An Islamist who had also been a member of parliament in one of the Middle Eastern countries was once quoted “we must never forget that the West is our permanent enemy.”
Such a statement, a “Huntington-in-reverse,” is a reflection of a naïve attempt to address a complex issue. It is probably hard to explain to the person quoted that there is probably more than one “West.” He had, probably, been thinking of some of the European powers which occupied Muslim countries in the past. One might say that there are different “Wests.” There may be a “Colonial West,” “Cultural West,” “Technological West,” “Humanitarian West,” “Artist West,” “Radical (Huntington-type) West,” “Moderate West,” and so on.
The same is true for Islam and Islamists, where we could find “Dogmatic Islam,” “Radical Islam,” “Moderate Islam,” etc. To say that the “West” is an enemy of “Islam,” one is approximating complexities into a meaningless and naive phrase.
One of the basic problems facing Islamists is the lack of a rational discourse among those who advocate a pessimistic view about the nature of life in the West and in Muslim countries. Short-cited generalists presume to serve the cause of Islam by reversing Huntington statements mentioned in “Clash of Civilisations.” These people ignore the fact that there are more than forty Muslim countries that differ among themselves to a greater degree than the difference presumed to exist between the “West” and “Islam.”
It is true that losers tend to exhibit frustrations that generate an irrational attitude. Such irrationality runs contrary to the teachings of Qur’an. I am not here justifying the actions of the colonial Western powers and what they did in the past. Rather I am here calling for reflection on such irrational statements and their far-reaching implications, most obvious of which is falling into the trap of extremists from all sides.
In the past two decades, the Islamist tendency has grown into an “inflated” body with a “small” head that has generally failed to assume its responsibility toward the masses at large. The Islamist tendency has been a very popular one, but such popularity has not been translated into a comprehensive political project that understands the possible and the impossible of real-life politics.
Islamists ought to understand that they do not have all solutions to all problems. Solutions are not created through “generalist” statements. Solutions require capabilities, advanced enough, to be able to co-operate with today’s world. What is needed is a review of thinking that is based on the acceptability of diversity and pluralism as a way of life, rather than the notion of total enmity and the language of winners versus losers.
Reprinted with permission of Islam21. Visit their excellent website at http://www.islam21.net/ The American Muslim does not claim primary copyright on the source material. If you wish to reprint the entire article, you must obtain permission of the copyright holder.