November 22nd, 2017

Response to this question on Quora 

On reflection my first reaction was that 8000 years ago on the lands of Tigress and Euphrates the foundations of our civilization were laid.

My second reaction is, after having spoken in the past with elderly men or women in different Muslim Societies, looking at drawing and paintings, one can conclude these Societies were a century ago secular and very moderate.

That leads to the conclusion that like in every main religion, fundamentalism has erupted as a rebellion against 20th 21st century modernity. As Karen Armstrong noted:

Every fundamentalist movement I have studied in Judaism, Christianity and Islam is convinced that liberal, secular society is determined to wipe out religion. Fighting as they imagine, a battle for survival, fundamentalists often feel justified in ignoring the more compassionate principals of their faith. But in amplifying the more aggressive passages that exist in all our scriptures they distort the tradition.”

The vast majority of Muslims are horrified by the atrocities by those who have violently hijacked Islam for their own purposes and they must reclaim it.

In all of this, we in the West tend to forget that Islam, next to being a religion, is one of the greatest cultures on earth which has enriched us and the people of Mesopotamia contributed greatly to our present day civilization. They were the first who mastered the wheel, used the wind for their sailing boats and developed the concepts of number and weights further. These early advancements in science and culture laid the foundation for European Renaissance, Enlightenment and our modern Western Society.

In the golden age of Islam, traditionally dated from the mid-8th to the mid 13th century A.D. but lately extended to the 15th and 16th century A.D., leaders from Mohammed (570-632 A.D.) to Suleiman the Magnificent (1494-1566) contributed greatly to the advancement of humanity, they championed religious tolerance and encouraged intellectual development and sponsored artistic, architectural and literacy works which are beyond brilliant.

Scholars like Ibn Al-Haytham, Ibn Sina, Al-Tusi, AL-Kwarizmi and Omar Khayyam contributed greatly to Mathematics, Civil Engineering, Astronomy, Law and Medicine, which would not have existed today in their present form without the contribution of Muslim scholars. They paved the way for Newton and Copernicus.

Beautiful music was composed and great poetry was written, while it developed some of the earliest social structures, including large public hospitals and the first universities. Babylon’s power fluctuated over time but it retained its influence as a cultural, religious and political center for over 4000 years.

Looking at our modern 21st Society, we cannot avoid the conclusion that we in the West have greatly contributed to the changes in Islam like we have done everywhere in the World and have influenced and changed its social face.

The decolonization of Northern Africa and the Middle East played a role, but with this came further destabilization of the region, National militants, a destructive Marxist ideology and ultimately these developments led to links and inclusion into the World capitalist systems.

British and American foreign policy based on American primacy has also played a major role in the destabilization of the Arab peninsula, as did Arab Nationalism during the last seventy years.

The US strategy of “regime change” found its first victim in Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddegh during the CIA coup of 1953 in Iran which restored to power the Shah Pahlavi, which is still a highly resented step which ultimately led to the 1979 Revolution and the return of Ayatollah Khomeini, which effects are still is felt today.

In all of this the Palestinian question still plays a major role which made for war and oppressive conservatism. Israel intransigence, the occupied territories, the war crimes continues to give the most extreme elements the advantage.

How Lebanon was destroyed was the result of the whole dynamics.

US support for Iran during the Iran/Iraq war was ill advised, as was the support for the House of Saud and Wahhabism in general, this fundamentalist and radical ultra conservative movement which was employed, financed and armed in the 1980’s , during the Russian/Afghanistan 1979-1989 proxy war, like Osama bin Laden was.

Additional “regime-change” wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya have all played a significant role in creating the present extremist environment of which Islam Society is as much victimized as Western Society is.

The conclusion can only be that unless we take away the reasons for Al Qaida, ISIS and other extremist group, new terrorist Groups will replace the old ones.

William J J Houtzager

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