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  • Writer's pictureSaleem Qamar Butt

What Made Islam Look Associated With Radicalism?

Most of the young Muslims wonder as to how Islam become tagged with extremism and terrorism today, despite the fact that the meaning of word Islam is derived from the Arabic root "Salaam": peace, purity, submission and obedience. In the religious sense, Islam means submission to the will of God and obedience to His law. It is also a fact that regardless of some widespread misconceptions about Islamic Jihad and Christian Holy Wars, from the beginning Muslims were allowed to maintain social interaction with Christian and Jews (people of Holy Books), they could eat together and Muslim men could marry Christian and Jews women; obviously with the ever valid purpose to preserve a healthy degree of self-respect and moral clarity in times ravaged by debilitating moral relativism and historical guilt. The Constitution of Medina (Dustūr al-Madīnah), also known as the Charter of Medina was drawn up on behalf of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) shortly after his arrival at Madina (then known as Yathrib) in 622 AD, following the migration or Hijra from Macca (1 AH). The constitution formed the basis of a multi-religious Islamic state in Madina. The constitution was created to end the bitter inter-tribal fighting between the rival clans of Madina and to maintain peace and co-operation among all groups. The document ensured freedom of religious beliefs and practices for all citizens who "follow the believers". It assured that representatives of all parties, Muslim or non-Muslim, should be present when consultation occurs or in cases of negotiation with foreign states. It declared "a woman will only be given protection with the consent of her family" and imposed a tax system for supporting the community in times of conflict. It declared the role of Medina as a ḥaram (sacred place), where no blood of the peoples included in the pact could be spilled. The Medina Charter, is truly a remarkable political-constitutional document and it was the first written constitution that preceded the American Constitution of 1787, considered by Western authorities as "a landmark document of the Western world.…the oldest written national constitution in operation" by more than a thousand years; it also preceded the English feudal bill of rights, the Magna Carta of 1215, by almost six centuries. Thus interfaith harmony, peaceful co-existence with other religions, common responsibilities and protection of rights of minorities became the bedrock code of an Islamic state and society.

The early Muslim conquests began in the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). His successors conquered large swaths of the Middle East and North Africa, in addition to parts of southern Europe and the Indian subcontinent, in the decades after him. The Caliphate founded by his earliest successors, called the Rashidun caliphate, was succeeded by the Umayyad caliphate and later the Abbasid caliphate. While the caliphates gradually fractured and fell, other Muslim dynasties rose; some of these dynasties grew into "Islamic empires", with some of the most notable being the Safavid, Ottoman, and Mughal Empires. It is an established historical fact that after fall of Muslim empires (mostly through sustained intrigues and partly due to own follies), the urchin colonial powers played havoc with the most prosperous Muslim countries and its Muslim population. The historical phenomenon of colonization is one that stretches around the globe and across time. Modern state global colonialism, or imperialism, began in the 15th century with the "Age of Discovery", led by Portuguese, and then by the Spanish exploration of the Americas, the coasts of Africa, the Middle East, Indian sub-continent and East Asia. During the late 16th and 17th centuries, England, France and the Dutch Republic also established their own overseas empires, in direct competition with each other. The vicious repression, heartless plunders of wealth and maltreatment of Muslims and other locals sowed the seeds of discord, resentment and ultimately gave birth to a number of freedom struggles in almost all colonized countries. The end of the 18th and early 19th century saw the first era of decolonization, when most of the European colonies in the Americas gained their independence from their respective metro-poles. Spain was irreversibly weakened after the loss of their New World colonies, but the Kingdom of Great Britain (uniting Scotland with England and Wales), France, Portugal, and the Dutch turned their attention to the Old World, particularly South Africa, India and South East Asia, where coastal enclaves had already been established. The second industrial revolution, in the 19th century, led to what has been termed the era of New Imperialism, when the pace of colonization rapidly accelerated, the height of which was the Scramble for Africa, in which Belgium, Germany and Italy were also participants. There were conflicts between colonizing states and revolutions from colonized areas shaping areas of control and establishing independent nations. During the 20th century, the colonies of the defeated central powers in World War-I were distributed amongst the victors as mandates, but it was not until the end of World War-II that the second phase of decolonization began in earnest.

The threat of violent Sunni Islamism was essentially non-existent until 1979, when the Iranian Revolution and Afghan jihad became symbols of the potential power of political Islam; the role of America and allies is easily discernible by joining the dots in both cases nevertheless. The overthrow of self installed Shah of Iran who had become non-compliant by clergy’s revolution emanating with return of exiled leader Ayatullah Khomeini from France and simultaneously initiating and in ten years winning the cheapest war in Afghanistan against arch rival erstwhile former Soviet Union through creation of Sunni Jihadists movement courtesy Pakistani Intelligence and Saudi petro dollars, which made America unchallenged global super power with little self involvement is an undeniable historical fact duly acknowledged by Western strategic thinkers and rulers. Ironically, the beloved American White House Jihadist who won the war against Soviets, were abandoned soon after serving the purpose and subsequent to demise of Warsaw Pact threat along with communist and socialist ideology, they became to be termed as Jihadi Taliban; a surrogate threat set in place to collectively decimate the newly envisaged threat on the far horizon, that happened to be old crusade rivals i.e. Muslims. Therefore, since early 90s, the focus re-shifted on regime changes by well known ‘Theories of Economic Hit-man’ by John Perkins, in most Muslim countries possessing economic or military potentials. With that historical perspective in place, it is worth noting that Islam or Muslim never came to be associated with anything called extremism, radicalism or terrorism; however, in retrospect the colonial powers of yester-years and neo-colonial/ occupation cum invading coalitions of today as new crusades by NATO led by USA very well qualify for such titles….Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Kuwait, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Egypt and Algeria are only a few recent examples to quote.

The invention of terms like Jihadist Islam, building of narratives linked with extremism, radicalism and terrorism, creation of proxy threats like Jihadist Taliban, Al-Qa'ida, Islamic State with regional identities are considered magnum opus by Western deep state that helps to generate sub-narratives for enabling pulverization of selected Muslim countries as and when deemed fit by the NATO alliance. Most ironically, despite having been reduced to dust, Muslim countries have fallen in to yet another self destructive trap of division on sectarian lines i.e. Saudi led Sunni and Iran led Shiite blocks… the glee of the arch foe nonetheless. There is a also food for thought for the Western strategic thinkers to reconsider their overused policies and strategies of divide and rule, military and economic exploitation through capitalist systems because the real threat to their own societies and countries come from within now as a backlash as was stated b in Newton’s third law, ‘every action has an equal and opposite reaction’, which will not only crumble them from inside, but may result in a global conflict of unimaginable proportion and irreversible consequences.

17th April, 2019

· Saleem Qamar Butt, SI (M) is a retired senior Army officer with rich experience in Military & Intelligence Diplomacy and is a writer and consultant on geo-strategic analysis for many newspapers, magazines and Pakistan Television Network. (Mail:, Website: )

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