It’s the State, stupid!

A debate over matters of faith is drawing attention away from a very necessary debate over matters of international politics

Even as the world grapples with the threat from radical Islamist terrorists and watches with concern—both silent and noisy—of a ‘return to the roots’ movement among the world’s Muslims, a good part of the debate has focused on whether or not Islam is as peaceful as many of its moderate adherents claim it to be (via Desipundit). As Retributions points out in a recent post, the debate over the tenets of Islam is misdirected. It is also misleading and ultimately counter-productive for it plays into the very hands of those who benefit from both Islamist terrorism and from the war against it.

….while all politics is necessarily pursuit of power, ideologies render involvement in that contest for power pyschologically and morally acceptable to the actors and their audience.

(Ideologies) are either ultimate goals of political action…or they are pretexts and false fronts behind which the element of power, inherent in all politics, is concealed. They may fulfill one or the other function, or they may fulfill both at the same time.

The nation that dispensed with ideologies and frankly stated that it wanted power would…at once find itself at a great and perhaps decisive disadvantage in the struggle for power. [Hans J Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations pp98-99]

Morgenthau, the father of the modern Realist school of international relations wrote this several decades ago. Nazi Germany’s quest for lebensraum that set off World War II, the Communist bloc’s anti-imperialist cry and the West’s banner of feedom during the Cold War are in this sense similar to the contemporary Islamist agenda. Hitler’s grouch was that the German people were denied the “living space” that they were entitled to, the Islamists’ bone is that the West is denying them their rightful place in the global power structure.

Islam then, serves to cloak what would otherwise a naked and therefore untenable quest for power. But who is it that is seeking power? Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda and its various manifestations? Well, yes. Behind all the religious rhetoric lies an ambition to grab control of Islamic states. But even if Bin Laden and al-Qaeda were somehow put out of commission tomorrow, it is extremely unlikely that the global threat from radical Islam will disappear overnight. That’s because of those religious tenets, correct? Not quite. That’s because of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran and others—the major states of the Islamic world. More exactly, their usurpation of religion in the struggle for power.

It is no accident that some of the most dangerous terrorist outfits today are or used to be surrogates and proxies of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iran. Before September 11, 2001, these states sponsored terrorist organisations to directly pursue their power games. After 9/11, many of them have, to varying degrees of commitment and success, turned against their own creations (while claiming it is the other way around). But this is not so much a rejection of the use of Islam to pursue their quest for power but rather, a change in tactics. The majority—including Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Egypt—have calculated that being co-opted into the war on terror as enlightened moderates serves their ambitions better than simply backing terrorists. A small minority—Iran is the principal one in this category—have calculated the confrontation offers better rewards. The decision to co-operate or confront depends on both their unique circumstances and on the expected payoffs.

The presence of Muslim minorities in countries around the world provides the major Islamic states with unprecedented leverage in the pursuit of their own national interests. The greater part of these minorities is unlikely to respond to a call to terror. But it is quite likely to be riled by accounts of oppression of Muslims around the world and outraged by insulting cartoons or demeaning remarks by the Pope. So it serves the interests of the major Islamic states to keep this ‘Islam under seige’ narrative on the boil. Not only does this serve to rally domestic support for their own, uniformly autocratic regimes, but it also makes it incumbent upon the West to engage these regimes delicately. The latter gives the them far more international clout than countries of equivalent size.

The first tragedy of all this is that while the major Islamic states are likely to benefit under most circumstances, for their role as unwitting pawns in the international power game, Muslim minorities around the world end up as the losers. Any deepening of the religious divide in their countries is likely to leave them relatively more worse off compared to the majority. Their best interests lie in seeing through this game and refusing to become a part of it. The second tragedy is that this is next to impossible—for their discontent makes for fertile political ground in the secular, democratic countries they are a part of. Politicians—both Muslim and non-Muslim—are ever ready to pander to the Muslim minority’s insecurity and have strong incentives to maintain the “Islam under seige” story. And naturally, there would be politicians attempting to pick up votes on the other side of the divide.

