Modernism: Islam & The West

Shah Abdul Halim

No idea can seize a people’s soul unless, in some sense, it is people’s own.

Dr. Muhammad Iqbal

Modernism is a concept that primarily relies on reason rather than revelation. It gained currency since the separation of the church and the state in the West. The socio-political transformation of the West due to its paradigm shift and reliance on democratic political system rather than on religio-political authority are usually taken as the distinct feature of modernity. Modernism and modernity are mostly used synonymously without making a clear-cut demarcation and are being used interchangeably. It has come to mean belief in science, secularism and progress. Anthony Giddens described modernity as ‘a Western project’. (Anthony Giddens quoted in Post Modernism & Islam: Prediction & Promise. p 7 Akbar S Ahmed. Routledge. London and New York). In fact until the middle of twentieth century Western imperialism was a vehicle for the project of modernism.

The Muslims, at least its major section, still being the sincere believer and adherent of the revealed guidance are considered as anti-modern by the West. The West considers that Muslims are backward, for what it says, as the Muslims still rely on blind imitation of the past traditions rather than scientific approach in analyzing and ascertaining truth. The Muslims are therefore largely being dubbed and stereotyped as regressive by the West. The West considers that Islam is against science and human equality. The West is particularly critical of the Muslims behaviour towards the women.

Secularization however is not a necessary condition for development and modernization. If total human development in its true form has to be achieved, moral questions cannot be separated. Normative values cannot be divorced from the pursuit of development and modernization. Modernity and traditionalism are linked together in fundamental ways, even in the context of modernization. Religion has thus become the single most important variable in the explanation of social phenomena of Islamic countries. Scholars who have emphasized and advocated secularization as sine qua non of modernization are grossly wrong. There is nothing in Islam, which is against development and modernization. Although societies can develop and modernize in material sense without any religion, the issue is far deeper as rightly pointed out by Jamal al din al Afghani: “Muslim peoples grew weak because the truth of Islam was corrupted by successive waves of falsity … Muslims are weak because they are not truly Muslims (Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age. p129. Albert Hourani. London. Oxford University Press. 1962.).

Western scholars always advocated that modernization is possible through Westernization. Westernization is the only gate for developing countries to modernize. However a far-reaching reform of the Muslim societies is not possible ignoring the deep-rooted Islamic foundation of Muslim belief and cultures. A Muslim society’s failure in the material sphere is the proof of its failure in the understanding and application of the teachings of Islam. Such a society can hardly be described as Islamic. What is however required is the independent study of the Quran and the authentic sunnah as curriculum at the high school level.

The attempt by some of the oriental scholars often with ‘jaundiced lenses’ to brand Islamic revivalism as a sign of backwardness, anti-modern and anti-democratic is the result of their stereotype thinking for which they argue that Islam is not compatible with democracy. There is tendency to equate Islam with a political culture that is profoundly authoritarian and anti-democratic. Such scholars think that the nature of the Islamic ideology does not allow any scope where democratic values can flourish. The question is how Islam can be identified as against democratic norms and principles in the presence of shura, consultative institution in the form of parliament, cabinet and advisory body.

The scholars who allege such unfounded allegation that Islam is against democratic system and values ignore the fact that democracy could not flourish in the Muslim World due to foreign intervention and support to the ruling elite who are always stand by to serve their former colonial masters (Rethinking Middle East Politics: State Formation & Development. Simon Bromley. Cambridge. Polity Press.1994). In fifties the West worked against the democratic aspiration of the Iran installing autocratic Shah by replacing democratically elected Mosaddeq. Still later U.S. made every effort to protect the Shah of Iran and defeat the Islamic revolution. The most recent example is Algeria where the West backed the military junta to nullify democratic election. American military, strategic and economic interests have led to the destabilization of many Islamic states. The focus of Western attention is oil producing Arab countries where West used the technique of indirect manipulation of leaders of public opinion and regimes to all out intervention as in the case of Suez crisis in 1956. To this now may be added the current situation in Iraq where U.S is trying to utilize exile Iraqi leaders and “supporting mercenaries” for their own interest. In fact there is no scope to ignore or lessen the role of Islamic values in the contemporary world politics that determines the relations between the states (Defenders of God: The Fundamental Revolt against the Modern Age. Bruce Lawrence. San Francisco. Harper & Row. 1989). There is however no room for generalization. Such issues must be taken seriously and not with a propagandist approach that attempts to construct a justification for the policy makers (International Terrorism: Image & Reality. Noam Chomsky. In Alexander George edited Western State Terrorism. New York. 1991). The misunderstanding of Islam and branding it in different negative stereotype synonym is an obstacle of finding common ground on which to approach difficult policy issues (The United States Europe and the Middle East: An Uneasy Triangle. Phebe Marr. Middle East Journal 48. No. 2.1994. p 224).

