By Spahic Omer
(The contents: The Gaza tragedy as an eye-opener; Western anti-Islamic sentiments are centuries-old; John of Damascus; Pope Urban II; Robert of Ketton; Riccoldo da Monte di Croce; Dante Alighieri; Martin Luther; Voltaire; The racist culture of the Enlightenment; Hegel; Napoleon Bonaparte; Domenec Francesc Jordi Badia i Leblich; Sir Richard Francis Burton; Muslims as a threat, adversary and opportunity to the West; Re-writing the history of the West as a preparation for a new world order.)
In two of my earlier articles I proposed two things: first, that Muslims should change their approaches to studying history as part of the broader processes of decolonizing the mind and Islamizing the Western knowledge (https://www.islamicity.org/82159/how-muslims-should-approach-history); and second, that Muslims should critically study Western civilization – almost as much as they study Islamic civilization – in order to become aware of the direct and indirect sources of essentially all ailments Muslims suffer from in particular and the whole world in general (https://www.islamicity.org/66978/why-should-muslims-learn-about-western-civilization).
In this article – in light of the ongoing Gaza tragedy, which is gradually assuming the character of an ethnic cleansing and even a genocide at the hands of the Israel-West axis of evil – I propose that the entire history of interactions between the West and Islam be re-written and re-told for Muslims. Enough is enough. The truth must be said as it is. We must not be afraid to call a spade a spade.
The Gaza tragedy as an eye-opener
The reason for this is obvious. Gaza has clearly demonstrated who is who – or rather who was who – in the crumbling world order whose foundations are colonization, nationalism, bigotry and the ramifications of the two World Wars, which were cleverly exploited in the name of the former. The current global order did not evolve; rather, it was fabricated and imposed. Nor is it democratic; rather, it is both restrictive and oppressive, within whose structure the “other” is sentenced to subservience. There is little in such a world order that is genuinely compatible with the teachings of Islam.
Thus, Gaza serves as an eye-opener, laying bare the truth behind the age-old civilizational hypocrisy. There is no more pretence; all masks have fallen off. This is indeed one of a few blessings in disguise that can be garnered from the unfolding genocide in the brotherly Gaza, which nevertheless should be fully capitalized on, especially by Muslims who perhaps more than anybody else have resided at the receiving end of the Western civilizational treachery.
The summary of the newly-revealed truth is as follows. From the very beginning, the institutionalized West has consistently exhibited a prejudiced attitude towards Islam and Muslims, the corollaries of which varied between out-and-out conflicts, control and Machiavellian politics. The West projected itself as the superior and almighty party in each and every regard. Theirs is the paradigm that ought to be followed.
As the purported paragon of goodness and virtue, Western civilization in the eyes of Westerners signifies the pinnacle of human socio-cultural evolution. Therefore, all other “regressive” alternatives had to be confronted and gradually eliminated. For this reason is a multitude of different traditions, religions, and life systems perceived as threats and so, had to be dealt with accordingly, making the combination of Western civilization and the Western man as the most destructive force history has ever seen.
In passing, this by no means implies that all people in the West are evil. If truth be told, there are many individuals and groups in the West that are at the diametrically opposite side of what has just been said. However, their neutrality and goodness are relative, and they are not in a position to change the situation.
That is so for two reasons: first, those people constitute minority – or exceptions – due to which, in milieus where majority and ideologized media rule, their voices are unheard, and as mere exceptions they cannot invalidate the rule; and second, the wicked tendencies of the West have been institutionalized and deeply entrenched within the patterns of the prevalent socio-political and cultural systems of the West, from which, even if one wanted, there is no escape. People come and go, and so do political parties and civil society groups, but the inbuilt regulatory frameworks remain. They rule over people, not the other way round.
Western anti-Islamic sentiments are centuries-old
It must be borne in mind that the Western anti-Islamic sentiments are nothing new. What is currently observable is nothing but a by-product of long-established predispositions that date back to the first contacts between Islamdom and Christendom (later Orient and Occident). Undoubtedly, Islamophobia runs through the veins of virtually all Western establishments. Members of the “other” are acceptable provided they obligingly sing the tunes of the officially acknowledged Western narratives.
