EU crisis reveals important lessons for Muslims
By Abid Mustafa
The present crisis in the Europe Union (EU) over its constitution and economic budget has become a subject of great debate amongst Europeans. Non-Europeans too have taken a keen interest in the EU’s predicament and have been eager to speculate on Europe’s future.
Some predict Europe’s demise, while others view the current crisis as an opportunity to modernise and transform the EU into a world power that is able to challenge American global hegemony.
Opinions of most Muslim commentators fall into these two camps. However, there are some important lessons to be learnt from the present crisis, which has escaped the attention of many commentators. These can be summarised as follows:
Islamophobia - a permanent barrier between Europe and the Islamic world
The overwhelmingly decision by Dutch and French voters to reject the EU’s constitution was in part fuelled by centuries old animosity towards the Islamic world. This is not the first time that Islamophobia has raised its ugly head, but it is the first time that ordinary Europeans have been given a chance to voice their fears of Islam via the ballot box.
The events of September 11, the bomb blasts in London and Madrid, and Turkey’s desire to join the union has created a well of anti-Islamic feelings that permeates all sections of European society. Europe’s premier media institutions and elitist politicians have exploited this sentiment to create a permanent wedge between Europe and the Islamic world.
Europeans fed on a daily diet of Islamophobia have taken every opportunity to spurn immigration from the Islamic world and reject Turkey’s entry into the union.
Even Britain and America that champion Turkey’s entry, do so, because they believe it will stoke the flames of Islamophobia and bring an end to the Franco-German dream of a powerful Europe.
Simply put the barrier of hate erected by Europe to ward off advances from Turkey and Maghreb countries has become insurmountable. It is foolhardy for the elite in these Muslim countries to continue efforts to make their countries part of a union that reviles Islam.
Nationalism resurgent in Europe but fades in the Muslim world
Once again Europe is confronted with its old adversary-nationalism, which for centuries has wreaked havoc on the continent. European nationalism suppressed for decades has been reawakened by the forces of globalisation and now threatens to destroy the very soul of the union.
Today, Europeans are more worried about safeguarding their national identities than moving forward with a constitution that places greater emphasis on a European identity.
Subsequently, the current problems faced by Europe, and the solutions advocated are no longer viewed from the perspective of a unified Europe, but through the prism of nationalism. The dispute over the budget is a classic example of European nationalism tearing apart the EU.
In contrast, nationalism which was exported to the Islamic world and used to ‘divide and conquer’ Muslims is in full retreat. Today the concept of ummah has superseded nationalism and has become a unifying force for Muslims across the world. Muslims from Morocco to Indonesia are quickly discovering that they have more in common with the Islamic vision of brotherhood than their present identities defined by artificial borders.
The plight of Muslims in Palestine, Chechnya, Kashmir, Iraq and Afghanistan is no longer viewed as parochial problems, but as Islamic problems that must have an Islamic solution.
Political unity is a dream for Europe but a reality for Muslims
The EU experiment was a bold attempt by some European nations to put to rest centuries of division and warfare. This initiative was given further impetus, when the elites in France and Germany realised that American supremacy could not be challenged by them alone. Hence the concept of a European Super state was born.
But after 40 years of trying to create a post modern state, the EU has disintegrated into a collection of pre-modern states (nation states), where powerful states like England, France and Germany are at loggerheads over Europe’s future.
This was a predictable outcome. The European continent has been plagued with cultural differences, religious schisms and intense rivalries between powerful states. European history clearly demonstrates that there is very little to unite Europeans except foreign threats.
In the 17th century the advance of the Ottoman army to the gates of Vienna briefly spurred European nations to put aside their differences-only to be resumed later. In the 20th century, the threats from the Soviet Union, and later from America’s global hegemony forced Europe to coalesce in the form of a union.
More often than not, the coming together of European nations is a temporary affair and is used by some to recuperate after experiencing the ravages of war. But as soon as the external threat weakens, in this case America’s position in the world, Europe defaults to a state of disunity.
However, the unification of Muslim world into a single entity is not a mere dream but a reality. For centuries, Muslims irrespective of differences in race, language, colour and geography remained part of a single political entity known as the Caliphate.
The present day nation states in the Islamic world are alien to Muslims. They do not have any precedence in Islamic history nor are they a product of Islamic jurisprudence. The nation state was forced upon the Muslims by western powers to prevent the re-establishment of the Caliphate.
As such, the Muslim masses never really expressed their loyalty to these artificial states and had to be governed by tyranny. Now it’s just a matter of time before these regimes of terror are toppled and a global Caliphate is established on their ruins.
The rulers of the Muslim world are not blind to these realities; rather they are opposed to them. These rulers continuously preach that Muslims can never be united and that the establishment of the Caliphate belongs to the realm of the past.
If by chance, they ever do suggest unity between Muslims then it is through western inspired institutions like the OIC, Arab League, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the like.
Strangely enough, these institutions and the nation-states that were manufactured to delay the political unity of Muslims have become the vehicles of change. Their impotence has encouraged Muslims worldwide to discard Europe and America as model states, and to redouble their efforts to re-establish the Caliphate.
July 8th 2005
Abid Mustafa is a political analyst who specialises in Muslim affairs