Belligerent right-wingers demand that Muslims distance themselves from terrorists or be deemed their accomplices. Righteous leftists warn against bigotry and Islamophobia while affirming that Muslims, being overwhelmingly moderate people, have nothing to do with terrorism. And then you have the Bill Maher approach: It is a truly bizarre ritual, this rush to assess whether Muslims en masse are moderate or terror-friendly, and, in either case, to what extent.
Indian Muslim leaders speaking up on behalf of an Ottoman caliphate might appear to represent a global Muslim unity, but such a conclusion would be a mistake. Their success in getting the meeting with Wilson owed much to their sacrifice as soldiers in the British army fighting and defeating the German-Ottoman alliance.
Edwin Montagu, Secretary of State for British-ruled India, arranged the meeting because he believed that the British empire, as the biggest Muslim empire in the world, had a moral responsibility to listen to the Indian Muslim case for the preservation of the Ottoman caliphate. Several Indian Hindu leaders joined the meeting, making clear their solidarity with their fellow Indian Muslim brethren and their support for the Ottoman caliphate.
This conversation at the Paris Peace Conference in does not reveal a clash between an Islamic world and a Western world. It reveals one complex and interdependent world. The Muslims were loyal supporters of the multi-faith British empire, cooperating with Hindus, and had fought against the Muslim soldiers of the Ottoman empire during the First World War.
They did not see Westerners as any kind of enemy, and made their case for the Ottoman caliphate according to international norms about national self-determination and imperial peace. Since the Iranian Revolution ofWestern journalists and radical Islamists popularised the idea.
In their view, contemporary Pan-Islamism draws on ancient Muslim ideals in pursuit of restoring a pristine religious purity. According to this account, Pan-Islamism is a reactionary movement, in thrall to ancient traditions and classical Islamic law. This Pan-Islamism not only survives but thrives in the contemporary world, and is a civilisational artefact deeply at odds with modern times.
It began with the advent of Islam, in the 7th century, and has continued virtually to the present day. It has consisted of a long series of attacks and counterattacks, jihads and crusades, conquests and reconquests.
Yet, contrary to this dominant view of an eternal clash with the Christian West, Pan-Islamism is in fact relatively new, and not so exceptional. Closely related to Pan-Africanism and Pan-Asianism, it emerged in the s as a response to the iniquities of European imperialism.
The idea of an ancient clash between the Muslim World and the Christian World is a dangerous and modern myth. It relies on fabricated misrepresentations of separate Islamic and Western geopolitical and civilisational unities. Pan-Islamists in the age of empire did not have to convince fellow Muslims about the global unity of their co-religionists.
By racialising their Muslim subjects with references to their religious identity, colonisers created the conceptual foundations of modern Muslim unity. Like Pan-Africanists and Pan-Asianists, the first Pan-Islamists were intellectuals who wanted to counter the slights, humiliations and exploitation of Western colonial domination.
They did not necessarily want to reject the imperial world or the reality of empires. Like Pan-Africanists and Pan-Asianists, Pan-Islamists emphasised that European empires discriminated against Africans, Asians and Muslims, both within empires and in international affairs.
All three challenged European racism and colonial domination, and promised a better and freer world for the majority of human beings on Earth.
European colonial officers began to worry about a potential Muslim revolt when they saw how the modern technologies of printing, steamships and the telegraph were creating new links among diverse Muslim populations, helping them to assert a critique of racism and discrimination.
Yet there were no Pan-Islamic revolts against colonialism from the s to the s. The alleged threat of Pan-Islamism made its first notable appearance in the West during the First World War, in part because the Ottoman and German empires promoted it in their war propaganda.
By the s, with the fading of the colonial world and its replacement by a world of independent nation-states, the political projects of Pan-Islamism, Pan-Africanism and Pan-Asianism had almost disappeared.
They had, however, won many of the intellectual battles against racism, defeated colonial arguments of white supremacy, and helped to end European imperial rule. Disappointments about the failure of Africa, Asia and the Muslim world to become comparable in equality and freedom to the West also contributed to the declining status of the pan-nationalisms.
By the s, African and African-American intellectuals grew more pessimistic about the key Pan-Africanist dream of gaining racial equality for black people in the modern world, and making the whole of Africa prosperous and free.
The Pan-African vision of uniting newly independent, weak African nations to create the necessary synergy of a federative global power and give them both liberty and prosperity has not materialised.
Although there is still an international organisation — the African Union — it is ineffective, and far from achieving the goals of Pan-Africanism.
The hopes of the Pan-Africanist generation, from Dubois to Frantz Fanon, for a future decolonised Africa remain a lost project for the next generation. The first Pan-Islamists were highly modernist proponents of the liberation of women and racial equality On the other hand, with multiple great powers such as China, India and Japan, the decolonised Asia of today would have made the early 20th-century Pan-Asianists proud.
Yet 20th-century Pan-Asianism took a complex course. Pan-Islamism has also proceeded in a series of fits and starts over the past century.
From Turkey and Egypt to Indonesia and Algeria, the idea of Muslim intellectualism and global Muslim solidarity empowered 20th-century nationalist leaders and movements. The Turkish Parliament had abolished the Ottoman caliphate back inand by the s that caliphate was almost forgotten.
Nearly a fifth of the way into the 21st century, however, Pan-Africanism and Pan-Asianism seems to have vanished but Pan-Islamism and the ideal of Muslim world solidarity survives. The answer lies in the final stages of the Cold War.
It was in the s that a new Muslim internationalism emerged, as part of a rising political Islam. It was not a clash between the primordial civilisational traditions of Islam and the West, or a reassertion of authentic religious values.
The notion that Pan-Islamism represents authentic, ancient, repressed Muslim political values in revolt against global Westernisation and secularisation was initially a paranoid obsession of Western colonial officers, but recently it comes mainly from Islamists.
None of the Indian Muslims meeting Wilson, nor the late Ottoman-era caliphs, were interested in imposing Sharia in their society.Author Samuel Huntington stated in his book The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order that “religion is a central defining characteristic of civilizations” (, p.
47). He’s correct, of course. Most world religions are associated with one or more of our present civilizations. The Coming Transformation of the Muslim World Written by Professor Dale Eickelman, a well-respected scholar of the Anthropology and Islam at Dartmouth College, this article was originally a talk given as the Templeton Lecture on Religion and World Affairs.
Many people in the Muslim world, including the majority of their political leaders, were eager to transform and restructure the socio-economic and political structures of their societies after the model of . The Muslim world is far from unanimous in its rejection of the West, nor have the Muslim regions of the Third World been the most passionate and the most extreme in their hostility.
The clash between the West and Islam will be vital to the course of world events over the coming decades. Islam is, in fact, the only civilization that ever put the survival of the West in doubt -- .
The essay closes with some remarks about the nature of identity and the importance to one's own agency of the distinction between the first and the third person point of view in Muslim self-understanding.