Some Western scholars believe that the difference in value system, dissimilarity of world vision and ideological differences between Islam and the West may lead to economic, political and cultural conflict and confrontation. Such thinking has led Bernard Lewis to conclude that Islamic fundamentalists pose a threat to Western interest (Rethinking the Middle East. Bernard Lewis. Foreign Affairs. 71. No. 4. 1992. pp 99-119). It is out of this fear that the West is actively working against all reformist movement for modernization, institutionalization of democracy and the genuine progress and development in the Muslim World.

It is however crucial to critically examine such assertion that conflict of interest between Islam and West would turn into a threat to the world order. It is not reasonable to denounce and condemn Muslims action without taking into consideration under which circumstances Muslims were compelled to formulate such policies and why Muslims actions are directed against the West. The response of the Muslim World towards the West should rather be seen against the backdrop of Western attitude and behaviour towards the Muslims countries rather than as a threat. Muslims view themselves as victims rather than as threats to the world order. Muslim countries see strategic interest of the West as its policy of denying Muslims the right to coexist and pursue their interests, political, economic and cultural and their desire to manage their affairs without outside interference and building self esteemed identity and establish full control over their own market, wealth and resources. Whenever Muslims made attempt to be muster of their own situation and destiny, unfriendly quarters in the West tried to colour them as a threat to their interest. Such attempt of self-determination is a postmodern process of Islamization, a genuine effort progress and pluralism (Islam Globalization & Postmodernity. Edited by Akbar Ahmed & Hastings Donnan. New York. Routledge. 1994).

Muslim modernists desire to reconstruct their social order on the pattern of original Islam. Indeed social change is the key in the modernization process. Unlike the Sufis, Muslim modernists and social reformers want to remold not only individual life but also to reconstruct socio-economic order, create a revolution in the life of the Muslim ummah, the Islamic community. Such modernists are committed to recast the total social texture for it is the social change that brings about a change in the attitudes and values of the largest number of common people. Indeed reformers like Rafaa al-Tahtawi, Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, Muhammad Abduh and Abdul Rahman al-Kawakibi dedicated their life to “the goal of renaissance (nahda) and modernization (tajdid)” of the Muslim society (The Challenge of Modernity. p111. Louay M. Safi. University Press of America. Lanham. New York. London. 1994).

Muslim reformists and modernists true to the Islamic teaching and tradition are absolutely against taqlid or the blind imitation and does not subscribe to the idea that whatever our ancestors have done is the best that could be done and that there is nothing to add. The Muslim modernists have rejected taqlid. Modernist Muslim reformers and scholars are keenly aware of the need of deep-rooted and fundamental reformation of the Muslim society. Islam is a dynamic religion and it has capacity to adjust itself to aver changing social milieu. God in His infinite mercy and wisdom has revealed only outline of social laws leaving matters of detail to be worked out by successive generations. Ijtihad is a recognized legal institution of the Muslim life that enables them to reach newer conclusion through research and investigation to meet the requirement of space and time. How then Muslims can be described as anti-modern and opposed to scientific investigation? However modern intellectuals and reformers attempt to look back to the history to critically examine and review the decisions of the earlier generations and take out of that what is still relevant, valid and good for applying in the contemporary situation, in our life and society should not be termed as imitation of the past and backwardness.

Islam fundamentally believes in freedom of thought and freethinking and is open to debate and discussion. Some people are however afraid of criticism and mistook God’s statement in the Quran to the effect that nothing happens in this world unless God wishes it, that He is all powerful and human beings are very weak, to mean that humanity has no control over its environment and that things will happen naturally of their own. The purpose of such statements, quite clearly, was only to warn human beings of their powerlessness vis-à-vis God, so that people do not start thinking that that they are not answerable for their actions.

The real teaching of Islam is that we have to understand the injunctions of the Quran strictly in their context and background. To insist on a literal interpretation of the rules of the Quran, without due regard to the social change amounts to deliberately defeating the moral-social purposes and objectives of the Quran. The literal interpretation of the Quran over the past several centuries had done great harm to the Muslims. The Muslim reformers of the present time are however against such rigidity and contention.