Attacks against Muslims have admittedly been intensified in recent times, because Islam refuses to succumb and go away, getting stronger and its followers more numerous by the day. Despite being a frightening and undesirable prospect, it appears that the final showdown between the two sides is becoming increasingly unavoidable, a presage of the nearness of the end of the world (apocalypse) that was even prophesied by the Prophet.
For illustrative purposes, the spirit of the present Israel-West unholy alliance whose epicentre is Gaza and which targets the totality of Islam and Muslims, is the ultimately refined product of the thoughts as well as activities of these colossi of Western civilization: John of Damascus (d. 749), Pope Urban II (d. 1099), Robert of Ketton (d. 1157), Riccoldo da Monte di Croce (d. 1320), Dante Alighieri (d. 1321), Martin Luther (d. 1546), Voltaire (d. 1778), Hegel (d. 1831), Napoleon Bonaparte (d. 1821), Sir Richard Francis Burton (d. 1890), representing an army of Orientalists and Western spies, and many more.
Those personalities are regarded as icons of Western scholarship and culture, but as far as Muslims are concerned, they are no more than Islamophobes, dogmatists, racists and antagonists. Their object was to contribute to the constant efforts to neutralize the active presence of Islam and its civilization on the world scene, and to bring the rich-in-resources Muslim world under the Western yoke, for which, however, controlling the Muslim mind and spirit first was necessary.
And so, a blueprint for Western dealings with the Muslim world was created. The plans were implemented either directly or indirectly by installing puppet Muslim regimes whose officials did not hesitate to sell their souls to the devil and to persistently work against the interests of their own people.
John of Damascus
The beginning of it all was John of Damascus’ affirmation that Muslims were merely “barbarians, robbers, outcasts, pariahs, and forerunners of the Antichrist.” Just like his father and grandfather, John of Damascus, too, lived under the aegis of the Islamic caliphate. They at different points of their lives were even its employees, enjoying the munificent benefits of Islamic tolerance and big-heartedness. Hence, the actions of John of Damascus could be likened to a betrayal. They felt like a stab in the back.
Pope Urban II
The matter was picked up by Pope Urban II, who in 1095 called for a crusade to the Holy Lands to liberate them from Muslims’ evil, as a result of which the Holy Lands in the name of Christ were converted into genocide scenes. During the first Crusade, only inside the area of al-Aqsa mosque 10,000 men, women and children were massacred (between 40,000 and 70,000 in total) after the city of Jerusalem had been captured. According to eyewitness accounts, “the streets of Jerusalem were filled with blood”.
The genocidal task was carried out by a coalition of the Church and the major Western powers. No wonder that no sooner had Britain captured Palestine in 1917, than it was declared that “today the Crusades have come to an and.” Surely, the Crusade spirit lives on, owing to which, recently, Netanyahu has been advised by a senior politician in the US to “finish them.”
Robert of Ketton
More fuel was added to the fire after Robert of Ketton had translated the Qur’an into Latin, which was the first translation into any Western language. However, the translation was significantly incorrect and unreliable. It was intended not to introduce the actual Islam and its Qur’an to the Western audiences, but to try to substantiate the longstanding Western misconceptions about Islam and Muslims. The translation acted as a catalyst for the loathing and rancour brought on by the Crusades. The title of the translation says it all: “Lex Mahumet pseudoprophete” (“Law of Muhammad the pseudo-prophet/false prophet”).
Riccoldo da Monte di Croce
How serious the matter was demonstrates the behaviour of Riccoldo da Monte di Croce who, in the wake of the end of Crusades in 1291, implored God to destroy Islam (“the perfidy of Mahomet”) and the power of Muslims. To him, Christendom failed to do so, so it was incumbent upon God and patron saints to rescue the world from the peril of Islam and its misguided fanatics.
In his own eyes – albeit reflecting the official post-Crusades ethos of the Church – Riccoldo was a soldier of God, mobilized to destroy Islam and nullify Mahomet’s (Muhammad’s ) deceit. As a leading religious figure, his words mattered, exuding undisputed authority.
At one point, Riccoldo, desperate and consumed by hate as well as anger, even suspected that God’s and saints’ apparent inaction might have been a sign that they have betrayed their promises and have themselves become Muslims (Saracens): “Are you unable to help the Christians against Mahomet, or are you unwilling? I truly believe that you are able but unwilling. Is it true that you have become Saracens?”
Next is Dante Alighieri who in his “Divine Comedy”, which is regarded even in some “misled” Muslim circles as a “masterpiece”, depicts the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him and his family) as the greatest falsifier and a Christian schismatic, “a sower of scandal and schism.” The Prophet’s punishment – as presented in the “Comedy” – literally embodies the sin of discord by having his body torn apart from chin to buttocks.
The Prophet is not only doomed to Hell, but as well placed near its very bottom where Satan himself resides. There are also references to Ali bin Abi Talib – “cleft in the face from forelock unto chin” – Ibn Sina, Ibn Rushd and Salahuddin al-Ayyubi, as inhabitants of Hell.
What is interesting and, at the same time, disturbing is that Dante Alighieri vilifies, in addition to the Prophet, also Ali bin Abi Talib as a personification of the pure religious dimension of Islam, Salahuddin al-Ayyubi as one of the greatest Muslim statesmen and leaders who put an end to the Crusades, and the duo of Ibn Sina and Ibn Rushd whose giant reputations stand for a microcosm of the greatness, plus global appeal, of Islamic civilization.
With this, Dante Alighieri insinuated that the triad of Islam, Muslims and Islamic civilization is by no means compatible not only with Christendom, but also the rest of the world. Everything relatable to Islam, one way or another, is satanic, deserving no honourable place in this world, whereas in the Hereafter the destiny of Islam’s followers will be the rock bottom of Hell in the company of Satan. As if Dante Alighieri asks how someone can have anything to do with such evils as Islam and Muslims, let alone embrace their devilish beliefs and lifestyles.
Furthermore, Martin Luther – one of the biggest ever movers and shakers of the West and its consciousness, whose influences stood the test of time – held that God was sending Muslims (the invading Turks) as a curse for the evils committed by the West. Muslims signified the rod of God’s wrath, “a divine visitation upon the sins of rulers and people”. Martin Luther expounded this view in his book titled “On the war against the Turks.”
The book was aimed to prepare the Christian West for a prolonged physical and religious (ideological) warfare with Islam and Muslims. On his part, Martin Luther dedicated a considerable amount of time to advancing and further propagating the standard Western errors concerning basically everything that pertained to the culture and civilization of Islam. He wanted to destroy Islam almost single-handedly.
As part of his anti-Islamic engagements, Martin Luther worked tirelessly on publishing the first Western translation of the Qur’an by Robert of Ketton. The task was fulfilled in 1543 by Theodore Bibliander (d. 1564), a Swiss reformer, Christian missionary, apologist and Islamophobe. For this first printed edition of the Qur’an in Latin, Martin Luther wrote his famous preface.
As far as Voltaire is concerned, he was one of the most Islamophobic, chauvinistic and prejudiced individuals in the history of the West. In his capacities as one of the greatest of all French writers and one of the fathers of the French Revolution of 1789, he was able to command a supreme influence in moulding the French – yet Western – worldview. By the way, that is one of the reasons why France is currently the nation with the most pronounced Islamophobia.
Voltaire is a Western superstar. University of Oxford reported on 25 Sep. 2023 that King Charles presented President Emmanuel Macron with the Oxford edition of Voltaire’s Lettres sur les Anglais (Letters on the English) during the former’s recent royal state visit to France. The new edition of “Letters”, as one of the most significant writings of the European Enlightenment, is the product of the Voltaire Foundation in Oxford where Voltaire is viewed as “a thinker whose belief in tolerance makes him a beacon of Enlightenment values across Europe.”
