Muslim World 2014 – Between Agony and Revivalism

From Cairo to Gaza to Peshawar – Muslims are desperately searching for a way out. The insanity, the madness, the killings, bombings, bloodshed and the heart-wrenching sights of mothers wailing at the coffins of little children has become a regular phenomenon. Oppression has its limits written only in the pages of books, but not in the reality Muslim lives. This situation is unique only in the Muslim world; the target of attacks is the Muslim community, the victims are Muslims and the perpetrators are also Muslims. In this issue we look at the critical areas gearing for Muslim revivalism.

 

Palestine

While the rest of the Muslim got together with their families to eat Iftar, Gazans were bombed mercilessly by the Israeli war planes. Shelling the Gazans continued while the powers of the civilized world looked on. Some cruel-hearted Zionists climbed a hilltop to watch and celebrate when the Palestinians were succumbing to Israeli attacks. The massacre of Palestinians in Gaza was no war. It was genocide in the 21st century. The UN failed to do anything about it. The US, the EU, NAM, NATO and other alliances in the world failed to stop the slaughter of innocent people day after day.

 

Gaza´s genocide has brought the reality of the Arab and the greater Muslim world to the open. First, the government of al-Sisi in Egypt refused to come to the rescue of Palestinians in Gaza. The only state which defeated Israel militarily is Egypt and its soldiers are highly respected amongst the Arabs for their valor and courage. But al-Sisi chose to look the other way this time. He closed the border with Gaza, stopped all supplies to them and destroyed the famous tunnels used by Gazans to bring in essential supplies and weapons for resistance. Historically, Egypt was given the responsibility for administering Gaza while West Bank administration went to Jordan. Both Sisi and King Abdullah II of Jordan have found themselves in the net of the Zionists. Their grip on power depends on their ability and success to keep the pro-Israeli lobby happy.

 

 

Pakistan

Few cowards belonging to Tehrike Taliban Pakistan (TTP) shattered the concept of humanity when they broke into Peshawar´s Army Public School, opened fire on students and killed 141 children all aged below 14. TTP declared in its website the attack was revenge for the Pak Army´s infamous operation called Zarb-e-Azb, which conducted combing operations in North Waziristan allegedly killing many men, women and children. TTP claims that it did not kill any children, it was the Pakistani soldiers who killed the children after they went in to rescue them.

 

Pak Army has started operations in Waziristan to capture (and kill) members of TTP. Two TTP convicts have been hanged so far. 27 TTP militants were killed in air raids. Army chief general Raheel Sharif in his tweet requested prime Nawaz Sharif for permission to hang 3,000 militants in 48 hours. The people of the civilized world join the people of Pakistan in their shock and outrage over this atrocious act by a terrorist group using Islam as its shield.

 

 

Iraq

 

ISIL opened the game with a big bang. They captured large swathes of territory in northern Iraq, exposing the inexperience and inability of the Iraqi army put together by US-friendly Iraqi regimes. ISIL quickly moved close to the Syrian border to do the only thing which carried immense strategic sense; it erased the Sykes Picot border between Iraq and Syria.

 

Much of the Muslim world looks at Abu Bakr al Baghdadi with suspicion. Some believe he is a Zionist spy trained by Mossad. This is according to Wikileaks and the famous US whistleblower Edward Snowden. Without the atrocities of ISIL it would have been impossible for the US forcesto re-enter Iraq. Since this is the beginning of another ghost war, another hunt for bogey men, the production floors of weapons industries will keep working full time.

 

While the world was furious about the genocide in Gaza, ISIL entered the scene with its famous poster boy, Jihadi John, executing innocent western charity workers. The anger of the world against Israel shifted to these desert executioners. The request to US legislators to authorize action against ISIL passed like a breeze. The game was on again. The war on terror continues under a different banner, war on IS.

 

Syria

Syria is another flash point in the Muslim world. The butcher remains supreme in Damascus, thanks to the help he keeps receiving from Moscow and Teheran. The success of ISIL did not translate into the fall of Assad. Cynics believe that Israel would like to see both Assad and Abu Bakr keep fighting each other until the time comes for it to occupy both to form Greater Israel according to its alleged master plan.

 

Lebanon

Lebanon is swinging between being Paris of the Middle East to being the center of Hezbollah, which is the only non-state entity to have defeated Israel in a battle. Lebanon as a state had to pay for the actions of Hassan Nasrallah (head of Hezbollah). Lebanon may not be a large country but its location and intellectual capital makes it a strategic nerve center of Muslim desire for a revival.

 

 

Arab Awakening

Four years after Arab awakening movements swept many long-entrenched dictators from power in the Middle East, it appears the old order is back with a vengeance. The uprisings were also referred to as the “Arab Spring” or “People’s movements” depending on the political orientations and preferences of those describing it.