Countries such as India, United States, Britain and continental Europe face two problems: first, the use of Islam as an ideology to mask the quest for power on the part of the major Islamic states; and second, the polarisation of Muslim minorities in secular democracies as a consequence. Such is the framing of issues necessary to even begin tackling the problem of globalisation of jihad. Doing otherwise, and making it a debate over what Islam says (and its more juvenile counterpart—why Religion X is better than Islam) is at best irrelevant and at worst self-defeating.

29 thoughts on “It’s the State, stupid!”

  1. Nitin,

    Disagree with you.

    While the above mentioned states may be leveraging presence of Muslims in other nations,the matter of fact is that Islam does have a strong global identity “ummah” which transcends the very idea of nation state. Indeed I think (not sure) that basic tenents of Islam support nation state.

    This is not to say every muslim rejects nation state, but the simple point is identitification with an idea is dynamic i.e. changes with time.

    Historically there never was well defined compartment between politics and matter of religion (as a basis for separate identity). This schism occured fairly later i.e. after renaissance and is primarily a modern western construct.

    I suspect (apolgies for second guessing) that reason confused argued the way he did was because of his distrust (and I dare say distaste) for all matter religion.

    But the matter in hand is not just a academic issue or of marginal interest.Whether confused likes it or not (rhetorical, I know he doesn’t)religion does play a hand in defining identity and world view.


    PS. While I do not agree with conclusions of “clash of civilization”, it has got many things right about huge gap in western and islamic world view.

  2. Gaurav,

    You are again going into a debate over the tenets of Islam, which I think is largely beside the point. The differences in “world view” that you cite do exist, but you’ll find enough people in India who will argue that similar gaps exist between India and the West. “World view”, by the way, is just another way of saying “ideology”.

    The Islamic religion has done nothing to overcome political division of its believers into nation-states; since the “ummah” came into being, the Muslim world has been divided into distinct political units, which have pursued their own interests like everyone else. Even today, for all the talk of the “ummah” and the political organisation of Muslim countries into an OIC, the Islamic world is hardly monolithic. There is as much a struggle for power betweeen Islamic states as there is between Islamic states and non-Islamic ones.

  3. Nitin,
    It’s a good analysis, but you are overstating your case against a debate over what Islam says (and its more juvenile counterpart – why Religion X is better than Islam). As Morgentheau has cautioned:

    The nation that dispensed with ideologies and frankly stated that it wanted power would…at once find itself at a great and perhaps decisive disadvantage in the struggle for power.

    Why is a State that does not frame its pursuit of power in terms of ideology at a decisive disadvantge? Does it not imply that ideology is imperative in mobilizing the people, both bodies and minds? If the theatre where ideas are pitted against competing ideas were ignored, you risk losing the war over the minds. Interpreting religion broadly, would you label a debate on capialism vs. communism or democracy vs theocracy as juvenile? It’s the war over minds that’s fought in the blogsphere and our weapons are our brains and keyboards.

  4. RF,

    Does it not imply that ideology is imperative in mobilizing the people, both bodies and minds? If the theatre where ideas are pitted against competing ideas were ignored, you risk losing the war over the minds.

    True. It suggests that ideology are necessary, and implies that they need to be countered by ideologies. But this does not suggest that we counter one religion with another, especially in multi-religious countries. Doing so would only aggravate the divide and play into the hands of the Islamic states.

    Let me attempt a crude analogy: during the Cold War, the Communism was not countered by Capitalism per se but rather, by the ideas of freedom and democracy. Perhaps it is best not to counter the use of Islam as an ideology by offering another religion as a ‘substitute’.

  5. Nitin,
    I am not suggesting that we counter the use of Islam as an ideology by offering another religion as a ’substitute’. I am just saying that the ideas that Islam represents are fair game for a debate. I personally don’t subscribe to any religion, but I don’t believe that religions cannot be compared in terms of the merits of the ideas that they represent. It may be politically incorrect to do so, but that’s for the politicians to decide. Intellectuals must not shirk from this task, though. Even a cursory scanning of journals and seminars from the Cold War period will show up hundreds, if not thousands, of debates and discussions on the ideas of Marx and Smith. So, why not the ideas of Mohammed and Buddha?

