Does Look Like A Crusade MOHAMMED ATAUR RAHMAN (March 24, 2008)

 World Affairs


Last week the media (national and international) carried a scary message supposedly released by Osama bin Laden. Mr bin Laden was reported to have threatened reprisals against some European countries for their sustained slander campaign against Islam and Muslims.

At the outset let it be clear that Islam, as understood by most Muslims worldwide, is not about reprisals. Another clarification is in order here: We don't endorse Mr bin Laden's prescription for setting things right, nor do we share his worldview.

As the putative al-Qaeda message was making rounds the common feeling among Muslims was that it could be another ploy of Western and allied intelligence agencies to launch a campaign against new Muslim areas.

One interesting premise of the message was that a new Crusade was on against Islam and Muslims. This part, at least, had a ring of truth about it. Again, the common Muslim perception was not that Mr bin Laden had made a correct statement, but that Western powers knew what they were doing against Islam was very much akin to a Crusade in its original sense, that is, Christian Europe's military campaign against Muslim lands.

Already the world knows that the invasion of Iraq was launched on a false claim. It turned out that Iraq did not possess the WMDs for which the invasion was launched. Half a million Iraqis have died in the invasion and subsequent occupation that continues without justification. Before that half a million Iraqis, mostly children, died because of US-led sanctions.

How do we account for it? How do common Arabs look at the Anglo-Saxon-Zionist aggression against Iraq and the occupation of Palestine? Crusade comes easy to the Arab and Muslim mind contemplating the situation. The West scarcely knows how its acts are viewed. Whether it is the occupation of Afghanistan or repeated threats to Iran the message going to Muslims is the same, that a Crusade is on.

It is not just an attack on Muslims and Muslim lands but a sustained, pre-meditated slander campaign against Islam itself. Muslims are sure V.S. Naipaul got his Nobel in literature in 2001 not for his literary talent only, but because his anti-Islam vituperation rhymed well with the West's political and military campaign against Muslims.

This was like the literature Nobel awarded to Boris Pasternek in 1957 and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in 1970 at the height of the Cold War. These people had not only literary talent but their worldview stood in direct contrast to the Soviet establishment's. By awarding Nobel to such people the West tried to bolster its anti-Soviet argument. By lionising people like Naipal, Salman Rushdie and Taslima Nasreen the West is sending the same message. That is, in the New Cold War (or Crusade) Islam and Muslims are the target, and anybody whose "literary" output supports the West's anti-Islam argument, has to be built up. Very much like the old Cold War.

The latest provocation is reprinting of one of the highly offending and inflammatory cartoons of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) in recent days. Again, this is nothing but state-sponsored provocation, an act in which several European countries had participated in the first round as a gesture of solidarity against Islam.

Finally, what confirms the worst doubts is the absolutely uncalled for remarks of the Pope in 2006. It was the most hurtful, most irrelevant remark coming from a highly respected person, the head of Roman Catholic Church. The remark was attributed to an obscure European ruler who lived several centuries ago. Muslims are yet to know the precise reason for the Pope's utterance. All later attempts for a Muslim-Christian rapprochement failed to draw anything like a statement of regret, much less a retraction, from the Vatican.

So what does all this add up to? Certainly a new Cold War, if not another Crusade, which it looks like in many ways. Now, the question is: What do we do about it? To begin with, nothing that looks "reprisal". Because by doing that we walk into the trap laid by anti-Muslim forces that want another Holocaust in Europe, this time against Muslims.

We would be needing more patience (sabr) rather than rash action to set things right, although the Muslim world realises that things have been made to go horribly wrong. g


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