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Reasons Behind Muslim Anger Towards The West – Analysis


In the last year or so, many countries, either within coalitions, or on a solitary basis have been striking at ISIS where it is supposed to be based. An American strike, even, blasted their money hideout and apparently starved them of the much-needed cash for their world operations.

But, the truth of the matter is that the more you hit ISIS, the stronger it becomes and the more lethal and dangerous it gets. So, what is the secret of its strength that world security forces and world intelligence community are unable to understand, up to now?

First and foremost, it must be said that ISIS is a religious school of thought that preaches the return to the glorious past of Islam: the unified religious “commandership of the faithful” imarat al mu’minin that is itself the foundation of the concept of ummah “nation of Islam,” stretching around the globe among all Muslims irrespective of their color, culture or creed.

Islamic State's Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Photo by Al-Furqān Media, official media arm of Islamic State terrorist group.
Islamic State’s Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Photo by Al-Furqān Media, official media arm of Islamic State terrorist group.

The dismemberment of the ummah into countries is, according to the traditionalists, a ploy used by the enemies of Islam to weaken its resolve.

A proof of that is that when Islam was represented by the Caliphate system of government, it ruled the world from Spain to China, between the 8th and the 16th century: the Golden Age.

For ISIS, the West is responsible for the demise of Islam, since the fall of Grenada in 1492. After the Reconquista, the European nations became more aggressive vis-à-vis Muslim countries: Spain and Portugal attacked the Maghreb to deter any future design on its part to re-conquer the Iberian Peninsula and reestablish the lost al-andalus.

However, the question that comes to mind right away is: what is the difference between ISIS and al-Qaeda, both nebulous violent organizations bearing in mind that ISIS has a fixed address, the proto-state of ISIL whereas al-Qaeda is to be found everywhere and nowhere?

Al-Qaeda, from the word go wanted to rid the Muslim world from the corrupting influence of the “Crusaders” salibiyun i.e. the Christian West, and, then, set up the unifying system of governance: Caliphate khilafa that will bring the whole Muslim world under the banner of Islam or rather al-Qaeda.

As for ISIS, it founded the Caliphate from the start, called all Muslims to show allegiance to the self-declared Caliph al-Baghdadi and set about to fight the West afterwards, with the ultimate goal to unify Muslims. This is argued quite clearly by Bruce Hoffman:i

“Their dispute, however, seems to be predicated mostly on timing and process. In a nutshell, Zawahiri still argues that the far enemy has to be eliminated and Muslim lands completely cleansed of Western and other corrupt local influences before the caliphate can be established. Baghdadi, as the events of June 2014 showed, saw no reason to wait and instead took the offensive by attacking near enemies both in Syria and Iraq and declaring himself caliph.”

The West Continuous Drive To Emasculate Islam

Islam, since its inception, was always seen in a bad light by the Christian world that aimed incessantly to annihilate its faith and civilization through seemingly different blows of great intensity and dire consequences and multiple plots.

The West’s emasculation of the Muslim world has manifested itself through history in the following aspects, according to traditionalists:

1: The Crusades

East Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
East Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

The Muslims consider that the Christian world rather than been thankful to the Muslim world for bringing civilization to Europe through the conquest of Spain in 711.

A Andalusian civilization that gave birth to such great thinkers as Averroes (1126-1198) and Maimonides (1135-1204), etc. and was the precursor of the European Renaissance (14th-17th) which is the bridge between the Middle Ages and Early Modern Age, the Christian Europe launched humiliating crusades from 1096 to 1487, sanctioned by various Popes. For some thinkers like the two brothers, former Muslims converted to Christianity, Ergun Mehmet Caner and Emir Fethi Caner, the Crusades are a form of “Christian Jihad”.ii

On the other hand, many historians today see the Crusades as the Christian religious sanctification of Western mercantilism and dispossession by the means of violence:iii

“Historians have viewed the Crusades as a mixture of benefits and horrors. Onone hand, there was a new knowledge of the East and the possibilities of trade to be found there, not to mention the spread of Christianity. On the other hand, Christianity was spread in a violent, militaristic manner, and the result was that new areas of possible trade turned into new areas of conquest and bloodshed. A number of non-Christians lost their lives to Christian armies in this era, and this trend would continue in the inquisitions of the coming centuries.”

Saladin, the great Muslim leader (1138-1193) turned against the Crusaders, decisively defeating them at the battle of Hattin on July 4, 1187. The victory at Hattin was followed by the easy re-conquest of various Crusader’s lands and towns, above all the holy city of Jerusalem, which had been in Christian hands for 88 years. Saladin waited to take possession of the city until October 2, 1187, because the date corresponded with the anniversary of the Prophet’s miraculous ascension to heaven, according to the Muslim calendar.