Of all places, Egypt’s situation has been the most heart-wrenching because it has the potential to be on the cutting edge of the Islamic movement. Its loss to the military and by extension to the imperialist-Zionist duopoly is a major loss to the global Muslim Ummah. In the countries that experienced upheavals — Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen— only a few faces at the top were replaced, while the systems have remained largely intact. It could be argued that Tunisia has made a successful transition from the dictatorship of Ben Ali to a “democratic” dispensation. After Ben Ali’s overthrow, primarily because the military refused to come to his rescue, al-Nahda Party won the election but it was thrown out of office in the recent elections (end of October 2014). Ben Ali’s party is back in power. The problems that had led to the upheaval have not been addressed: unemployment remains high; corruption is rampant and the military is all supreme.

In Egypt, the situation is even worse. The military did not even wait for the political process to take its course as in Tunisia. Within one year of the election of Mohamed Mursi as president, the military returned with a sledgehammer. It not only ousted Mursi from power but also slaughtered thousands of innocent people, including women and children. People were not spared even when they sought refuge in mosques where they were ruthlessly gunned down.

Tens of thousands have been thrown in Egypt’s notorious dungeons while hundreds have been sentenced to death after kangaroo trials presided over by judges beholden to the brutes in uniform. What is even worse, many people have been terrorized into supporting the military’s brutal crackdown.

When the Ikhwan organized peaceful sit-ins in Egypt’s Rabia al-‘Adawiya Square and in Giza, these were allowed to continue for a few weeks before the military and other security forces struck with extreme brutality. On August 14 and 16, 2013, thousands of Ikhwan supporters, many of them women and children, were mercilessly killed. Even funeral processions were attacked. Worse, many Egyptians applauded the massacres claiming that Egypt had been “saved.” One wonders from what and for whom?

It appears that the west was not keen to have the Egyptian military strike so soon. Washington had already secured agreement from Mursi and the Ikhwan to advance its agenda. Mursi did not repudiate the humiliating treaty with the Zionist regime; he did not cut off gas supplies to Israel nor did Mursi do anything meaningful for the Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip. While the US may have been agreeable to Mursi remaining in power for a little while longer, the Saudis were not.

They viewed Mursi — and more broadly, the Ikhwan — as a threat to their claim to being the leaders of “Sunni” Muslims. While few Muslims outside the narrow circle of their paid agents accept their leadership claim, the Saudis continued to delude themselves. The Saudi regime was the first to congratulate the Egyptian military for its great “feat.”

The triangle of terror represented by the Saudis, Egyptian generals and the Zionist war criminals was complete. Since the coup, the Egyptian military has been busy destroying tunnels through which the besieged Palestinians used to smuggle much needed goods — food, medicines and household items — for mere survival. This was unacceptable to the Zionists and, therefore, to the Egyptian generals. The destruction of this triangle of terror is a pre-requisite for the Muslim liberation movement to have any chance of success.

 

Afghanistan

The year 2014 is a milestone year for the Afghan freedom fighters. In this year foreign troops left the country after 13 years of occupation. The Afghans have been left to wonder what did 13 years achieve for them. Although it may be too early to state conclusively, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (the official name for Afghan Taliban) is already making plans for celebration. For them, this is a great victory, perhaps more significant than the joy of defeating the Soviets. Beating America and its combined help from NATO will most likely place the chief of the Afghan Taliban as the undisputed leader of the Muslim community in and around Afghanistan.

The new Afghan army of 200,000 recruits will probably be no match for the battle-hardened warriors of Mullah Omar. The west has also been preparing for such eventuality. In Qatar, Afghan Talibans opened a foreign office for holding talks with international players. It is a sign of the things to come in the near future. That near future may be knocking on our doors already.

 

Peshawar – Sacred Hearts in Heaven

In an attack on a school in Peshawar, capital of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province bordering Afghanistan, the Pakistani Taliban killed at least 146 people, most of them children. Their spokesman said it was to avenge the military operation against them in North Waziristan. The attack lasted several hours and ended only when the seven terrorists were killed. The army is sweeping the area looking for more terrorists.

Peshawar, Blogger (Online).
Choosing a soft target—a school on Warsak Road in Peshawar run by the army—the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) stormed a school today that resulted in the death of at least 146 people, the majority of them students. This figure was mentioned by Pakistan Tehrik-e Insaf (PTI) Information Secretary Shireen Mazari. She said 113 people were injured. Her information may be more accurate than that of the federal government because her party is in power in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province (KPP) whose capital is Peshawar.

The terrorists were disguised in Frontier Constabulary uniform and had sneaked into the school through a graveyard located behind it. They cut the razor wire and made their entry and once inside, they started firing their heavy weapons targeting students. The students were taking exams and were, therefore, all in their classes or in the main hall. Scores of students were shot in the corridors as they tried to flee. The terrorists showed no mercy. Within half hour of the attack, Pakistan Army troops had rushed to the scene and cordoned off the area.

