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AT THE THRESHHOLD OF A NEW MELLENNIUM–I
By Zafarul-Islam Khan

The new ‘millennium’ is round the corner, or so we are told. Confused by the Y2K issue some people think that the new millennium is to start on the 1st January 2000. In fact, it will start on the 1st January 2001. But apart from this technical point, the question is: whose millennium is it any way? Muslims’? No, our calendar is showing the year 1420 Hijri. Jews’? No, their calendar is showing the year 5759, which according to their belief starts from the beginning of the world. Hindus’? No, their calendar is showing the year 2056. The Persians? No, their solar Hijri calendar is showing the year 1367. Chinese’s? Egyptian Coptic calendar? No known calendar is going to have a new millennium except the European-Christian, or to be more precise the Gregorian, calendar. It is not our calendar, although Muslims and others in many parts of the world use it today as a direct result of our recent colonial past. 

Therefore, as Muslims and Third World people, there is no justification for any euphoria on our part because the dominant civilization which is going berserk about the impending event has little to offer us or the world except slavery and subjugation. The New World Order, under a unipolar system, does not accept us as equal partners but as serfs and second-class citizens of a world being moulded as it suits the needs of and in accordance with the dictates of the new dominant civilization. The new millennium will be a grand world event to celebrate the final triumph of the western civilization in what has been termed by some of their ideologues as ‘end of history,’ meaning that the world will know no other civilization or history from now on after the final and eternal triumph of the western civilization.

We, as Muslims and Third World people, stand directly opposed to this view. In fact, this is the celebration of our final subjugation. What the West tried to achieve for centuries through direct colonial control has now been achieved through indirect colonial mechanisms like the IMF, World Bank, Asian Development Bank, GATT and WTO, multinationals, west-dominated UN, etc. etc.. It is through these media that west imposes its will on our weak countries as if western interests and whims represent ‘international’ will.

The Past century
We are standing today almost at the end of the twentieth century. About ninety nine years have passed and just over a year is left before we enter a new century or a new millennium as they call it. This century has been the most tumultuous and violent one so far, on one hand and, on the other, the most eventful and stunning in terms of human achievement in science and technology. Developments which could not take place in thousands of years were achieved during this century in all fields, medicine, science, technology, warfare, space… Man was able to walk on the moon and space-ships are making voyages to distant planets. The electronic revolution is fast unfolding avenues unthinkable just a few years ago. But, at the same time, our human qualities have taken a marked beating.

Exclusivist and coercive ideologies played havoc with humanity during this century. Communism, Nazism, Fascism, Zionism, Hindutva are some of these ideologies which taught intolerance and justified injustice to millions of those who do not share their views. Secularism, too, strayed from its basics and acquired the same kind of intolerance and fundamentalism it came to replace. When imported into some Muslims countries, like Turkey, Algeria and Tunisia, it became an unjust means to thwart the genuine aspirations of the people and a medium for the ruling elite to enslave the masses and deny their true aspirations. Hence, in Turkey, for instance, putting on scarf on your head becomes rebellion against State. In that very country sheer denial of a large community’s human rights, including the right to retain a cultural identity and use one’s mother tongue, forces Kurds to rebel.

It is in this century that we mastered the manufacture and deployment of mass killing weapons like the nuclear and hydrogen bombs, chemical and biological weapons, and used the atomic bomb in Japan towards the end of the Second World War even as Japan was ready to capitulate. Thousands of rockets around the world are on the standby, equipped with nuclear warheads, ready to destroy this planet many times over even by default. About 13 million people died during the First and Second World Wars only to satisfy human greed for more land and resources at the expense of others. A long cold war followed the Second World War which sapped the energies and wealths of almost the whole world. 

Now after the end of the cold war, as a result of the downfall of one of the two poles of that senseless confrontation for over four decades, a unipolar system has emerged which is trying to bring the whole world under its tutelage. The Second Gulf War (1991), Panama (1989) , Bosnia (1992-96) and Kosovo (1999) are indicators of the nature of this ‘New World Order’ to which the whole world is being subjected willy nilly. Vested interests in the West, who benefit from conflict and confrontation, are hell-bent to discover in Islam their new enemy. 

The World of Islam
Almost all parts of the world of Islam were under direct or indirect colonial rule at the beginning of this century. Even the Ottoman Caliphate was fettered, with severe restrictions on its policies by European countries which denied it freedom even within its own borders. The foreign ‘Capitulations’ (imtiyazaat) are a clear reminder of what Turkey was subjected to, prior to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. It had no fiscal freedom and had no control over the deeds and misdeeds of Europeans within its borders. 

All this has changed today. Thanks to great sacrifices in all parts of the Muslim world, our homelands attained freedom one after another. Some with considerable sacrifices like Algeria which alone had offered over two million martyrs. The last colonized part of the Muslim World, South Yemen or Aden, became independent in 1971.

The World of Islam also suffered a very peculiar kind of colonialism during this century. A very important part, Palestine, suffered settler-colonialism in which foreigners belonging to a certain religion from all over the world moved in and took over a Muslim country with the active connivance of western powers, especially Britain and the US. This festering cancer has sapped our energies to the limit and encouraged dictatorships to flourish in Arab countries. Not only were the majority of the Palestinians turned into permanent refugees by the newcomers, the neighbouring Arab countries, especially Egypt, Jordan and Syria, were compelled to match Israel in terms of arms and military strength. This sapped their income and diverted their meagre resources to buy arms and maintain large armies, away from core development areas like education and basic amenities for their citizens. Israel, on the other hand, received arms and financial assistance as doles from western countries, especially from (Western) Germany and the US. Despite a precarious peace for the past two decades, Israel is still perceived as a serious threat even by Egypt which was the first to conclude a peace treaty with it. Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese lands continue to be under Israeli occupation.

After independence, Muslim countries experimented with various models of government: both communist and western capitalist and liberal ideologies in various combinations. But in their spirit they remained dictatorial regimes controlled by the ruling elites which were sometimes even in uniform. They came to power with the active backing of those very western powers which do not tolerate military coups in their own region. In Europe the Greek Colonels, who had staged a coup in April 1967, were boycotted and Greece was not welcomed back into their community until it forsook the military rule in July 1974, but in the Muslim world such military governments received full western military and financial support. Egypt, Pakistan, Indonesia, Syria, Iraq, Yemen are only some examples. Even other dictators like the Shah of Iran received full and unconditional western support. In Algeria, after a free election ushered in an Islamic group to power, these very forces prodded the army to stage a coup, plunging that country into a bloody civil war from which it has yet to recover.
(Continued)
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