Watching Islam Change
September 30, 2013
I find it difficult to believe that more than a billion Muslims approve of the constant attacks in the name of Islam that kill Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and, yes, Muslims. The attack in a popular Nairobi shopping mall is just the latest example, but we have grown so accustomed to reports of bombings in Iraq, Pakistan, and other nations that we barely take notice of them.
It is entirely likely your grandchildren will watch as Muslims retreat from efforts to impose governments based on the Koran, preferring to separate church and state. Among its more militant members, the wish for a new caliphate to rule the world is awash in blood. Many will decide to embrace another religion.
It’s not widely discussed, but we could be watching the death throes of a religion in decline.
Indeed, it may be even sooner according to a friend who is a longtime observer of Islam and author of several books. “Maybe in the coming 20 years we will see Islam diminished to such an extent that it will become irrelevant. The events happening in the ME only will make Muslims realize Islam is a failed paradigm. Many of them are already coming to realize the root cause of their suffering is Islam.”
The protests that overthrew the dictators of Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt were an expression of people who had grown tired of the oppression their governments imposed. The 1979 revolution in Iran was not based in Islam, but rather a resistance against the Shah who had ruled with an iron hand. All manner of secular and sectarian groups joined together in that revolution, but the radical Islamists took over, as often as not killing and imprisoning those who had aided in the overthrow. In 2009, Iranians in Tehran protested the regime and were ruthlessly resisted by the ayatollahs.
The civil war in Syria was not Islamic, but rather resistance to the two-generation dictatorship of the Assad’s, father and son, and the Alawite minority they represent. It began as a protest by farmers who had lost their farms and whose economic condition had worsened in recent years. To put it down, Bashar al-Assad has employed every brutal means he could. Syria had been a nation where various religions had lived side by side with no conflict. The civil war changed that as al Qaeda sensed an opportunity to seized territory and Assad received aid from the Iranians and from Hezbollah.
The Egyptian revolt against Hosni Mubarak, the longtime dictator and ally of the U.S., was an example of the growing demand of ordinary Muslims to have a government that focuses on improving the economy, justice, and the kind of freedoms they know Americans and others in the West enjoy. When the Muslim Brotherhood won the first election after his overthrow, it took barely a year for the protesters to fill the streets and demand that Mohammed Morsi be deposed by the military.
In Egypt, the army and what passes for a transitional government has cracked down hard on the Muslim Brotherhood and those clerics whom are regarded as a threat. It has outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood and the interim government recently stripped tens of thousands of imams—Muslim clerics—of their license to preach. It only took ten weeks for this to occur. As reported, the government “has moved aggressively to rein in the Islamist sensibilities that allowed Mohammed Morsi to win the country’s first free and fair presidential elections more than a year ago.”
So we have not witnessed the rise of Islam in these nations, but rather the simmering desire for real freedom. In Turkey, where a secular government has existed since the end of World War I when the Ottoman Empire ceased, its current president, a rabid Islamist, is likely to meet a similar end as Morsi as popular discontent with his government is on the rise.
Reza Azlan, an adjunct Senior Fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations, commenting on political Islam in the Middle East, said “I think what these Islamists are starting to learn, across the region, is that you can’t maintain your incorruptible image while also having political power.”
The Muslim Brotherhood, the oldest of the Islamist political organizations, ran into a buzz-saw of resistance in Egypt from ordinary Muslims who, while valuing the role Islam plays in their lives, do not want to live under the harsh dictates of Sharia law. They want it to be separate from the governance of their nations.
As Azlan says, “Success means moderation, failure means irrelevance” noting that “the more these Islamists gain political power, the more fractured they become” and it is fracturing along generational lives with a younger, more connected generation want their nations to be governed in a more democratic fashion as they have seen in the West. Azlan says “it’s the rule of law that will define it.” The medium age in many Middle Eastern nations is around 19 and 20.
What is simultaneously occurring is a struggle for power between the Sunnis and Shiites in the region where the Sunnis are the majority. Iran and Iraq are Shiite, as is Hezbollah and Hamas. The rest are ruled by Sunnis. Iran is seeking to establish “a Shiite crescent” and is being resisted by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States, all allied with the U.S. in some fashion.
The U.S. attempted to intervene following 9/11 (and previously) but this has only led to inconclusive military operations. Under both Bush administrations, the outcome was long wars that Americans came to see as failures. Under the Obama administration, the desire was to withdraw from the region while the President displayed a tilt toward the Muslim Brotherhood.
It does not help that President Obama so obviously favors Islam while, at the same time, is so inept that he clearly has no strategic foreign policy regarding the Middle East. Americans and the rest of the world must wait out the remaining years of his administration. Fortunately, his ability to influence events and outcomes has been diminished.
Islam is changing. It is Muslims in a modern world that are changing it and, as the carnage mounts, will choose to abandon it. The change will involve warfare and bloodshed, but that is usually the way revolutions play out.
Alan Caruba is an American public relations counselor and freelance writer who is a frequent critic of environmentalism, Islam and research on global warming. In the late 1970s Caruba founded the PR firm The Caruba Organization, and in 1990, the National Anxiety Center, which identifies itself as "a clearinghouse for information about 'scare campaigns' designed to influence public policy and opinion" on such subjects as global warming, ozone depletion and DDT.