Being a Muslim
today--in the middle of America's 'war against global terrorism'--carries
some new hazards. But it is not without its bright side for a
few Muslims who are eager to profit from this war.
little tutoring in the hazards they now face. Many tens of thousands
are already dead in wars imposed by the United States--on Iraq
and Afghanistan. The death toll is expected to climb, perhaps
steeply, as these wars are carried to Iran, Syria or Pakistan.
Iranians also face the prospect--perhaps, imminent--of incineration
in nuclear strikes.
dislocation in wars are not the only hazards that confront Muslims.
In principle, any Muslim can also become the object of 'extraordinary
renditions.' No matter where they happen to be, they could be
kidnapped by the CIA, hooded, and transported to secret offshore
US prisons, or delivered into the hands of US-friendly regimes
with expertise in the fine arts of interrogation. No one knows
how many Muslims have suffered this cruel fate--or how many of
them are still alive.
comparison, Muslims who are captured or bought, and imprisoned
in Guantanamo as 'enemy combatants,' are lucky. After facing down
several legal challenges to these detentions, the US now brings
these prisoners before military review boards. Although many of
them have been cleared of any terrorist connections, it is quite
touching that the US is now refusing to release them--it says--because
they could be tortured by their own governments. The prisoners
can now thank the US for offering sanctuary.
America's 'war against global terrorism' has also created a few
hard-to-resist opportunities. The chief beneficiaries of the new
US posture are the Muslim rulers eager to get the US more firmly
behind the wars they have been waging against their own people.
They are happy to torture Muslims 'rendered' to them by the CIA,
and, periodically, they capture their own 'terrorists' and put
them on flights to Guantanamo.
demand for 'native' Orientalists
was strong. The pay for such turncoats
was good too. Soon a whole crop of
native Orientalists arrived on the scene.
Perhaps, the most distinguished
members of this coterie include
Nirad Chaudhuri, V. S. Naipaul,
Fouad Ajami and Salman Rushdi.
They are some of the best loved
natives in the West.
against global terrorism' is also a war of ideas. In order to
defeat the 'terrorists' the US must win the hearts and minds of
Muslims. This is where Muslims can help. The US needs a few 'good'
Muslims to persuade the 'bad' ones to reform their religion, to
learn to appreciate the inestimable benefits of Pax America and
In the heyday
of the old colonialism, the white man did not need any help from
the natives in putting down their religion and culture. Indeed,
he preferred to do it himself. Then, the opinion of the natives
carried little weight with the whites anyway. So why bother to
recruit them to denounce their own people. As a result, Orientalists
wrote countless tomes denigrating the cultures of the lesser breeds.
West needs help in putting down the uppity natives--especially
the Muslims. One reason for this is that with the death of the
old colonialism, some natives have begun to talk for themselves.
A few are even talking back at the Orientalists raising all sorts
of uncomfortable questions. This hasn't been good: and something
had to be done about it. In the 1970s the West began to patronize
'natives' who were deft at putting down their own people. Was
the West losing its confidence?
demand for 'native' Orientalists was strong. The pay for such
turncoats was good too. Soon a whole crop of native Orientalists
arrived on the scene. Perhaps, the most distinguished members
of this coterie include Nirad Chaudhuri, V. S. Naipaul, Fouad
Ajami and Salman Rushdi. They are some of the best loved natives
in the West.
there came the 'war against global terrorism' creating an instant
boom in the market for Orientalists of Muslim vintage. The West
now demanded Muslims who would diagnose their own problems as
the West wanted to see them--as the unavoidable failings of their
religion and culture. The West now demanded Muslims who would
range themselves against their own people--who would denounce
the just struggles of their own people as moral aberrations, as
symptoms of a sick society.
there came the 'war against
global terrorism' creating an instant
boom in the market for Orientalists
of Muslim vintage. The West now
demanded Muslims who would range
themselves against their own people--
who would denounce the just struggles
of their own people as
moral aberrations, as symptoms
of a sick society.
So far these
boom conditions have not evoked a copious supply of Muslim Orientalists.
Irshad Manji has made herself the most visible native Orientalist
by cravenly playing to Western and Zionist demands for demonizing
Muslims and Palestinians. I can think of a few others, but they
have little to recommend themselves other than their mediocrity.
This must be a bit disappointing for those who had pinned their
hopes on using Muslim defectors to win the battle for Muslim hearts
some indications that this disappointment is turning to desperation.
On March 11 the New York Times published a front page story on
Dr. Wafa Sultan, "a largely unknown Syrian-American psychiatrist,
nursing a deep anger and despair about her fellow Muslims." Deep
anger and despair at fellow Muslims? Are these the new qualifications
for Muslims to gain visibility in America's most prestigious newspaper?
If the only
Muslims that the United States can recruit in its battle for ideas
are at best mediocrities or worse--nobodies--what chance is there
that it can win the battle for Muslim hearts and minds? The short
answer is: very little. Muslims are not helpless children. You
cannot molest them and then expect to mollify them with trifles
and protestations of pure intentions. That may have worked for
a while. It will not work for ever.
too large and too dense a mass to be moved by wars. Military might
could not break the spirit of Palestinians, Afghans, Bosnians,
Chechens, Lebanese, Moros and Iraqis. What chance is there that
wars will be more effective if applied against larger masses of
States cannot expect to change Muslims unless it first thinks
seriously about changing its policies towards Muslims. Americans
must stop deluding themselves. Muslims do not hate their freedom:
they only want that freedom for themselves. The United States
and Israel seek to build their power over a mass of prostrate
Muslim bodies. Stop doing that and then you will have a chance
to win Muslim hearts and minds.
here for other articles by M. Shahid Alam:
Real Men Go To Tehran
Did Thomas Friedman Flunk History
Shahid Alam, professor of economics at a university in Boston,
is also a regular contributor to CounterPunch.org. Some of
his CounterPunch essays are now available
in the book, Is There An Islamic Problem? (Kuala Lumpur: The
Other Press, 2004). He may be reached at [email protected]
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