As news trickled out, the death toll started to climb. Of the four blocks, three were cleared of the terrorists but they barricaded themselves in one block—the Administration Block—and took with them scores of students and teachers hostage. Pakistani commandoes were mobilised for the rescue mission and it took several hours before the siege was over when all seven terrorists were reported killed. During the attack, several explosions were also heard in the school.

Pakistan Army chief General Raheel Sharif as well as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (no relation) also rushed to Peshawar. Pakistan Tehrik-e Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan spoke to the Chief Minister Pervez Khattak. He told him to reach the scene of the attack and to offer whatever help was needed. The Taliban spokesman, Muhammad Khorasani said the attack was in retaliation for army operations against the militants in North Waziristan. Before the formal operation codenamed Zarb-e Azb was launched, the army had given the people of North Waziristan three days to evacuate their homes. Most became refugees and sought shelter with friends or relatives in other parts of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. The Pakistan military has been bombing the area targeting militants. They have said most of the militants killed so far are foreigners or hardcore Pakistani militants.

The militants had vowed to exact revenge for the bombing campaign. It seems unfortunately the authorities did not take adequate precautions to prevent such attacks although it may have been impossible to prevent the school attack. The provincial government has said it has beefed up security at all schools and other institutions. Ghulam Ahmed Bilour of the secular Awami National Party (ANP) said the provincial government has “completely failed”. This must be a new low in Pakistan’s already dirty politics. Even with 146 people dead, of whom 140 are children—and the death toll may climb if other students succumb to their injuries—Bilour was playing politics using the tragedy. Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Deputy leader of the PTI said it was time to unite to confront the terrorist threat rather than playing politics or indulging in finger pointing. Given the scale of the tragedy—with nearly 150 people dead in a single operation—not only the province but the entire country is grief-stricken. Can such attacks be prevented in the future? It seems highly unlikely unless stringent security measures are taken and the Frontier Constabulary and army developed throughout the country. The blowback from the North Waziristan operation was expected. It seems the Pakistani authorities did not take this into account and ordinary people, in this case school children, have paid the price.

These barbaric murders by Tehrike Taliban Pakistan (TTP) forced on the shoulders of the Muslim community worldwide the biggest burden of all. Indeed, the coffin of a child is the heaviest thing to carry. Little children went to school never to return to their loving parents. Their fault was that their parents sent them to an army school run by an institution that is blamed for the combing operations conducted in North Waziristan that took the lives of many young Pathan boys and girls whose relatives avenged their loss by spraying bullets on the kids in the army school.

Stories of courage and horror are coming out from the survivors. One father expressed his pride knowing that his only son sacrificed his life trying to save his classmates. Tahira Qazi the principal first came out with lots of children but then went right back to rescue more. She was beaten and then burned alive in front of her students. The madness of all this is captured by pictures of the school´s blood stained classrooms and the auditorium.

The murderous act was condemned by the Afghan Taliban, who asserted that such acts were against Islamic principles and innocent men, women and children should be left out of dangerous operations. Afghan Taliban spokesman said the incident was their 911 and the attack was an attack on the future of Pakistan.

The Ameer of Afghan Taliban Mullah Omar is also said to have criticized and condemned the attack, as confirmed by multiple news sources within Pakistan. There exists confusion as to how one Taliban claims responsibility for an act which another Taliban condemns. It may be understood that Afghan Talibans do not recognize the legality of armed struggle against Muslim Governments in any place other than Afghanistan and Palestine, which makes armed freedom struggle justified in those areas. Further, Afghan Taliban basically rejected the self-declared Caliphate of ISIL in Iraq (of Al Baghdadi) which the Pakistani Taliban accepted.

Afghan Taliban and its Chief Mullah Omar would be well advised to do something more meaningful than a press statement by going after TTP militants, who, according to Mullah Omar himself, violated Islamic principles. If you really are the Chief of Muslims Mullah Omar, then you should cut off all ties with the TTP, declare all out war on them, go after the remaining militants, capture the head of TTP (Mullah Faizullah), try him and publicly punish him in public.

This should be the Ameer´s number one responsibility, as the defender of the Muslim Community, the shield behind which all are in safety, since he has adorned the title of Ameer Ul Mumineen and therefore so he must act it too. Mullah Omar should capture the TTP militants before the Pakistani army does,is your chance Ameerul Mumineen, go after the thugs and deliver justice badly needed in a world gone wrong, very wrong.

TTP tried to damage control by saying that the orders were given not to kill small children, only the older ones were to be killed. Later another statement was released saying TTP did not kill any children, it was the soldiers who shot them. This is just not going to work, and they should know better than to follow up one criminal act with another (i.e. lying). No matter how much they try to cover their cowardly act the Muslim community will not be satisfied until this ugly episode of militancy is put to the grave. This is true for Pakistan and just about every other Muslim country.

