By Ameer Ali –
President Donald Trump’s executive order to suspend (temporarily) Muslim migrants from selected Muslim majority countries is manna to the Islamist extremists and to the anti-Muslim bigots. On the one hand the stock of suicide bombers and would be martyrs in the Islamist camp will swell further while on the other the anti-Muslim bigots especially in the West will enjoy a fresh infusion of oxygen to their hitherto unpopular mission of destroying mosques and harassing Muslims. Already, the Taliban has warned the Americans in Afghanistan that it is time for them to leave the country, several worshipers at the Islamic Centre in Quebec, Canada, had fallen prey to anti-Muslim violence and a mosque in Texas had been set ablaze. Having strengthened the infantry of extremists by his edict, Trump’s resolve to wipe out ISIS sounds hollow.
It is revealing that Trump has left out in his list the oil rich Gulf countries. Being a business magnate himself one need not be surprised at this omission. Yet, has he forgotten that the majority of the S11 terrorists came from Saudi Arabia? One thing is sure. If the rulers of these rich Muslim nations fail to condemn unreservedly Trump’s anti-Muslim bigotry and decide to remain silent to enjoy favours from his regime, ISIS, Al-Qaida or any of their off-shoots is bound to make their regimes unsustainable. This might as well apply to Egypt and Pakistan.
Unfortunately other Western countries excepting Australia which condemned Trump’s immigration policy will also not be immune to the new wave of anti-American anger of Islamist extremists. At the least the lone-wolf phenomenon will continue and thrive under the Trump-inspired anti-Muslim bigotry. Western governments will be forced to spend more of their scarce resources on security measures to combat domestic terrorism. This would mean fewer resources would be left to allocate for the welfare needs of citizens such as on education, health and support for the retired and vulnerable. The budgetary crisis that has engulfed many of these countries will become even more acute. Cutting public expenditure and reducing tax on the rich would entail less government revenue which will induce the treasury to widen its indirect taxes. Ultimately it is the poor who will suffer and they will be the ones who will come out on the streets to protest and rebel. Populist parties are already there to reap the electoral harvest. Has Trump forgotten ‘Occupy Wall Street’ in the wake of the Arab Spring?
Trump’s populism has already boosted the popularity of ultra-nationalists in Europe. The National Front in France, the UK Independent Party, the Party for Freedom in Netherlands and the Alternative for Germany are all in sympathy with Trump’s anti-immigration policy. In Australia too political populism is spreading via the One Nation Party. Pauline Hanson’s call for a freeze on Muslim migrants is nothing but an open endorsement of Trump’s anti-Muslim bigotry. The far right within the current liberal government is also supporting that.
How can the world respond to the new challenges? For a long time world leaders have conveniently ignored addressing the real issues that produced terrorism in the first place. Neither the United Nations nor any other international forum of world leaders has openly discussed the fundamental grievances of the Muslims. Yet, all these leaders at different levels and in different forms have participated in a War on Terrorism which is continuing to drain precious resources with no end in sight. Of course this war has benefitted the military industry but at the expense of other economic sectors. The human cost of this war is immeasurable. The world refugee problem which preceded the Syrian crisis which only accentuated it is also a consequence of this war. Trump’s remedy is extremely short sighted. Isn’t it time to face the real issues head on? It was Noam Chomsky, the greatest Jewish intellectual of our time, who said that one cannot eradicate mosquitoes unless one cleans up the swamps. Will the world leaders listen to him at least now?
At the same time, how can the world Muslims themselves who are at the receiving end of this tragedy respond to this crisis? To start with, their leaders and particularly the imams who have monopolised the pulpit for over a millennium must rethink the way they have retailed Islam to the masses. There is something obviously wrong in the way these religious salesmen have marketed Islam to the young, the educated and the disgruntled. Otherwise why do these disaffected disciples of Islam use religion to justify their violence? What does it mean to call ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is Great) when beheading an innocent? How can anyone in his or her right mind believe that Islam is a religion of peace when one witnesses the blood-thirsty savagery and horror of ISIS, Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Boko Haram and several others that glorify indiscriminate violence and authenticate it with verses from the Quran? It is no use repeating the hackneyed answer that these groups do not represent Islam because several of their leaders and foot soldiers have attended the same educational institutions and studied the same curriculum as the imams, and secondly their messages are captivating the Muslim youth more than the weekly sermons of the imams.
Clearly, the way Islam was retailed to the previous generations has become unsuitable to the current and future generations. Either the quality of the product should be improved or the salesmen need fresh training or both. This is the challenge that the Muslim community itself has to face and there is hardly any time to postpone facing it.
Dr. Ameer Ali, School of Business and Governance, Murdoch University, Western Australia
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