The American Mongols

Category: Americas, World Affairs Topics: Genghis Khan, Iraq, Saddam Hussein Views: 4894

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

  Category: Americas, World Affairs
  Topics: Genghis Khan, Iraq, Saddam Hussein
Views: 4894

Related Suggestions

The opinions expressed herein, through this post or comments, contain positions and viewpoints that are not necessarily those of IslamiCity. These are offered as a means for IslamiCity to stimulate dialogue and discussion in our continuing mission of being an educational organization. The IslamiCity site may occasionally contain copyrighted material the use of which may not always have been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. IslamiCity is making such material available in its effort to advance understanding of humanitarian, education, democracy, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, and such (and all) material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

Older Comments:
It is interesting that I thought of Mongol
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 Husain Haqqani, if you could please answer my question as to hwo you came to the conclusion that "The hour [of the world's end] shall not occur until the Euphrates will disclose a mountain of gold over which people will fight." refers to oil in Iraq? The truth is that I DARE you to go to Any Islamic School of Thought Madarsaa, and ask the highest authorities who dedicate their lives to studying Islamic scripture...they will tell you what I am telling you, that it DOES NOT refer to OIL, and is not a pretext used by muslims to interpet the invasion of Iraq as being related to that passage. Let me remind you that ALLAH Subhanawata'Allah is the one who determines if a group of people win or lose a battle. Do not come here and try to make people think that it is due to the incompetence of muslims that they lost battles in history, due to one identical mistake...such as comparing the invasion of the Mongols with the present invasion. That is just outright childish and foolish of you to do so, a person such as yourself who needs to brush up on his understanding of Islam. If you made some sort of mistake, even though it seems like you did not, with your words of "Patient engagement" by the US is too little too late. I suggest you draw your attention to what is actually going on right now instead of creating some theory of yours so that you can one day write a book or be a highly acclaimed journalist. The Palestinian state has been promised by every single US President for the last 50 years, what makes you think the 2005 deal is going to go through now, will you be reasonable here?? Very sad for you...May Allah forgive you and have mercy on you for your wrong analysis of history, and present day events. Ameen.

Mr. John Smith I salute you for your brave words.

Should the U S be relied upon to bolster the credibility of moderate Islamic thinkers than they should be ashame to wear the 'Islamic Thinker's' badge or tag on their chest in the first place!
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).

I Wonder what you consider you selve as!, Mr Husien. I know very well your type. You are moralless gutless hypocrite who should be hnged for his treacherous ways. If you really think that your such a sophisticated, western educated, who has been liberated by western free liberal thinking, then I could say the same about myself. The difference between you and me is that you have sold yourselve short of the true and ultimate reality. There are several percieved realities and there the undenible reality. Although I have to admit the true reality can be covered up and saniticed in desperate effort to concele it, in the same way dead body can be hidden from view in order to prefent the awareness of mortality trying to bellie death itself. You can try but you'll never succeed. The same can be said about islam. You can try covering it with slanderous terms such as Fundamentalism, or moderate islam or liberal islam. In reality the aren't such things, there is only Islam. If you claim to be a muslim you are one or you not this could mean that you may claim to be moderate muslim or liberal progessive self deluding muslim but then your not raelly a muslim the true sense, you sold yourselve short of the true reallity and you have been promised by God, (yes, God Exists you self deluding bastard)that you will to know the reallity. Reality will with a very rude awekening, but meanwhile keep selling yourself, and people who would potentially see you as brother, to the enemy.

The muslims of the world need to understand that the nonbelievers are working together to reshape the arab world, and intill we can stop the "what school of thought" drama we will see more wars like this. How can any self respecting muslim leader sit on their hands and let a son of a Bush go to war with another muslim country. Saddam is a muslim and regardless of his faults in Al islam we are suppose to stand foot to foot so that Shatain can not slither into the ranks. I converted to Al Islam in 1998 and I felt as though my brothers in Al Islam were the strongest
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.

Mr. Author,

Could you define a "Moderate Islamic Thinker" ?
And who has this right to define - US gov??