TTP had the audacity to provide evidences from scriptural text to justify their actions. They should know that what they did was neither Islamic nor Jihadist. They are trying to twist the concept of Islam and Jihad, their aim is not to defend the community but to destroy it from inside and outside. Muslims and non-Muslims across the globe should by now be convinced about these suspects. Their agenda is anti-Islamic and they desire only to cripple the Muslim community (Ummah) in Pakistan and elsewhere. Some Pakistani tweets went so far as to provide proofs which showed TTP murderers came from another religion, and from another country.

Pakistan establishment has a lot to answer. The state was created out of undivided Hindustan to be a homeland for Hindustani Muslims. It failed again and again to do just that. Its failures caused the death of millions of Bengalis, thousands of Balochis, Pathans and Muahjirs (from India), as it tried to keep the unity of the country roped in by religion on one hand, subdued by guns on the other hand. This they do in order to keep their external strategy in tact (especially with the US and China) against their arch rival next door, and this is why the armed forces keep failing to do the single most important job for which they exist, that is to provide safety to the country and its citizens. History must also be blamed for having failed to teach them that reliance on foreign powers potentially manages to push the state towards civil war, counting millions of lives and half of the country as major losses.

Armed Forces should be held fully accountable for throwing as much as a stone on the citizens. The likes of Yahya, Niazi, Musharaf and others ought to be judged in a peoples´ tribunal for the killings in East Pakistan, Balochistan, Waziristan and Swat. They have no right to hand over their air space for drone attacks, they have no right to put the lives of citizens at risk for their selfish political military ambitions.

Fanaticism has grown as a direct consequence of the establishments plans for putting together a mass religious support base to take control of the reins of state power. Using religion in agnostic desire for power and money will collapse as a model for governance sooner or later, naturally. Pakistan was taught that lesson by the Bengalis in 71, yet here we are, tearful, broken hearted, psychologically shaken, emotionally broken, drenching in our blood soaked eyes for our innocent sacred hearts in Peshawar. May God have Mercy on all of them.

Which Jama is the Correct One?

Asalamalikum wrwb. I had never heard any speech of prof Ghulam Azam before. Neither did I know much about his political activities or Islamic scholarship. I only read about him in the secular media. After the hanging of Qader Mollah and the death of Prof Azam I began to have questions.

Who were these men, why were they imprisoned and what did they do in 71?

Lets study Prof Azam and rest will fall  into place. I had no information about him until I read in secular media that people like Qardawi, Erdogan and Gul were pleading for him. Why was he so famous as an Islamic thinker outside his native country? I was dumbfounded by this.

I came across some interviews and speeches of Marhum Azam sahib on youtube. Then I began to understand why he was so much feared and censored in his country. The late professor fixed his entire political theory on one simple point. Indian Hindus would dominate Muslim Bengalis unless Bengali Muslims were connected strategically to a powerful military country like Pakistan.

Mr Azam had actually picked a fight against India itself, he took this fight as a Muslim thinker and reformer and he did not care what his countrymen thought about him, he simply continued to fight the Indian hegemony with his words and writings. Internationalizing the India factor was also credited to this man. This was a big problem for Indian politicians. He was reviving the Bengali Muslims intellectually and politically which in the future could be India´s biggest threat. India does not want to find itself surrounded by Pakistan, China and Bangladesh all joined in alliance against India. Late professor was doing exactly what India considered security threat.

Osama picked a fight against the US and Prof Azam did the same against India. Khilafah party wanted to resist both India and US. None of these parties could come to one platform. They remained separate and were eaten up one after another while they stood and watched. So which Jama is the correct one? armed struggle, political democracy (not religious democracy), ideological movement (khilafah party) or spiritual movement (tabligh jamaat)? Or a combination of all of them?

How Colonization Changed Islamic Societies into Nation States

There are today more than fifty Muslim states, extending from the Atlas Mountains in the West to the Malay Archipelago in the East, and from Sub-Saharan Africa to the steppes of Central Asia. They include some of the most populous countries in the world, such as Indonesia, Nigeria, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, as well as some of the smallest, such as the Maldives and the Comoros. Some are strong states with effective government institutions; others, like Bosnia-Herzegovina, enjoy only a precarious existence. Some, like Mali and Bangladesh, are poor; others, like Libya, Brunei, Turkmenistan, and Saudi Arabia, are endowed with great natural wealth; still others, like Malaysia—the world’s seventh most exporting country in 1997—owe their wealth to successful industrialization. Some Muslim states are ethnically uniform; others include sizable ethnic, linguistic, or religious minorities. Nearly the entire spectrum of social, economic, ideological, institutional, and political expressions are represented in these states. From the Islamic Republic of Iran to secular republics in the Arab world or Indonesia, from monarchies in the Arab world, Malaysia, Nigeria (where monarchies rule over provinces), and Brunei, to democracies in Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Malaysia, Muslim states include great diversity in politics and the workings of governments.