The Muslim reformer and modernist present a worldview in which man, far from being the prisoner of blind fate firmly believes in cause and effect relationship. Muslims are not fatalist and therefore cannot be termed anti modern. Men are accountable for their actions. There is no scope for predetermination in Islam in so far as human actions are concerned. Mankind is the only exception in the creation of God for God endowed man with the capacity of free choice.

The West’s attempt to stereotype Muslims reformist movements arguing that Islam is against human equality and dignity is also without any foundation. On the contrary it is the West which has supported in the past the ‘justice of the military courts’ as in Egypt in which thousands lost their lives while such people were denied the opportunity to defend them and right to appeal. Egypt’s regime qualifies in Washington as the second most favoured tyrant after Israel (The West, not Islam, is the real enemy of democracy. Faisal Bodi. The Guardian. 13th January 2003). It is the West, which has supplied arms to the Algerian military junta to kill the democratic aspiration of the people of that country and is responsible shedding blood of the innocent civilians including the extra-judicial execution of women as well as men. Yet the U.S. continues to rearm Algerian regime (Double Standard: Dubious Morality: Duplicity in Fight against Terror. Robert Fisk. Independent. Quoted in The New Nation. 7th January 2003). When the process of democratization in the Muslim countries as in Algeria went against the West and their loyal ruling elites, the process was immediately reversed. The military junta without trial executed several thousand Algerian Islamists, reported Christian Science Monitor. Thousands of Islamic intellectuals and scholars were imprisoned in the Sahara desert. The U.S coaxed the World Bank to provide a billion dollar to the Algerian junta after it had decimated the peaceful Islamic movement. France has been funding and arming the corrupt and brutal Algerian army while Britain supports the Algerian government and claims that it is a legitimate government. The West’s record of human rights is abysmal. The behaivour of the West is such that people are inclined to believe that fundamental right is not a prerogative of the Muslims. Historically, the human the Europeans referred to when they spoke of human rights was none but their own citizen, the French human, the English human or the Western human in general (Human Rights: Islamic Perspectives. p 231.Azzam Tamimi. Article contributed in The Quest for Sanity. The Muslim Council of Britain. 2002). Europeans inflicted terrible human wrongs, torture and oppression upon the colonized subjects. Native population of America and Australia were eliminated and millions of Africans were suppressed and enslaved. Western colonialism in Asia, Australia, Africa and Latin America symbolized the most massive systematic violation of human rights ever known in the human history. Much of this violation involved undermining other people’s cultural and religious identities. The recent happenings in Palestine indicate that what waits for them is the same fate as the Red Indians. History always repeats itself, Noam Chomsky pointed out (Arabs and red-Indians: Brothers in fate. Yamin Zakaria. The New Nation. 5th July 2002).

The record of the Western conduct with Afghan prisoner is regrettable. U.S failure to classify Al Qaeda and Taliban as prisoner of war and held them prisoner at Guantanamo Bay outside their homeland tantamount to committing war crimes. U.S decision to try the Afghan prisoner in military tribunal is a violation of Geneva Convention. Under article 130 of the Convention it is a serious crime, a grave breach, to deprive a prisoner of war of the rights of fair and regular trial required by the Convention and is the basis for a war crime prosecution. U.S even detained 105 years old Afghan Haji Faiz Mohammad as being the suspected Taliban or Al Qaeda, flown to Guantanamo Bay and afterwards released being innocent. He was allowed a shower every six days (A.F.P. Kabul. 30th October 2002). Amnesty International in a 62-page report in April 2002 has also accused U.S for violation of human rights of the Afghan prisoner in U.S army custody in Cuba and Afghanistan. 300 Afghan detainees were put in place like caged animal. The caged detainees suffered mental disorders from posttraumatic stress disorder to the early stages of schizophrenia (AP. Cuba. 27th April 2002).

After the attack of Twin Towers on 11th September 2001 international criticism of Russia’s human rights record in Caucasus faded into silence. By playing the war against terror card, Russia managed to sidetrack attention from the extra judicial killings, detentions, torture and sexual abuse. In October 2002 the desperate Chechen fighting for freedom took more than 800 people hostage in Moscow theatre. To rescue the hostages Russia used poison gas in violation of 1925 Geneva Protocol as a result of which 115 hostages died. Only two hostages were shot dead by the Chechen. All 50 Chechen hostage-takers, including women, were killed in the counter assault (A.F.P. Moscow. 28th October 2002). The issue need to be addressed is what reasons are pushing Chechens towards the path of destruction and vengeance in which innocent will pay more than those who are in the wrong. The question is how do the persecuted and oppressed protect their rights or even their voices heard? Passive resistance would have no impact. The Chechens cannot win straight battles because they are not equally armed.

