ISLAMIC State, Boko Haram, the Taliban, al-Qaida and several more Islamist cults that have cropped up in the past couple of decades and are running amok are only the most recent of a long series of blistering symptoms of a virulent disease that has afflicted the Muslim community, which accounts for almost a fifth of humanity. This disease is more than a millennium old and its germs were injected when the Islam of the philosophers was dethroned and the Islam of the clerics and jurists was put in its place.
An Islam based on doubt, reason and inquiry that was responsible for the glory of Islamic civilisation was replaced by an Islam founded on blind faith and conformity, causing stagnation and decay. It was a tragic turning point that marked the beginning of Islamic fundamentalism, from which various brands of Islamism have grown. What we witness now in the Middle East and elsewhere in the Muslim world is the bloody consequence of an obscurantist Islam. By blaming colonialism, imperialism, communism, Zionism and everyone else, Muslims are refusing to look within themselves for their malaise.
The Muslim world is in desperate need of a resurgence that can break its fossilised mindset from an obsolete fatwa-ridden and exclusivist fundamentalism, so it can re-read its own history in the light of rationalism.What Muslims need is not an Islamic state but a state of Islam governing their personal life, with religion as a moral compass.
Unfortunately, it is ¬difficult for a rational alternative to emerge from within and survive.
If the West is really keen to take the Muslim world along with it as a partner in building a world civilisation based on rationalism and enlightenment, then it should change its approach to Islam from military confrontation to a long-term ideological war.
What is needed is nothing short of a rescue mission to save a fifth of humanity from political, economic and social depredation.
The West is indebted to Islam for its own emergence from an age of darkness. The crusades, apart from the bloodshed and mayhem they caused, opened to the West the treasure troves of Islamic knowledge and achievements. While Muslims turned their back on rationalism and secular advancement, burned the writings of Averroes and discarded Avicenna, the West embraced these philosophers, rebuilt its civilisation and surpassed Islam. This debt must be acknowledged and the time has come for that debt to be repaid.
After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the Western powers, particularly Britain, France and the US, viewed the Muslim Middle East as hunting grounds for economic resources, investment and markets. Geopolitical manoeuvres, artificial state creations, military installations and regime changes were all part of a Great Game to achieve that objective.
Compliant local rulers were installed who looked for legitimacy not from the people but from the clerics and armed forces. An artificial modernity eventuated, structured on a fossilised religious orthodoxy. The horrors that we now witness are the result of this mismatch between an imposed modernity and an outdated indigenous ideology.
Without a change in that ideology the Muslim world is doomed to collapse and self-destruction. The West has to engage in a rescue mission, coming to the assistance of a different class of Muslims.
Within the Muslim world there are intellectuals and progressive thinkers who have been crying out for an ideological battle. Many face stiff opposition from the orth¬odoxy, and some are forced to mig¬rate to the West. They need a platform and institutional support. Will the West provide these?
Ultimately it is Muslims who can and should change their destiny, but at the moment it seems to be a hopeless task, which is why the West is duty-bound to facilitate this change, not just in the interest of Muslims but of humanity.
Without this fundamental transformation of the Muslim mind no amount of development assistance, technological transfers and regime change can arrest the bloody tsunami lashing the shores of the Muslim world. One might even call this Western initiative a reinvented mission civilisatrice. Dr Ameer Ali
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