Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Islam Redivivus and Western Colonialism
I recently learned of another reason to explain why Islamic imperialism declined in modern times, and why it has resurged in the last few decades.
That reason for the decline and weakness of Islam was that Western Colonial powers consciously and concretely hampered efforts of Muslims to network trans-nationally in their perpetual efforts of maintaining a Pan-Islamic strength. And the reason for why Islam has resurged in recent times, therefore, is because the West dismantled the structures of Western Colonialism beginning in the late 1940s, and with those structures also disappeared the concrete measures to inhibit Pan-Islamic networking among Muslims throughout the Muslim world.
In an old 3-part essay of mine, titled Islam Redivivus, particularly in part 2, I traced the salient points of the 1,400-year career of Islam.
Any attempt to survey the entire history of Islam within the context of developing a hypothesis to explain why Islam seemed to have stopped its blatantly military expansionism approximately 300 years ago, must of course factor in the remarkable rise to global dominance of Western Europe beginning approximately in the late 17th century.
My above-mentioned essay, in part 2 under points #11 and #12, did advert to that Western global dominance as a major factor in the modern decline of Islam as force of geopolitical expansionism.
However, I was unaware of one specific and concrete aspect of that factor. I assumed that the effect of the factor of Western global dominance upon the Muslim world from the 17th through the 20th centuries was more or less nebulous—a matter of superior Western colonialists, in their overarching project of colonizing the Third World in general, simply horning in on the territories of Muslim lands and enforcing their interference and occupation (including the necessity of waging battles here and there against Muslim forces—battles for the most part easily won, with that ease only increasing dramatically from century to century as the West continued to progress at an exponential rate).
Meanwhile, points #15-19 of part 2 of my essay adumbrated what I thought were all the factors that have enabled Islam, in recent decades, to embark realistically upon a revival of its classical imperialism:
16) Dissemination of Western technology to Muslims
17) The problem of the state of Israel
18) The historically unprecedented invitation to Islamic immigration beginning in earnest in the 1960s (and perversely increased after 911), allowing millions of Muslims into the West to infiltrate nearly every nook and cranny of all our sectors and institutions
19) The new stimulus of 9/11 and subsequent events.
One specific, concrete and rather major aspect eluded me, however. That aspect was clarified for me recently by reading an article by an historian of Islam in Africa: “Sub-Saharan Africa and the Wider World of Islam: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives”, by John Hunwick, Journal of Religion in Africa, Vol. 26, Fasc. 3 (Aug. 1996), pp. 230-257.
Given that the article was written so late, it is slightly refreshing in that it is not unctuously saturated with politically correct multi-culturalism that has been dominant for the last 50-odd years in academic studies relating to Islam.
I shall now quote the salient part of Prof. Hunwick’s article:
The colonial period, not surprisingly, was a time during which West Africa was perhaps more cut off from the rest of the Muslim world than ever before. Colonial authorities, British and French, were ever watchful for signs of what they perceived as the dangerous phenomenon of pan-Islamism and were able to keep an eye on the movements of Muslim leaders from both ends of the lines of communication—sub-Saharan and Mediterranean Africa including Egypt.
One can reasonably assume that this Colonial concern and control of Muslims was not limited to Africa, but more or less prevailed (with perhaps occasional exceptions here and there) throughout the various areas where Western powers had encroached upon Muslim lands, from the Philippines, through Southeast Asia, to India and into the Middle East.
Thus, the effect upon Islam of Western global superiority through its Colonialism was not merely vague and amorphous—it was conscious and concrete: Western Colonial powers, to one degree or another—and without a doubt immensely more so than today in our PC-dominated West—took measures to isolate Muslims from each other, out of the rational awareness and concern for the ever-present tendency of Muslims to network internationally in the interest of a subversive Pan-Islamic movement.
This concern and control over Muslims, thus, lasted more or less throughout the Colonial period (roughly 300 years, from the 17th through to the mid-20th centuries)—and it was dismantled when Western Colonialism was dismantled, in the decades immediately following World War 2. With this dismantling of concrete obstructions to a Pan-Islamic networking among Muslims imposed upon them by the West, then, Muslims began in the mid-20th century to revive their former Pan-Islamic unity in concrete and subversively jihadist terms, and they have been getting better at it, and more aggressive, with each passing decade since then.
As this was a complex process with regional variances, of course, it should not be so simplified that one cannot see evidence of the process occurring before the end of World War 2. For example, the sometimes inept controls implemented by the British in India during the 1920s and 1930s in many ways actually facilitated a networking among Muslims—as occurred when, after the fall of the Caliphate in 1924, Indian Muslims networked with each other across the Subcontinent as well as with other Muslims of the Middle East and Southeast Asia as a response to the catastrophe of the loss of the Caliphate, and in an effort to figure out ways to reinvigorate trans-national unity among Muslims with the ultimate goal, of course, of global jihad and a restoration of that Caliphate. In certain ways, not only did the British not sufficiently hamper these Pan-Islamic tendencies, they positively assisted them, in the benighted belief that it would help them overall in their efforts to maintain an increasingly restive India with its increasingly refractory Hindu population. An analogous situation occurred when the U.S.A. in the 1980s assisted the Muslim guerillas of southern Russia, particularly Afghanistan, as a nuisance in the underside of the Soviet Union, obtusely oblivious, however, to the fact that we were at the same time enabling a key component in the development of a trans-national network of mujahideen—both in material terms and in inspirational terms.
The process in general, of course, has been greatly augmented by the transferrence of Western technology into Muslim hands around the world—which I had accounted for in my previous essay mentioned above: In the 1970s it was cassette tape recorders, then television, not to mention transportation technology and military technology of various kinds over the decades. Now there is the Internet, facilitating a Pan-Islamic networking of unprecedented proportions. And further augmenting all these processes has been, as mentioned before, the historically unprecedented immigration of Muslims into the West by the millions, facilitated by a myopically suicidal West.
Along with the drastic and colossal error which the West made in dismantling its own Colonialist supervision of the perpetually intractable Third World, we must add its politically correct multi-culturalist (PC MC) amnesia about the danger of a Pan-Islamic network (a network now with deep webs and claws inside the West), and about the concrete and conscious measures the West actually took to try to ensure at least a manageable limitation of that international intercourse among Muslims. Not only does the West have amnesia about those measures, but today, because of PC MC, it would positively undermine—if not criminalize—such measures, in the interest of avoiding “bigotry” and “Islamophobia”. For, after all, according to the dominant and mainstream PC MC paradigm, there is nothing wrong at all with Islam, so why should we worry about Muslims around the world becoming more and more united? It’s only that “tiny minority” of “extremists” who are trying to “twist” that great and noble (and don’t forget “ethnic”!) religion of peace Islam, you see, that is the problem. And in fact, one of our most important solutions to that problem is to make sure we continue to “respect” the vast majority of Muslims, in order to keep them on our side and not alienate them by “offending” them, in our fight against that “tiny minority” of “extremists”.
Any expectation of a Colonialism Redux to rise up in the face of the all-too real Islam Redivivus seems highly unrealistic now, but in the coming century, if Muslims persist in their dream of reviving their former supremacist-imperialist glory and, in so doing, wreak sufficient mayhem and misery upon us, the West may well find it unavoidable to meddle deeply in the Muslim world and thereby re-establish at least a de facto Colonialism—even if only in the interest of fortifying an “Iron Veil” around the Muslim world in order to quarantine Muslims and keep them out of the West.