The calamities of cultural and ideological occupation
Dr. Firoz Mahboob Kamal
The infrastructure of continual occupation
The west’s military occupation of the Muslim world has formally ended. But the cultural and ideological occupation still exists. In former colonies, the imperialist armies may not be visible in uniforms, but their soldiers –both the natives and the westerners, are still present in thousands to promote their ideas, culture, values, education, politics, and commerce. They work in both the civil and the military establishments of the former colonies. So, with the formal departure of the imperialists, their way of thinking, living, eating, drinking, dressing, and politics did not die out, rather flourished. In such a cultural and ideological milieu, the Westerners enjoy a huge asymmetrical advantage in the Muslim lands. As fish freely swim in the water, they too, freely roam in these former colonies.
Such cultural and ideological occupation has proved to be very cost-effective for the imperialists; it has reduced the cost of further military occupation. Therefore, to perpetuate the occupation, it has been the strategic aim of the colonialists to build cultural and ideological armies, as well as culture-friendly civil and military infrastructure long before the formal departure from the colonies. What the British and the French did in their former colonies, the USA tries to do the same in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, and many other Muslim countries. Because of ideological and cultural compatibility, in those Muslim lands, the Westerners are not considered alien, rather taken as sociable friends. Whereas in the same Muslim countries, due to heavy intoxication with the Western ideologies and culture, the Islamists with the prophetic format of beliefs that entails Islamic khilafah, sharia, hudud, jihad, and trans-ethnic pan-Islamic Muslim unity are looked down as incompatible strangers. Therefore, the practitioners of the untainted Qur’anic Islam face tremendous disadvantages and state-sponsored enmity in their own homelands. In many countries, the Islamists find their places in prisons. They are labelled as terrorists -as an easy pretext for bloody persecution.
The cultural cum ideological occupation never comes alone. It also brings cultural as well as ideological conversion and prepares the ground for long-term political, cultural, and economic slavery. The religious conversion makes the prophets and the heroes of that adapted religion highly respectable to the new converts. Middle Eastern Jesus thus got acceptance as a god in the West among the Christian converts. Likewise, with the cultural conversion, the heroes and the icons of the imperialists became the political and cultural prophets of the converts. As a result of iconoclastic endeavours of the occupying powers, even in Muslim lands, the great Muslim heroes finds their place only in the graveyards. These Muslim heroes are not even mentioned in the text books, let alone teaching their thoughts. Not only the western thoughts and beliefs, but also their cultural products like their dress, stories, history, sports, cinemas, even dolls, and toys get huge market in the occupied Muslim lands. To make the situation much worse, the greatest catastrophic fall-out of the cultural and ideological occupation lies elsewhere. Like AIDS in the human body, the long unIslamic occupation of the western imperialists killed the ideological immunity of the Muslims. As a result, de-Islamisation cum detachment from Islamic vision and ideology could go much deeper. Not only it destroyed the power of resistance against any military and cultural aggression of the enemies but also inspired people to welcome them in their midst. Hence, the US army found welcoming friends in Kabul in 2001 and Baghdad in 2003. In 1971, the Indian Army, too, found their friends in Dhaka. And in 2001, the Pakistan government opened its land and air space for the USA to bomb Afghanistan. In Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar, and in many other Muslim countries, the same lovers of the west gave sanctity to the USA army in their midst and now beg their continued presence. Under such occupation, the whole country works as a cultural industry. And the people appear as cultural products.
The USA and her allies want to preserve the occupation at any cost. The USA has built about 800 military bases all over the world to give sustenance to their worldwide dominance and exploitation. This way they want to protect their colonial legacy. The creation of Israel, the division of the Middle East into 22 pieces, the occupation of the resource-rich Arab lands, the installation of the USA and the NATO forces in the heart of the Muslim World are indeed the key elements of the so-called world order. It is indeed the imperialist world order in their interest. Such a defensive and offensive military infrastructure are crucial for the exploitation of oil, gas, and other geopolitical and economic potentials of Muslims. It is also vital to keep the Muslim World under the continuous subjugation.
To give sustenance to such an exploitative occupation and to grant legality to all military aggressions that are needed to meet their geopolitical interests, the leading colonial countries of the past formed a formal statutory body called the UN with the full control in their own hands. To keep the majority member states of the UN deprived of any influence in the decision-making, democracy has been officially banned in this world body. The UN itself has been made hostage in the hands of five big nuclear powers; thus stands dispossessed of the moral power to condemn even the most horrendous crimes on earth! So the brutal occupation of Palestine, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and the massacre of millions in those countries by the occupiers went unabated and unpunished, let alone stop it. Not a single man was brought to justice for killing more than a million in the occupied countries. Such crimes of the big powers were not only overlooked, but also given official legality –as was the case of the US occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq. And in May 2021, the UN even failed to condemn the wholesale destruction of Gaza by the Israeli Army.
