I want members of the Muslim communities in the UK to understand what exactly is transpiring in the Middle East. The wars that are being fought are not religious wars, as the protagonists would have us believe but are wars for political power and occupation. Ever since the deaths of the four ‘Righteous Caliphs’, Muslims have been plagued by non-representative governments using the enlightened example of Prophet Muhammad to hide their corruption.
The forced fragmentation of the large agglomeration of territories of the Ottoman Empire into nation-states by the Picot-Sykes Agreement (1916) did exacerbate the plight of Muslims. However, it was the discovery of vast amounts of crude oil in Iran (1918) and Saudi Arabia (1938) that is principally responsible for the turmoil in the region. The resultant imposition of compliant but autocratic regimes by the colonial powers further deprived the Muslims of the opportunities at self-determination.
However, Muslims should keep in perspective the wars in the Middle East and be consistent when apportioning blame. Hence, when they refer to the ‘Occupation’ in the Middle East they must include the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. When they refer to the ‘Atrocities’ committed in the Middle East they must include the persecution of ethnic Kurds in Turkey, Coptic Christians in Egypt, Orthodox Christians in Syria and Chaldean Christians, Turkmen and Yazidi in Iraq. The various ‘Jihadist’ groupings in the region: GIA in Algeria, Boko Haram in Nigeria, Al Shabab in Somalia, Islamic Jihad in Gaza, Al Qaeda in Yemen, Jabhat Al Nusra in Syria and Islamic State in the Levant – they mostly always start off with almost utopian aspirations but this usually morphs into a murderous endeavour to seize political power.
Historically, governments have intervened in other countries in order to protect their geo-strategic and commercial interests. The UK is a maritime nation whose economic prosperity is very much dependent on foreign trade. A blockade of trade routes and the capture of oilfields in the Middle East by unfriendly groups would force up the price of all goods and services we buy. Muslims immigrate to the UK primarily to improve their economic condition and, therefore, must ask themselves if they are willing to pay this premium as a price of non-intervention because others here are certainly not.
Notwithstanding, the crux of the problem remains the inability of Muslims to reconcile modernity with their interpretation of Islam and an acute absence of credible role models. It is, therefore, imperative that Muslims start to ‘think outside the box’; open themselves to new informed ideas. Recognize that there is far more Islam in the institutions here in the UK than there is in most Muslim countries. After all, their civil liberties are enshrined in English Law; they can make representation for all of their grievances by participating in the democratic processes of this beautiful country.
I implore my fellow British Muslims to appreciate and acknowledge the economic and political opportunities afforded to us by this liberal democracy. We must work toward a common humanity where we are willing to lead by example and not by compulsion in all aspects of our lives. We must also vigorously denounce the subterfuge activities of the bigoted obscurantist fringe groups that espouse an ideology of intolerance and hatred.
This appeal is not an attempt at consigning blame but an endeavour to resolve through engagement and educated debate.
Husein Moloobhoy is the Director of Islamic Thought Research Initiative and a Fellow of the Muslim Institute. This blog is the first in a series of weekly blog posts.