic movements in western countries, rather than be defensive and apologetic in the face of the sort of Western propaganda we are now seeing. Western Muslims must be prepared to say that we reject the West’s claims to be interested in democracy, human rights and freedom, and to justify and explain our support for the causes and struggles of Islamic movements against Western political and economic domination. This sort of strength of purpose is essential for us to hold together as communities and gain the respect of the world, as well as being the only principled position to take.
We should also recognise, however, that this heightened confrontation demands that we grasp the baton of leadership against Western dominance. The West’s war is not only with the Islamic movement; it is with all those who refuse to accept the West’s right to exploit and manipulate the world for its own benefit. Islam, however, remains the only non-Western belief-system and world-view that the West has failed to destroy, and that retains the potential to challenge the West. So it is imperative that we make it clear that our struggle is not only for the Muslims, but is on behalf of all oppressed non-Western peoples. We need to understand and explain that this war is between the West and the Rest, and to show the Rest that Islam – the true Islam of the Islamic movements, not the stripped-down Islam that is acceptable to Bush and co. – offers all oppressed and exploited peoples the possibility of a better future.
Mr. Iqbal Siddiqui is Editor of Crescent International and Research Fellow at the Institute of Islamic Contemporary Thought.