The cultural empire
The west’s colonial empire has collapsed. But its cultural empire has thrived. And it owes its soft power. Unlike the geographical frontiers, its cultural and ideological frontiers do not end at national borders. They have taken it into the heartland of most of the non-Western countries. The Muslim countries are no exception. Indeed, the concept of the global village and global culture was invented only to justify such a borderless cultural empire of the imperialists. The USA and its NATO alliance want to give sustenance to such an empire at any cost. Former US President Barack Obama’s war of ideas in fact revealed such a determination. The Western imperialists understand that the major challenge to their dominance will not come from any military power, rather from an ideological cum cultural power. After the demise of the Soviet Union and its communism, it is the most dominant view in the academic as well as in the defence circles of the west that such a challenge will come only from Islam. China or India may emerge as big economic or military power, but have little to offer ideologically or culturally. Apart from some songs, folklores, dance shows, sitar music, and film entertainment, what cultural challenge India can present against the west? Do they have any ideological force that can galvanize people towards establishing any superior social order? They have their own huge ideological voids. To fill in those voids, the Indians and the Chinese are moving fast towards western economic, cultural, and political paradigms. The defeat of the Soviet Socialist Union in Afghanistan and its collapse in the immediate aftermath in fact owes to the ideological and cultural force of Islam. Islam offers the same challenge to the capitalists. And the west didn’t miss the message.
During the Soviet era, NATO’s cold war was mostly against the Soviet bloc. Now it is mostly against Islam and the Islamists. The other nations of the world may have some political or economic conflicts of interest with the west, but they have no ideological or cultural quarrel. Hence, a Chinese, an Indian, a Russian, or a Japanese can easily meltdown in the socio-cultural melting pot of western societies. Their religions or ideologies do not stand as a barrier. Apart from some spiritual rituals, these religions do not delineate any formidable codes of conduct for their economic, cultural, judicial, or political practices. Hence they can take any diversions in those areas. They can share any food, drink or dress with the westerners.
Since Islam is a complete code of life, it does not give such a free option. A Muslim has to comply with the Islamic prescription in every aspect of life. Hence, unlike followers of other faiths, the Muslims stand distinctly different in a non-Muslim country. They appear in every field of life with the visible markers of religious, cultural, ideological, and political identity. But such distinctive visibility of millions of Muslims in Europe and America has not been positively appreciated in the west. Instead, such peaceful presence of the Muslims has turned them markedly Islamophobic and unwelcoming. Even a head scraf of a Muslim girl looks toxic to them. To them, London appears as “Londonistan” and England as a “de fact Muslim country” –as mentioned in the British press. For the same reason, Muslims face regular riots of annihilation at the hands of Hindutva forces in India. These are the symptoms of the ongoing cultural war.
The cultural imperialists of the west can’t perceive that any of the non-western ideas, cultures, or values should challenge their own idea, culture, and values. They perceive it as an attack on their pride and cultural heritage. They think, whatever they possess in the field of ideas, culture and values are unbeatable. Such a self-worshipping belief is indeed the basis of the western arrogance that has led them to genocide and ethnic cleansing in America, Australia, New Zealand, and many other countries. This is why they envisage that the global village must have a singular brand of culture, ideas, and values, and that must be the western one. The USA and its NATO alliance built huge armies not only to protect their political and economic interests but also to protect their cultural and ideological interests. Hence, they drop bombs not only on arms depots and war fields but also on madrasas, academic institutions, and houses. They kill not only the armed jihadists but also the unarmed scholars. They confiscate books and close the internet sites. The western powers are ready to tolerate the practice of Islam only within the confines of mosques or prayer mats, but not in political, judicial, cultural, and educational premises. Now they claim that the Islamic penal code, the law of inheritance, gender segregation, and even dress code go against basic human rights, hence suggest inviting the UN watchdogs into such premises to interfere.
The Western colonial power also tried to alter the demographic specifics of the Muslim lands. They did it to serve their own strategic interest and to weaken the Muslims. They implanted millions of Jews in Palestine and many millions of Chinese in Malaysia. Thus they sowed the seed of continuous instability in the Muslim heartlands. But the colonization of Muslims’ minds and intellect with western ideas was much more massive and worse. In fact, with the recent resurgence of Islam, such a project has received more importance. The Islamophobic propaganda and slander against Islam and its Prophet (peace be upon him) have attained a new dimension. They now keep close monitoring of the educational systems, school textbooks, and academic curriculum of almost every Muslim country. They have already forced many countries to restrict the teachings of the Holy Qur’an in schools and colleges. The US ambassadors in countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan have started visiting religious madrasas. The books on Jihad are now being confiscated by the police. The mosques and religious institutions are also brought under close surveillance. However, the imperialists do not need to do such surveillance on their own. In almost every Muslim country, they have enough foot soldiers and watchdogs to do the job. They are only giving the orders; the native cultural and ideological converts are doing the rest.
