The Muslim World : Reflections on the Last Decade


by Javed Malik


As the world celebrates the arrival of a new decade starting with year 2010 I find myself reflecting on how turbulent this decade has been for the Muslim World.


It was in this decade that Mr. Bush launched his ‘Crusade’, which became the ‘war on terror’ and targeted at least two Muslim countries — Afghanistan and Iraq — and threatened several others including Iran and Syria.  This decade also saw the Israeli aggression expanding into Lebanon, which caused more destruction.


The Palestinian people continued to suffer throughout this decade and nothing was done to find a resolution to any of the outstanding issues facing the Muslim World, such as the Kashmir issue. Instead, we saw some of the worst human rights violations against the Muslim inmates at Abu Gharaib prison and the controversial Guantanamo Bay detention facility.


The shocking images that came out of these prisons stunned everyone who believes in human rights, and added insult to the injuries of the Muslims around the world.


Europe saw a rise in community tensions between its indigenous and Muslim populations that were sparked either by the Danish cartoons mocking the Prophet of Islam or by a ban preventing women from wearing headscarves in France or more recently a ban on Minarets on Mosques ?by Switzerland.


It was also rather depressing to see that negative stereotyping of Muslims continued to dominate the western media igniting Islamophobia. 


A lot more can be said but in short, for the Muslim World, this decade has been a “Decade of War and ?Misunderstandings.”


It can be said that this was a manifestation of misplaced theories like The Clash of Civilisations, which suggest an inherent conflict between the Muslim & western civilisations. I disagree with such theories because they fuel nothing but conflicts and war.


In my opinion, the events or lessons of the last decade have made the western strategists review their stance because they are now realising that none of these warmongering ideologies have achieved anything for them. In fact, they have made the world much more volatile than before.  An ideology of “clash” leads to nothing but war, and war has nothing to offer but destruction. It is as simple as that.


Perhaps, the US policy makers have also realised that despite their claims of giving freedom to the people of Iraq it did not endear them to the Iraqi people who saw them as nothing more than an occupying army.


We all know how a certain Muntazir Al Zaidi in Iraq welcomed Bush. Maybe it reflected the frustrations of a common man, or maybe it did not.  In either case, it was not a happy ending to ?Bush’s expedition.


However, one thing was clear that gulf of understanding between the Muslim World and the west had become even wider. It was obvious that it could not be overcome by war, the only way forward is dialogue.


It was for this reason that one of the first things President Obama did was to reach out and start a dialogue with the Muslim world through his speech at Cairo University.  He did that because the Nobel Peace Prize winning President Obama understands that this is the only way forward to ensure ?world peace.


He also understands that there are more than 1.3 billion people in this world that call themselves Muslims. That’s one in every five human beings.  Fifty-seven countries in this world have Islam as their official religion, and many others that host sizeable Muslim minorities within them as the second or third largest population group. It is widely acknowledged that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world with many more people turning to Islam than any other faith.


So, in my view the lesson from the events of the last decade is clear and simple, and it makes perfect sense to renew the efforts to “Engage with the Muslim World” rather than antagonising them further. 


The responsibility to reach out to the Muslims world is not for the western leaders alone. Steps have to be taken by the modern intellectual and political leadership on both sides to cultivate a tradition of open exchange between the two major civilisations. Both have to shun the fear of conspiracy theories against each other, and engage with a positive mindset to resolve their misunderstandings. 


Unfortunately, this form of true intellectual dialogue — both at the individual and the government level — has been largely absent, and both the west and the Muslim world are equally to blame for not doing enough to promote it.  It is their collective failure to encourage this tradition of open exchange and discussions that caused a lot of war ?and destruction.


An objective view of the Muslim and western civilisations would tell you that what brings the two civilisations together is far more powerful than what divides them. 


For instance, Muslims and the Christians (the Western World), have the same heritage originating from the same Abrahamic tradition. Both are ‘people of the Book’ with a common monotheistic view of the ?Almighty God.


They share almost identical beliefs about life, and accountability after death, The Day of Judgment, heaven and hell, angels and prophets.   Even their moral code is equally identical in that they both encourage the quest and respect for knowledge, establishment of justice, compassion for the poor through charity, and tolerance of ?other faiths. 


In conclusion, there is a lot more in common between these civilisations than there is in conflict.


This provides us with a perfect starting point for Dialogue. President’s Obama’s speech to the Muslim World at Cairo University was just the beginning of this dialogue, we must ensure that it continues and words are translated?into action. 


In the last decade we have seen so much time, effort and money being spent on various military operations in the ‘war on terror’ but it has caused nothing but destruction and loss of life on all sides.


If the Western leaders in general and United States in particular commit a fraction of this energy, finances and efforts to advancing the dialogue and engagement with the Muslim World and the leaders in the Muslim world also make a sincere effort to become their partners in this dialogue then we can truly start this new year, and with it the new decade with hope and optimism for a peaceful world where people from all cultures, religions and civilisations can peacefully co-exist.


If that were to happen then we can collectively celebrate the new year, because we have the power to make the coming decade “A Decade of ?Peaceful co-existence.”


Javed Malik is a noted television journalist & Executive Director of The World Forum