The way some people talk these days, it would seem that Muslims are not just intellectually deficient but not even fully evolved as human beings. Mike Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor and a presidential hopeful, has described Muslims emerging from mosques after their Friday prayer “like uncorked animals”.
(Daily Times, 21 August 2013)
Why some young Muslim men – many of them smart, educated, raised in or living in the West – are now ready to kill and be killed apparently in the name of their faith? We will get nowhere unless we clearly recognize that their behavior and actions, however irrational or despicable, are directly linked to events and developments in this world, rather than the pursuit of “heavenly virgins” (houris), as some in the West like to believe.
Nor are they engaged in an organised struggle or solo efforts to establish a world “Caliphate”, a supra-national Muslim state, as some crackpots of Hizbut Tahrir (HT) suggest now and then. Such people should be taken no more seriously than the International Flat Earth Society. Not a single activist of HT, however, has so far engaged in any act of terrorism or suicide bombing.
And why belabor this point when most of the “Jihadis” have themselves categorically declared, in one way or another, the direct link between their terrorist acts and one or more of the following: the Israeli occupation of Palestine and humiliation of Palestinians (which would be impossible without US military, economic, political and diplomatic support), the totally unjustified and illegal (and based on a lie, as we now know) US-British invasion of Iraq (with very tragic consequences for the Iraqi people), the US-led NATO intervention in Afghanistan, and extension of military operations into Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.
In a lopsided conflict against overwhelming military power, terrorism (including suicide bombing) has always been the weapon of the weak. Presently, it is the cycle of humiliation, subjugation and alienation that stokes the feeling of revenge in disparate young men from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Somalia, Palestine, Chechnya, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Afghanistan and such, who have nothing in common but their Islamic religion.
And Muslims are not the first or only community to rally to a trans-national or supra-national “common cause”. Recall the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), in which 40,000 leftists and communists from many foreign countries, including France, Germany, Austria, Italy, USSR, USA, UK, Poland, Yugoslavia, Hungary and Canada, joined forces with their Spanish comrades to defend the Spanish Republican government against the “Nationalists” of General Franco, who were supported by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.
More recently, in South Vietnam, the Viet Cong, Pathet Lao, Khmer Rouge and Viet Minh (representing three nations and four countries), not to mention Russia and China, collaborated against the US military. Long before them, the Christian Crusaders did the same. Ideologically driven citizens collaborate against a perceived adversary, just as States form political and military alliances when they face a common enemy.
The US-supported Afghan liberation war against Soviet occupation (1979-88) galvanized Islamists and victory gave them assurance in their ability to defeat a military superpower. They took pride in being victorious where the large and well-equipped armed forces of Muslim countries, led by secular-minded kings, presidents and generals, had suffered humiliating defeats against lesser powers. Examples being the humiliating defeat of Egypt, Syria and Jordan in the six-day war against Israel in 1967 and of Pakistan in the 1971 war against India.
The end of the Afghan war also created a vast pool of disgruntled Muslim youth, experienced in combat and full of confidence in their prowess, who were now unwelcome, even persecuted, in their own countries. They now found for themselves a new cause, namely, the Islamisation of the largely Western-supported, secular-led Muslim countries, nearly all whom were gripped by economic, political and social crises and wracked by corruption..
To suggest that these young Muslim men kill themselves and others because they can’t wait to get their quota of “72 heavenly virgins” is simply ridiculous and insulting. And what of the female suicide bombers? In Chechnya they have been called “black widows” because their mission is to avenge the killing of their husbands. Every serious research, most notably by University of Chicago’s Robert Papp, has refuted the connection between suicide bombings and heavenly goals and shown its link to politico-military objectives.
Psychology professor Scott Atran writes that most of these radical young men “are ‘born again’ in their late teens and early twenties and have little knowledge of religion beyond the fact that they consider themselves “true Muslims” who must fight enemies near and far to defend their friends and the faith that makes their friendship meaningful and enduring.” Riaz Hassan, of Flinders University in Australia, writes that suicide may provide, for some, “self-empowerment in the face of powerlessness, redemption in the face of damnation and honor in the face of humiliation.”
The way some people talk these days, it would seem that Muslims are not just intellectually deficient but not even fully evolved as human beings. Mike Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor and a presidential hopeful, has described Muslims emerging from mosques after their Friday prayer “like uncorked animals”, throwing rocks and burning cars.
The highly regarded biologist, Richard Dawkins, wonders why the world’s billion-plus Muslims have won fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College in UK. Why shouldn’t he ask the same of Indians, Chinese and Africans, who also number over one billion each? And, as far as I know, not a single person from the combined Indigenous populations of North and South America, Australia and New Zealand, not even one Polynesian, Melanesian or South-East Asian has ever won a Nobel Prize (not counting the peace prize). We don’t ask why, because we know why.
In any case, if one subscribes to the argument about Quranic verses or “heavenly houris” to be the cause of the current spate of terrorist acts and suicide bombings perpetrated by Muslims, one must also believe that Islam originated in the last decades of the 20th century. The truth is that Muslims have followed Islam, read the Quran and congregated in mosques for prayers every Friday for over fourteen hundred years without engaging in vandalism, terrorism or suicide bombings.
It is only in the last two decades or so, under a set of historical, economic and political circumstances, some complex, others not so, that some Muslims, a mere handful out of a population of well over one billion, are resorting to acts of terrorism, although the Islamic faith has been alive and well for fourteen centuries.
(To be concluded)
By Razi Azmi