That the attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon gave the US an invaluable opportunity for a massive projection of power — as predicted by Crescent International (Editorial, October 1-15, 2001) — is now widely accepted. The US occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq; its worldwide war on Islamic movements and organizations on the pretext of a ‘war on terrorism’; its increased support for pro-Western regimes that share its fear and hatred of Islam; its planting of military bases all over and around the Muslim world; its legitimisation of concentration camps, torture and indefinite imprisonment without legal process (all things it has long decried); and its self-serving calls for ‘reform’ and ‘democratization’ in the Muslim world are all aspects of this projection.
Another aspect is immense pressure on Muslims living in Western countries, particularly the US and Britain. In the US, Muslims have been subjected to official harassment, arrest, detention without trial and deportation on technicalities; religious and racial profiling by law-enforcement, security and other bodies; crackdowns on charities and other institutions with links to Muslim countries; and other attacks on the rights and freedoms the US claims to hold dear. In Britain, Islamic activists have been targeted by police, Islamic organisations raided and closed down, individuals prosecuted, and charities harassed on suspicion of funding Islamic movements abroad. Both countries have also passed ‘anti-terrorist’ and other legislation targetting Muslims generally and Islamic activists in particular, depriving them of rights other citizens have; Islamic activists in Britain, for instance, now risk being stripped of their citizenship and handed over to the US for interrogation and imprisonment, without any right to legal process. Nor is that all.
In both countries, a mood has been created that has increased hostility against Muslims. In both countries there have been murders and other attacks on Muslims; muslimahs in hijab in particular have been targeted, despite the fact that both governments are well aware that the vast majority of Muslims abhor terrorism, and are concerned mostly with independence, freedom and human rights in their own countries.
Muslims in Western countries face a hard choice. We can either accept our status as second-class citizens, and strive to please our supposed lords and masters, hoping that they will treat us better in future; or we can mobilise to defend our place as both full citizens in these countries, and members of an Ummah determined to live with dignity according to the principles of our faith in our own societies. The West hopes that we will do the former, and they find plenty of Muslims willing to tell them (and other Muslims) what the West wants to hear: that Islam is backward, that it is the cause of (not a solution to) Muslims’ problems, and that the only way to progress and be ‘modern’ is to accept Western values and leadership. These Muslims are promoted as the moderate and acceptable voices of Islam. At the other end of the spectrum are the ‘extremist’ and unacceptable voices of Islamic activists and movements, subject to all sorts of attack.
In between are the vast majority of Muslims in Western countries, trying to live as best they can in a hostile environment, shocked by the enormous changes in the world in less than two years, by the sudden emergence of the true face of the West, and by the heavy pressure they suddenly find themselves under. Most instinctively oppose the West’s aggressive and hegemonic policies and sympathise with the Islamic activists being persecuted (except for those few who might really be involved in unacceptable activities). Most do not respect the pro-Western, secularising ‘moderates’ emerging as our ‘leaders’.
The problem is that this majority of Muslims find themselves largely unable to assert themselves because of the pressure on them. They can neither reject the ‘leadership’ claimed by the West’s stooges, nor support those being persecuted. Their support for Islamic organizations and movements, in the West and elsewhere, is drying up precisely when it is most needed. This situation cannot continue. In the 1990s, the late Dr Kalim Siddiqui established a model for independent, comprehensive community political action that unfortunately did not survive his death. Now, more than ever, Muslims need such organizations. The difficulties in establishing them are immense, but establish them we must. The consequences of failure to do so are too grim to contemplate.