However, flatteries can be deceiving. Voltaire was also a man who classified the Caffres, the Hottentots and the Topinambous as children (poorly evolved and immature civilization-wise). “In his ranking of races, Voltaire proposed that Negroes occupy a median position between Europeans and apes. For him, natural differences provided the explanation of why Europeans had been able to subdue and enslave inferior races.
As an Islamophobe, Voltaire composed “Mahomet” (Prophet Muhammad), which is a five-act tragedy, or drama, whose subject is religious fanaticism. Voltaire is said to have been inspired to compose the work by his “love of mankind and the hatred of fanaticism”. Prophet Muhammad, his mission and his followers were chosen to be satirized because they epitomized superstition, evil and fanaticism. They were a poison that still subsisted. They were a plague that still managed to break out from time to time, and was capable of infecting the whole earth.
The Prophet was depicted as a founder of superstition and extremism. He was a ruffian who first carried the sword to the altar to sacrifice those who refused to embrace his doctrines. He was a deceitful impostor, merciless tyrant, cunning manipulator, indoctrinator, and as suffering from obsessive love disorder.
The racist culture of the Enlightenment
As a small digression, the racist and xenophobic outlook of Voltaire, in fact, stands for a small-scale version of a racist culture of the entire Enlightenment Age, which furnished the emerging modern civilization of the West with a soul. One gets an impression that being a racist and chauvinist was a norm. Hence, it is not surprising that the Western civilizational landscapes were never devoid of forms of racism and discrimination. Even in the present day, the West displays a high degree of racial prejudice. It is the stronghold of the scourge.
David Hume, for one, never stopped displaying a propensity for the bane of racism. To him, of all the human races, the whites were superior. The black Africans (the Negroes) fared most poorly. They were relegated almost to the level of animals. The worst (the most savage and most barbaric) of the whites were still above the best of the Negroes. The two groups were worlds apart, resulting from what David Hume proposed to be a natural or biological determinism.
Another example is Immanuel Kant who was of the opinion that “full perfection of humanity was reserved for the white race; next came the yellow Indians, followed by the Negroes and finally the American peoples. Americans he regarded as uneducable and lazy.” The white race has been described as “the very blond, soft-white-skinned, red-haired, pale-blue-eyes variation.” Only the white man was civilized; the rest were savages and barbarians. Kant infamously said that solely by reason of being a Negro, whatever a Negro says must be stupid.
Furthermore, Hegel was another embodiment of the Enlightenment and an ideological father of the modern Western civilization. He is one of the most prominent persons in the hierarchy. However, in a manner comparable to the vast majority of his peers, Hegel likewise harboured an unfavourable view especially towards the Africans (the Negroes). And since many parts of Africa were Muslim, Hegel did not hesitate to express similarly unfavourable views towards Muslims as well. Islam as the ideological force that propelled the Muslim standards of living was likewise targeted.
Hegel considered that the Negroes were still at the first stage of their development. They were dominated by passion, and were nothing more than savages. There was neither history, nor religion, nor culture in Africa. There was only a succession of contingent happenings and surprises. To Hegel, “all our observations of African man show him as living in a state of savagery and barbarism, and he remains in this state to the present day. The Negro is an example of animal man in all his savagery and lawlessness, and if we wish to understand him at all, we must put aside all our European attitudes.”
Hegel admitted that Islam and Muslims (Mohammedanism) seemed to be the only factor that somehow managed to bring the Negroes at all nearer to culture. But having said so, Hegel submitted – and certainly not inadvertently – that Islam is a religion of neither culture nor civilization. There were many segments of Africa that were Muslim, but still, even after accepting Islam, the Negroes persisted as anarchic barbarians and ruffians. The most that Islam and Muslims could do to the Negroes was to bring them somewhat closer to culture, not to culture per se, because neither did they possess it.
Hegel was explicit that Islam was a primitive system and Muslims barbarians, anarchists and plunderers. He then astonishingly proposed that certain (most strategic) portions of the Muslim world – those which were geographically close and behaviourally susceptible to the civilized ways of Europe – be colonized in the name of spreading the Western civilizational values: “This portion of Africa (North Africa), like the Near East, is orientated towards Europe; it should and must be brought into the European sphere of influence, as the French have successfully attempted in recent times.”
