The Muslim world today
encompasses a motley collection of 55 countries that stretch across the globe
from Indonesia to Morocco. They are as diverse and different economically,
politically and culturally as their geographic location. Even the Islam that
they claim to practise and which should have united them is not the same that
Prophet Mohammed ushered into the world some 1426 years ago. Although they call
themselves Islamic, none of them seem to govern their people on the basis of the
Islamic principles of justice, equality and brotherhood. Their constitutions may
be based on these principles but their governance is not. They are either brutal
dictatorships, feudal monarchies or military-run oligarchies.
Five of the top 10 dictators in the world, according to the political weekly New
Statesman, are Muslims. Their record in the matter of human rights, which the
Quran upholds and guarantees, is unspeakable.
Islamic civilisation reached its zenith during the period 8th to 15th century
and, according to the British orientalist and writer, Robert Bruffault, it was
the midwife of the European Renaissance. Its decline and fall started as the
Unmayad, Abbaside, Fatimide and Moghul empires fell and it reached its nadir on
11 September 2001 when 19 Muslim terrorists committed one of the most
apocalyptic and heinous crimes in human history on American soil.
Since 9/11, the Islamic civilisation has been perceived as inferior, according
to the former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, and the Christian God
“Higher” than Allah, according to the American, General William Boykin.
Muslims and their rulers are in a state of total self-denial. Everything that
afflicts and blights them is not theirs but someone else’s fault. The West is
blamed and held responsible for most of their internal and external problems.
Most of the festering problems of the Middle East are put down to the
Sykes-Picot plan, which redrew and re-delineated the Middle East map, and the
Balfour Declaration which promised the Jews a homeland and resulted in the
creation of Israel. The problems of the Indian subcontinent, notably Kashmir,
are attributed to the British who partitioned the subcontinent before they left.
The Indonesians believe that a corrupt military dictatorship in Indonesia under
Suharto was installed and sustained by the USA. The harrowing tale of colonial
rule in both Muslim and non-Muslim countries of Africa is encapsulated in
several books, including How Europe Underdeveloped Africa.
In a fine Urdu couplet, the late Allama Iqbal, the poet-philosopher of the
Indian subcontinent, addressed the Muslims of the world and wrote: Europe key
ghulami pay raza mand hua too/ Mujh ko toh gila tujse hai Europe say nahi hai
(You accepted the thraldom of the West, I blame you for it and not the West).
The 55 countries that constitute the Islamic Diaspora are in total disarray. The
role of organisations like the Arab League and the Conference of Islamic
Countries is worse than that of a parish council in a Third World country. How
can organisations that represent countries with differing political agendas,
governing systems, economies and cultures succeed? Islam seems to divide rather
than unite them. In an Arab League meeting in Cairo not long ago two heads of
state indulged in an abusive slanging match as the world watched them on TV
screens. At another CIS meeting in Kuala Lumpur, the participants could not
agree on the definition of terrorism and the meeting was abandoned.
The Middle East, where Islam was born and which contains some of the richest
oil-producing countries in the world, has a population of 175 million or about
11 per cent of the total Muslim population of the world. In one of his poems,
Allama Iqbal described it as a region where (Mustafa nayaab, arzan Bulaheb) the
Prophet is rare and scarce but Bulaheb, a heretic who always found faults with
the Prophet, is common and popular.
This description of the Middle East seems as apt and appropriate today as it was
when Allama Iqbal wrote it some eight decades ago. Most of the countries are
close allies of the USA. Tony Blair recently described Saudi Arabia, a feudal
monarchy of mainly Wahabi Muslims, as “a friend of the civilised world”. Both
Iran and Syria are regarded as pariah states. Iran is a republic in principle
but a theocracy in practice and Syria, a secular autocracy, is ruled by the
Alawi dynasty. Iraq is the fifth biggest oil producer in the world and, like
Saudi Arabia, has several Islamic holy places.
The Indian subcontinent, comprising India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, has a total
Muslim population of 440 million or 28 per cent of the world Muslim population.
Pakistan has been under military rule most of the time since it was created in
1947. The present head of state, General Pervez Musharraf, is the “West’s
favourite dictator”. It is also one of the failed states of the world which had
close links both with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in the past. A hotbed of
international terrorism, it established some 10,000 madrasas all over the
country with Saudi financial aid mainly to religionise the Kashmir issue.
Bangladesh was created by the sudden break-up of Pakistan in 1971. After an
initial period of political instability, a democratically-elected President and
Parliament now rule the country. India, with a Muslim population 140 million, is
a secular democratic republic where Muslims enjoy greater democracy and freedom
than anywhere else. They are also the most enlightened, tolerant and educated
Muslims in the world. It is because of these reasons that there are no Muslim
terrorists from India anywhere in the world today.
Indonesia has just emerged from the yoke of a 30-year long Suharto dictatorship.
Malaysia had the potential of becoming a model Muslim state, but the actions of
its autocratic leader, Mahatir Mohammed, who arrested and jailed his friend and
deputy, Anwar Ibrahim, on trumped up charges of sodomy etc, has permanently
tarnished its image both at home and abroad. Somalia in the Horn of Africa is
perhaps the only country without a government for over two decades.
(To be concluded)