Despite this diversity, a common thread also exists in the politics of Muslim states. The most obvious is Islam, not only as a faith but also as a source of identity and an important factor in social relations and politics. Islam has long been important to Muslim politics. It has played a role in the struggles for liberation from colonialism in Sub-Saharan Africa, South and Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. In various stages of the colonial era, Islamic forces, thinkers, and political leaders have played an important part in shaping Muslim politics. Liberation from colonialism was elaborated as an Islamic movement, from Sayyid Ahmad Shahid’s (1786–1831) uprising in India in 1826 to the anti-imperialist undertakings of Iran’s Mirza Hasan Shirazi (1815–94) and Shaykh Fadlullah Nuri (1843–1909) or Central Asia’s Imam Shamil (1796–1871), Algeria’s Amir Abd al-Qadir (1808–83), Somaliland’s Muhammad ibn Abdille Hasan (1864–1920), Sudan’s Mahdi (d. 1885), Iran’s Jamal al-Din al-Afghani (1838–87), or the Tijani jihads (holy wars) in West Africa between the 1780s and the 1880s (the Sokoto caliphate of Uthman dan Fodio [c. 1754–1817] and the revolt of al-Hajj Umar Tal of Futa Toro [c. 1794–1864]). Other “Islamic” movements have included Malaya’s Hizbul Islam (Islamic Party), India’s Jamiat-i Ulama-i Hind (Party of Ulama), Iran’s Shiite ulama in the 1920s, Libya’s Sanusiyyah (led by Umar Mukhtar, 1858–1931), or Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim leaders of various intellectual endeavors during the colonial period have included Muhammad Iqbal (1877–1938), Abul-Kalam Azad (1888–1958), and India’s Mawlana Husain Ahmad Madani (1879–1957) and Mawlana Abul-Ala Mawdudi (1903–79), later of Pakistan. These movements and thinkers were among the first to organize an indiginous anticolonial movement. They articulated anticolonialism in the language of the jihad, relating struggles for liberation to Islam—a powerful paradigm that continues today to be relevant to Muslim struggles against imperialism, most lately in the Afghan jihad against the Soviet Union in the 1980s and Chechnya’s war of liberation against Russia in 1996. In this the Islamic movements were the precursors to the later nationalist uprisings. In Indonesia the efforts of Masjumi (Majlis Sjuro Muslimin Indonesia, the consultative council of Indonesian Muslims) would play an important role in nationalist anticolonialism efforts and early state formation in Indonesia.

Later, Islam influenced the values and the goals of politics, and in recent years Islamist movements have redefined the nature of politics and laid claim to control of the state. The continued political importance of Islam, its relevance to the struggle against colonialism in particular, has prevented secular nationalism from completely dominating politics in the Muslim world. This has in turn made state formation, and its relation to precolonial and colonial eras, complex and at times problematic. Another feature that Muslim states share is the fact that without exception, they are developing states; namely, for the most part they have emerged during the course of the twentieth century and have been closely tied to the efforts of their societies to advance and industrialize. In so doing, they share in the historical legacy, cultural milieu, and often the political and social problems that confront development in the Third World. Muslim states have responded to the challenges before them differently, just as size, geographic location, and economic endowment have also meant different patterns of development.

The legacy of colonialism is key in explaining both the diversity and the unity of different experiments with state formation in the Muslim world. Just as Islam, ethnic identity, social characteristics, and other indigenous religious and cultural factors can explain the commonalities between Muslim states—and conversely, economics, ideology, and leadership can explain divergences—colonialism too can explain the points of convergence and divergence in experiences with state formation across the Muslim world. Muslim have lived with nearly all the colonial powers. In much of Africa, Asia, and the Arab world, the British and the French ruled over vast Muslim territories. The Dutch ruled over territories that later became Indonesia, and the Germans, Spanish, Portuguese, and Russians held Muslim territories in East Africa, the Philippines, Malaya (what is now known as Malaysia), the Caucasus, and Central Asia. Israel’s control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip may be seen as the last and only ongoing colonial relationship in Muslim lands. Although the defining characteristics of colonialism were at work in all of these locales, there were differences in how colonial powers approached their colonial mandates, even differences in how the same colonial powers exerted power and influence in different territories. There are thus fundamental similarities between various Muslim polities as there are particularities, which have their roots in history, and more important, with the experience of each colonial territory.

This chapter identifies colonialism’s legacy for the development of the Muslim states in the twentieth century. It discusses the common legacy that Muslim states share as a result of their experiences with colonialism and explains how colonization also accounts for differing patterns of development by looking at individual experiences with colonialism. The colonial era lasted less than a century, but it forever changed all aspects of geography, the economy, social relations, and politics in the areas that it ruled.

