Table of Contents

I. Prospectus
II. Circles of Antagonism: Popular Culture
III. Circles of Antagonism: The Intellectual Idiom
IV. Causes of Antagonism
V. Constructive Attitudinal Change
VI. Structure of the Islamic World
Afterword by Javeed Akhter
About the Author

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The one billion people who profess Islam are not concentrated in a single, unbroken landmass. This differs from the one billion Chinese or the near-billion concentration of population on the subcontinent of India. Any imagery of a great green horde, controlled by a single government, capable of raising enormous land armies, is fallacious. The major divisions of the world's Muslim population can roughly be divided in this way: 220 million Arabs live in 22 Arab states (members of the League of Arab States) (dar al-Islam); 450 million Muslims live in some 33 non-Arab but Muslim states (members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (dar al-Islam); 330 million live as minorities in every non-Muslim nation in the world (dar al-harb); 20 million (a rapidly fluctuating number) refugees are scattered in a global Diaspora often displaced with their homelands (dar al-muhajirin).

The overwhelming majority of Muslim live in abject poverty. The 1994 per capita gross domestic Product (GDP pc in US dollars) of the counties in which they live range from the lowest-Mozambique (115), Sudan (184), Chad (190), Afghanistan (200), Bangladesh (200) to the highest-Qatar (17,000), United Arab Emirates (13,800). Kuwait (11,000), Brunei (8,800), Bahrain (7,800), Saudi Arabia (6,500). Nor do minorities necessarily live in countries of better economic circumstances. India, which ahs the world's largest Muslim minority, has a GDPpc of 270; china's is 360. Minorities in western industrialized countries are better off, a fact which partly accounts for Muslim migration to those countries. The outstanding examples are the Algerian influx to France. The GDPpc figures have meaning when compared to those of such industrialized western countries as France (18,900), Germany (17,400), United Kingdom (15,900), and Canada (919,600).

The poverty of Muslim nations is aggravated by high rates of natural population increase. Iraq, Libya and Syria have a natural increase of 3.7 percent-the highest rates in the world. They are closely followed by Niger, Pakistan, Libya, Jordan and Iran with rates from 3.0 to 3.7 percent. Morocco and Algeria, whose population increases are a source of concern to France, rank next with percentages of 2.2 and 2.3 respectively. These figures are alarming when compared wit those for other non-industrial states such as India (1.6 percent) and China (1.1) and with industrial states such as Japan (0.3), Italy (0.1), France (0.4), United Kingdom (0.3) and the Untied States (0.7). The global Muslim population is expanding much more rapidly than non-Muslims. This is likely to increase religious and ethnic tensions and to enhance the prospect of Islamic-non-Islamic confrontation. This is all the more reason for strenuous efforts towards mutual understanding and accommodation.

Muslims live in a kaleidoscopic array of political systems ranging from the secular republican polity of Turkey to the Islamic constitutional systems of Iran and Saudi Arabia. The character of the ummah is essentially spiritual; it owes no allegiance to nation-states; it transcends them. Yet in the real world the nation-state is the dominant political authority and the ummah is realized mainly in rhetoric and in a slowly emerging pattern of pan-Islamic structures while will probably grow in importance. Islamic unity is weakened by significant divisions, especially by those created by the hegemonic impulse of a secular-leaning Iraq and similar impulses of an Islamic -oriented Iran. The violent acts committee d by a variety of groups form different nations, some claiming an Islamic identity, and others having that identity conferred on them by the West, have been consistently condemned by Muslim states and Muslim international organizations. There are sporadic upsurges of Islamic militancy but they should not be regarded as a globally planned movement embracing the whole Muslim world.

The dangers which the apocalyptic forecasters tell of the "Green Menace" are not, then, dangers of a global uprising against the Wet. The threat lies in the possible control of Egypt, Algeria, the Sudan and Saudi Arabia by militant Muslim absolutists who, linked with Iran and Iraq, may not hesitate to use violence. Their fist line of attack would be seizure of internal power.

The dilemma lies in dissatisfaction of populations with regimes, which are perceived as corrupt and even un-Islamic. When groups such as the national Salvation Front of Algeria are denied their share of duly elected power by invalidation of the election by a military regime, this may generate violence. The invalidation is supported by foreign powers, the discontent becomes internationalized and external violence is perceived as justified protections against foreign intervention.

The proper role for the West is not to interfere in the play of internal political forces in a sovereign state. Mature, western political systems can deal with regimes even though power is held by agents deemed antagonistic. When such regimes act externally by aggression (as in the case of Iraq) or by proven complicity in international acts of violence, the intervention may be justified.

The Confucian-Islamic connection described by Huntington is not out of the question. But is presupposed a Pakistan allied with the Islamic absolutists and a China and North Korea actively embarked on international mischief. It also presupposes a western world blind to Muslim fears and aspirations. Western failure to act in Kashmir, Chechnya, Bosnia, and reluctance initially to act in Afghanistan, and its distorted inequitable participation in the Palestinian question, lend credibility to this assumption. That presupposition could be corrected; all these conditions are reversible.

The problem faced internally by the Muslim world appear to be overwhelming. Muslims perceive their values to be increasingly dissonant from those of western liberalism, which seems to have lost its moorings in piety, morality and ethics. Islamic polities must be perceived as part of a total epistemology, hence must be judged by their own internally generated criteria. Yet the criteria are subjected to internal conflict as to their meaning and their relationship to the on-Muslim world.

Every great issue of human existence: liberty, justice, welfare, security, dignity, respect, enlightenment, rectitude, death, affection, divine will and divine message ahs it sown scriptural inspiration and internal consistency. It is especially difficult for the West to understand the tacit, indwelling nature of the Muslim psyche. There is no agreed-upon technique for analyzing the salience of the non-verbal, intuitive dimension of man's being: a dimension, which forms an important part of Muslim identity. Only when Spengler's metaphor of the "world cavern" and his use of the term "soul" are understood can the perennial dialectic of the ummah and the modern nation-state have meaning.