A medieval image of Peter the Hermit leading knights, soldiers, and women toward Jerusalem during the First Crusade
A medieval image of Peter the Hermit leading knights, soldiers, and women toward Jerusalem during the First Crusade

In contrast to the Crusaders’ bloodbath when they had taken Jerusalem, Saladin acted with great magnanimity towards the Christian and Jewish residents. He forced the Franks to retreat to the coast of Syria and Palestine. In 1192 he signed a truce with Richard the Lionhearted. A recent Western movie entitled the “Kingdom of Heaven,” recognized his magnanimity and paid tribute to his qualities of tolerance and acceptance of the other.iv

2: Colonialism

For the Muslims, the West has, since the end of the Islamic Golden Age (8th-16th), been at work trying to diminish the Islamic civilization, to lead the world. Probably, the best illustration of that is the Scramble for Africav (1880-1914) known also as New Imperialism, which was the invasion, occupation, division, colonization and annexation of African territory by European powers.

A possible portrait of Saladin, found in a work by Ismail al-Jazari, circa 1185
A possible portrait of Saladin, found in a work by Ismail al-Jazari, circa 1185

Muslim Sub-Saharan Africa was literally emasculated: missionaries converted the population to Christianity by financial persuasion or sheer force, colonial powers destroyed Koranic schools, outlawed Arabic language and the use of Ajamivi scriptvii and tried to curtail the Islamic faith by putting constraints on the religious Sufi lodges of the Tidjanes.viii

3: Dissolution Of The Ottoman Caliphate

The second manifestation of the enmity of the West towards Islam was during WWI (1914-1918), when the Allied Forces, after winning the war against the Central Powers of which the Ottoman Empire was part, decided to liquidate this Islamic empire which was, indeed, the last Caliphate. For The Muslims, the fall of this empire is attributed to the greed of the West to control the world, but in reality the problems of this empire began back in the 19th century.ix

Suleiman the Magnificent in a portrait attributed to Titian c.1530.
Suleiman the Magnificent in a portrait attributed to Titian c.1530.

Indeed, the period of defeat and dissolution of the Ottoman Empire (1908-1922) began with the Second Constitutional Era (1908-1920) with the Young Turk Revolution. The Allies dictated the terms of the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire with the Treaty of Sèvres (August 10, 1920), which was supposed to be the treaty of peace between the Allied Powers and the Ottoman Empire, but in reality it was the “surrender” of the Ottomans. Soon after, in October 29, 1922 Kamal Attaturk, a Turkish officer proclaimed The Turkish Republic, modern and Secular putting an end, with the blessing of the West, to the Caliphate.

4: The Loss Of Palestine

On November 2, 1917, the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour wrote a letter to Walter Rothschild, 2nd Baron Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community, for transmission to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland, promising to set up a homeland for the Jews in Palestine, it became known as the Balfour Declaration:x

“His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

Since then, Britain and the Western countries have been nurturing, supporting and arming the Jewish state in its continuous aggression against the Palestinian rights and the Arab World. In 1948, the United Nations partitioned Palestine into Palestinian and Jewish states. The same year Israel declared its “independence” and has been, since, denying the Palestinians an independent state of their own on the grounds that such a state will represent a threat to the former’s existence.

However, since, Israel emboldened by American and European support has waged, on a regular basis, wars on many Middle Eastern countries and in the last two decades on Hamas in Gaza.

Portrait of Lord Balfour, along with his famous declaration. Source: Wikipedia Commons
Portrait of Lord Balfour, along with his famous declaration. Source: Wikipedia Commons

For several decades, the Palestinians have been suffering either in the strip of Gaza or the West Bank, that are no more than open sky prisons, or in the various countries where they live as expatriates, and the Western world has been unable or unwilling to solve, once for all, their predicament.

For many Muslims, the US and Europe are hypocritical when it comes to solving the Palestinian conflict, they continue to bolster Israel’s aggressive military potential while making empty promises to the Palestinians, who continue to suffer under inhuman conditions. So, Palestinians not only do not have the right for self-determination, but are not allowed, either, to acquire the means to combat for their independence. The only thing they are allowed is to wait and suffer interminably in open sky territorial prisons.

For Muslims, this negative attitude towards the conflict is meant to keep the Muslim world weak and on its knees. Israel is an implant or rather an aircraft carrier meant to serve the purpose of the West in the region: control the source of oil and its flow routes.

5: The Gulf Wars

Many Muslims believe that the United States and the West provoked the First Gulf War to topple Saddam and destroy Iraq, which was a permanent threat to Israel’s existence and, also, a threat to America and its friends and interests in the region. Apparently, the American Ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, ensnared megalomaniac Saddam to invade Kuwait, by making the following statement, reported by The New York Times:xi

“But we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait. I was in the American Embassy in Kuwait during the late 1960s. The instruction we had during this period was that we should express no opinion on this issue and that the issue is not associated with America. James Baker has directed our official spokesmen to emphasize this instruction. We hope you can solve this problem using any suitable methods via Klibi (Chedli Klibi, Secretary General of the Arab League) or via President Mubarak. All that we hope is that these issues are solved quickly.”

Such a statement was taken on its face value by the Iraqi leadership as an “invitation” to deal with Kuwait as they see it fit. Having always considered Kuwait as part of Iraq and lured by its wealth and riches, Saddam gave the order to his army for the ill-fated invasion that will herald the beginning of his end.

Though most Muslims do not agree with his secular drive, yet they consider him as a “hero” of the Islamic cause on the grounds that his overall aim was to unite the Arab world and sow the seed for the much-desired “ummah” that will later be extended to the rest of the Muslim world. However, the “planned” downfall of Saddam led to the disintegration of the Arab world into ethnic entities, a dream nurtured, for a long time, by the arch enemy of Islam, Israel.

6: Support To Pro-American Undemocratic And Patriarchal Regimes

For Muslims, America has always been a major player, since independence, in the politics of the region, a true kingmaker. America nurtured many lackey governments that defended its economic interests and political stakes in the region at the expense of the under-privileged in the area. As such, the poor in non-oil-rich countries got poorer and the rich richer.

Most of these regimes being tribal and patriarchal encouraged corruption, nepotism and embezzlement to stay in power and also co-opted their critics and opposers and created a political system made of parties and politicians in their pay. So, people either had to stoop and play the game or face death and imprisonment.

Reactive behavior Of Muslims

Islamic revival (saHwa islamiyya):

The Iranian revolution of 1979 brought a new potent player in the MENA region: Islam, the very same player that was marginalized after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire in 1922.

To fight the Soviets in Afghanistan, during their ill-fated campaign of 1979-1989, the Americans not willing to commit their own troops, especially after their defeat in Vietnam, resorted to making use of the potent concept of Jihad. As such, they encouraged thousands of Muslim youth to come fight the atheist Soviets. The Pakistanis coached them and trained them and the Americans armed them and provided the necessary logistics. The Soviets were defeated and their defeat was to be the beginning of the end of the USSR and consequently the Cold War (1947 – 1991).

Mujahideen fighters in the Kunar Province of Afghanistan in 1987. Source: Wikipedia Commons.
Mujahideen fighters in the Kunar Province of Afghanistan in 1987. Source: Wikipedia Commons.

At the end of the war, the Pakistanis and the Americans, feeling encumbered by the presence of the Jihadists decided to round them up and send them home, not realizing the danger they would pose to their governments given their ideological conditioning and their military expertise. Indeed, once home many started creating security problems to their governments and nurturing local terrorism.

Those who evaded repatriation from Pakistan gathered around Osama Bin Laden, a Saudi billionaire, and founded al-Qaeda, which was adopted and supported by the Taliban, the new radical rulers of Afghanistan.

The Islamic revival movement, saHwa islamiyya, that started in the 1980s and which believed that the answer to all the ailments of the Muslim ummah is re-Islamization, splintered in two concomitant movements:

A da’wa movement:

This movement was spearheaded by oil-rich Saudi-Arabia in the early 1980s. It aimed exclusively to allow this country to lead the Muslim world especially at a time when the Shia revolutionary Islamic Republic Iran was rising to power. To achieve leadership, the Saudi establishment financed generously predication associations and organizations located both home and in Muslim countries with one sole objective: to spread wahabismxii xiii and counter Shia influence. This movement progressively led to the “orientalization” shrqanat of swaths of Muslim communitiesxiv and the resurrection of radical Islam, either in the form of verbally-violent salafism or physically-violent jihadim. Both movements made use of modern technologies of information and communication to put pressure on society and convert people to their cause. As such, hundreds of predication television channels mushroomed in the Gulf States, broadcasting Koran chanting sessions, as well as, endless hours of predication by star predicators like the Egyptian Amr Khaled, who has hundred of videos on YouTube and his own website.xv Encyclopædia Britannicaxvi introduced this Muslim televangelist in the following terms:

“Khaled’s attire was far from that of a typical Muslim preacher. Whereas his counterparts wore flowing robes and long beards, he was garbed in tailored suits and sported a moustache. His flamboyant presentations, in person and on television, were peppered with humour or occasional outbursts of tears. Nevertheless, he was first and foremost a traditionalist, telling young Muslim women that removing their headscarves was “the biggest sin.””

