An invading army is marching toward Baghdad-again. The last time infidels conquered the City of Peace was in 1258, when the Mongol horde, led by Genghis Khan's grandson Hulegu, defeated the Arab Abbasid caliphate that had ruled for more than five centuries. And if the ripple effects of that episode through Islam's history are any guide, the latest invasion of Iraq will unleash a new cycle of hatred-unless the United States can find ways to bolster the credibility of moderate Islamic thinkers.
Saddam Hussein, who has led Iraq's Baathist socialist regime for nearly 25 years, is no caliph. The U.S. military has come as self-declared liberators, not as conquerors. Yet the U.S. invasion of Iraq resonates strongly with fundamentalist Muslims because they see Saddam's downfall-and the broader humiliation of the Arab world at the hands of the latter-day Mongols-as righteous punishment. Since the 13th century, Islamic theologians have argued that military defeat at the hands of unbelievers results when Muslims embrace pluralism and worldly knowledge. The story is drilled into Muslim children from Morocco to Indonesia: nearly 2 million people put to the sword; the caliph trampled to death; and the destruction of the great library, the House of Wisdom. The Ottoman Empire fell in 1918 for the same reason Muslims lost Baghdad in 1258: The rulers and their people had gone soft, approaching religion with tolerance and accommodation rather than viewing civilization as divided between Islam and infidels.
The U.S.-led invasion of secular Iraq is the ultimate vindication of this worldview, the capstone of a series of modern Muslim defeats that began with the first Gulf War and continued through the next decade with the Serbs' ethnic cleansing campaigns against Muslims in Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina, the repression of Islamist groups in Algeria and Egypt, Russia's brutal military campaign against Chechen separatists, and the defeat of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Islamists see these cataclysmic events as opportunities to purify Muslim souls and to prepare for an ideological battle with the West.
Fundamentalists believe they have every reason to anticipate victory in this battle, because the story of the Mongol conquest of Baghdad didn't end in 1258. The Egyptian Mamluks were able to halt the tide of Mongol victories in the Battle of Ayn Jalut in Palestine two years later. In less than a century, the Mongol conquerors themselves converted to Islam, and Islamic power resurged in Turkey and India after being dislodged from the Arabian heartland. The lesson, according to Islamists, is that even the defeat of Muslims has a place in God's scheme for Islam's eventual supremacy in the world.
In addition to the historical narrative, Muslim fundamentalists also have prophecies about the apocalypse attributed to the Prophet Mohammed to buttress their cause. These signs are described in hadith, the sayings of Mohammed passed down through oral tradition before being recorded at least 100 years after his death. One hadith that has currently captured the attention of fundamentalists is "The hour [of the world's end] shall not occur until the Euphrates will disclose a mountain of gold over which people will fight." The "mountain of gold" could be a metaphor for a valuable natural resource such as oil, and "the Euphrates" may refer to Iraq, where the river flows. Just as some Christian fundamentalists saw the creation of the state of Israel as fulfillment of biblical prophecy heralding the Day of Judgment, so too will some Muslim fundamentalists interpret the U.S. occupation of Iraq as setting the stage for the final battle between good, led by Mahdi (the rightly guided), and evil, represented by Dajjal (the deceiver).
Armed with prophecy and history, Islamist movements see the humiliation of fellow believers as an opportunity for mobilizing and recruiting dedicated followers. Muslims have often resorted to asymmetric warfare in the aftermath of military defeat. Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat and his Fatah movement captured the imagination of young Palestinians only after Arabs lost the Six-Day War and East Jerusalem in 1967. Islamic militancy in Kashmir can be traced to India's military victory over Pakistan in the 1971 Bangladesh war. Revenge, rather than willingness to compromise or submit to the victors, is the traditional response of theologically inclined Muslims to the defeat of Muslim armies. And for the Islamists, this battle has no front line and is not limited to a few years, or even decades. They think in terms of conflict spread over generations. A call for jihad against British rule in India, for example, resulted in an underground movement that lasted from 1830 to the 1870s, with remnants periodically surfacing well into the 20th century.
This fundamentalist interpretation of Islam has failed to penetrate the thinking of most Muslims, especially in recent times. But religious hard-liners can drive the political agenda in Muslim countries, just as Christian and Jewish fundamentalists have become a force to reckon with in secular nations such as the United States. And with over 1 billion Muslims around the globe, the swelling of the fundamentalist ranks poses serious problems for the West. If only 1 percent of the world's Muslims accept uncompromising theology, and 10 percent of that 1 percent decide to commit themselves to a radical agenda, the recruitment pool for al Qaeda comes to 1 million.