Defending the cultural identity, ideas, and values of each person is a big issue in the west. They want to eat, drink and dress as they wish. They want to enjoy their lifestyle wherever they go. Thousands of freedom-loving Muslims can be killed in the streets of Cairo, Dhaka, Syria, Kashmir, or any other part of the world, but that is not a big issue for them. They are ready to do the business as usual with the brutal killers, thieves, and human rights violators if they fall in their political and ideological line. So Shaikh Hasina of Bangladesh, General Sisi of Egypt, and Basher of Syria are not their enemy. They are not even ready to condemn their well-documented brutal atrocities. The main focus of their foreign policy lies elsewhere. They want to make the planet safe only for their own citizens. It is the key issue in their foreign policy that every US citizen and citizen of NATO countries must have the full safety to enjoy their freedom in every nook and corner of the planet. And in the Middle East, it is the security of Israel and its citizens. They call it basic human rights. They expect that their nudity on beaches, vulgarity in clubs or pubs, and indecent attire in any street must be protected even in Muslim cities. Even they wish that their killer machines -like their missiles and drones – should have the right to kill whoever they like to kill. No one should have the right to arrest and prosecute them. In January 2011, Raymond Davis – a CIA agent killed two innocent Pakistani citizens in Lahore. He was duly arrested by the police. But the Pakistani judiciary couldn’t put him in the dock, let alone prosecute him. The arrest of Raymond Davis raised a huge hue and cry in the US administration. In the end, the Pakistani government had to let him go free and drop the murder charges. On the other hand, if a Pakistani had killed a US citizen in Lahore, he would have been taken to USA soil to face the trial. Such asymmetry is indeed a naked display of global imperialism.
On the human rights issue, the western hypocrisy runs much deeper. They are not ready to give the Muslims even the basic rights for practicing their obligatory religious beliefs -even in the most decent way. In France, in the name of defending the state’s secular values, serving pork on the dining table of Muslim students has been justified. On the other hand, the Muslim students are denied the obligatory halal food on the ground that Islam has no right to enter into the public place of eating. Whereas anti-Muslim arrogance was given free access onto the very personal space of the Muslims, so their dining table gets pork. To support such anti-Muslim bias, the French ultranationalist leader Marine Le Pen -the head of the Front National party announced the same anti-Islamic rhetoric with much venom. She declared, “There is no reason for religion to enter the public sphere.” It is significant to note that Marine Le Pen is not a social or political outcast. She has a recent upsurge in her popularity. Her party has won the local council election in many cities. So she is not alone with such anti-Muslim venom. She has recently revealed her determination to make Muslim life much difficult in France. She has declared, in Front National party-controlled cities, the school cafeteria will not have any non-pork alternative.-(The Guardian, 15/04/2014). The French parliament has already made wearing a headscarf a punishable offense in schools and public places. With the new surge of ultranationalists, it can be easily assumed that many more anti-Islamic rules are on the way.
It is no more secret that an anti-Muslim bias is a predominant element of Europe’s secular politics. The creation of Israel in Islam’s heartland by the west and the unquestionable support for all of her war crimes are indeed the eye-catching signs of such bias. In such an anti-Islamic milieu, it is not easy to get planning permission for a mosque in any European city. In Oxford, the city council did not give permission for a mosque with a beautiful dome and minaret for many years, on the grounds that it would alter the city’s traditional Christian architectural history. Hence, with the growth of the Muslim population, overcrowding of the mosques in Europe has become a regular feature, especially at Friday prayers. The jummah congregation thus causes huge spill-over into the neighboring streets. This causes another incitement to the anti-Islamic ultranationalists. Le Pen described the Muslims praying in the streets as comparable to the Nazi occupation of France and threatened with prosecution. (The Guardian, 15/04/2014).
In many European countries, animal rights get more preference to Muslims’ basic human cum religious rights. So, in many states, the halal way of slaughtering has been banned. War is being launched against Islamic practice in the name of protecting the national culture and values. Pork has come to the forefront as a weapon for such an anti-Islamic fight. Pork heads are thrown into mosques or hanged with the mosque doors. In Denmark, the supply of halal meat in the kindergarten and nurseries was labelled as discrimination against Danish traditional pork meatballs culture, hence stopped in the name of protecting pork meatballs. Recently in the UK, there was a huge hue and cry against Muslims’ cultural practice in some government schools. In some Muslim dominant pockets of Birmingham, the Muslim governors of the state schools stopped sex education and introduced boys and girls segregation. The British press and the education authority were infuriated with such measures -as if “The UK has become de facto a Muslim country”. (The Guardian, 15/4/2014). Such minor changes were labelled as Muslims’ conspiracy to teach Islamic fundamentalism –hence a threat to British society. This way they preserve their zero-tolerance against Islamic practices and launch a war against Islam. But if the Muslims show their zero tolerance in their own countries against infidel practices in clubs, pubs, brothel houses, casinos, cinema halls, theatres, banks, and beaches, what will be their reaction? Does Islam allow bringing such major sins and infidelity to public places? 20/4/2014