By waving the anti-terrorism banner, government such as Uzbekistan seemed to feel that they had license to persecute dissenters, while government such as Russia, Israel, and China seemed to feel freer to intensify repression in Chechnya, the West bank, and Xinjiang, the Human Rights Watch report stated (AFP. Washington. 14th January 2003).

In fact the West’s war against Islam began when Napoleon invaded Egypt in 1798. Since the illegal creation of state of Israel in 1948 at the behest of the West particularly U.S and Britain, Israel continue to occupy Palestine lands and persist unabated the policy of apartheid and ethnic cleansing. Palestinians are refugees for the last 53 years and the West Bank is under Israeli occupation for 35 years. Today Palestinians are being denied essential water, most vital for humankind survival, by the Israel. To give a specific example in Hebron, where 600 Uzi-toting Jewish settlers live among 240,000 Palestinians, 85 percent of the water is diverted to the Jewish settlers. Palestinians have to carry coloured ID cards and drives cars with coloured-coded plates. Indeed a glaring example of discrimination. Palestinians living in isolated islands hemmed on all fronts by only-Jewish settlements and only-Jewish roads met the most cruel behaviour and humiliation at check points and roadblocks which even did not escape the eye of Nobel laureate South African Archbishop Desmond Tito when he visited Jerusalem last year. In the backdrop of the crime against humanity committed by Israel maintaining powerful Jewish lobby in U.S vis-a-vis United States silence in the face of over doings by Israel and arming Israel tooth and nail forced Archbishop Desmond Tito to observe: The apartheid South African government was very powerful, but today it no longer exists. Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Pinochet, Milosevic were all powerful, but in the end they bid the dust (Church Times. Quoted in New Nation. 30th April 2002. Apartheid in the holy Land). After the destruction and massacre in Jenin and Ramllah last year by the Israel army he made the historic prophecy that the “institution of religious exclusivity will crumble in Palestine and Israel like apartheid did in South Africa”. “An unjust Israeli government no matter how powerful will ultimately fall” Titu commented. He castigated U.S President Bush Jr. for being too soft on prime minister Ariel Sharon (Boston Globe. 14th April 2002). Ariel Sharon is indulging in systematic progrom and since U.S has proved itself principal backer of Israel by always using veto power in U.N.S.C, it cannot shrink its responsibility of being the abettor of the killing. U.S unjust backing of Israel is proved from the fact that it even used veto power in December 2002 to block the condemnation of Israel for killing U.N workers.

The West particularly U.K and U.S.A is silent even when Israel army is doing such heinous crime as using limbs of Palestinians killed (AFP. Doha. 14th January 2002). It even bombed Palestinian television and radio stations so that the real picture may not reach outside world (AP. West Bank. 19th January 2002).

The mental make of Israeli leadership can be comprehended and figured out from the statement of Israeli Herut Party chairman Michael Kleiner: “for every victim of ours there must be 1000 dead Palestinians” (How to shut up you critics with a single word. Robert Fisk. Independent. Quoted in the New Nation. 26th October 2002). In the face of such records U.S kept mum when Israel carried out test fire of ambitious Arrow missile (AP. Pal Machim. 6th January 2003).

There is contradiction in the U.S policy. While the U.S branded Iraq, Iran and North Korea as the “axis of evil” for alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction, it has at the same time approved the idea of Israel building a new nuclear reactor. Israel posses between 100-200 nuclear and hydrogen warheads of all sizes and about to produce a neutron bomb according to American satellite picture and scientific reports (Arab News. Quoted in the New Nation.25th December 2002.Silence about Israel’s nuclear weapons. Hassan Tashin). Closing the world’s eye to Israel’s arsenal and weapons of mass destruction can only lead to suspicion and will be outright rejected by the Third World, Arab and Muslim countries. All weapons of mass destruction must be eliminated including those of the super power permanent members of U.N.S.C.

The naked nature of the hegemony of the United States has been exposed when President Bush Jr. in the aftermath of Jenin and Ramllah mass murder by the Israel army urged upon the Arabs and Palestinians to oust Palestine President Yasser Arafat and choose a new leader more acceptable to the U.S and Israel. What a vicious way of interfering in the internal affairs of another people claiming it to be the protector, promoter and defender of democracy, liberty, equality, freedom and human rights.

