Salim Mansur, a professor of political science at the University of Western Ontario, has written an intriguing opinion piece in the Toronto Sun: “Islamism: Dirty little secrets.” (Via Mathaba.net, with thanks to Ruth King.) I am not sure that he can sustain his contention that Muslim leaders have discarded the principles of Islam and reduced it to a nationalist entity, since from its beginning Islam has been political and has formed the basis for the laws of nations. But he is absolutely correct about Muslim anti-Semitism, apologies for tyrants, and the suffering that modern-day political Islam has caused for Muslims themselves.
In the latter half of the 20th century, the struggle for Islam’s soul turned most bloody and relentlessly continues that way.
The seeds for this were sown in the first half of the last century, when most Arab-Muslim lands were under European rule.
It was then that many Muslim enthusiasts for reconciling traditional Islam with the scientific and democratic values of the modern world embraced the doctrines of nationalism in their most reactionary form, as found in post-1914 Germany.
The result reduced Islam into a nationalist identity for Arabs and Muslims. Many Muslim fundamentalists later incorporated this reactionary nationalism for their own purpose of constructing totalitarian states.
The pernicious effect of such a fusion of nationalism with religion was to empty Islam of its transcendent message of faith in a supreme God as the common ground of unity among all people.
In India, for instance, Islamic nationalism generated the whirlwind of communal carnage in the 1947 partition of the subcontinent. Wounds of that bloody division remain today.
But it was in the Middle East where nationalism fused with Islam into a political ideology – Islamism – whose effects have brought ruin to the region – and beyond.
The dirty secret apologists for this tragedy in North America and elsewhere refuse to address is how Muslims have suffered as a result of Islamism, have been driven from their homes, tortured and killed across the Arab-Muslim world.
There has been no systematic collection of this horrible data over the past five decades, but the numbers run into millions.
It matters little within the larger context of the struggle for Islam’s soul whether Muslims have been primarily the victims of tyrannical authority in Muslim majority states, or of Islamists waging battles against corrupt power elites.
No one in the Arab-Muslim world during this period exceeded the bloody-mindedness of Iraq’s fallen despot, Saddam Hussein, who blended a Nazi-type nationalism with his version of Islamism into a sheer hell for Iraqis.
The world also witnessed many Islamists and Muslim apologists rallying to Saddam’s defence with contorted arguments of anti-imperialism in all of its variations.
The other dirty secret is the continuing victimization of Palestinians by many of their fellow Arabs, and of their being used as pawns in the war of Islamists against Jews and Israel.
Neither Islam, nor Muslims, have any quarrel with Jews and Israel.
The conflict between Palestinian Arabs and Israelis was, and remains, a nationalist contest over land.
This contest could have been avoided, or settled at any time since the full reality of the Holocaust became known, if Arab Muslims in a position to lead had chosen to live by the principles of Islam.
Instead, they opted for the German model of nationalism in opposing Jewish demands for a homeland in historic Palestine.
Amin al-Husayni, the Mufti of Jerusalem, was the leader of the Palestinians during the years between the world wars of the last century.
His embrace of the German fuehrer, Adolf Hitler, during World War II was not a whimsical choice.
Islamists deliberately incorporated the racist doctrine of the Nazis into their thinking and politics, and brazenly propagated anti-Semitic literature as a tool in their war against the Jews and Israel.
Consequently, the damage Islamists have done to the very legitimate grievances of Palestinians is immense.
Moreover, many Muslims, in supporting Palestinian rights without repudiating the rabid anti-Semitism of the Islamists, have contributed to the undermining of Islam as a religion of peace and coexistence and sabotaged their moral authority to speak of justice in Palestine, or elsewhere.
This internal conflict raging among Muslims during the past 50 years was bound to spill over into the outside world with devastating effects on 9/11.
Now America has become involved in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world as never before. Ironically, or by providential design, the future of Islam and of Muslims if they are to be free of the fanaticism of the Islamists, is bound to America’s success in this war on terrorism.