  6. Gaurav,

    The whole premise of my argument was not that the superiority of one religion over another cannot be established, perhaps it can be. My argument was that even if it could be done, it would be a meaningless exercise.

    Second, as Nitin points out, to argue in terms of Islam is to play in the hands of countries like Pakistan and Iran. Let us try a greater differentiator, let us try to move from what they have to what they do not have:liberal secular democracies. To argue in terms of Islam is to play their games.

    Third, the Islamic world has never known democracy. Infact it has known little besides Islam. That is why any attempts to reform provokes such a strong reaction. It is like asking the West to give up free markets. So,the progress will be naturally slow and difficult.

    Finally my distrust or distate for religion does not cloud my judgment. I may wish that it was not a part of public discourse but I certainly recognise it is. My trust is more in an institutional framework rather than imposing the burden of trust on individuals. This is the same idea which I apply to organized religion. And that is why I believe in secular democracies.


  7. Nitin,

    The relationship between Islam and territory has not been understood by most. The concept of Nation-State is absent in Islam. The idea of Nation-States emerged out of 18th century Europe. After the destruction of the Ottoman empire, artificial Nation-States like Iraq, Lebanon and Syria were created. The Arab world has always been in conflict with this arrangement but it was the creation of Israel that has been a real stab at its heart and its global aspirations. The territory of Israel, right from its inception, is seen as an aberration by the Muslim world.

    This is so, because under the Islamic ideology, lands once Islamized cannot be de-islamized. And secondly, Israel is seen as a western construct to prevent any creations of a Pan-Islamic movement. The movement of Pakistan must also be seen fundamentally under this framework of Islam and Territory. Islamization of land happens at different levels. In ancient civilizations like Egypt, Iran and India, it took place through military defeat and large-scale conversions. In places like Lebanon, Islamization happened through sheer demographic aggression. A similiar trend can be seen in Europe and in India.

    Yes, there is a fratricidal war between the shia and the sunni. A hatred between wahabbi Saudi Arabia and shia Iran. But the fact remains that global jehad and islamization remains a continued threat to infidels and the unbelievers. That is, Us.

  8. I have to disagree also (and you can call me stupid : )).

    Your posit may be true in the 80s and early 90s. But we are beyound that now. In some way, the countries you state are victims of Islamic terror themselves (which is what Manmohan seems to have bought into – although with pak it is not entirely true with respect to India and specifically regarding Kashmir Valley).

    “the Islamists’ bone is that the West is denying them their rightful place in the global power structure.”

    Unfortunately you the miss the boat defining the issue itself. Islamic terrorists do not want a security council seat or want to be a major share holder in IMF. To them, it is about Islam.

    It is also pretty unconvincing that the Saudis, Egyptians, and Pakistanis have some grand plan comparable to Nazis and Soviet Communism and such like (surprising you include fight against Communism in the same category). Beyound the fact that they are all dictators (and Egyptians and Paks are secular ones) they have little in common.

    A teenage kid from suburb London trains in POK not to fight for Pak when he wants to blow up planes over Atlantic – he does it because he thinks Islam is under siege.

    Sure the fight is between moderate Muslims (including minorities living in non-Muslim countries) and radical ones. But to say the fight is not religious completely misses the target.

    With regards to reply to Gaurav comment, formation of distinct states, even if Islamic, has more to do with colonialism (the French and British) breaking up middle east into countries rather than enlightened Islamic tribes forming states at the turn of 20th century.

    Terror victims did not call this war Islamic war; perpetrators did. Secularists and non-religious people have to get over their difficultly with this debate and start calling spade a spade.