The New York Times Magazine, in reference to Khaled’s popularity in the Arab countries, described him in its April 30, 2006 issue as “the world’s most famous and influential Muslim television preacher.” Amr Khaled has, also, recently been chosen as one of the world’s 100 most influential people by Time Magazine.xvii

A Jihadi movement:

As stated earlier in this work, the violent and uncompromising Jihadi movement started in Afghanistan after the ill-fated invasion of this country in 1979 by the Soviets, with the inception of al-Qaeda by the rich Saudi Bin Laden. The first violent action of this infamous Jihadi organization was the assassination of Commander Ahmed Shah Massud.

On September 9, 2001, two days before the cataclysmic attacks on New York (the World Trade Center) and Washington DC (Pentagon), known in the Jihadi literatue as ghazwat New York “the conquest battle of New York.” He was the commander of the United Front guerrilla opposition to Afghanistan’s Taliban regime and was assassinated in the Afghan town of Khvajeh Baha Od Din by two Arab men posing as journalists. Following the horrible and murderous events of 9/11 of the US, al-Qaeda, in spite of the worldwide coalition to eradicate it, conducted violent actions around the globe through dormant cells or just local sympathizers, proving that the West was scoring low in the Muslim world.

However, following the Arab Spring events, another more violent and uncompromising Jihadi movement rose to infamy in the Levant, ISIS by taking control of swaths of territories in Iraq and Syria and promoting and promising the re-establishment of the Caliphate as sine qua non condition for the regaining of past Muslim glory and might.

An Islamic State militant in a video threatens to attack any country participating in airstrikes against the terrorist group. (Screenshot)
An Islamic State militant in a video threatens to attack any country participating in airstrikes against the terrorist group. (Screenshot)

Unlike, al-Qaeda, ISIS used the whole repertoire of horrible violent acts to terrorize enemies whether Muslim or other: rape, sexual assault, sexual slavery, beheading, public slaughtering, dismembering, and burning of captives. For ISIS, all people that did not espouse its ideals were enemies to be annihilated.

Christians were even more loathsome and despicable enemies because they are behind the downfall of the Islamic civilization and the emasculation of its people since the end of the 15th century.

Rejection Of Patriarchy And Tribalism: Arab Spring

After the independence of most Muslim countries during the 20th century, hopes run high among the population that democracy will settle in and bring prosperity, but with time this proved to be but a wishful thinking. The reigning oligarchies, whether of monarchial or military origin, resorted to time-old tribal practices to rule and stay in power, such as:

  • Nepotism;
  • Blood alliance;
  • Corruption;
  • Co-optation;
  • Tribal tyranny;
  • Respect of seniority;
  • Use of state violence;
  • Emasculation of the population, etc.
Libya's Muammar al-Gaddafi. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jesse B. Awalt
Libya’s Muammar al-Gaddafi. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jesse B. Awalt

To stay in power and gain some sort of legitimacy, the “tribal” leaders cultivated, through their parties and the state-run propaganda machinery, as well, a cult personality that gave them fake legitimacy to eliminate the opposition and continue to dilapidate public funds. They bestowed upon themselves the powerful title of za’im, which has no equivalent in the English language in terms of its strength “benevolent and powerful leader.” Thus, Gamal Abdenasser, Saddam, Assad, Ali Saleh, Gaddafi, etc. who were indomitable tyrants ruled for ages and inflicted much pain on their “beloved” people whom they supposedly “strived to serve.”

These political systems created four political classes:xviii

  • Class 1: Ruling nomenclature and supporters;
  • Class 2: Rentier retinue and business people;
  • Class 3: Religious regime-apologetic class; and
  • Class 4: Have-nots.

Those who were not happy with the regimes were eliminated physically, put in prison or marginalized according to the degree of their “crime” or lèse-majesté.

The strength of these regimes and the secret of their longevity can be attributed to two important factors: the control of the security forces and the control of the media to use as a propaganda machine. However, with the advent of the digital revolution at the beginning of this millennium, the Muslim tyrants lost, forever, the control of this important and trenchant weapon.

This ultimately led to the Arab Spring which swept the dictators to the dustbin of history, but brought, alas, instead, failed regimes or theocratic rule and prepared the ground for the appearance of such oddities as ISIS, which is but the reflection of an Islamic world that refuses modernity, democracy, respect of human rights and rule of law. This proves, in many ways, that the tug of tribal tradition and patriarchal dominance are stronger in the psyche of the Muslim man than freedom of choice and expression and the ideals of democracy.