During the French campaign in Egypt and Syria (1798–1801), Napoleon Bonaparte introduced a new component to the Western treatment of the Muslim world. It was a mixture of physically colonizing (conquering and subjugating) lands and intellectually-cum-culturally civilizing minds (resulting in the science of Orientalism). It was the beginning of the implementation of strategies that took centuries to evolve.
What Napoleon did was characteristic of the French (Western) presumed mandate to conquer and civilize. Napoleon himself was explicit about the matter. He for example said to his soldiers in preparation for the campaign that they were about to undertake a conquest “the effects of which on civilisation and commerce are incalculable.” Napoleon then added, implying that he was preordained, perhaps even sanctioned, to do what he was about to do: “We must make some fatiguing marches; we must fight several battles; we shall succeed in all we undertake. The destinies are with us.”
To Napoleon, the people of Egypt were barbarians. Napoleon yet seemed surprised by the level of their barbarity, perpetuated and amplified by the barbarities of the remnants of the Mamluk elites whose influences remained a force in Egyptian politics until they were stamped out by the Egyptian pasha and viceroy Muhammad Ali (d. 1849) in 1811. Napoleon wrote in a letter to his brother Joseph that “Egypt is richer than any country in the world in corn, rice, vegetables and cattle. But the people are in a state of utter barbarism.” Hence, Napoleon’s aim was “to restore a region from its present barbarism to its former classical greatness.” Conquering the country militarily was relatively easy, but liberating it from the chains of primitiveness and barbarism was a real challenge.
That is why when Napoleon departed from France, his military units were only part of the conquering forces. In addition to the armed forces, Napoleon was accompanied by the scientific and cultural apparatus, for which the conquest of Egypt actually came to be known. Time and again, the political, economic and military features of the invasion of Egypt were eclipsed by those pertaining to the mission civilisatrice. Shortly after arriving in Egypt in 1798, Napoleon and his army of experts established Institut d’Egypte in Cairo, which was reputed as the oldest secular learned academy in Egypt.
In point of fact, Napoleon wished to conquer the majority of the Muslim world, using Egypt as a launching pad. He might yet have a plan of ostensibly embracing Islam – if he succeeded with regard to the former – and declaring himself the Caliph of all Muslims.
Domenec Francesc Jordi Badia i Leblich
This brings us to a man called Domenec Francesc Jordi Badia i Leblich (d. 1818) who in the heart of the Muslim world was a spy of Napoleon. Badia i Leblich secretly performed the hajj pilgrimage as part of his espionage assignments. One of the objectives was to undermine the legitimacy and power of the Ottomans by pitting them against the Wahhabis as an emerging force to be reckoned with in the region of the Arabian Peninsula.
Consequently, Badia i Leblich (whose pseudonym was Ali Bey al-Abbasi) repeatedly danced to the tunes of the ideologized colonization drives of Napoleon. Since the Ottomans as the torchbearers of Islamic civilization were the target, Badia i Leblich kept drawing attention to his evaluation that they and civilization (Westernization and modernization) were incongruent. He posited that the Ottoman Empire was composed of a strange mixture of heterogeneous and irreconcilable parts. The Ottomans have always been – and will always be – strangers to the customs of Europe, implying that their conquests in Europe were neither heaven-sent nor welcome, and that their end might be nigh.
Badia i Leblich then declared that the Ottomans had nothing to do with civilization and were still barbarians. He even asked pardon of those who, deceived, begged to differ. Radiating the mind of the European Enlightenment and the spirit of the French Revolution, Badia i Leblich listed the causes and symptoms of the Turkish widespread barbarism. They centred on the Ottoman Empire being a nation that enjoyed not the slightest idea of public right, or of the rights of man; a nation in which there was hardly one individual in a thousand who knew how to read and write; a nation with whom there was no guarantee for private property, and where the blood of man was ever liable to be shed for the least cause, and upon the slightest pretext, without any form of trial. In short, the Ottoman Empire was a nation resolved to shut its eyes to the lights of reason, and to repel far from it the torch of civilization which was presented to it in all its brilliancy.