  9. @Nitin your theory sounds true in the case of Pakistan and India but how do you explain the rise of groups like Algerian FIS and it’s offshoots and Egyptian groups like the Muslim Brotherhood & Gemaah Islamiyah who fought against their local secular autocratic regimes? Many of thier members later went global.Were they supported by Saudi Arabia or other muslim countries ?

  10. Nitin,

    1. I find it surprising that you are in effect advocating separating policy decisions from world views. Yes world view means ideology and yes like real politicis, ideologies also drive the world, why shy away from the simple truth !

    2. Yes even I think west and India have different world views, but is it a calamity. I do not think that everythink west says or does is universal.

    3. Nation state is a recent construct, true Islamic Caliphate was not of a long duration, however it was riven apart by personal ambitions into seperate “kingdoms”. However this can’t play a significant role in “democracy”.

    4. Even for the short period Islam united it ran over Persian and Egyptian civilization (pardon for being P- In-C), can we afford a re -run.

    5. Pakistan was a creation not of crazy fanatics but moderates like Jinna, Aga Khan and Sir Syyed Ahmed.

    6. As I said earlier the crucial point here is identity which is directly linked to world view.


    1. But who is talking about pronouncing this and this religion is superior ! The simple thing that I am saying is that the world view you adhere to(of nation states and “secular” democracy) is not universal. To be more blunt, a certain percentage of Muslims doesn’t believe in it, as do Marxists
    or for that matter a certain eminent libertarian blogger.

    Surely you are not implying that malaise should not be diagnosed correctly

    2 Many of the leaders of terrorist organizations are educated in west. They saw liberal values and rejected them ! Again it is a matter of world view and identity.

    3. Fishes can not be taught to bicycle, The frameworks can not be imposed upon people.

    4. The point is not whether your judgement is clouded. Point is that you are discounting from your analysis which is of critical importance.Point is that your premises are faulty, that is assuming the concerns which drive you (in this case nation or secularism or liberalism)also drive others.


  11. Hi everyone,

    First of all, I’m happy to see a good debate here—with various views being expressed in a considered manner. This is to the credit of regular readers/commenters at this blog.

    Let me address some of the key points made by some of you:

    RF — I totally agree with you when you say that there is a need for a rational debate on matters of faith. Such a debate has its own merits and its own rewards. My point is that such a debate is largely irrelevant when it comes to addressing the issue of terrorism. Indeed, in the present context, the debate has to proceed with a great deal of sensitivity given the agenda of the major Islamic states.

    Pankaj & Gaurav, we don’t necessarily need the modern concept of a nation-state to explain the power games. Power struggles between Islamic “states” whether they were Wilayats, Sultanates, Chiefdoms or Kingdoms always existed.

    Chandra—yes, the sorts of al-Qaeda have a non-negotiable agenda in public. But Morgenthau’s argument, which I fully agree with, is that this is purely a facade for what is essentially a quest for political power: starting with a bridgehead in existing Muslim countries and then expansionism.

    History Lover, the primary object of the organisations you mention was to capture domestic power. If you are up against a “secular” authoritarian backed by external powers, then the ideology of Islam gives you the cover you need to engage in the quest for power. Yes, some of their members joined the global jihad. But the global jihad was again the use of the ideology of Islam to engage in power games—even the US resorted to it in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Of course, the foot soldiers may have come from across the world, but the script was largely written and funded by Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran and others.

    Gaurav—no I’m not advocating divorcing policy decisions from world views. The point is debating worldviews is not going to address the real problem—which is the age-old struggle for power among nations.

  12. Gaurav,

    Sure enough. Half of India has tried to break away at one point of another but we are still one country. Pakistan had one proper independence movement and it broke up. The whole point of democracy is giving a voice to those who hold a divergent view point. Do not discount the importance of India’s democracy in holding this country together. I agree that framework cannot be imposed but it has never even been introduced. Did India knew democracy before the Founding Fathers imposed it in 1947? And I use the word imposed with deliberation. History is important, I agree but to completely discount people’s ability to embrace and accept change is not very wise.

