Islam and September 11
The first seven years of the 21st century have become a portrait of resurgence of the debate concerning the decaying relations between Western and Islamic nations. This phenomenon is, in large part, brought about by Osama bin Laden’s September 11, 2001 series of terrorist attacks in several areas of the United States. As a result, bin Laden and his Al Qaeda network has doubtlessly raised the huge question “is there a basis for the debate?”
The September 11, 2001 attacks were perhaps the vilest act ever perpetrated on American soil. Osama bin Laden’s associates assumed control of passenger aircrafts and purposely crashed it on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Consequently, after the first crash on one of the towers comprising the World Trade Center, vague speculations suggesting Muslim involvement started to circulate.
Likewise, a very alarming thought is that most of the terrorist organizations enlisted by the United States’ Department of State are Islamic fundamentalist groups. Long before the brutal attacks in September 11, 2001, various terrorist activity were already rampant throughout the 80s and the 90s. However, the question of motivation remains unanswered.
The frequency of Muslim-related terrorism cannot simply be attributed to the predominance of Christianity as a world religion. This is because there are other non-Islamic religions prevalent such as Hinduism and Judaism. Similarly, Christianity also shares same context of doctrine with Islam, and therefore does not concur to the western way of using religion as a front for more selfish ends of conquest and tyranny. Moreover, the Roman Catholic Church also involves itself on political affairs, at the very least, on the morality of policies and decisions made by political leaders.
In any event, the understanding of the reasons behind western and Islamic conflict is impossible without considering the principles of Islamic Fundamentalism. Islamic fundamentalism calls for strict compliance to Islamic doctrines, and refusal or denial of such doctrines is punishable by death (Milton-Edwards, 9). Take the case of 9/11, although authorities have not confirmed the identities of the hijackers, the perpetrators used the name of God and Islam as a form of justifications for their acts (Mohaddessin xxi).
Historically, the conflict between Islamic and western societies can be traced in Gianni Vatimmo and Santiago Zabala’s An Old Soucrge of Civilization: Deciphering One’s way to Murder. In the journal, Vatimmo and Zabala explained how Islam and the western culture went together in scientific and aesthetic advancements until the classical and baroque periods began to set them apart. Vatimmo and Zabala add that the gradual deterioration of international commerce disrupted the mutual progress of Islam and the West (23). Vatimmo and Zabala further entail that the crusades during the 14th century that lasted for two more centuries also scarred and ruined the Islam monopoly in the Mediterranean region.
Since the 18th century, the western regions began to spearhead major breakthroughs in science and arts leaving an inferiority stricken Islam behind the field where they once flourished together (Vattimo ; Zabala 23). Consequently, the western progress on science and technology brought frustration and dissatisfaction on the Muslims who live in belief that they are better than the conditions they face (Vattimo ; Zabala 23).
Simone Weil on the other hand calls the aforementioned conditions the Americanization of the entire world wherein alliances of sovereign countries are overtaken by colonialist western nations (Vattimo ; Zabala 23). The peaceful and calm Islamic nations at the time suffered the totalitarian wrath of western colonizers who imposed policies that deprived them of their once well savored freedom. More particularly the British and French occupations after the First World War defied the Qu’ranic codes and forcibly imposed the western ideals in the domains of government and social order. In addition, the small number of Muslim upper and middle class citizens in the 1920s had European inspired lives and blatantly not based from the traditional Muslim ways (Hoyevda, 134).
Fereydoun Hoveyda also implies that the damaged pride came to be recognized as Islam’s defeat considering that allegiance to western principles and ideologies are deemed as forms of infidelity, humiliation and negligence for the sacredness of the Qu’ran (132). As a result, the western humiliation of Islam calls for vengeance, as present in the voices of most Islamic leaders who, however, simple speeches and peaceful expressions of resentment only resulted to dismal failure (Hoyevda 133). The humiliation has become the cultural and religious backbone of Muslims, particularly of Islamic radicals, for it has spawned several sentiments that Muslims still carry up to the present day.
As seen in recent events, the goal of Islamic fundamentalism is obviously directed toward the establishment of Islam in the pedestal of world order. Islam’s unity in terms of social order, religion, and politics, in this matter, prompts Muslims to apply its tenets in every domain of human endeavor. Hence, the emergence of the conflict between western philosophies and Islamic groups is apparently brought about by frustration over the conquest of western ideologies on the world’s people.