Badia i Leblich in the end passed a damning judgment. He believed that the Ottoman Turks were bound to remain barbarians. Not only will civilization never be their forte, but also never will they be able to civilize themselves – neither in the Islamic nor the European signification of the word. They were destined to remain civilization’s antithesis, at once in the abstract realm of ideas and in the physical world of tangible outputs.
However, inasmuch as the Wahhabis were meant to be set against the Ottomans, and to be utilized for weakening the latter, in order for France to accomplish its geopolitical goals, the Wahhabis were projected by Badia i Leblich as truly religious and with a remarkable potential for civilization.
Badia i Leblich asserted about the Wahhabis that, even though uncivilized, they were men most disposed to civilization, if they were to receive proper instruction. He also said that the Wahhabis were generally misunderstood and treated unfairly. With them, neither superficiality nor bias paid off. What was needed was to go beyond the conventional and to penetrate deeper into the heart of the matter. Their lack of civilization (Westernization) was one of those mishandled subjects.
The civilization option was the only way for the Wahhabis to move away from the states of barbarity and poverty. Once that was accomplished, civilization again was the only guarantee of sustainability. The continuity and success of religious enthusiasm all the more depended on the extent of their espousal of civilization. Badia i Leblich further believed that the Wahhabi movement had a future only if it adopted more liberal beliefs and practices, i.e., if it became more “civilized.” Only then could their country be privileged to rub shoulders with the rest of the civilized world, and to perhaps make some of them sympathize with and even adopt their principles. Without a doubt, it follows, civilization – as constructed by the West – was equal to prosperity, power and dominion. With civilization on-board, not only lands, but also minds and hearts, could be conquered.
Sir Richard Francis Burton
Finally, representing the official creed of Britain and its unsatiable thirst for colonization and control, Sir Richard Francis Burton, a British Orientalist and spy, demonstrated that the primary motivation of Britain when dealing with the Muslim world was colonization and exploitation. Nothing else really mattered. Therefore, the British treatment of Muslims was always fraught with espionage, mistrust, harassment and control. Other considerations had to be relegated to a subordinate position.
Thus, for instance, Burton spoke about Egypt – as a representative of the Muslim world – in terms of a mere prize to be won by any lucky Western colonial power. Egypt denoted a true treasure with infinite potentials. It was a jackpot, with every effort invested both militarily and imperially being well worth it. Burton concluded his wishful colonial thinking thus: “Briefly, Egypt is the most tempting prize which the East holds out to the ambition of Europe, not excepted even the Golden Horn.”
Muslims as a threat, adversary and opportunity to the West
It is obvious from the above that in the eyes of the institutionalized West, Muslims connoted a threat which had to be confronted head-on and ultimately neutralized, an adversary which had to be prevailed over not only on the battleground, but also in the domains of civilization and culture, and an opportunity which had to be optimized by nurturing and constantly fine-tuning it, not on Muslim terms but those of the West.
How extreme the Western attitude can nowadays be – as the apex of the historical proceedings with their main protagonists – is perceptible in the words of Nikki Haley – the Republican 2024 US presidential hopeful and former US Ambassador to the United Nations – who told Fox News on 10 October that the (liberatory and resistance) attack of the Hamas was not just on Israel but “is an attack on America”. It was then that she made her declaration: “Netanyahu, finish them, finish them (…) finish them!”
Bearing in mind that Palestine is a symbol and heart of Islam, and so, a prime concern of all Muslims, the above words “finish them”, in a roundabout way, were directed to all Muslims.
The official position of the US Government is that Israel is right in its disproportionate response to the Hamas’ attack, which is likened to the 9/11 attacks. The stance of the overwhelming majority of the rest of the institutionalized West is similar to that of the US, namely, Israel as the occupier and perennial oppressor is right in whatever it does, while Gaza – and the whole of Palestine – is wrong in whatever it does or does not do. Its crime is its mere existence.
Any acts of Palestinian “aggression” (liberatory and resistance initiatives) are deemed as attacks on the West and the “free civilized world.” Palestine and Muslims, therefore, must adapt and cooperate, or be acted upon decisively. They must be with the West (Westernized) or against it.