    Your whole premise is that Muslims simply cannot accept democracy. This I in my opnion is taking a too pessimistic view, one who holds no hope for the future.

  13. “My point is that such a debate is largely irrelevant when it comes to addressing the issue of terrorism.”

    Even if George Bush succeeds wildly beyound his imagination to convert the entire planet into liberal democracy – he is the only putting money and blood where his mouth is (however incompetently), everyone else just talks – islamic terrorism, in its current form, will continue. And it can only be defeated by fellow muslims (unfortunately the debate among themselves haven’t even started; bad news for us). So from their perspective it is very much a religious issue and so should it be from our perspective.

    “this is purely a facade for what is essentially a quest for political power: starting with a bridgehead in existing Muslim countries and then expansionism”

    Actually it’s not. It is a religious war, not a political one. It could be interpreted as political only because, for these mass murderers, there is no politics (or anything else) beyound what their book says.

    May be we are all just talking past each other?

  14. (My last intervention on the thread)


    We disagree on the basic problem.

    To summarize you think the terrorism is manifestation of power play between states (I think you meant that when you said “nation” in the last sentence of previous post).
    You also discount the potency of belief. I supsect that you believe that faith is a trivial matter as far as terrorism is concerned.

    However I differ,

    To give analogy if states are the actors, world view (or faith)is the lever. In my opinion, you can not just discuss states and dismiss lever.

    Also you can not compare the cases of kingdoms (driven by personal ambitions) with democracy (driven by aspiration of multitudes)


    Again I disagree,

    1. India has remained united not just because of democracy. The immediate reason why separatist movement failed was that center has always been very strong compared to the separatists. The more subtle reason is that Indian culture (yes, the same idea which is mocked in liberal circles) unifies this country. Democracy plays limited part in this.

    2. Again your reading of partition of Pakistan is not accurate. It was not just lack of democracy, but inadequacy of the Islam as a unifying point for regions geographically and culturally divergent, which gave rise to Bangladesh.

    3. No founding father did not impose democracy, they introduced it (Again I am afraid you place too much importance on modern and dismiss the cultural and historical, perhaps too easily). To reiterate, there is nothing axiomatic about any framework (and that includes democracy, and liberalism), neither do they come out of no where. Every system has a context, a conducive atmosphere without which it is doomed to fail (The old cliché about an idea whose time has come). This is not idle speculation. Along with India democracy was introduced in many decolonized nations, also like India they had an elite deeply influenced by liberal west (the most notable example being land of pure), however today there are very few success stories as far as democracy is concerned. Also you are incorrect if you think democracy was not introduced in Muslim nations. However it was overwhelmed by the opposing forces. Democracy was introduced to Latin America a long time ago, yet its record is not much better. You place importance on democracy because of your world view which in turn is determined by your cultural make up. To some one coming from a different back ground, what is evident to you may not be.

    4. I do not know where you got the idea that I am arguing “Muslims can not live in democracy”. What I am saying is to introduce democracy it is essential that one is cognizant of the existing cultural and social milieu. I am also saying while it may be futile (and stupid) to compare which religion is superior, it is essential to analyze, to what degree a world view is “compatible” with the idea you seek to introduce, and in case there is an appreciable degree of incompatibility, either to customize your ideas (to suit the local conditions) or to modify the local conditions with various means available. While imposing a framework in hurry can give one satisfaction, without groundwork it doesn’t hold any promise.

    5. Yes, I do think that at present Islamic world view is not very compatible to democracy or freedom. A lot of change has to happen before Islamic nations can be ready for it.
    Keep in mind, it took many centuries of persecution and oppression for west to evolve (or to be more apt rediscover) these ideas. There is no reason to think that it will be a piece of cake (even with the benefit of hindsight) for Islamic nations. Indians could adjust to democracy (or heliocentricism or evolution or condoms) because of Hindu background (if this term is against secular sensibilities, you can use Indic instead of Hindu, to me both are interchangeable).