Suspicions about Western intentions date back to the British, who came as friends during World War I and ended up colonizing and dividing Arab lands. Thus, the Americans face the difficult task of overcoming Muslim mistrust. The United States must avoid any impulse to act as an imperial power, dictating its superior ways to "less civilized" peoples. It should be prepared to accept Islamic pride and Arab nationalism as factors in the region's politics, instead of backing narrowly based elites to do its bidding. Patient engagement, rather than the flaunting of military and financial power, should characterize this new phase of U.S. intervention in the heart of the Islamic world.
If U.S. President George W. Bush's promises of democracy in Iraq and a Palestinian state are not kept and if the United States fails to demand reforms in countries ruled by authoritarian allies, the umma (community of believers) would have new reasons to distrust and hate. The dream of helping Muslims overcome their fear of modernity will then remain unfulfilled. And the world will continue to confront new jihads.
Husain Haqqani is a Pakistani columnist and a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Source: Foreign Policy
onslaught and destruction of
Persian/Turkish/Arabic civilisation at the
hands of Chengis Khan when Bin Laden
attacked World Trade Center and the USA
destroyed Afghanistan with all its might. I said
to myself, "Here we Muslims go again; we the
insane, the foolish, the idiotic, and the
ignorant. We think we are powerful ". First the
Khwarizmis did us in, and now the Arabs (Bin
Laden) are offering us to the slaughter house.
Allauddin Khwarazm Shah thought he was the
greatest, strong and undefeatable. Bin Laden
thought so too. Allauddin killed the Mongol
ambassadors and Chengis destroyed
Tashkand, Samarkand and Bukhara and all
living beings in those cities and other parts of
Persia. Bin Lden destroyed the World Trade
Center and now the Middle East is under
colonial occupation again. Both events have
one thing in common - These are the results
of the reactions of a community which lives in
the past, has no relationship with the present,
and has stopped adjusting to the changing
world. It is also led by the Ulema who are
uneducated, unqualified to do anything except
read Quran, and have no idea what
constitutes a society, or human relations, and
what forces makes the world go.
I have read two articles about Hulago's attack
and destruction of Baghdad. He reached
Baghdad at the tail end of destruction started
by Chengiz. By that time he reached Baghdad
nothing of value was left of the Muslim
civilization. He destroyed the debauch, the
weak, and the ineffective Caliphate of
Abbasids. No one cries over the death of
Musta'sim billah. His rule did not go farther
than the city of Baghdad.
Let us be true to ourselves once, and say," IT
IS ALL OUR FAULT. Others are doing this to
us because we brought it on ourselves"
Mr. John Smith I salute you for your brave words.
Sadly, the self-declared liberation came more than 20 years late! and if 'devinely inspired' (read John Stanton's Biblical Vengence) appears as if Gorge W Bush is trying to redeem the 'original sin'.
Lest it be forgotten(or erased from the U S Military history),the call for Saddam's regime change was made as soon as the Shah of Iran was deposed by the late Ayatollah Ruhullah Khomenie(may Allah's blessing be on his soul).But, at that time Saddam, acting as a proxy of the U S, was encourged to launch a 'pre-emtive strike'(typically American) on Iran.The rest is history.
Now, the blessed soul(of the Ayatollah) may be delighted by fact that the U S have taken a major role in carrying out his long overdue orders,but the manner it is executed would have made the blessed soul 'rise from the dead'! For, much has been said ( and potrayed) that Gorge Bush is a man of religion, the option he took was borrowed from the agnostic and the morally-bankrupt:the end justify the means.
So, the quagmire that we see in Iraq today points to the fact that the Bush Administration is being haunted.
The author's defination of Dajjal is mediocre or at the very best 'moderated'(perhaps intended to imply that he is a moderate Islamic thinker) for it is a mockery to the 'high office' of the Mahdi to engage himself with a mere deciever.I maintain that it shuold be 'anti-Christ'.
Going by the nauseating spectacle that was unleshed in Iraq at the command of Gorge Bush, it is safe to say that he is impatient and could not wait for the promised Dajjal to appear so he took the initiative himself on Dajjal's behalf(assuming that he is not already the one promised).
most sincere dedicated brothers. Now I contemplate if I'm safe wearing hijab in this country. I look at the state of the muslims and I'm appaled. Half of my deen is to united with a brother and establish a foundation, but were are the real mukmins. As long as the babies in palistine and iraq and else were in the arab world are dying and our leaders do nothing I will pray to Allah for Nabi Isa AS to return so that I can stand with him show these so called brothers what Jihad is all about.
Could you define a "Moderate Islamic Thinker" ?
And who has this right to define - US gov??
