Jobs @ MG
Misconceptions about Muslim mind
By Saeed Suhrawardy
|An article by C. Raja Mohan (The Hindu,
8 October 2001), appeared under the caption. "The battle for the
Muslim Mind". The article opens with the observation: "A
determined America and a defiant Taliban. These are the first images from
the new war against international terrorism. As bombs and cruise missiles
rain on the Taliban, the theatre of conflict may be much larger than the
territory of Afghanistan.
The war against terrorism is likely to be won or lost in the ongoing
battle for the Muslim Mind. Osama bin Laden wants to inflame the
accumulated Arab and Muslim resentment against America. The U.S President,
Mr. George Bush, is trying to calm their nerves that the war was not
Osama cannot match Mr. Bush’s firepower. As he wages an asymmetric war
against America, his main weapon is the proposition that there is an
irreconcilable contradiction between Islam and the West. He wants to
exploit the big idea to expand the war against America.
By pressing the Muslim and Arab grievances on two issues – American
presence in the Arabian peninsula, which is home to Mecca and Medina, and
the Palestinian struggle against Israel—Osama hopes to weaken the
international coalition in South Asia and West Asia. His call for jehad
has resonated where the regime of General Pervez Musharraf has awkwardly
endorsed US military action, and popular protests have erupted. In the
Arab world, the attacks have been greeted with sullen ambiguity. No
government has welcomed them, but not many have condemned them either.
The world’s largest Islamic country, Indonesia, has cautioned against
civilian casualties while radical Islamic groups in that country are
threatening attacks against Westerners."
I have extensively quoted from the article, because it fairly and
objectively presents the situation as it exists today. Here a distinction
has to be made between US atrocities in Iraq and US attack on Afghanistan.
Anglo-US aggression against Iraq continues and the prolonged sanctions
against the country have already taken a heavy toll of human life, much
higher than the loss suffered by US in the terrorist attack of September
11. However the US hostilities against Iraq could not inflame the feelings
of Muslims worldwide. The obvious reason was that Iraq committed two
miscalculations. It fought the war against Iran, a Muslim country for
eight years. US looked away as it suited their interests. Emboldened by
the fruitless misadventure Iraq invaded Kuwait. The false hope was that
USA would not intervene. The build-up of Iraqi military power in the fight
against Iran had alarmed the closest ally of USA --Israel. The US military
action against Iraq did not stop with the liberation of Kuwait. It still
continues. Iraq has been able to win sympathy of Muslims abroad now, which
it could not do earlier. Osama’s rhetoric may be faulty, if US is to be
believed, his methods may be terrorist, but he has been able to carry the
impression that he is fighting for a just political cause. Muslims have
not accepted Osama as a religious leader. In the absence of an
anti-imperialist symbol in the post-Soviet world he has filled that
vacuum. That is one reason that the brutal attacks on Afghanistan have
caused resentment in the minds of Muslims from Morocco to Indonesia. There
appears to be a dichotomy between the approach of Muslim rulers and Muslim
Muslim world at present is characterized by the absence of a role model.
There is no charismatic leader. There is no ideal or model state. It is
illogical to blame Muslim mind for the present tragic situation of Afghans
and Afghanistan. Soviet Union and USA both must share the blame. Russian
ambitions relating to Afghanistan date back to the period when Soviet
Union was not formed. Soviet Union was under the impression that with the
support of Central Asian Soviets the annexation of Afghanistan would be
They did not reckon with the ethnic features of the tribal society in
Afghanistan. The geo-centric position of Afghanistan as the gateway to the
Sub-continent was a great attraction for them. The move to modernize
Afghanistan undertaken by Amanullah Khan misfired, because it was
premature. It should have followed a major thrust in education and social
services. The mission of Soviet Union suffered similar fate. USA nursed
the jehadi forces against Soviet Union. Now it intends to eliminate them.
Muslims fail to understand that as to why their friend has turned a foe
now. The rhetoric of Osama provides the answer.
Muslim mind should not be blamed for a situation that has been created by
the rivalry of two super powers, one among them still seeking its past
The advice of C. Raja Mohan to USA and Islamic world should be scrutinized
carefully. His advice to USA is "In the not too distant future, the
US must find a way to engage the Muslim world more productively."
"For the Islamic world too, there is a hard choice to make. It can
use the present crisis to move decisively towards political moderation and
economic modernization. Or it could let extremists set the agenda for an
unending and ruinous confrontation with the West."
Unfortunately, the USA has been obstructing political moderation and
economic modernization by supporting extremist or anti-democratic elements
in Islamic world. It was Osama bin Laden yesterday and Gen. Pervez
Musharraf is their ally today. q
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