    6. Sure no one like elephant in the drawing room, but just by pretending it is not there, it is not going to go away.


  15. Chandra,

    You are not alone in your contention that this is a ‘religious war’. That is the popular view. It is also the view that the major Islamic states would like the world to believe.

    As my post argues, I disagree with such an oversimplified view.

  16. Nitin,

    I do not dispute your thesis. Yours is just one perspective among many.

    Many writers and commentaters around the world and in India are trying their best to understand this new phenomenon of islamic terror that has suddenly emerged out of the remnants of the Cold War. The History of Islam, its scriptures, its messages to its followers, all the compiled books about the arab prophet and his behaviour under different contexts; these are some of the leads by which we can come to grips with it.

    Islam spread out, in the words of Sir VS Naipaul, in a lava like movement out of the deserts of tribal Arabia. It consumed all in its path. Everything that came to resist and stop it was vanquished by the Islamists. This was the Great Jehad. This great empire of Islam was eventually dismembered by the Sikhs and the Marathas in India through a series of battles in the 18th century. In the middle east, the Ottoman empire, the great caliphate of Islam survived till the end of first world war before its eventual dismemberment. So, by 1920, the islamic empire was completely laid to rest. From the time of great wars and glorious victories, Islamists had to witness the pain of defeat and dismemberment everywhere.

    The Pan-Islamic movement, with Jehad as its main weapon, has risen under such a background. Sayyid Qutb, Hassan al-banna have been their intellectual fathers. A few pan-islamists to have been vanquished in the past have been the Egyptian despot Gamal Abdul Nasser {by the Israelis} and Saddam Hussain {by elder Bush}. Two of the emerging ones today, is the iranian Ahmadnijad and his proxy Nasrallah.

    The emergence of al-qaeda and the network Global Jehad Inc. after the spectacular 9/11 strike has been a new element. The american strategy of dealing with this war, as many have noted, has been deeply flawed. This has resulted in more confusion all around. And in the confusion and doubt, the jehadis have gone from strength to strength. This confusion is more pronounced in Indian policy makers, who are absolutely clueless as they have to combat with far too many variables {the muslim vote bank, the leftist dictations, etc}.

  17. “As my post argues, I disagree with such an oversimplified view.”

    I have nothing more to add but I am curious why attribution of the current islamic terror war to religion struggle an oversimplification where as attribution of it to political struggle sophisticated?

  18. As Chandra said, we still arent ready to call, a Spade as a Spade and instead try and find excuses to feed the false belief that its only a small minority who indulge in such acts and the religion as a whole is not to be blamed. Whenever people raise issue about how most major acts are carried out by Islamists, people quickly attack back saying that there are people of other religions too who carry out such acts, ex: Naxalites, LTTE, etc. While, its true that some people of other religions too carry out such in-human acts, the fact is that its a small minority and limited to certain areas.

    People say that whenever, Islam is attacked, it only strengthens the hands of terrorists and that majority of the people are moderates, my question to them is Why havent they come out in the open against the terrorist. Fatwas are issued day in and day out over even minor issues, so why hasnt any mullah issued a Fatwa against terror. The only answer is that either the moderates are too timid to even raise a finger or there are No Moderates at all.

    I believe that compared to other religions, Islam hasnt been able to mature. For Example, Hinduism had in the past had its own wrongs (and still has many of them), but Great people over period of time have managed to reduce the same and now the only lingering problem is one of Caste which too hopefully shall go away in time.

    As Occam’s razor, a rehash of which was used in the film Contact states, – all things being equal, the simplest explanation tends to be the right one.


  19. Gaurav,

    My final comments and then lets move on.

    Yes, the center has been strong but not half as strong as those of depotic countries. Without the burden of democracy and parliament, they could very easily do what they wished for, yet it could not stop the creation of Bangladesh to give just one example. Where democracy comes in to picture is that it allows the masses to voice their dis-satisfaction, so while the more extremist elements might wield the gun, the state ultimately wins because of the popular support it enjoys. Thats how Punjab militancy came to an end. It would extremely difficult to hold a country together only by the power of the gun. Second, your contention about partition just proves what Nitin said, that the concept of an Islamic Ummah might have a theological backing but has been used a tool for gaining power. And that is why there are 53 Islamic states, most of which hate each other.