This article is mistitled, it should have been re-titled "pandering and groveling - some ideas from a defeated perspective" the author simply does nothing but showcase his own ignorance (through the use of terms such as "fundamentalist" which have no analogy in Islamic law and an overwhelming desire to be 'accepted' by the Non-Muslim audience, to which he is obviously degrading himself and pandering to. Intellecutal poverty and political bankruptcy of this type is what is exactly responsible for our situation, i.e. people with an inferiority complex and self-hate are the worst examples of scholarship and leadership at a time when this is sorely needed among Muslims.
iviews would be better off, avoiding inflammatory ignorant nonsense such as this and publishing stuff from Noam Chomsky, Robert Fisk, or others.
The USA showed a real skill and deftness in helping reconstruct civil and political society in Japan and Germany after WWII. They had a strong incentive to do so to contain the USSR. And perhaps someone had learned a lesson from the disaster that French and British policies of retribution caused at the end of WWI.
But the US was never motivated by concepts of justice, fairness in power sharing, or democracy. Always its main motivation was self-interest. So it tolerated, and sometimes supported brutal dictatorships and waged savage wars in far off places.
Because justice was denied the Palestinians a cycle of conflict spiralled into absolute savagery. In a very small area of the world a modern army cannot ensure civilians are safe.
If this article is correct in its analysis of Muslim extremism, may the USA have the wisdom (in its own self interest) to facilitate:
* a deal to give Israel security and the Palestinians a State, work prosperity
* economic growth and equitable distribution of wealth across the Middle East/Central Asia and Africa . Why not, a really big plan to have people focusing on when their kid graduates, what's the next holiday to be etc.instead of how to hit back at the enemy.
A world where the US wages a rolling war across these regions of predominantly Muslim countries is unthinkable. A conflict between an army and terrorists who blow up civilians -- we've seen that on a micro scale. For all our sakes, let's hope the folks making decisions in Washington are a lot smarter than they sound.
The problem is symbolized by the Iraqi Minister of Information's daily briefings regarding the impending victory of Iraqi forces, even while they were either annihilated or fleeing.
Unfortunately there are far too many Ministers of Information in the Arab world deceiving and misleading Muslims.
As an American I find it incomprehensible that Saddam's regime could garner any support among religious people. America would no more countenance a christian tyrant than a Muslim one.
Trust will come in time, but only if our deeds match our words.
u forgot one more, hypocrites!
Muslim societies have different agendas...based on what Allah has given them. We understand all the problems in the West, and we don't want them in our societies. The current state of Muslims is a gift from the colonizers who left their mark in the hearts of the Muslims even to this day.
Mr Hussein sounds like a Western trained stooge. By the way for his information, WETA TV in the US has been playing a documentary which boasts that it was the good old US of A that planted Saddam in power in the first place. Why does he not do some research in that. I know he won't because that will stop his CIA paycheck from coming in!
Please don't write articles in the name of Muslims anymore.
People like Mr. Husain Haqqani are too filled with hate and prejudice to see anything other than a white christian nation taking a muslim nation.
Of course it is reality that a WHITE CHRISTIAN nation is taking a MUSLIM country by force and we should not fool ourselves into thinking it's being done in the name of freedom and democracy...but for greed of Arab oil and a Jewish like conspiricy to control the Mid-east.
However, the alternative is to sit by and watch Saddam continue to do what he does. Of course Mr. Haqqani and his type will argue that it's for the people to do, or for Muslims to do.
Well the GOD-FEARING RULERS in ALL the countries in the MID-EAST practice exactly what Saddam does...opression of the souls in their lands...so why should they do anything.
Muslims in the mid east have been ruled by THIEVES since the end of Ali's calaphite...that's almost 1200 years!!!
It's sad that a non muslim nation has to come help us clean up our back yard....hopefully it will wake up this UMMAH and force it to realize that:
THE ANSWER TO MUSLIM PROBLEMS ARE IN MUSLIM HANDS!
Flood the streets with the blood of the thieves that stole and bartered what was left to the UMMAH of Muhammad (saw)
This dictator is backed by America and supported by .ooo2% of liberal muslims who control the media and are self professed Islamic scholars who demean rest of the population as illitrate. Who ever is formulating policies for these dictators has very conviniently forgotten the lesson of history that fundementalist is not bred by religion but by abuse of human rights and humiliation.
You did acknowledge that the US has helped the Iraqi citizens but your article seems to be searching for something negative. Has there ever been nationwide celebration in Iraq like this? The fall of Saddam's regime may be the greatest event in Iraq for decades. Iraq may see greater or worse days to come. That is in their hands, not the US.
I would like to see all Arab dictators fall one after another with the help of the Americans and the British.
My dream is to see the Palestinians declaring themselves as non Arabs. It is the Arab dictators who put them in this situation for the last 50 years. The Arab league is a meating place of evil and crrupt personalities.