Salaam aleikum,

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.

salaam aleikum

How can you say an invasion of unbelievers. The US has many Muslims true to their faith. Many Kurds also are invading the north and they too are believers. You have misrepresented the truth of non-believers. The non-believer is that Muslim who would rather see fellow Muslims torchered by a ruthless dictator than to see them liberated by westerners. You are so typical of the hypocritical language of some in the Islamic faith. Sure history has not been kind to the Arabs or the Israelis nor has it been kind to most people around the world. But that is just the way things are. To say that this generation is the same as the Mongols of yesterday is to reject something before you even know what it is all about. The UN has failed in its efforts to bring peace anywhere in the world and yet you support them even when they starve the very people they try to help. The US offers help and you reject it and choose to starve before you'll receive anything from our hand. And yet you'll take aid from crooks and criminals who hide behind the cloak of Islam and yet are non-believers. I get totally confused by your wishy-washy ways. I'm beginning to think of Islam (not true Islam) as a tool of revenge for those who wish to retain power over an illiterate people. Most midle easterners are so self centered they can't see the light which Alla offers. The light of peace. The US is not perfect but most of its people are true believers and practice a true belief in God. Not like middle easterners. We hold our family values high and don't put our women in children out front to hide behind them. We leave that to cowardly Arabs. The Us and British soldier is much more honorable than any other soldier in the world. We don't wave our guns firing bullets into the air like a bunch of inhuman barbarians. We treat prisoners with honor if we find any honorable among the Iraqi soldiers. Most are thugs and puppets of a cruel regime. Most deserve to be hung by the Iraqi people. Leave your comments to Iraq

It's doubtful that there can ever be peace without justice.

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.

This one of the few resonable article on


I'm very sorry for my muslim brothers in Iraq. I believe they should fight and defend their country. The Muslim world is praying that Almighty Allah will give them victory against the invaders. They should know and realize that the coalition forces are an open enemy for them. They should unite and fight in the way of Allah. Peace be to the Islamic World.

I completely agree with your premise. And I believe that part of the rationale of this war is to do just what you suggest.

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!

America does not want occupy Iraq any more than it wanted to occupy any other country. With the military power we have at our disposal, we could go wherever we want. But the goal of Americans is freedom. Freedom for all. And we do love Muslims as well as all religions. Br free Iraq. And help your brothers in other countries to be free.

Sir, with all do respect, there is NO such thing as an islamist... the religion is Islam and the followers are muslims.

What would your advice be to presidents and kings taking part in the upcoming Arab summit, someone asked Yamani. "What can my humble self offer to their highnesses, excellencies?" he shot back, sarcastically. "You are talking about leaders who do not derive their power from their people." He could not continue, because hysterical applause filled the lecture hall of the 35th Cairo International Book Fair.

Given my trepidation at your choice of title, I completely agree with your premise. The US has an opportunity to change its past relationship with the Islamist peoples and provide a new beginning for the Iraqi people. This is a chance that comes perhaps once in a generation. I hope that God,Allah bless this sacrifice of both American and Iraqi lives with the promise of peace and understanding and tolerance. And I hope that political manuvering doesn't destroy this hope. If the US fails in this endeavor, I fear that there will be generations of war...

.. Muslims know what the problem is, the West is out to exploit it in the name of helping.

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.

It is people like you who breed hatered in this world. I don't think the people of Baghdad agreed with you today as they danced on the face of Sadaam! Give it up. We could all get along if people like you would stop the hate and let us love one another.


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 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:


Flood the streets with the blood of the thieves that stole and bartered what was left to the UMMAH of Muhammad (saw)


Mr Haqqani a so called journalist is in his way trying to establish a bridge between mongols of yesteryears and mogols of today, here he forgot that these mongols are today backed by a media which is in business of falsifing the truth to their interest, he should know this better than anyone else as he is himself a person of same profession which in civilized language is called journalism. Muslims today are not only being humiliated by infidels but by Hypocrites. For now lets take Musharaf a dictator in Pakistan, this person's religious background is dubious at most, his wife's religious back ground is Ahmedi a nonmuslim faith in Pakistan, if you put two together in pakistan a 92% of muslim majority is ruled by a consutitutional declared Nonmuslim.
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.

Your title, "The American Mongols" made me not want to read your article, as the analogy doesn't work. The Mongols kept every territory they captured in war, the US has repeatedly sent their young men and women to die to free other countries. I don't see recent events as Muslims being punished for embracing the secular world. Saddam's regime was not Muslim, those were the folks celebrating in the streets. Like the Shiites chanting "There is only one God, ..."

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.

Please do not write inflamatory and nationalistic remarks in order to brain wash others into blowing themselves up in imaginary causes. If you do believe in what you say, then you should be the one to go into the fighting field. Please do not push others.

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.