Bolshevism in a Headdress: Islamic Fundamentalism Has More to Do with Hatred of the West Than with Religion
Akyol, Mustafa, The American Enterprise
In October of 2002 I spoke to a crowded Muslim audience in the British city of Birmingham on the topic, "The Evidence for God." My lecture focused on the modern scientific discoveries that support the idea of a designed, "fine-tuned" universe. The audience consisted mostly of Muslim students, and they were very interested in the presentation.
Yet there was a small dissatisfied group in the hall. During the question-and-answer session, one who seemed to be a spokesman for the group rose and, in a passionate voice, objected to the whole idea of the conference. "Why are we wasting time with all this useless philosophical and scientific sophistry?" he demanded. "Shouldn't we concentrate on establishing the worldwide Islamic state that will save us from all evils?"
I explained that the Koran asks every Muslim to examine the natural world and witness God's signs in it, but there is no verse ordering an "Islamic state." The essence of Islam, I said, does not concern such political objectives, but rather faith in God and morality. If he wanted to exalt Islam he should focus on science, philosophy, or art, I suggested, because these are the underpinnings of a civilization.
The young man was furious. In my speech I had mentioned the fall of Marxism as a materialistic theory that claimed to be a true explanation of human societies. He questioned me for speaking only against Marxism, not against capitalism. I responded, "Well, if we were in a communist country, we could not have a seminar titled 'The Evidence for God.' We can have it freely in this capitalist country. Isn't this a reason enough to opt for the latter?"
Later, I learned that this angry young man was a member of the radical group Hizb-ut Tahrir, firmly dedicated to establishing a global Islamic state. I am sure he and his comrades saw themselves as pious Muslims. Yet there was something terribly wrong with their faith, a defect that left them much more interested in the case against "capitalism" than in the case for God.
Muslim failure breeds radicalism
Most scholars who study radical Islam agree it is something peculiar to the twentieth century. For Muslims, the most important aspect of the last century can be captured in one word: Failure. Muslim nations became the poorest of the world, they were colonized by imperial powers, they lagged behind the West in all earthly standards, they were tyrannized by their own rulers.
In the early decades of Islam, Muslims had grown accustomed to triumph. They created a vast empire and gained military and political ascendancy over other civilizations for centuries. As Daniel Pipes, a scholar of Islam, notes: "To be a Muslim meant to belong to a winning civilization." Muslim cities like Baghdad or Cordoba were "ornaments of the world" as well as centers of science and philosophy. Historian Martin Kramer opines, "Had there been Nobel prizes in the year 1000, they would have gone almost exclusively to Muslims."
The might and sophistication of the Islamic world was severely shaken in the middle of the thirteenth century with the Mongol invasion. The "Mongol catastrophe," as it came to be known, resulted in the destruction of Muslim cities and the eclipse of the Arab civilization--which would never recover again. The Mongols slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Muslim inhabitants when they invaded Baghdad in 1258. Arab historian Ibn-i Kasir wrote that "such a tragedy has never been witnessed since God created the world."
The Mongol catastrophe devastated the Arabs, but Islam continued to shine under the Ottomans further north. Eventually, though, the Turks declined in relation to the modernizing West, and in World War I their empire was finally destroyed. Muslim nations of North Africa and the Middle East, previously subjects of the Muslim Ottomans, were colonized by European powers. Upcoming decades ushered in worse failures: socio-cultural backwardness, military defeats at the hands of Israel, the collapse of both socialism and Arab nationalism. …