Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Islam's Imperial Dreams

By Aussiegirl

A long and detailed article about the imperial dreams of Islam, in play from the beginning and working unceasingly up to the present. These imperial dreams, if ignored, will surely become nightmares for the West.

Commentary - Islam's Imperial Dreams

Islam’s Imperial Dreams

Efraim Karsh

When satirical depictions of the prophet Muhammad in a Danish newspaper sparked a worldwide wave of Muslim violence early this year, observers naturally focused on the wanton destruction of Western embassies, businesses, and other institutions. Less attention was paid to the words that often accompanied the riots—words with ominous historical echoes. “Hurry up and apologize to our nation, because if you do not, you will regret it,” declared Khaled Mash’al, the leader of Hamas, fresh from the Islamist group’s sweeping victory in the Palestinian elections:

This is because our nation is progressing and is victorious. . . . By Allah, you will be defeated. . . . Tomorrow, our nation will sit on the throne of the world. This is not a figment of the imagination but a fact. Tomorrow we will lead the world, Allah willing. Apologize today, before remorse will do you no good.

Among Islamic radicals, such gloating about the prowess and imminent triumph of their “nation” is as commonplace as recitals of the long and bitter catalog of grievances related to the loss of historical Muslim dominion. [...]

These historical claims are in turn frequently dismissed by Westerners as delusional, a species of mere self-aggrandizement or propaganda. But the Islamists are perfectly serious, and know what they are doing. Their rhetoric has a millennial warrant, both in doctrine and in fact, and taps into a deep undercurrent that has characterized the political culture of Islam from the beginning. Though tempered and qualified in different places and at different times, the Islamic longing for unfettered suzerainty has never disappeared, and has resurfaced in our own day with a vengeance. It goes by the name of empire.

“I was ordered to fight all men until they say, ‘There is no god but Allah.’” With these farewell words, the prophet Muhammad summed up the international vision of the faith he brought to the world. As a universal religion, Islam envisages a global political order in which all humankind will live under Muslim rule as either believers or subject communities. In order to achieve this goal, it is incumbent on all free, male, adult Muslims to carry out an uncompromising “struggle in the path of Allah,” or jihad. As the 14th-century historian and philosopher Abdel Rahman ibn Khaldun wrote, “In the Muslim community, the jihad is a religious duty because of the universalism of the Islamic mission and the obligation [to convert] everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force.”

As a historical matter, the birth of Islam was inextricably linked with empire. Unlike Christianity and the Christian kingdoms that once existed under or alongside it, Islam has never distinguished between temporal and religious powers, which were combined in the person of Muhammad. [...]

But the doctrine’s appeal was not just otherworldly. By forbidding fighting and raiding within the community of believers (the umma), Muhammad had deprived the Arabian tribes of a traditional source of livelihood. For a time, the prophet could rely on booty from non-Muslims as a substitute for the lost war spoils, which is why he never went out of his way to convert all of the tribes seeking a place in his Pax Islamica. Yet given his belief in the supremacy of Islam and his relentless commitment to its widest possible dissemination, he could hardly deny conversion to those wishing to undertake it. Once the whole of Arabia had become Muslim, a new source of wealth and an alternative outlet would have to be found for the aggressive energies of the Arabian tribes, and it was, in the Fertile Crescent and the Levant. [...]

To Islamic historians, the chronicles of Muslim empire represent a model of shining religious zeal and selfless exertion in the cause of Allah. Many Western historians, for their part, have been inclined to marvel at the perceived sophistication and tolerance of Islamic rule, praising the caliphs’ cultivation of the arts and sciences and their apparent willingness to accommodate ethnic and religious minorities. There is some truth in both views, but neither captures the deeper and often more callous impulses at work in the expanding umma set in motion by Muhammad. For successive generations of Islamic rulers, imperial dominion was dictated not by universalistic religious principles but by their prophet’s vision of conquest and his summons to fight and subjugate unbelievers. [...]

The legacy of this imperial experience is not difficult to discern in today’s Islamic world. Physical force has remained the main if not the sole instrument of political discourse in the Middle East. Throughout the region, absolute leaders still supersede political institutions, and citizenship is largely synonymous with submission; power is often concentrated in the hands of small, oppressive minorities; religious, ethnic, and tribal conflicts abound; and the overriding preoccupation of sovereigns is with their own survival.

At the domestic level, these circumstances have resulted in the world’s most illiberal polities. Political dissent is dealt with by repression, and ethnic and religious differences are settled by internecine strife and murder. One need only mention, among many instances, Syria’s massacre of 20,000 of its Muslim activists in the early 1980’s, or the brutal treatment of Iraq’s Shiite and Kurdish communities until the 2003 war, or the genocidal campaign now being conducted in Darfur by the government of Sudan and its allied militias. As for foreign policy in the Middle East, it too has been pursued by means of crude force, ranging from terrorism and subversion to outright aggression, with examples too numerous and familiar to cite.

Reinforcing these habits is the fact that, to this day, Islam has retained its imperial ambitions. The last great Muslim empire may have been destroyed and the caliphate left vacant, but the dream of regional and world domination has remained very much alive. Even the ostensibly secular doctrine of pan-Arabism has been effectively Islamic in its ethos, worldview, and imperialist vision. In the words of Nuri Said, longtime prime minister of Iraq and a prominent early champion of this doctrine: “Although Arabs are naturally attached to their native land, their nationalism is not confined by boundaries. It is an aspiration to restore the great tolerant civilization of the early caliphate.” [...]

As we have seen, however, Islamic history has been anything but reactive. From Muhammad to the Ottomans, the story of Islam has been the story of the rise and fall of an often astonishing imperial aggressiveness and, no less important, of never quiescent imperial dreams. Even as these dreams have repeatedly frustrated any possibility for the peaceful social and political development of the Arab-Muslim world, they have given rise to no less repeated fantasies of revenge and restoration and to murderous efforts to transform fantasy into fact. If, today, America is reviled in the Muslim world, it is not because of its specific policies but because, as the preeminent world power, it blocks the final realization of this same age-old dream of regaining, in Zawahiri’s words, the “lost glory” of the caliphate. [...]

Whether or not any such structure exists or can be forged, the fact is that the fuel of Islamic imperialism remains as volatile as ever, and is very far from having burned itself out. To deny its force is the height of folly, and to imagine that it can be appeased or deflected is to play into its hands. Only when it is defeated, and when the faith of Islam is no longer a tool of Islamic political ambition, will the inhabitants of Muslim lands, and the rest of the world, be able to look forward to a future less burdened by Saladins and their gory dreams.


At 4:47 PM, Blogger Muslim Unity said...

You are making a mistake. Islam just wants peace and love my dear sister.


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