Islamism: The Return To The Past

Tunisia's flag.
Tunisia’s flag.

The majority of fundamentalist Muslims seem to live more in the past than they do in the present time or even the future, for that matter.

Indeed, there is always a glorification of the people of the past: salaf saliH (the venerable ancestors) and their actions, writings and beliefs are reported faithfully. This encourages the pious, good and docile Muslims to look at the past and discard the future because the future is about taking risks to change the past and that can only be a bad omen.

This unreasonable veneration of the past aims to create a Muslim citizen obedient to the ruler wali al-amr and to the religious institutions that benefit greatly, of course, from this unquestionable allegiance. The much-esteemed tradition and the worship of the past have contributed duly to the making of a Muslim individual totally regimented and obedient, carrying, for life, three weights chained to his feet: religion, tradition and the glory of the past. These weights are meant to keep him looking back rather than ahead, docile and obedient, rather critical and entrepreneur.

But, as said earlier, this time-old form of domination was obliterated in many circles as the result of the advent of the Muslim cyber citizen that evolved, as a result, from the Muslim subject. The Muslim millennials are, currently, at work changing society slowly but surely, xix because, though, they respect the past want to live badly in the future.

However, those who have not been able to get rid of their shackles have been brainwashed by religious zealots and radicals to be used as cannon fodder to advance their cause and ideology in the world by using them as human bombs to sow terror worldwide ad create havoc.

Way Out

For the Muslim world to get rid of the curse of the past and advance into the future, must undertake the following painful but paying steps:

  • Reform the faith: outlaw, in no vague terms, violence, terror and dislike of the creed and culture of the other;
  • Revamp education: Instill in education the values of criticism and innovation;
  • Empower women: Provide necessary education to women, especially in the countryside;
  • Adopt modernity and democracy; and
  • Make all people equal and accountable.

v. Pakenham, T. 1991.The Scramble for Africa. London: Abacus
vi. Ajamiyy is an Arabic word meaning “non-Arabic”. In a West African context, “Ajami” is used in particular to refer to the writing of non-Arabic languages in Arabic characters. This practice is attested in practically all Muslim areas of West Africa, including at least Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon. It continues to the present despite being propagated almost exclusively through traditional religious instruction, usually without government funding or recognition; in this sense, it might be called a non-governmental literacy, as opposed to literacy whose norms are passed on through a government-organised school system. See:
vii. Chtatou, M. 1992. Using Arabic Script in the Writing of the Languages of Moslem People of Africa.Rabat, Morocco:Institute of African Studies Publicatins.
viii. Tidjane or Tijanniyah is a Sufi religious lodge widely spread in West Africa. The founder of this important order Sīdī ‘Aḥmad al-Tijānī (1737–1815), who was born in Aïn Madhi, present-day Algeria and died in Fes, Morocco, founded the Tijānī order in the 1780s—sources vary as to the exact date between 1781[1] and 1784.[2] Tijānīs speaking for the poor, reacted against the conservative, hierarchical Qadiriyyah brotherhood then dominant, focusing on social reform and grass-roots Islamic revival. See:
ix. The different historical periods of the Ottoman Empire are as follows: Rise (1299-1453), Growth (1453-1683), Stagnation and reform (1683-1827), Decline and modernization (1828-1908) and Defeat and dissolution (1908-1922)
x.  “The Balfour Declaration”. Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 2013. Yapp, M.E. (1 September 1987). The Making of the Modern Near East 1792–1923. Harlow, England: Longman. p. 290. ISBN 978-0-582-49380-3.
xi. The New York Times of September 23, 1990
xii. is a religious movement or branch of Sunni Islam. It has been variously described as “ultraconservative”, “austere”, “fundamentalist”, “puritanical” (or “puritan”) and as an Islamic “reform movement” to restore “pure monotheistic worship” (tawhid) by scholars and advocates, and as an “extremist pseudo-Sunni movement” by opponents. Adherents often object to the term Wahhabi or Wahhabism as derogatory, and prefer to be called Salafi or muwahhid.
It is a Muslim sect founded by Abdul Wahhab (1703-1792), known for its strict observance of the Koran andflourishing mainly in Arabia.

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Dr. Mohamed Chtatou

Dr. Mohamed Chtatou is a Professor of education science at the university in Rabat. He is currently a political analyst with Moroccan, Gulf, French, Italian and British media on politics and culture in the Middle East, Islam and Islamism as well as terrorism. He is, also, a specialist on political Islam in the MENA region with interest in the roots of terrorism and religious extremism.

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