Shaping the Modern Muslim World: Colonialism and State Boundaries

The colonization of Muslim territories began with the rise of European empires, the conquest of India, and the scramble for Africa in the nineteenth century. Its last phase included the division of the Arab territories of the Ottoman Empire after World War I. The colonial era ended after World War II, when Britain and then France withdrew from the majority of their colonial territories. Muslim states began to emerge in earnest from 1947 on—although some, such as Iran or Afghanistan, had always remained independent, albeit nominally. The emergence of Muslim states involved negotiated withdrawals of colonial powers, as was the case in Malaya, India, and the Persian Gulf emirates, as well as brutal and bloody wars of independence, as in Algeria. The decolonization also occurred in spurts, as European powers sought to protect their economic interests following their political and military withdrawals in a changing global environment. Iran in 1953 and Egypt in 1956 were examples of the reassertion of colonialism, which nevertheless marked the gradual yet effective end of direct European rule over Muslims.

By the mid-1970s most Muslim territories, from Sub-Saharan Africa to Southeast Asia, had gained independence from colonialism and constituted either independent Muslim states or parts of independent non-Muslim states. Still, the legacy of colonialism continued to shape and reshape their polities, economies, and societies. The impact of colonialism went far beyond the relationships of economic and political imperialism that theorists of the Left have amply elaborated upon. Colonialism also survived in the forms that state ideologies, political visions, and institutions of the new states took. The impact of colonialism was circumspect, but it was nevertheless pervasive. It was a manifestation of the historical continuity between a past from which the new states sought to distance themselves and their independent existences.

The Muslim world today is a collection of nation-states. Although Islamic unity continues to animate politics across the Muslim world and has been a central demand of Islamic movements, the unity of Muslim states does not extend beyond the limited mandate of the Organization of Islamic Conference, an international organization of Muslim states that is modeled after the United Nations. The concept of a territorial state is of relatively recent origin in the Muslim world. In the premodern era Muslims were conscious of ethnic, linguistic, and regional differences among them, but politically they were united under first the caliphate and later empires and sultanates, whose shifting boundaries represented not the borders of nation-states as the term is understood today, but the writ of rulers who ruled in the name of Islam. The idea of a Muslim territorial state, much like the idea of nationalism, is thus an import from the West. The inclusion of the concept of the territorial state into Muslim politics and the actual boundaries of Muslim states are both products of colonialism.

This is not to say that ethnic affiliations and national identities were absent in the Muslim world before the advent of colonialism. Such sentiments were always strong. For instance, Iranians from early on viewed themselves as distinct from Arabs and Turks, and Shiism in Iran in many ways became a mark of its national identity, separating Iranians from the Sunni Turks, Arabs, and Türkmen around it. Similar distinctions between Arabs and Berbers, Arabs and Turks, or Malays and Javanese have also been prominent. Ethnic nationalism and its association with a nation-state, however, is new to the Muslim world and has its origins in the colonial era. It was then that nationalism as a primary form of political identity—one that is not subservient to Islamic identity but supersedes it absolutely and is associated with a territorial state modeled after those in the West—grew roots and became a part of Muslim political consciousness.

For this reason tensions have existed across the Muslim world between conceptions of the nation-state—associated with the relatively more recent nationalist political ideal—and the Islamic ideal of the ummah (holy community), which continues to undergird the Muslim political ideal. The concept of the ummah calls Muslims not only to unite across national boundaries but to place Islam above all other political allegiances in their everyday lives. The scope of tensions between the state and its citizens over this issue has depended on the extent to which the state has been willing to accommodate Islamic consciousness. Whereas Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Malaysia have sought to bring about harmony between nationhood and the ideal of the ummah, Turkey, Pahlavi Iran, Tunisia, Algeria, and Indonesia have consciously sought to assert the primacy of the nation-state over the ummah. Also important in this regard is how strong the notion of nationalism is. In states with strong national identities, such as Turkey, Iran, and Egypt, the state has asserted its prerogatives more forcefully, as is also the case where large non-Muslim minorities reside, such as Malaysia or Nigeria. Conversely, in places such as Pakistan, where national identity is weak, the ideal of the ummah holds greater sway.

Muslim states gained independence in territories that were delineated by the colonial powers. They largely accepted the shapes in which they were born as well as the fact that states would be bound by international borders into distinct sovereign entities. Expansionism did occur, however: Morocco’s claim to Western Sahara, Indonesia’s to East Timor, Turkey’s to northern Cyprus, Iran’s to Bahrain until the mid-1970s, Syria’s to Lebanon, and Iraq’s to Kuwait. These claims were put forward in the name of nationalism and on behalf of a nation-state, as defined and legitimated by international norms. Muslim states, by and large, have not challenged the division of the territories of the Islamic empires, and by implication, the Islamic world by colonial powers or the criteria used by those powers in determining new borders. Muslim states have not sought to reconstruct the ummah but only to expand the boundaries of nation-states. The reality of those borders have been accepted, although where they lie has on occasion been contested.

