The failures, both nation-wide and collective, are enormous
The problems with Islamic faith, culture, and solidarity are complex, and so is how these play out in the arena of domestic and international politics.
Some solidarity does exist among a majority of Muslims across the world, which is based on a mixture of faith and religio-culture. On one hand, the solidarity gives an impression of a relatively strong bonding; on the other, Muslims keep engaging in hostility with fellow Muslims, and with others. It’s bizarre.
Nevertheless, the solidarity looked to be playing out reasonably well until 1990, barring the period of the Iran-Iraq war and the incident of Egyptian isolation from the OIC.
This solidarity and the economic, and even military, cooperation stemming from it created a system of assurance, although of a limited scale, among the member nations of the Islamic world, who had regional and geo-strategic issues of their own in their local spheres, for example help and support of non-Arab Muslim nations for the Arabs in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
However, such support wasn’t always guided by moral principles and has sometimes been contradictory, for example support for Pakistan in the Liberation War of Bangladesh.
Petro-dollars of the Gulf and North Africa helped maintain this camaraderie, and part of it also flowed to poorer Muslim nations in terms of aid and remittance, helping the latter gain economic progress.
With a lack of interest in the Islamic world from Turkey, Saudi Arabia and its gulf allies remained the nucleus of the Islamic world. Some degree of prosperity, cooperation, and trans-national Islamic solidarity ensued.
However, all this development took place in a period when the focus of the western powers, under US leadership, was on fighting the communist bloc, under the leadership of the mighty Soviet Union, in every corner of the world -- directly, through proxies, in propaganda warfare, or via mere power projections.
Two events coalesced to change things dramatically for the Islamic world. One was the sudden collapse of the communist bloc in the early 1990s that freed the western powers to focus on other priorities such as stronger domination of the oil-rich Middle East and, later, fighting global Islamic terrorism.
The other event that took place is related to the second priority of the west: It’s the quiet rot within Islamic societies in terms of the rise of religiosity and extremism rather than modern free thoughts.
Prosperity aided orthodox societal elements rather than removing them. The dispensations across the Islamic world played a part in it either being populist or being instigated by western intelligence and failing to see the peril that accompanied it like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan’s nurturing of terror networks for the Mujahedeen’s fight against the Soviet in Afghanistan.
Another thing that was instrumental in bringing about misery to the Islamic world from North Africa to Nigeria, the Gulf, Arab Mashrek, Yemen, Af-Pak region, and elsewhere, was the arrogance and mindlessness of many leaders of the Muslim nations -- Zia-ul-Haq’s deliberate Islamization of Pakistan, Saddam’s mindless attack of Kuwait, Asad and Gaddafi’s refusal to compromise at the beginning of the Syrian Arab-spring.
All this ignited sectarian clashes and opened spaces for outside interference which made things even worse. Bush’s destruction of Iraq in the name of WMD, which were never there, gave birth to ISIS, to add to the existing Al-Qaida terror networks.
Destruction of the erstwhile prosperous Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Yemen; international isolation of the ever-Islamizing Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia’s overtly US-instigated enmity towards Iran has brought the Islamic world to its lowest level of distress.
Sensing this weakness, Israel and India are becoming more oppressive towards Palestinians and Indian Muslims respectively. Islamophobia is spreading across the world fast. But it’s also true that Muslims themselves are to be blamed for their misery due to their close-minded religiosity, tribalism, inability to embrace modern thoughts and science, and condescension towards others.
Irrational vanity and hatred evoke reverse vanity and hatred among subjects of initial hate. Absence of any true reform towards modern rational ideas in Muslim minds and in their world-views, be it an ordinary Muslim or the leadership, is making them suffer dearly. Prosperous places like Iraq, Syria, and Libya have almost been levelled to ground due to in-fighting and outside interference. Iran is next in the sight of the Zionist-American alliance.
It’s difficult to say how global Muslims will get out of this quagmire. There is no practicable path in sight. The Arab world, with all its natural wealth, is still the centre of gravity.
But they are divided not just by countries, but also by the mean interests of their rulers. Despite being the wealthiest, they are the most backward in terms of science, education, modern institutions, and social progress. Islamic countries have no global power as their true friend.
The overall failures, both nation-wide and collective, are enormous.
Only the rise and sustenance of strong and devoted visionary modernizers like Kemal Ataturk, Gamal Nasser, or Sukarno can perhaps save the Islamic world to whatever extent possible.
Sarwar Jahan Chowdhury is a contributor at Dhaka Tribune.