Israel is pampered because to the West, it serves as a bulwark against the potential unity and strength of the Muslim world. It is the incarnation of the Western antagonistic position vis-à-vis Islam and Muslims. It is furthermore a statement of intent, underscoring the intentions of the West to do whatever it takes to make sure that neither the interests of Israel as the effect, nor those of the West as the cause, are compromised.
The current dynamics in the region and beyond across Islamdom denote the yield of the efforts of the above-mentioned plethora of Islamophobes, bigots and chauvinists, from John of Damascus to the actual creation of the illegitimate state of Israel in 1948. With regard to the perspectives of Muslims, the history of the West, more often than not, was the history of differences and misunderstandings at best, and the history of tensions and conflicts at worst. The primary root of the issue was the Western first religious then imperialist superiority complex, which was intended to be imposed upon Muslims and to ultimately give rise to a sense of inadequacy among them.
Re-writing the history of the West as a preparation for a new world order
This means that whenever the Muslim threat became difficult to contain, the Muslim liability got closer to undermining the ubiquitous superiority of the West, the Muslim opportunity was about to slip away and Muslims started to react more resolutely to the Western culture of bullying, Muslims were labelled as incompatible and dangerous. They had to change or be changed. They could not be “unorthodox troublemakers.”
The job of Muslims was purely to support, imitate and consume whatever Western products and ideas could trickle down to the level of their concerns. They had to be a “constructive” consuming force. Muslim puppet leaders were installed and un-installed to make sure things are always in order.
This is the unfortunate truth in connection with the West-Muslims dealings, even though the narrative of the West is desperate to misrepresent and conceal a great many aspects thereof. At any rate, the Western narrative, when it talks about itself and its relationship with Muslims, is flawed and one-sided. It is a relationship featuring the master-servant dynamic, with the master exerting control and authority over the inferior servant. Contained therein is also a dichotomy between the civilized and the uncivilized, where the West is visualized as the quintessence of all excellence and value, and Muslims as embodying the least of life and thought standards.
The same narrative has been forced upon Muslims themselves and has been implemented with varying degrees of success in Muslim educational systems. Muslim libraries and bookshops are awash with academic references produced both by Muslims and Western scholars, which as much justify as propagate the narrative. Doing so has become a sign of intellectual maturity and of academic distinction.
Needless to say that this must stop if Muslims were to regain some honour and self-respect. A new intellectual culture ought to take off in the Muslim educational spheres, a culture where academic freedom, historical revisionism, decolonization of the mind and spiritualization of being, will be accorded a privileged place. The truth must be declared not only about the West, but also about Muslims, how the former harassed and how the latter allowed to be harassed.
The truth and nothing but the truth should be the aim, for, intrinsically, neither is the West evil, nor the Muslim world angelic. It all boils down to performances, assessed against the backdrop of the ultimate veracity of Islam. The undertaking will be greatly advantageous to all, but especially to the Muslim youth, who are the most lost and confused.
The unparalleled events in Gaza and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war are evidences that a new world order is in the making. Muslims should grasp the opportunity and assert themselves as central characters in the proceedings. Unity and cooperation, rooted in the worldview and values of Islam, will be the key.
Muslims in addition need to remember that before embarking on an adventure of creating a new history, the old one cannot remain blurred. It should be rectified as soon as possible in order to pave the way for inscribing new historical chapters. For that reason is the prospect of re-writing and re-telling the history of the West – i.e., Islam-West relations – critical. The results of the re-writing should be systematically implemented across the spectrum of life segments, from academia to popular culture, and from decision makers to those affected by the decisions.
Indeed, it is impossible to have a healthy future without a healthy history onboard. Before learning from their past, Muslims must strive to learn about it first. Only then will they be able to build a better tomorrow – not to wait for that tomorrow to be built for them. After correcting history, the future will be in Muslims’ hands. ***
(Assoc. Prof. Dr. Spahic Omer is an academic in Department of History and Civilisation, AbdulHamid AbuSulayman Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences.)