- Islamic radicalism and the geopolitical chess match during which it was seeded
In November 2016, Donald Trump won the election for American Presidency under the slogan, ‘Make America Great Again’.
This is a reference to a time period when ‘political correctness’ had not yet tainted American social politics; where black people, for instance, were forced to use separate water fountains without anyone objecting to its injustice.
Ironically enough, this is also a reference to a time period when radical Islamists were America’s closest allies, and best bet against the seemingly unstoppable tide of communism. When Islamophobic Republicans reminisce about a greater America that smelled of apple pie and plentiful diner food, they tend to leave out the detail that this American dream was owed to West-sponsored Muslims with rifles and beards, fighting ‘commies’ on their behalf.
In 1993, an international newspaper – ‘The Independent’ – published a picture of a beaming Osama bin Laden with the headline, “Anti-Soviet warrior puts his army on the road to peace”. The article romanticised Osama as “mountain warrior of mujahideen legend”, and commended his effort towards defeating the communist threat. “He’s a shy man”, the article states.
I imagine the inconvenience when the shy US-approved warrior traveling the road to peace, took an unexpected detour through New York in 2001.
The West saw radical Islam as useful while it was aimed squarely at the communists, and actively armed and supported these radicals. The West utilised its influence over Saudi Arabia, to make it happen
Western journalists have a tendency to infantilise Pakistan and India; treating the two states as hormonal, irrational, religiously-charged, and most worryingly, nuclear-powered adolescents choosing mutually-assured destruction over peaceful coexistence. ‘Why is Pakistan so obsessed with India?’, is the subtext of most op-eds authored by Western analysts.
How many of these analysts have treated with the same condescension the paranoid screeching of Senator McCarthy and his allies, in the land of the free? Would they direct the same insolence at the interminable red-baiting now popular among liberal Democrats, insinuating (if not outright stating) that the American president is an undercover Russian agent? “Why is America so obsessed with Russia?” is what these analysts have never inquired. Not now, not ever.
The history of Western ‘containment’ policy is the story of an infantile, ego-driven empire that would rather snap a toy (or country) in half than let a commie play with it. This is truer than you may think.
Pakistan came to being for numerous reasons, but the British interest in Indian partition had little to do with Muslim welfare. Declassified British documents suggest that Churchill feared a united India would be susceptible to communist influence (Gandhi and Nehru both had strong socialist leanings), and they envisioned Pakistan as not a fortress of Islam, but a West-backed chowkidar against Soviet advances.
In 1944, British soldiers open-fired on a crowd of unarmed Greek civilians, to subdue the Greek left-wing resistance force that was thought to be under communist influence. This pre-emptive strike is particularly heinous, when one notices that these civilians were staunchly anti-fascist and had actively support Great Britain against Nazi Germany. Political analysts suspect this violent suppression of anti-fascist left by the Churchill regime, to be at least partly responsible for the present-day ultra-right movement sweeping the country.
Brutalities such as these – and the conventional knowledge of the American role in arming religious radicals in Afghanistan – make the Saudi monarch’s recent revelation entirely unsurprising. Mohammad bin Salman admitted in an interview to The Washington Post that Saudi Arabia rigorously supported Wahabbism at the West’s own request, to prevent the Soviet union for making inroads into the Muslim world.
It’s been clear throughout history that there is nothing that the Western powers won’t do to save the world from the dangerous ideology of food, clothing, and shelter for all. There is no moral barrier that won’t be breached to keep the immoral communists from “influencing” the global south – the workhorse of the developed world.
At the same time, it’s equally baffling to see the Islamist turning against the Western world – a world which owes its unipolar privileges to Islamist interventions during the Cold War. It is ironic – yet strangely satisfying – to see moulvi sahib condemning from the minaret of his mosque, the very architect of his ideology and the indirect sponsor of his madrassa.
The West saw radical Islam as useful while it was aimed squarely at the communists, and actively armed and supported these radicals. The West utilised its influence over Saudi Arabia, to make it happen. This is not a conspiracy theory. This is history, straight from the horse’s mouth.
Yet this is the part that modern-day West’s de-radicalisation and counter-terrorist think tanks pretend not to know. They attribute this malady to something inherently violent within Islamic culture, which “moderate Muslims” are responsible for condemning and reforming. Even worse are racist whispers of something genetically wrong with Arabs and South Asians, which makes them prone to violent interpretations of religious text.
Islamic radicalism cannot be countered without an honest examination of the geopolitical chess match during which it was seeded. We cannot defeat Islamist terrorism while focusing on the man with a gun, and ignoring the network of international political forces that arm, finance, and support him. That, we now know for certain.