Today the West controls global politics through U.N Security Council. If the West desires it can force millions starve and die without essential medicare. The notable example is the blockade and economic sanction against Iraq. U.N economic sanctions on Baghdad since Gulf War 1990 left behind the death of 1.720 million Iraqis during the last 12 years (AFP. Baghdad. Ist January 2003). Even then U.N.S.C at the behest of U.S. and U.K adopted resolution No. 1454 in January 2003 that put further restriction on the imports by the Iraq. The new resolution put ban on exporting Iraq such goods as meant entirely for humanitarian purpose- antibiotic medicine for example. U.S almost forced the Security Council to adopt the resolution No.1441 to send arms inspectors to Iraq for alleged possession of biological and chemical weapons. The U.S and U.K seems to be determined to launch war against Iraq by passing all U.N resolutions, whether Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction or not and now amassing troops in the Middle East although such a war will undoubtedly cause loss of many lives. The British Prime Minister Tony Blair has declined to promise that U.K would resort to military means only with U.N approval and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said that Britain reserved the right to take military action without a second U.N resolution (AP and Reuters. London. 14th January 2003). U.N arms inspectors led by its Chief Hans Blix and Director of Vienna based International Atomic Energy Agency Mohamed El Baradei could not find any credible evidence of Iraq possessing any weapons of mass destruction. A.P from United Nations on 10th January 2003 quoting U.N weapons inspectors reported that the weapons inspectors did not find any “smoking gun” to prove that Iraq has nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. In the face of U.N arms inspectors statement that they do not have credible evidence and repeated U.S and U.K claim of Iraqi involvement in weapons of mass destruction, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin has urged upon the U.S and British governments to handover such proof to prove the Iraqi possession of weapons of mass destruction (A.F.P. Moscow). Even the U.N chief inspector Hans Blix has called upon the U.S and Britain to hand over any evidence it has (CIA Invited to search for weapons in Iraq. Ewen MacAskill, Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington and Richard Norton-Taylor. Quoted in the New Nation 24th December 2002). Disgusted over the U.S President Bush Jr. handling of the Iraqi issue of the possession of weapons of mass destruction the German Justice Minister Herta Daeubler Gemelin compared U.S. President’s methods to Hitler (Reuters. Berlin. 20th September 2002) and led Noam Chomsky to identify U.S as one of the leading terrorist of the world (Only Americans are afraid of Saddam Hossain out side Iraq (SchNews Interview. Znet. Also in People are so frustrated that the pacifists voice against impending war on Iraq have not drawn the attention of the U.S policy makers led a group of 105 angry housewives, grandmothers and doctors between 22-83 of California to launch a cheeky nude peace campaign to protest President George W. Bush’s policy of naked aggression (AFP. Los Angels. 15thJanuary).

The helplessness of U.N is manifested from the fact that U.N has failed to take any action when the U.S. grabbed the Iraq’s 11,807 pages weapons declaration dossier that was submitted for the use of the U.N weapon inspectors. The U.S officials took the Iraqi declaration from the office of the Chief U.N arms inspector. Not all 15 members of U.N.S.C were consulted before U.S took the printed documents and several computer disks (AFP. United Nations. 10th December 2002). Reacting to this event of U.S. the South African former President Nelson Mandela described it as an act of “piracy which must be condemned by everyone” (Reuters. Stellenbosch. 17th December 2002). .

In October 2001 in the aftermath of attack on Twin Towers U. S. government approved the Patriot Act that gives the government new powers to obtain personal information and allows the government to detain aliens deemed threats to national security and hold them without public acknowledgement. It has also given federal law enforcement agencies greater wiretap authority, access to student and library records and new Internet wiretap powers that in fact infringes civil liberties in the name of protecting liberty, safety and security of the American citizen. The civil right groups compare the Patriot Act with Alien and Sedition Act 1789, which made it illegal to criticize then-President John Adams. The new act clearly made distinction between white American and non-white U.S citizens. Using this Act U.S government closed the operation of notable Muslim relief agencies like Global Relief Foundation, Benevolence International Foundation and others and seized their assets without explaining the reasons for such action. The U.S government has also given sweeping powers and broader authority to F.B.I to monitor Internet sites, libraries and religious organizations. American Civil Liberties Union however doubted that the new measure make Americans safer. American Muslims are also very much suspicious of this Act.