The very core of prevalent western norms and policies initially does not accord with the Islamic doctrines. As such, radical Islamic Groups are being frustrated with the current state of affairs in the world. Bin Laden’s justification for the September 11, 2001 attacks for instance, entails that American foreign policies are major threats to Islam, as such, the attacks are considered Al Qaeda’s retaliation for American assaults on their valuables; God, Islam, Muslim lands, and Muslim people (Scheuer 9).
In a political perspective, Muslims argue that the western systems and ideologies such as the concept of democracy is not based on the Sacred Texts of the Qu’ran. This is due to the fact that democracy is founded as a form of resistance against the suppressive nature of religion influenced political systems, and Muslims believe that the Qu’ran has its own methods of democratization (Esposito, 53). What frustrates rogue Muslims more is that attempts at seeking flaws on western ways cannot be objectively achieved without coming to appreciate it in the process.
Likewise, the socio-economic conditions of most Islamic nations is another point of angst-driven propaganda against the west, this is because Bin Laden and the rest of the Muslim radical community feel that western nations such as the United States are disrupting the economic balance to gain advantage.
In an aesthetic plane, Islamists contend that the systems of western societies threaten to corrupt the ethics and morals of Muslim youth. The themes of western cinema, broadcast media, print, and the internet tend to consume the minds of Muslims and destroy the very foundations of Islam itself (Hoveyda 135). The liberalist perspective applied to most themes of western cinema as well as broadcast and print media define the morals instigated by the Qu’ran. Likewise, the openness of the internet corrupts the Muslim youth with immoral images and influences. Furthermore, most Muslim devotees believe that western aesthetics and technology are satanic weapons invented by the enemies of God (Hoveyda 135).
Gender systems are another cause of Islamic grudge against the west. Without a doubt, the Quran’s maxim regarding women is far different from that of the west’s. The Quran constitutes several laws on the roles of men and women in different domains. Basically, the Quran decrees the practice of Islam’s basic tenets such as belief in one God, praying, alms-giving, and making pilgrimage to Mecca if possible (Kramarae ; Spender 1159). However, the Quran bequeaths more advantages to males in social and public roles as well as conjugal and familial matters (Kramarae ; Spender 1159).
Western gender systems on the other hand, give more emphasis on gender equalities in various areas such as employment, education, and decision making. The western code of chivalry, for instance, poses as a direct defiance to the doctrines of the Qu’ran in such a way that it violates certain Islamic maxims. Muslim extremists, then feel that western promotion of gender equalities is a huge defiance to the passages of the Quran.
The existence of religious groups prior to the rise of terrorism cannot be denied, but such groups do not have the capacity or the power to result to terrorism as a means to fight for their cause. However, the modern context of the Muslim political goal is inclined on power; and for Islam, peace, order, and harmony cannot be achieved if all are not one with it (Milton-Edwards 10). The Qu’ran’s doctrines then become the only resolve for the fast degeneration of humanity brought about by western filth. In this regard, the human tendency to resolve to desperate measures when cornered with no other alternatives becomes a normal, particularly for Muslims.
The revival of the conflict between Islamic and western civilizations encompasses the principles of religion and incorporated in political and social ideals, however, it is not merely a matter of culture rivalry. The motivations, concepts, and implications behind terrorism is simply a myriad of grievances and frustrations in different endeavors. Islam only persists as a prevalent cause due to its integration to different domains of life. Furthermore, uncontrolled events and misinterpretations on both ends have lead to a chaotic status quo which cannot be solved by a single objective principle.
Esposito, John. “Political Islam and the West.” The Joint Force Quarterly 24 (2000): 49-55.
Hoveyda, Fereydoun. The Broken Crescent: The “Threat” of Islamic Fundamentalism. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002.
Kramarae, Cheris. ; Spender, Dale. Routledge International Encyclopedia of Women. New York: Routledge, 2000.
Milton-Edwards, Beverly. Islamic Fundamentalism since 1945. New York: Routledge, (2005).
Mohaddessin, Mohammad. Islamic Fundamentalism. New Delhi: Anmol Publications, 2003.
Scheuer, Michael. Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror. Virginia: Brassey’s, 2004.
Vattimo, Gianni., & Zabala, Santiago. “An Old Scourge of Civilization: Deciphering One’s Way to Murder.” The Canadian Review of Books 33 (2004): 23-24.