    There is a very thin dividing line between introduction and imposition. My contention is that democracy was a concept unknwon to India before 1947. Yes you can argue and I accept that it is a vaild point, that the fact that Hinduism does not have a prescribed text book helped in democracy taking roots. Also, the cultural diversity of India, with absence of a central holding power, made democracy that much attractive to different sections of the society. In other words, only by the constant bargaining and cajoling which democracy entails, could they hope to exercise influence.

    Look at partition as an example. Jinaah was not an Islamic fanatic. His advocacy of Pakistan had little to do with the religion per se, but was completely an exercise in gaining power using Islam as a weapen to galvanize the masses. Exactly what the Saudi Arabia is doing now! The founding consitution of Pakistan which was imposed by Jinnah was completely secular in outlook. However, what Jinnah did not realize was that you cannot adopt the secterian means and hope to achive a secular liberal state The means he used to create Pakistan unleashed forces which ultimately consumed his own baby-Pakistan.

    Yes, I do recognise that the establishment of secular liberal democracies in much of the Islamic world represents a huge challenge. No disputes about that. But Chritianity did achieve this transformation and the Church was consinged to where it belongs:domain of the individual. That is what the Pope rants against! So why do you think islamic world cannot achieve what the Christian world did? Of course, the primary impetus has to come from within the society but first the world has to stop playing their games.

    Finally, those who accuse me of not understanding Hinduism don’t understand the difference between Hinduism:a way of of life and Hinduvta which is a RSS creation. And of course, they do not understand what differentiates a Hindu najority state from a Hindu theocratic state.

  20. I happened upon an article written by Reuel Marc Gerecht, a seasoned US Middle east analyst and former CIA guy. Most of it was about the recent pope issue. But one paragraph caught my eye and although from an American perspective, I think, very relevant to this discussion.

    “…No one wants to offend, so we assume a public position of liberal tolerance, hoping that good-willed, non-confrontational dialogue, which criticizes “our” possibly offensive behavior while downplaying “theirs,” will somehow lead to a more peaceful, ecumenical world.

    We won’t talk about the history of jihad in Islam. We would rather emphasize that jihad can mean an internal moral struggle for believers, even though the most progressive, revisionist Muslim (unless he has been completely secularized in the West) knows perfectly well that when Muslims hear the word “jihad,” they proudly remember holy warriors, from the prophet Muhammad forward. We won’t probe too deeply, and certainly not critically, into how the Quran and the prophet’s traditions, as well as classical Islamic history, have given all believing Muslims certain common sentiments, passions and reflexes. We don’t even talk about how the post-Christian West’s great causes — nationalism, socialism, communism and fascism — entered Islam’s bloodstream and altered Muslim ethics, often catastrophically. Many in the West, on both right and left, prefer to see Osama bin Ladin’s terrorism as a violent reaction to Western, particularly American, behavior. It is thus something that could be avoided. (Israel usually enters the discussion here.) We shy away from the more existential arguments that suggest that bin Ladin’s popularity in Islamic lands is the product of an enormous religious and philosophical distemper that derives from the world being the reverse of what God had ordained: Muslims on top, non-Muslims down below.

    But we need to talk and argue about these things. We need to stop treating Muslims like children, and viewing our public diplomacy with Islamic countries as popularity contests….” (Bold mine)

  21. Nitin,

    Shah Waliullah, who is commonly regarded by Islamic theological school as their spiritual father, lived and wrote during the period of Islamic disintegration in India. Waliullah looks at the defeat, the loss of power and the disintegration all around him and searches for answers. What he finds, and prescribes for his followers, is exclusively defined within the limits of islam. The defeat and the disintegration is not the self-assertion and a victory of a great resistance put forward by those enslaved by the sword of islam. It is also not the ending of a long reign of muslim despotism. {with maybe a kind interlude in the period of Akbar}. The Islamic defeat, this great fall from grace, is solely caused by the corruption and decadence that has creeped in the *practices of islam*. His prescription to his followers therefore, is nothing much than *back to purity*.

