Before 9-11, I can remember a time when the term “Islamic terrorism” had no meaning for me. I didn’t really know about the wars happening in the Middle East, I wasn’t paying attention to the Gulf War (I was young, ok) and the US was supposedly at peace. (Not really true, as America is always bombing someone). But that world changed suddenly on that fateful day, when I saw as a young man, those planes drive into that tower in New York on live TV. Many innocent people lost their lives that day, and a few bankers too. Suddenly, the next few years were nothing but ISLAMIC TERRORISM AHHHHHH as the US turned up the heat on the Middle East, invading Iraq, and Afghanistan. Political scientists like Samuel Huntington and Francis Fukuyama got their day in the sun as they shouted about the coming clash of liberal democratic Western values with that of the evil Islamic hordes. Twenty years ago, most people in the US had no opinion on Islam. Now, racist reactionaries across America love to hate them. But, what is the reality of Islam? And what is the history of the West in the Islamic world? Let’s take a deeper look.
What is Islam
Islam is the most recent of the three branches of Abrahamic monotheistic religion. Judaism, and Christianity being the other two. They share the same god, a lot of the same mythology and history. Much of their theology is related. There is a common misconception that Allah is a name. It’s not. Allah is the Arabic word for God, related to the Hebrew El (like in Elohim). Here, you can see the history of the word at this wikipedia link! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_(deity)
The main belief in Islam is that there is one Allah (meaning god) and that Mohammad is his prophet. There are five pillars of Islam: Faith, prayer, charity, fasting and the Haji, or pilgrimage to Mecca. Islam especially puts a lot of weight on charity and social justice. Read more about it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_Pillars_of_Islam
Islam is a religion that even outlaws usury, banning the use of interest in banking. Pretty progressive for a religion founded in the 7th Century CE.
There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding Islam, and you can educate yourself so you don’t fall victim to bigoted ignorance. In reality, Muslims are just like any other people. They follow their religion to be good people, and to live happy and fulfilling lives as much as they can. Read more here: http://www.worde.org/publications/commentary/empowering_asj__sufi_muslim_networks/5-myths-about-islam-and-muslims/
Imperialism in the Islamic World
Muslims have felt attacked by the west for centuries. While there was political conflict with Europe and the Ottoman Empire, the West’s intrusions into the Muslim world in the modern era have been imperialistic, and quite devastating across the board. France, Italy, the Netherlands, and especially Britain wreaked havoc across the Muslim world, colonizing, murdering and subjugating Muslims under their Christian capitalist empires. Iraq was formed arbitrarily out of the subjugation of different religious and ethnic groups, shoving together the Kurds, Sunni Muslims and Shia Muslims. The British also set up the Palestinian Mandate and gave it to European Jews for them to set up their racist colony, Israel from 1948. The US attacked and cajoled the Middle East as well, giving support to the Wahabbist Saudi royal family that has ruled the Holy City of Mecca since the 17th century, as they use the country sacred to Muslims to enrich themselves at the cost of other Muslims. Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, all occupied and enslaved under Western imperialism. Iraq was invaded many times. Afghanistan set up a democratic, socialist system that gave full rights to women in the 1970s. The US response was to arm extremist cultists to overthrow the legitimate government of Afghanistan and even went so far as to arm and train the Saudis doing it, such as the young Osama Bin Laden. This plunged Afghanistan into decades of war and violence, claiming the lives of millions. This continues even now.
Libya was the country in Africa with the highest Human Development Index (HDI) with women’s rights, a secular government, free health care and education. Now it lies in smoking ruins from Western bombs. Destroyed. Again. Are you starting to undestand why the Muslims of the world, from formerly Dutch occupied Indonesia to Syria might have some ill will towards the West? The global “War on Terror” is really a war on Islam, and Islamic countries. Some have even called it a genocide. It’s hard to argue with that. Read the argument here:
Brian Becker of the Party for Socialism and Liberation has a lot of experience writing on this topic. Here’s one example: https://www.liberationnews.org/imperialism-islamic-state-policy-endless-war/
I encourage you to read, study and get to know the rich and diverse history of Islam and the many hundreds of millions of people around the world that practice this ancient religion. Knowledge is power, and with the internet and so much access to information, the onus is on you to empower yourself, as much as you can. Fear is the enemy of humanity, the enemy of hope and ignorance is its fuel. End Islamophobic hatred. I am a Buddhist, and I support wrapping Muslims in love and care, like every other religion. The real threat to the world is capitalist imperialism, and the center of that is the illegal and illegitimate government called the United States of America. That imperial entity is the enemy of all humankind. Overthrow capitalist oppression, and then we will have true religious and spiritual freedom.
Thanks for reading.