Casablanca - In the previous part of this series (Cultural Clash: The Islam-West Conflict part II), I dealt with the notion of new racism, a contemporary form of racism, that feeds on the dogma that different cultures cannot live peacefully side-by-side.
Casablanca – In the previous part of this series (Cultural Clash: The Islam-West Conflict part II), I dealt with the notion of new racism, a contemporary form of racism, that feeds on the dogma that different cultures cannot live peacefully side-by-side.
This dogma induces an instinctive irrational fear from the other, which could be transcended in diverse ways. However, many Western governments and political parties have exploited this fear to alienate the Arabs and Muslims and accuse them of intolerance, inability to integrate in the non-Muslim societies and incapability of reconciling with modernity for nothing but politics. This has resulted in a deep-rooted concern and hatred towards Muslims all over the globe.
On the other hand, this kind of discriminatory discourse can be detected in the Muslim and Arab countries as well. However, dissimilar to the situation in the West, the political leaders in the East are incapable of producing a discourse that alienates, demonizes, and pathologizes the Western people and cultures chiefly because of the political and economical dependence of the vast majority of Eastern countries on Europe and America. The estrangement of Western culture, religion, and history is achieved through a radical Islamic discourse: The non-Muslim ‘other’ is considered by some religious affiliations as “Kaffir,” a dangerous other the potential to harm us and to divert us from Islam. The discourse developed at this level prohibits any kind of contact between Muslims and non-Muslim or makes it contingent on the preconceived idea of superiority, difference, and distance. This discourse, in its most radical forms, openly encourages the Muslims to kill everyone who does not share the same confession with them.
Confessedly, the discourse of these radical Islamic affiliations, such as some Salafi organizations, is mainly based upon the scriptural sources. However their approach to these sources is literal and here is where the main problem resides. Their interpretations do not transcend the surface of the verses, or the Hadith (the reported prophetic statements or actions) and make the scriptures seem to affirm their extremist stands. A durable, ubiquitous method in the Muslim interpretative tradition has been to unavoidably rely on the specific historical circumstances in which the verse was revealed to Prophet Mohamed (peace be upon him), and not to be content with the literal understanding that does not go deep in the extraction of meaning. It is important to note that the verses of the Quran that have instructive qualities are either general, that is to say applicable to all Muslims generally, or specific to certain Muslims in fixed historical points and/ or geographical locations.
One of the most widely used verses by the Salafi literalists to restrict contact with the non-Muslims is the following: “Let not believers take disbelievers as allies rather than believers. And whoever [of you] does that has nothing with Allah, except when taking precaution against them in prudence. And Allah warns you of Himself, and to Allah is the [final] destination.” (The Holy Quran, Chapter 3, Verse 28) According to Asbab al-nuzul, the most reliable reference that record the reasons of Quranic verses revelations, this verse was revealed to the Prophet Mohamed for a specific case– in regards to the hypocrites who showed allegiance to the Prophet Mohamed and made secretive alliance with the enemy.
Similarly, the extremists who call for violence in the name of Islam mainly use the following verse to support their fanatical claims: “And fight them until there is no fitnah and [until] the religion, all of it, is for Allah . And if they cease – then indeed, Allah is Seeing of what they do.” (The Holy Quran, Chapter 8, Verse 39) Once again this verse is disconnected from the historical context in which it was revealed. Interestingly, these verses are taken out of their contexts and quoted by both, Muslim extremists and Islamophobes.
My claim has been that the political discourse in the West and that of certain Muslim affiliations (and not Islam per se) that parallel it in the East have exploited the natural, irrational fears in both poles to promote their ideologies. The various Salafi branches are prosperous in the petro-monarchies. Their presence has been progressively spreading throughout the entire MENA region because of the immense ideological and financial support that they provide. As Tariq Ramadan correctly suggests in his book the Salafi Equation, “The United States as well as the European countries have no problem in dealing with the type of Islamism promoted by the literalists Salafism …” for they do not hinder their economic and the geostrategic interests despite their ideological opposition to democracy.
The indirect alliance of the Western politics with the Eastern Salafis are, according to Ramadan, motivated by three benefits: the Salafis are economically liberal despite their rigid approach to political, juridical, and social issues. Second, the Salafi presence reinforces divisions in the East on religious grounds and blockades the efforts of the reformists who submit to universal systems of ethics and values. Finally, the West empowers the Salafis to maintain the sectarian conflicts between the Sunni and the Shiite who are considered non-Muslims by the Salafis. The denunciatory discourses propagated by both entities, on the one hand, and their secretive strategic alliance, on the other, drive the observer away from conceiving the cultural and the psychological conditions that discourage communities, not exclusively the West and the East, from co-existing.
Edited by Saba Naseem. To read part I
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