The only exceptions to this general rule have been the ideologies of Arab nationalism and Islamism. Arab nationalism, which was a widely popular political ideal in the 1960s and has been a general political and cultural thrust since then, has in principle questioned the division of the Arab world into twenty-two states. Even in this case, though, the rhetoric of unity, beyond yielding a number of symbolic unification pacts—most notably the United Arab Republic, consisting of Egypt and Syria between 1958 and 1961 and the Arab League—never effectively undermined the division of Arab lands by colonialism. Only North and South Yemen successfully united and then not in the name of Islam or Arab nationalism but of Yemeni nationalism. Even Jordan, a state that was created arbitrarily by England when Amir Abdullah, its first king, was given a fixed stipend and six months to see if the idea worked, has stood the test of time. Furthermore, Arab nationalism was not an Islamic ideology, and in that sense it did not seek to reverse the division of Muslim lands so much as it did the division of Arab ones. Islamist movements too have argued for the unity of all Muslims above and beyond their national identities and to accept the reality of the ummah in lieu of nation-states. In practice, however, Islamist movements have conducted their politics in accordance with the territorial reality of the Muslim world. The Islamic Party (Jamaat-i Islami) organizations of Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka are thus independent of one another, as are the Muslim Brotherhood organizations from Nigeria and Senegal to Sudan, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Palestine.

If and when state boundaries have given way, it has not been because of lack of resolve in statehood, but rather because of the ability of a larger expansionist state to overwhelm a smaller neighbor. Kuwait has remained independent owing to outside assistance; others have not been as fortunate. For example, Western Sahara was forcibly united with Morocco, as was East Timor with Indonesia. Iran annexed some small islands in the Persian Gulf that it took from the United Arab Emirates in the 1970s. The emirates continue to demand the return of the islands, and the struggle for independence from Morocco, led by the Polisario movement, has been waged unabated; the chapter on an independent Western Sahara is far from closed.

Consequently, the colonial division of Muslim territories, in principle as well as along the lines that were initially introduced, have been largely accepted by the successor Muslim states and have been instituted into the international system. The legacy of colonialism here has not been free of tensions, however. First, many of the divisions were problematic. Some were carried out arbitrarily to accommodate local colonial officials without regard to their impact on peoples and resources. Other divisions reflected the needs of colonial powers to resolve diplomatic tensions among themselves. In many cases colonies were thus created to satisfy disgruntled European allies or to serve as buffers against expansionist ones. The post-World War I plans for the division of the Ottoman Empire were made to appease France, Italy, and Greece. The need to protect India from Russia meanwhile led to the creation of Afghanistan, as similar concerns about France after 1798 led to British occupation of Egypt, which in turn warranted British control of Palestine after World War I. Strategic decisions and economic interests finally led to the creation of new colonial territories, which more often than not became the bases for future states. British interests in Persian Gulf oil led to the creation of Kuwait and a similar attempt at creating “Arabistan” out of Iran’s Khuzestan province in the early twentieth century. Decades later, similar economic considerations led Britain to encourage Brunei not to join Malaysia. Local political considerations led to further divisions. France created Lebanon out of Syria to fulfill its desire to create a Christian-Arab state; and Britain created Jordan to accommodate Amir Abdullah, who had fought on the side of the British in World War I and whose family felt betrayed by the division of the Arab lands of the Ottoman Empire between European powers.

How colonialism actually worked and what its imprints were have shaped Muslims’ perception of their identities and politics and separated the path that various Muslim states have taken since independence. Early on, through the aspiring new elite that the colonial rulers trained in European languages and ways to create a machinery of government, the division of Muslim territories took shape. As perceptions of whom the elite would control and what the possibilities and limits before them were became entrenched, commitments to borders took form. These commitments built on existing ethnic identities, articulating visions of nationalism that would give greater meaning to those boundaries. A bureaucrat in Kuala Lumpur or Damascus eventually developed a vested interest in “Malaysianness” or “Syrianness,” for example, lest his power remain limited as that of a provincial functionary in a larger Malay or Arab entity. It was such feelings that in later years doomed the Egyptian-Syrian unity pact of 1958–61. Iraqi and Syrian bureaucrats, who under the Ottomans would operate in the same ambient political, social, and literary culture, now developed ties to different European traditions and languages and helped to finalize their “separateness.” The varied administrative and political experiences thus helped to consolidate parochial nationalisms at the cost of more universal ones. The colonial experience, and the arenas of operation that it presented the new elite, ultimately laid the foundations of states where none had existed before.

In the Malay world the same process forced a separation between Malaysian and Indonesian identities and between Muslim Malay and non-Muslim Malay identities as well. Bureaucrats and politicians in British Malay and the Dutch Indies came to view the diverse cultural, linguistic, and religious arena of respective British and Dutch territories as their political and administrative arena, whereas the possibility of a Malay arena including the Malay parts of Indonesia and Malaysia, or a Muslim-Pattani region in Thailand and Mindanao in the Philippines, and excluding the non-Muslim and non-Malay parts of both became an unworkable idea. Boundaries of colonialism and the differences in cultural and historical experiences and developments that it engendered determined the shape of future states and polities. A united Islamic Malaya would not emerge because its peoples were ruled by different colonial authorities. Conversely, Borneo, and briefly Singapore, would become part of Malaysia because all were ruled by the same British colonial administration. Colonialism thus helped to define the borders of states and their realities in contradistinction to other conceptions of independence and statehood.