U.S even has refused to accept the verdict of the International Court of Justice (I.C.J) established under U.N Charter regarding military intervention in Nicaragua. U.S last year has cancelled its ratification to the I.C.J on the ground that U.S cannot allow the trial of American armed personnel, even for crime against humanity, at an international judicial tribunal. It is without doubt a manifest global vandalism, not the sign of a civilized society. Certainly it is not the expression of liberty, equality and freedom for which the West is so proud of.

The U.S has also formally pulled out from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in June 2002 with the President Bush Jr. determination to push ahead with a massive defense system The 1972 treaty served as a bedrock of the U.S-Soviet nuclear deterrence by essentially barring either side from building massive defenses, leaving each vulnerable to the other’s arsenal and therefore with little incentive to attack because of the likely massive retaliation. This the U.S did when it wants to disarm Iraq and contain North Korea.

Again U.S, the key player of the West, reiterated its unflinching resolve to settle all problems with North Korea via ‘diplomacy’ (AFP. Tokyo. 5th January 2003) and President Bush Jr. considers Korea and Iraq ‘different’ (AFP. Washington. 13th December 2002) even though North Korea has withdrawn from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, broken all it nuclear agreement with U.S, put out of action the U.N monitoring equipment, removed seals from its nuclear facilities and thrown out all U. N. inspectors.

The natural question that arises why and how Iraq is different from North Korea? It is because Iraq is an Arab Muslim country rich in oil resources and if it becomes powerful, it might become a threat for Israel, Western vassal state in Middle East. To human right activists it is a big question why U.S. does not disarm itself which is urging North Korea and Iraq to destroy their weapons of mass destruction. Why not United States government does not comply with and enforce international efforts targeted to prohibit the arsenals of biological weapons it posses? Why not U.S. set example? U.S. quite often claim that it is responsible for the peace of the world, it however set a poor example by creating atmosphere of threats that has encouraged other countries to go nuclear.

U.S. disregards for the principles of multilateral world governance and its threat that it can unilaterally act bypassing U.N and the U.N cannot handcuff U.S (A.P. Washington. 1st November 2002) has made world peace a forlorn hope. Behind this lie the totally undemocratic veto system in U.N.S.C that placed the fate of the world peace and global justice sometimes in the hand of one solitary nation, acting in defiance of the wishes of the vast majority.

The West controls global economy through I.M.F, the World Bank, W.T.O and the G8. The remarks made in this connection by Abdurrahman M. Shalghem, Libyan Secretary for Foreign Liaison and International Cooperation is significant. He said: “Terrorism has assumed many forms, resort to brutal force, the threat to use such force, nuclear weapons, and arms of mass destruction, as well as the condition imposed by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization. It is imperative that a distinction be made between actual terrorism and the struggle engaged in by the persecuted groups against their persecutors, which is seen by some as terrorism” (Celebrating Absolute power: And then a little hypocrisy. Impact International. p 7. Vol. 30. No. 10. October 2000). The I.M.F and the World Bank have imposed economic reform programmes but failed to support the poor. United States that wields substantial influence over the Fund and the Bank is the biggest obstacle to efforts aimed at increasing assistance to the most impoverished countries. The West domination of the world’s financial and trading systems is the dark side of globalization.

The objective of so-called war on terrorism is, as John Pilger puts it, to control and manage global economy, a euphemism for the progressive seizure of markets and resources by the G8 rich nations (Znet Magazine. 5th January 2002. The Quest for Sanity. p 62). Medea Benjamin, a former Green Party U.S. Senate nominee told the San Francisco Chronicle that U.S is interested in going to war against Iraq for oil. She charged that the U.S threatened nations that do not support U.N’s resolution with the loss of Iraqi oil after a possible military conflict with Iraq or with loss of future aid (Reuters. Francisco. 10th November 2002). In fact the desire of the 4 percent population of the world to consume a greater part of the energy is the root cause of such war. The projection report “Global Trends 2015” of the National Intelligence Council, a federation of intelligence agencies, predicted that “Persian Gulf oil will be increasingly important for world energy and industrial system but that the United States won’t rely on it. But it’s got to control it. Controlling the oil resources is more of an issue than access because control equals power” (Znet ibid).

Western scholars continue to blame Muslims as being bloodthirsty jihadiths and responsible for initiating war and killing of innocent people. A peep into the history shall however negate all Western accusation and prove the innocence of the Muslims. In fact the number of the people killed in the hands of the Muslim is minimal by all standard. We shall quote encyclopedia Britannica in support of the justification of our claim.