    Global Jehad Inc. under this background should be seen as a *Struggle for Empire*. To reclaim what has been dismembered with the Ottomans and to establish primacy. But there are pesky non-islamic nations who stand in the way of this dream. The principals that require to be removed or suppressed are India, Israel and the US. To fully comprehend islamic terrorism, it is essential to understand islamic history and a quest among many in the islamic world to reclaim the glory of a lost empire.

    The Arab world has been in a *Contest of Leadership* in this Islamic project. The Egyptian leader Nasser made his bid but discredited himself by cavorting with the communist Soviets {islams historical antagonist, much like the jews} and then put out of play by Israel in the six-day war. The iranians, under khomeini, made their bid by disposing off the Shah Reza in the revolution of 1979. The wahabbi arabs were alarmed, as was the west. The Iranians were put out by Saddam Hussain, under active support provided by the Saudis and the US. Saddam than developed ambitions of his own, and was contained by the Saudis and US with the Gulf war.

    Quite recently, the Iranians have risen again. {Plenty of Oil means a Great Engine}. They surprised the Israelis and the US through their proxy Nasrallah. The Al-qaeda, initially welcomed the struggle, but they are uneasy looking at the rise of heretics.


    So there has been a very visible power struggle among the *Believers* throughout islamic history as well, jockeying along with the quest for empire.

  22. Nitin,

    The muslim minorities in India and Europe are being impacted by this war on terror. But it cuts both ways. While many muslims {termed moderates by the media} go on with there lives, a few of them are active collaboraters of Jehadis. Those who planned to blow up airplanes over the atlantic were British citizens, born and brought up there. Those who planned, gave active support and carried out 7/11 are also Indians. So there are active supporters, although a small minority, who follow the call the jihad.

    For islamic states, islam remains and would remain the great Mobilizing factor. Nothing unites the Believers than the call of *Islam in Danger*.

    The situation also is muddied by the dubious role played by left-liberal opinion in India and in the West. These are the intellectual osamas who provide the fuel to jehadis by building up the *islam under siege* fiction. Revenge Narratives are built up through lies and deception, by overturning the chain of events and by decontextualizing events like the Ayodhya Ram-Janambhoomi movement. The intellectual osama seeks to provide a decent, legitimate framework for the random killing of *infidels* through jehad. So he tries his best to shift the perception to everything under the sun but never to the actual source, the actual origins, from where all the killings emanate from. One has to be extremely wary of this class.

    I would end by this quoted from Richard Dawkins:

    Our leaders have described the recent atrocity with the customary cliche: mindless cowardice. “Mindless” may be a suitable word for the vandalising of a telephone box. It is not helpful for understanding what hit New York on September 11. Those people were not mindless and they were certainly not cowards. On the contrary, they had sufficiently effective minds braced with an insane courage, and it would pay us mightily to understand where that courage came from.

    It came from religion. Religion is also, of course, the underlying source of the divisiveness in the Middle East which motivated the use of this deadly weapon in the first place. But that is another story and not my concern here. My concern here is with the weapon itself. To fill a world with religion, or religions of the Abrahamic kind, is like littering the streets with loaded guns. Do not be surprised if they are used.,1300,552388,00.html


  23. It may well be true that Muslim countries are using Islam as ticket to power but in the final analysis the suicide bomber is blowing himself up (and many innocents along with him) because he is convinced that he’ll score major points with Allah by doing so. How can terrorism be defeated without understanding — and countering — what really motivates terrorists?

  24. Hello history,

    In my efforts to compress, I have taken certain perceptual jumps. So one has not been able to provide adequate citations that are necessary for ones observations. These views are off-course not complete, as new information leads to new, and maybe better conclusions. I do not have any citations on Saddam as a pan-islamists but this wiki on Nasser can be informative.



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