New states often appropriated existing ethnic identities or semblances thereof, such as “Iraqiness” or “Syrianness,” and at other times contrived nationhood, as in the cases of Jordan or Malaysia, to produce nationalist ideologies that could sustain state formation. The process also entailed sublimating competing ethnic identities and preventing them from developing into nationalisms. Iran, Iraq, and Turkey have sought to prevent Kurdish identity from asserting itself as a nationalism. Iran sought to integrate Kurds into an Iranian nationalist identity, and Turkey depicted them as “Mountain Turks.” The success of experiments with state formation often depended on how successful the development of national consciousness was. That, in turn, depended on the strength of the ethnic identity that formed the basis of nationalism. Over time, ethnic and territorial definitions became the boundaries for national identity formations; they grew roots and developed as a secular and dominant form of political identity in lieu of memories of a united Islamic world in history. Colonial powers had perhaps never meant for the territorial demarcations to have the lasting effects that they had, but in reality these boundaries became embedded in the future states.

Territorial divisions have also been a source of tension between various Muslim states that claim mutually exclusive rights to the same territories. Jordan and Syria, for example, early after independence both set their eyes on reconstituting larger Syria, while Jordan also maintained a claim to Palestine and Morocco to Mauritania and parts of Algeria; Syria and Turkey have contested sovereignty over Alexandretta (Iskenderun); Iran and Iraq over the Shatt al Arab channel; Egypt and Sudan over waters of the Nile; Pakistan and Afghanistan over the Durrand line; Pakistan and India over Kashmir; Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, over borderline oases and oil fields; Libya and Chad over their border regions; and Iran and the United Arab Emirates over the Tunbs and Abu Musa islands. In some cases the very existence of some Muslim states have been challenged by neighbors that view the Muslim states as artificial constructions of colonialism. Syria’s claims to Lebanon, Malaysia’s to Brunei (until recently), Iraq’s to Kuwait, and Morocco’s to Western Sahara are examples. Borders produced the shape of the states but did not guarantee their viability. Colonial authorities drew boundaries but did little to unify the peoples that fell within those boundaries into a national culture. At times they did exactly the opposite; namely, the colonial powers sought to maintain control by encouraging competition between ethnic, linguistic, religious, or tribal groupings. The territorial division of Muslim lands thus remained unchallenged, but it went hand in hand with national confusion and the fracturing of the future national society.

Unresolved tensions between peoples and regions that were included within the same state, but never consolidated into one nation, have resulted in challenges to state boundaries. Confessional tensions in Lebanon; ethnic and religious clashes in Nigeria, Pakistan, and Malaysia; and the Kurdish plight in Iran, Iraq, and Turkey are examples of the many problems inherent in state formation on the basis of colonial territorial demarcation. Still, none of these problems has been a result of attempts to reconstitute “Islamdom.” In fact, the preponderance of nationalism in Muslim political consciousness is so pervasive that Pakistan, which was created in the name of Islam, divided along ethnic lines in 1971 into Pakistan and Bangladesh. Although fraught with problems, the territorial conception and reality of Muslim states continues today in the colonial mold.

Muslim Ummah and Alice in Wonderland

Does it not bother you when you see the Ummah in its present condition? Wherever you turn you will read a page from the same book. Whether its Egypt, or Syria, or Iraq or Pakistan or Bangladesh, its the same situation. On the other hand, we also see muslims at masjids and musallas in increasing numbers, Alhamdulillah. Muslims celebrate Eid, attend Jumah, and other religious functions with lots of energy and beauty. Alhamdulillah. 

 
But is’nt it a contradictory image of the Ummah?
 
If an alien came to visit us, it would probably point out the Ummah as a large community of worshippers living under a hypnotic spell, unable to break free from the chains of domination like an elephant tied to a small pole. A large army of soldiers sleeping in the middle of a battle. A boat without a sail. Like beggars fighting each other for imaginary kingdoms. A magnet whose two poles are both North or both South. 
 
Where is the Nasrun-Min-Allahi and where is the promised Fathun-Qarib?
 
WHY DOES GOD NOT HELP US?
 
And those who strive (jahadoo) in Our (Cause) We will certainly guide them to Our Paths: for verily Allah is with those who do right.
(Surah 29, Al-Ankabut, Ayah 69.)
 
This condition of the Ummah is due to its ignorance about the concept of striving – jahadoo. We have forgotten to strive with our wealth and our own-selves. We close our eyes when we see oppression. We are deaf to the cries of our mothers and sisters. We are speechless in front of ‘wealthy’ paymasters. We are embarrassed to honor our martyrs. We are afraid to tell our kids the history of struggles and movements of our Islamic champions. This is not the signature of the Ummah of Rahmat Al-Alamin Sallillahu alihi wa alihi wa sallam.