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Reader comment on item: Islam and Islamism in the Modern World
Submitted by GK (United States), Feb 3, 2013 at 17:13
I know you know your Muslim history, but the battles between Europeans and Muslims has an ancient history. Omar defeated the eastern Roman Empire in Syria right at the beginning of the Muslim conquests outside of Arabia. Only Charles Martel was able to stop the March of Muslim invaders into Western Europe in the battle at Tours (8th C.). In the meantime, the Eastern Roman Empire struggled on the seas and on land to contain the Muslim conquest of Sicily and the Mediterranean.
The Crusades, badly planned and eventually abetted the eventual collapse of Constantinople and the Eastern Roman Empire. Eventually, Saladin pushed back the invading Crusaders and extinguished the short-lived Kingdom of Jerusalem. And the struggle between Muslim leaders and Europeans continued apace for centuries afterward.
If it hadn't been for the strictness of the Al-Mohads from North Africa, I speculate that the Cordoba Caliphate might have remained an international meeting place of ideas. But the Al Mohads with their tortuously strict Islamism persecuted those who were less orthodox or of different views. Therefore a brain drain caused non-Muslim notables like Maimonades to leave Spain, and incited disruption within Spain. Eventually, the likes of El Say'd (El Cid) and other warlords defeated the hated Al Mohads, and the Islamist government of Spain collapsed. Then came Ferdinand and Isabella and the Reconquista of Spain.
The Siege of Vienna in 1529 was the first attempt by the Ottoman Empire, led by Suleiman the Magnificent, to capture the city of Vienna, Austria. It failed, but the struggle between the Holy Roman Empire and the Ottoman Empire continued through 1699. Most notably, the Battle of Vienna took place September 11-12, 1683. It was a battle of the Hapsburg Empire and Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth (Holy League) against the Ottoman Empire. This battle marked the turning point in the 300-year struggle between the Holy Roman Empire and the Ottoman Empire. Over the sixteen years following the battle, the Habsburgs dominated parts of Europe that had been once ruled by Ottoman forces.
During the late 1700s, would-be European colonizers were pushed out of Arabia by the royal allies of Sheik Wahab, and the move toward a revolutionary conservative interpretation of Islam was sowed in Arabia and promoted by the House of Saud.
So, no scholar of History would say that the European resurgence was "unexpected" or like Eskimos coming from the Arctic and conquering Europe.
But, I have a few different takes of why secular Islam has receded and Islamism has gained strength. (Note, these are speculations, based on other data.)
1. Say'd Qtub in the 1950s inspired a whole move against the nationalists in the Middle East and the NSC (influenced by the Dulles brothers) wanted to see Islamism challenge the nationalist movements. The movement toward internal rebellion was in part fueled by the West's own fear of Communism.
2. Secular-leaning Turkey was still the most influential power in the Muslim world during the early days of the Cold War, but Wahabbist Saudi Arabia gained considerable ground over the Muslim world as oil wealth accelerated, and as Arabian money funded global "da'wah" and funded the Salafist point of view over the Turkish version of Islam's more moderate and modern views.
3. Population shifts and political shifts have played further parts. As Saudi funded charities opened cultural centers and madrassahs around the world, both within and outside of the Muslim world, Salafist Islam began gaining momentum. Meanwhile, Turkey's influence over new Imams and over Muslims began to wane.
4. The 1973 War led to the Qtubists and Muslim Brotherhood to renounce competing with the West and Israel on their terms. They said that the Quran was the path to victory over Israel and the "morally corrupt" forces of modernism. from this point on, the Islamist movement took on a life of its own.
5. US support of the muhajadeen to liberate Afghanistan from the Soviets, and US support for Huq al Zia, set the path for Pakistan and the ISI to become "Islamist"-leaning, and for Al Qaida to establish its command center in Afghanistan. And left unfettered, all of these forces led to the movement to militarize and jihadize Islam.
Islam is still divided between Shiites and Sunnis and each of those are divided between moderates, and radicals and disillusioned followers. What Mali proves is that the radically religious are not initially thrilled to be forced to submit to harsh interpretations of Islam. The counterpoint is that unless the wedge is forced to make Muslims decide between freer society or repressive Islam, repression and coercion will eventually win the day.
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Daniel Pipes replies:
You state that "no scholar of History would say that the European resurgence was 'unexpected'" to Muslims.
Bernard Lewis makes this argument the centerpiece of his Muslim Discovery of Europe. See a summary athttps://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/bernard-lewis/the-muslim-discovery-of-europe/
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