We must define the term “independence” accurately to fully grasp the Muslim world’s current situation. Possessing territory, having a government, army, etc, do not necessarily mean independence.
Given that there are 56 “Muslim” nation-states, all members of the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Conference, the question may raise some eyebrows. Each country also has defined borders, a government headed by a king, amir, president, prime minister or even a general. Further, there is a cabinet, a standing army, national airline (or two), a national flag, and even an anthem for each country. Do these not represent independence?
We must define the term “independence” accurately to fully grasp the Muslim world’s current situation. Possessing territory, having a government, army, etc, do not necessarily mean independence. The term independence must be viewed more broadly. Neo-Marxist writers — Hans Singer, Raúl Prebisch, Paul A. Baran, Paul Sweezy, Andre Gunder Frank, Theotonio Dos Santos et al — have written extensively about dependency theory demonstrating how difficult it is for a society to break out of this cycle. We need not go into the details of dependency theory but suffice it to say that the natural resources and cheap labour of dependent societies are exploited to enrich wealthy societies (in reality, these enrich the top 1% of society as the Occupy Wall Street Movement has so clearly shown!). The elite in rich societies actively perpetuate a cycle of dependency through economic, political, social, cultural, banking, and financial policies. Societies that attempt to break out of the dependency cycle are coerced back into the fold through sanctions and/or the use of military force. The price exacted for trying to break loose is exceedingly high.
Even societies that go through a revolution — Cuba, Vietnam, Nicaragua, etc — show how difficult it is to throw off the yoke of dependency. Most countries in Africa gained “independence” from colonialism in the 1960s but they are still dependent on the colonial masters for survival. Africa is gripped by mass starvation even though it is a resource-rich continent, due largely to the manufactured nation-state conflicts managed by Western powers (read that: starvation policies) coupled with their structural adjustment programs (read that, slavery to debt), which regard material resources in the ground to be more valuable than human resources on the ground. African countries have been trapped into a spider web-type relationship from which they cannot escape. Institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are used to reinforce dependency on the colonial powers. Colonel Muammar Qaddafi of Libya paid the price with his life for attempting to break the Western stranglehold on Africa by proposing to establish an African Monetary Fund as well as an African Central Bank. More resources and capital have been sucked out of Africa into the West after “independence” than during direct colonialism.
Let us, however, return to our discussion of majority Muslim countries. Are they free to formulate their own economic, political, military, cultural or social policies? Even societies that are not financially dependent on the West suffer from the dependency syndrome. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates offer good examples. These are artificial constructs that were created by Britain to serve its interests. While financially secure, they are still subservient to the West when formulating political, social, cultural, military or educational policies. Even in the economic field, these countries cannot formulate policies to benefit their own people. Saudi Arabia pumps excessive amounts of oil far beyond its needs because it must serve US and Western interests. This keeps the price of oil low depriving producers of much-needed income while transferring wealth to the West. For every dollar drop in the price of oil, producers lose $1 billion per day. On the political front, few majority Muslim countries can stand up to Zionist Israel. Instead they are aligned with US/Zionist aggressors against the Palestinian people.
Flags and national anthems aside, what is the solution to the problem facing Muslim societies? Any attempt to answer this question merely through economic analysis will not yield the correct answer. Muslim societies are unable to formulate their own policies to serve the interests of their people precisely because they are not independent. For true independence, they must first undergo an Islamic revolution to overthrow the colonial imposed order. Iran has shown how this is done. For more than 30 years, Western “experts” and “pundits” have been predicting the collapse of the Islamic system. What they fail to understand is that an Islamic revolution changes the very nature of society and renders it impervious to sanctions and boycotts. As the Noble Qur’an states so eloquently: “Allah does not alter the condition of a people until they change their attitude” (13:11).
It is through this consummate change — a clean break from the exploitative milieu created by fear of temporal power to an Islamic system that fosters confidence by reliance only on the Sustainer of the worlds — that Muslims will gain true independence. Until then, Muslims will only delude themselves into believing they are independent.
Zafar Bangash is Director of the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought