|A New Crusade?
By David Dolan - October 11, 2001
|George Bush and Tony Blair have repeatedly stated that the international war on terrorism is not a war against Islam. As was the case before the Gulf War one decade ago, this contention was part of the Western attempt to build a broad coalition that included as many Muslim countries as possible.
The English-speaking leaders succeeded in securing numerous pledges of support for the anti-terror campaign - most importantly from Pakistan, but also from moderate Gulf states like Oman. Turkey, a NATO member and Muslim nation in name only, tightly ruled by secularist politicians backed by the army, quickly gave its unqualified support for the U.S.-led effort. The various Islamic pledges of support came despite the fact that this time around, an American president named Bush was not trying to liberate a Muslim country from occupation by a neighboring Islamic state, but was preparing to respond to unprecedented terrorist strikes on the United States.
Now that the bombing campaign in Afghanistan is underway, moderate Muslim leaders are expressing renewed concern that many of their people see it as another "Christian Crusade" against Islam. This perception was already floating around after George W. unfortunately used the dreaded "C" word twice in announcing that he was going after Osama bin Laden and his terrorist cronies.
The assertion that another insidious Crusade had begun was stated more openly by the leaders of the radical Muslim states of Iran and Iraq. Both are portraying the military operation as a Western attempt to weaken, if not destroy, the Islamic faith and way of life. This allegation was not a surprise in the case of Iran since its version of how a good Muslim acts is not much different from the one enforced by the neighboring Taliban regime. Iraq is simply worried that it may be the next coalition target.
As a journalist who has lived and worked with Mideast Muslims for over two decades, it was entirely obvious to me that many in this troubled region would quickly view any U.S.-led attack on Afghanistan as a direct assault on Islam. Judging from his pre-taped response to the bombing campaign shown around the world on Sunday, this seemed to be clear to bin Laden as well. After all, he has spent his entire life amongst his Muslim people, and understands their fears and psyches very well.
Most regional Muslims were appalled by the huge death toll in New York. Still, it doesn"t really matter to them that Arab terrorist atrocities on an unheard of scale set off the chain reaction that almost inevitably resulted in bombs falling on Kabul and elsewhere. Bin Laden and myself, if not Bush and Blair, realized that a Western counterstrike would feel like a knife plunge into their hearts - whatever the initial cause. This has much more to do with history and basic Islamic doctrines and assumptions than with Muslim grievances against America, Europe or Israel, whether justified or not.
Rule the world
The bottom line is this: Muslims should have long ago been exclusive rulers of the world, or at least a good portion of it, if Islamic religious teachings are correct. The Koran states without equivocation that Islam is the final revelation of truth that supercedes Christianity, Judaism and all other faiths. If so, neither the United States and the European Union, nor Russia or China for that matter, should be running the international show. But these non-Muslim nations, and especially America, are plainly calling the shots. Something is dreadfully wrong with this picture.
Now I"m not saying that all of my Mideast Muslim friends and acquaintances go around all day bellyaching that they don"t rule the global roost. Yet it does nag at most of their guts that Islam"s glory age lasted for only a few centuries after Muhammad"s death, and was quickly eclipsed by the old order centered in Rome.
The fact that "Christendom" was roundly defeated at the end of the actual Crusades was a bright flicker of pride and hope that is still recalled with excited passion by the average Mideast Muslim today. But Islamic history since then has been dismal, to say the least. European nations subdued and colonized Muslim areas in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, while also taking exclusive control of the newly discovered continents of North and South America and Australia. Muslim men and women became cupbearers and cleaners for British, French, Portuguese and other European colonists. Underpaid workers were virtual slaves in many cases to the Western "imperialists." Adding repugnant insult to painful injury, the conquerors often justified their conquests as divinely sanctioned by Israel"s God in order to help spread the Christian faith.
For Muslims who believe their faith is the only valid one, the situation is not much better today. Sure, Allah has blessed them with copious amounts of oil, especially under the desert sands of Islam"s holiest ground in Arabia. Still, companies based in the more powerful "Christian" West basically control this vital world commodity. Many Muslims - obviously including Osama bin Laden - see oil-state rulers as mere lackeys to the dominant West, and excessively greedy ones at that.
