On Sunday 16th September 2001, in the direct aftermath of 9/11, George W Bush was posed a question on the impact of enhanced authorisation given to surveillance agencies on civil liberties. In an unscripted answer, the president responded that “This is a new kind of—a new kind of evil. And we understand. And the American people are beginning to understand. This crusade, this war on terrorism is going to take a while. And the American people must be patient. I’m going to be patient.”
Four days later, on the 20th September, the term “war on terror” was coined by Bush during a televised address to Congress, where he resolutely declared “Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.”
The subsequent two decades has bought mayhem, destruction, and turmoil to all four corners of the world. Nations have been invaded, regimes toppled, civilians killed en masse, and draconian laws enacted. If we examine the timeline and actionswe must conclude that there was only ever one group in the crosshairs of the West, a group now nearly two billion strong, the Ummah of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.
The disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, left the United States as the unipolarity in international relations; the sole superpower who flexed its cultural, economic, and military influence far and wide with the aid of a coalition of fellow minded liberal democracies. However, the demise of the Communist ideology post-Cold war coincided with a boom of Islamic revivalism amongst the Muslim populations, with desires for the deen to be applied as a way of life in all spheres, lifted directly from the Quran and Sunnah, rather than as a religious pastime.
The hammer and sickle of Communism was replaced with the flag of the shahada as the central ideological challenge to the West and their new world order, the new political bogeyman to galvanise against. Numerous political think tanks and government officials started to beat the drums of an impending clash of civilisations.
The first major U.S. government statement on Islam as an ideology was enshrined in the Djerejian doctrine in response to what happened in Algeria and continues ever since:
“We are suspect of those who would use the democratic process to come to power, only to destroy that very process in order to retain power and political dominance… While we believe in the principle of ‘one person, one vote, we do not support ‘one person, one vote, one time.” In other words, an implied approval of the Algerian army in their gruesome actions; and that results can only stand, if it serves our interests, regardless of the principles of democracy they hold dear.
9/11 brought about the supposed “War on Terror”. A war that has only ever seemed to impact the Muslim world and not any other regime or group outside of this fold, even though their actions would constitute as terrorism and barbarity. Why were the atrocities of the Sri Lankan armed forces in the final stages of the civil war against the Tamil Tigers brushed aside with empty sound bites of condemnation? Has any effective military action ever been taken against the Burmese regime in their assaults against various ethnic groups in the country for the last 75 years, regardless of the enormous human toll? How has the dictatorship of the Kim dynasty in North Korea been present now for three generations, where tales of a brutal life and near starvation of the people has never been acted upon in a serious manner as a candidate for regime change, both before and after the regime’s possession of nuclear weapons?
The more apt “War of Islam” has however resulted in the physical occupation of Muslim lands, whether overtly through sending troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, or covertly through the use of military bases, economic incentives and backroom agreements such as with the Assad regime of Syria or of the actions of the Saudi monarchy in Yemen.
The end goal that is deciphered from their actions and comments is that this war is and will always be an attempt by the West to impose their ideology of secular capitalism on the Muslim world, and prevent the political restoration of the Khilafah. The US administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, vowed to block any move to make Islamic law the main source of an interim constitution in 2004,
“Our position is clear, it can’t be law until I sign it.” During a press conference at the White House in October 2006, Bush spoke of a “world in which extremists are trying to intimidate rational people in order to topple moderate governments and to extend the caliphate.” Referring to the American presence in the Middle East, he said, “And they want us to leave. And they want to topple government. They want to extend an ideological caliphate that has no concept of liberty inherent in their beliefs.”
Whilst there is now closure in their nation-building escapade in Afghanistan, we as Muslims should be aware that ultimately it is the ideas that we the Ummah hold, that is the benchmark through which the West measures if they have been successful or not in diverting us away from the deen. The War on Islam has enabled open season for all aspects of Islam to be ridiculed and tarnished; the face and body coverings that our sisters wear to protect their modesty are deemed medieval, the effective punishments laid out in the Shariah are barbaric and for the Middle Ages, and the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, who we hold dear more than anyone else, is but a caricature to be mocked and laughed at.
This war on Islamic ideals has become institutionalised in the West through totalitarian schemes. The British government’s Prevent programme has made it a crime to speak out against the national discourse, made parents fearful of the authorities taking away their children and seeks to divide Muslims into “moderates” and “extremists”. Across the Channel in France, Emmanuel Macron implemented a bill that outlawed face coverings, required parents to seek authorisation to home-school and placed mosques under government oversight.
To conclude, although the last two decades have been in some ways a monumental failure for America and its allies, the Ummah should not sit on its laurels, for the Western Governments will redouble their efforts to stamp out Islam as a way of life.