Casualties in the main military expeditions led by the Prophet Muhammad (saws)


Enemy force

Enemy killed

Muslim force

Muslims killed




































Casualties in Twentieth Century Conflicts


Military & civilians deaths

Belgian repression in the Congo Free State 1886-1908


First World War 1914-1918


Russian Civil War 1917-1922


Stalin’s Regime 1924-1953


Italian Campaign in Abyssinia 1935-1936


Second World War 1939-1945


Post War Expulsion of Germans from East Europe 1945-1947


Chinese Civil War 1945-1949


Mao Zedong’s regime 1949-1975


Korean War 1950-1953


Tito’s Regime 1944-1980


French repression in Algeria 1954-1962


Vietnam War 1965-1973


Cambodia - Khmer Rouge 1975-1978


Soviet Union war against Afghanistan 1979-1989


Iran-Iraq War 1980-1988


Gulf War 1990-1991


Bosnia 1992-1995


(Britannica quoted in The Quest for Sanity. pp 204-205. MCB. U. K. September 2002).

The West accuses Islam of giving second-class status to women, that Muslim men are intolerant to their women, misogynistic, violent and cruel. This is so because Islam allows Muslim man to marry more then one woman. The Christian West failed to take note of the fact that this permission is given for particular situations. Islam however does not allow promiscuity and extra marital relation and an objective study of the Muslim society will establish that Muslim community worldwide is largely free from such relations and Muslims males are largely monogamous. This is for the fact that male and female population is almost equal. But if you look to any Western country, you will find that adultery is a common phenomenon in the Western society, promiscuity has become a way of life. Homosexuality is allowed and family as an institution is on the verge of disintegration. Children desert their parents and there is none in the family to look after the old. The Muslim society is just the opposite. How then Muslims can be described as anti-modern and misogynist. On the contrary it is the West that is abusing woman in every way. Even the Christian Church is not free from sex related crimes and pedophilia is a common phenomenon. The position of the women in the West can be comprehend from the fact that 40 percent of the nuns in the United States have been abused by another priest (AFP. Washington. 6th January 2003). In U.K out of ten reverted Muslims seven are women (The Times. London. 7th January 1994. Quoted in Islam: The choice of thinking women. p1. Ismail Adam Patel. Ta-Ha Publishers Ltd. London. 1997). The question is why the British women return to the fold of Islam or look back to Islam for emancipation? The British women convert to Islam because Muslim men are more faithful as husbands. Islam established equality of men and women 1400 years ago as far as women right to property, inheritance and right to divorce is concerned. Muslim Women can keep property brought with them into a marriage (The Venture of Islam: Conscience and History in World Civilization. p 342. Marshall G. S. Hodgson. University of Chicago Press. 1974. Quoted in Freedom Modernity & Islam: Towards a Creative Synthesis. p 163. Dr. Richard K. Khuri. Syracuse University Press. 1998). On the contrary Britain recognized married women’s right to own property only in 1857 amended in 1870, 1877 and 1882 ( Also in In Britain woman of unblemished character were given access to their children in the event of separation or divorce in 1839 ( whereas Muslim mothers enjoyed the right of the custody of minor children since the advent of Islam in seventh century. In 1923 British women were allowed to obtain divorce on the grounds of adultery alone ( whereas Islam allowed Muslim women the right to divorce some 1400 years ago. Divorce was first introduced in France by the Revolution and was repealed in 1816 but it was reintroduced in 1884 when the original legislation of 1804 utilized (Encyclopedia Britannica pp 926-927. Vol 22. 15th Edition. 1986). In Italy the government despite opposition from the Roman Church held a referendum on the Divorce Law in May 1974 and a large majority favoured the law (ibid p 241). British women over 30 were allowed the right to vote in 1918. The same right was granted to women in U.S.A in 1920, Spain 1932, France 1948, Italy and Switzerland between 1944-1945 ( whereas women in the Muslim society got the right to vote at earliest period of Islam while electing the Third Rightly Guided Caliph Uthman.