Perhaps the greatest challenge is the alternately harmonious and abrasive confrontation of the Islamic and non-Islamic worlds. The Muslim value system is an all-embracing, all-encompassing moral aesthetic continuum. Yet it is not iconoclastic or exclusive. On the contrary, its dominion is universal and it is undeterred as to time, space or race. The coherence and integrity of its own belief system just be self-maintaining and yet be sued as a radiating source for its universalization. This must be achieved within the context of a world order predominantly non-Islamic and which places the Muslim world in a position of dependency. Such subordination is acerbated by the juggernaut of non-Muslim cultural and commercial imperialism propelled by a dynamic of communications technology and entrepreneurial hubris.

The Muslim world must preserve its values, reconcile conflicting values, yet achieve that reconciliation without overt hostile confrontation with non-believers. Important strides have been taken at the ideological level with Christianity; the next step should be with Judaism. The internal mechanism for achieving all reconciliation is well ensconced in Islamic doctrine: ijtihad. The problem is that of dislodging the mechanism from two threatening webs. The first is the violent minority element in Islamic society whose actions may justify the use of the term "rage" characterizing the work of Lewis, Wright, Worsethorne and others. The second is extricating the interpretations from the encrustations and iconoclasms of village exegesis (the mullah mentality) so that it can function in an enlightened way without betraying Qur'anic truths. Regrettably, these two threats are often united in the same person or group.

There is a significant movement, scattered geographically to reinterpret Islam to fit the present age. This is consistent with ijtihad. Those bent on such reform are in Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Algeria and Iran. They are typically professional people educated in the West. They do not repudiate Islam. On the contrary, they are devout observing Muslims in the tradition of Sir Mohammad Iqbal, the poet-philosopher of India whose Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam (1934) remains classic. These reforms are opposed by traditionalist clerics and by radical militants, neither of whom favor the western style democracy which the reformers advocate.

A different reform effort is that labeled "Islamic literalist" which seeks to replace pro-western Islamic regimes with anti-Western Islamic ideologies. These movements are attractive to young Muslims and may, in some analysts' view be the beginning rather than the end of "the militant Islamic movement".

Although the non-Islamic world manifests an ecumenical interest in Islam as a religion, it is often based on issues of global political power and national security rather than on respect and esteem. There is some evidence, as this essay has pointed out, of a concurrent movement towards a true ideological comprehension arising from a base of religious complementarity and agreement on social issues.

Only a courageous assertion of the Muslim value system proclaimed by an authoritative global political structure can command the respect and esteem of that part of the world which repudiates Muslim values even while holding hands across the creeds. The present kaleidoscopic array of those institutional segments in the Muslim world must be reassembled in a cohesive paradigm and structure which gives meaning and influence to the concept of ummah. This paradigm and structure must be capable both of capturing the imagination of the Muslim psyche and uniting the ummah spiritually if not politically. This condition appears to be slowly emerging. The evolution of intra-Islamic attention to minorities and refugees, more forceful assertion of Muslim values and political power and conciliatory gestures toward other faiths: these are glimmers of hope. Only the resolution of these issues will restore the world of Islam to the distinctive position of global influence commensurate with its territorial domain and its demographic strength.

In reasserting the paramountancy of its culture it must continue to disclaim all forms of violence. This ahs already been done by the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and by individual states. It must also reject the specious unilinear concept of "westernization". The Islamic world is an example of the circularity of culture change and of the permeability of civilizational boundaries. It has, after all, been one of the foremost sources for the radiation and reception of values, and the transmission and translation of values form one culture to another, in the history of the world. Probably no other civilization, neither Greek, Roman or Persian, has had global experience in all five processes radiation, receptivity, transmission, translation and preservation of culture change. Anyone fully cognizant of this aspect of Islamic development would immediately comprehend the views of Spengler, Toynbee, Northrop, Berdyaev, and Malinowski.

It is a cruel irony that at the moment when Islam is free of colonial domination and some of its segments are endowed with a degree of wealth, it is plagued and fragmented by intra-Islamic conflict, sporadic violence by minority groups and dependence upon the technetronic largesse of the non-Muslim world. A true recovery o f Islamic identity cannot be achieved in the context of these three obstacles. Lebanon and the Palestinian problem must be stabilized and enmities between Muslim states must be sedated. Violent acts attributed to Muslim impulse must be seen as small percentages of such acts committed worldwide: 21 percent of the incidents and 31% of organizations with middle East/Islam connections for the five-year period 1990-94. Muslim foreign policy must be coordinated, reconciliation or at least an understanding between Muslim an understanding between Muslim and non-Muslim values must be achieved. The global Muslim political structures now in existence (such as LAS, OIC, GCC) must be strengthened.

The most optimistic hope for the Muslim world lies in the differentials in piety and dynamism which now exist between Islam and the non-Muslim world. The Muslim value system appears to be more pristine, more intact than the doctrines of Christianity which are increasingly being relegated to the realm of myth of fanaticism. In consequence, zeal and intensity of piety may be diminishing. Islam, on the other hand, is in a dynamic, effervescent stage of development. We cannot predict how long these conditions may last or whether they may be reversed, i.e. Islam in decline and non-Islam in the ascendancy. But at this moment in history the dynamics and clearly defined values of Islam have the potential for resuscitating the western world' decline to morbidity. This can be done only if the image projected by Islam on the global screen and the actions of Muslims on the world state are compatible with Islamic principles of peace, justice, and reverence for life.