As everybody knows, the vast European colonial empires were dismantled over the past century. In the aftermath of World War I, various independent Arab Muslim states were carved out of the defeated Ottoman Empire, while small slices of land along the eastern shores of the Mediterranean were designated for a Christian-ruled Lebanon and a Jewish state south of it.
European colonialism may have officially ended with the establishment of over 20 independent Arab-Muslim states, along with the Islamic-ruled countries of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran. But who does much of the menial work in Great Britain today? Largely Muslim immigrants from Pakistan and other former British colonies. Who fills that role in France? Mostly Arab Muslims from the former French colony of Algeria. Who does the dirty work in Germany? Muslims from Turkey. Who in Italy and Greece? Mainly Albanian Muslims. Until the Al Aqsa uprising began just over one year ago, that role was filled in Israel by Palestinians who were mostly - you guessed it - Muslims.
Apart from poverty stricken Roman Catholics from the Philippines and Hispanic America, most menial workers serving better off nations around he world today are followers of the faith of Muhammad. To any Muslim who sincerely believes in the fundamentals of their fast growing religion, as most Mideast Arabs do to a large degree, this simply should not be.
Those of us who understand how the average Muslim views the current world order realized there would be widespread Islamic opposition to a U.S.-led military campaign against the Taliban regime and its patron bin Laden, however justified such an operation might be. Many Muslims cannot help but view it as the "arrogant West once again imposing its will on the downtrodden Islamic world," as bin Laden put it. The fact that the Arabian militant is hardly the picture of oppressed Islam, being the son of a Saudi billionaire, doesn"t matter at all. They cannot avoid being deeply irritated, if not outright offended, by the bombing runs which remind them once again that it is "Christian" America, and not Islam, that basically controls the planet.
Why do they hate us so much? Many Americans asked that question in the wake of the Sept. 11 Islamic terrorist outrages. The truth is that the United States could be the most humanitarian nation on earth - as it probably is - and this would not ameliorate Muslim anguish very much. American aircraft can drop tons of food and medicine on Afghan civilians. This will not resolve the basic complaint that Washington runs the international show, nor dent the hope and prayer that it will one day go down like the unsinkable Titanic - the sooner the better. Many Muslims are hoping that bin Laden has non-conventional weapons waiting in the wings for use against America, as the FBI suspects. If so, the long-heralded New World Order could arise much quicker than many expect.
It is not Washington"s support for Israel that caused Arab terrorists to destroy the World Trade Center and attack the Pentagon, although bin Laden is desperately hoping he can sell that line to most of his co-religionists (as he probably will). America"s world dominance was the real reason they carried out their suicide assaults. Its backing of the despised Jewish State - which should not exist at all in the Middle East if Islamic doctrines are correct - is just another, but major, irritant. Western dominance over the entire Muslim world, and especially its powerful influence over the Arab rulers of Arabia, would be reason enough for their holy war even if Israel had never been reborn in 1948.
All of this should help explain why bin Laden and his worldwide terrorist network - and its backers - assume they have a good chance of igniting a widespread Islamic jihad against America and the West. Of course, its main victims, apart from western terrorist casualties, would be the many Muslim leaders who fail to fully toe the extremist fundamentalist line. This is fine with Osama and his gang, as it signals to true believers everywhere that his murderous terrorists are closely following in the footprints of the revered founder of their faith. Indeed, Muhammad"s earliest opponents, and the targets of his initial jihad campaigns, were fellow Arabs and some Jews who did not buy his claim to being earth"s final prophet.
David Dolan"s latest book, "Israel In Crisis: What Lies Ahead?" along with his end-time novel, "The End Of Days" and his first book, an acclaimed history of Israel titled "Israel At The Crossroads," may be ordered by phoning 1-888-890-6938 in North America. You may also e-mail your request or visit David"s website.
David Dolan is a Jerusalem-based author and journalist who has lived in Israel since 1980. He reported for CBS radio for over 12 years.