Western intolerance is reflected from its frequent attack on Prophet Muhammad (saws) To give an example Rev. Jerry Falwell in a 60 minutes programme with C.B.S described “Muhammad a terrorist, a violent man, a man of war” (AP. Washington. 4th October 2002). Christian intolerance showed its ugly face in Nigeria when Kaduna newspaper ‘This Day’ published an article by Isioma Daniel in which the author suggested: “Islam’s founding prophet would have approved the Miss World beauty pageant … What would (the prophet) Muhammad think? In all honesty he would probably have chosen a wife from among them- the contestants” (AFP. Nigeria. 22nd November 2002). As a consequence of such irresponsible statement 200 people were killed in the bloody clashes. In Australia Kamal El Masri was threatened termination of job for taking 10 minutes to offer prayer during the working hours (Reuters. Sydney. 10th October 2002). The use of headscarf by Muslim women living in Western countries is considered a threat for the Western civilization and it has been always a matter of concern in Australia, France, Germany and some other European countries. What is however most amusing is that an Australia politician Reverend Fred Nile called for total ban on Muslim women from wearing a traditional head-to-knee gown in the public because that could be used to conceal weapons? He suggested a ban on wearing chador in public for it is a perfect disguise for terrorist as it conceals both weapons and explosives (Reuters. Canbera. 22nd November 2002). In Italy, Germany and France Oriana Fallaci’s book ‘The Rage and The Pride’ has become the best seller wherein the author portrayed “Islam is a religion against freedom, justice and democracy” and described Muslims as “secretly jealous of the West”. The book also depicts that “Muslims multiply like rats” (French court hears call for ban on anti-Muslim book. The New Nation. 11th October 2002. Also in IslamOnline & Ummahnews).

The Western allegation that Islam is against science is far from true. On the contrary the Greek contribution to science and philosophy has been passed onto the Europe through the Arabs and Muslims in the form of translation from which the European translated those to their language. Arab and Muslim scholars like ibn-Rushd (philosopher, scientist and historian), al-Kindi and ibn-Khaldun (both founder of modern political sociology), al-Khwarizmi (mathematics and algebra), ar-Razi (chemistry), ibn-Sina (medicine) and al-Idris (geographer) made profound original contribution and passed it to the modern Europe. The Arab Muslim scholars, true to the faith and tradition of Islam, respectfully and honestly recalled the contribution of their predecessors, the contribution of the pre-Islamic civilization. However the West that translated the works of these Arab and Muslim scholars from Arabic to Latin intentionally forget to mention the contribution of the Arab and Muslims scholars. Thus the transmitter along with its culture and the belief that guided the transmitter has been reduced to silence, erased out of the peoples mind and went to oblivion. The Western Europe could now posses the knowledge of Hellenistic civilization because of the labour of the Arab thinkers. It is “the undisputable fact is that Arab and Islamic knowledge is at the foundation of the very rise of Western civilization itself” (Erskine B. Childers. Amnesia and Antagonism. Quoted in the article ‘Memory and Forgetting: The Erase of Islam’s Presence in the West’ in ‘Terrorrising the Truth: The Shaping of Contemporary Images of Islam and Muslims in Media - Politics and Culture’. p 41. Just World Trust. Malaysia. 1997). Science imparts material knowledge. Religion teaches us the ethics of using that knowledge. Religion invites man to ponder over the creation and the Creator. Science provides the language for understanding creation and it is the creation that acts as the ayat, sign of the Creator. There is thus no conflict between science and religion. This has been aptly proved from the recent scientific research on embryology. “The information contained in the Quran is not only consistent with the modern scientific discoveries in the field of embryology but also it is a fore-runner by some fourteen hundred years [The Developing Human: Clinical Oriented Embryology. p viii a. Keith L. Moore (Professor and Chairman, Department of Anatomy, University of Toronto, Canada]. With Islamic Additions: Correlation Studies with Quran and Hadith. Abdul-Majeed Azzindani (Director, Project of Scientific Miracle in the Quran and Hadith, King Abdul Aziz University, Jeddah). Dar Al-Qiblah for Islamic Literature.1983]. The Quran is not in spite of its description and verification of modern scientific data, a treatise on science but per excellence a Book of Guidance (Al Quran 2:2). The Quran being the word of God must verify what science establishes through observation, inquiry and experiment. The research undertaken by Professor Moore and Azzindani proved this point without the shadow of doubt in one scientific area, the embryology.

Thus it is apparent that the allegation that Islam is against democracy, fundamental human right, human equality, blind imitator of the past, intolerant jihadith, misogynist and against scientific principle does not stand valid in the face of logic and the testimony of the recent and past history and therefore Islam cannot be described backward and anti-modern. On the contrary it is the West that in most of the time look upon the Muslims with coloured eye and try to stereotype Muslims by identifying them with all negative synonyms. One aspect of the modernism is progress and change and if that has to be achieved the West must change its attitude and work for peaceful coexistence and leave the policy of hegemony to control the Wealth and resources of the Muslim and Third World countries. #

*The writer is the Chairman of Islamic Information Bureau Bangladesh.

* Email: <>

* Article prepared on: 15th January 2003.

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