By Abid Mustafa
“We are not at war with Islam”— President Obama
It was only last month that Pentagon officials repeatedly implored Pastor Terry Jones not to burn copies of the Quran fearing that Jones’s inflammatory action could arouse Muslim sentiments and endanger the lives of US soldiers serving in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Yet, a month later the Pentagon managed to outdo the bigotry of Terry Jones and had been caught red handed for spearheading America’s crusade against Islam and seeking its total annihilation. Lt Col Matthew Dooley who was responsible for conditioning hundreds of US officers with a distorted view of Islam said in one of his presentations: “We have now come to understand that there is no such thing as moderate Islam…It is therefore time for the United States to make our true intentions clear. This barbaric ideology will no longer be tolerated. Islam must change or we will facilitate its self-destruction.”
One does not have to look very far to discover the depth and breadth of the Pentagon’s enmity towards Islam. In Afghanistan, the US war machine’s vilification of Islam is a routine occurrence. This includes the cowardice act of burning the Holy Quran by bigots within the American military. Elsewhere US troops playfully urinated on dead Afghans and felt great pleasure in mutilating their dead bodies. Not forgetting the horrific abuse of prisoners in Bagram, the rape of young girls and mindless civilian massacres have become the hallmark of America’s malicious crusade in Afghanistan. No matter how hard the US tries to downplay its efforts to indoctrinate its soldiers to hate Islam, these vitriolic incidents, the latest episode is a vivid reminder to the rest of the world that barbarism and not emancipation from tyranny is the hallmark of America’s policy in the Muslim world.
It is a well known fact that wherever in the Muslim world America’s military intervenes. – it leaves behind a trail of death and destruction – a reputation unworthy of a leading nation that also prides itself on tolerance. Look for instance, the indiscriminate killings of unarmed civilians by the USdrones and Special Forces in Pakistan, or the immunity granted to Raymond Davis for his cold blooded murder of Pakistanis in broad daylight. This clearly undermines America’s penchant for disregarding human rights it so evangelically preaches to the rest of the world. Take America’s war in Iraq: The cruel humiliation of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib and the senseless killing of unarmed civilians in Haditha are portent reminders about the fruits of America’s Iraqi occupation. Yet, despite such barbaric acts perpetrated by USA’s military, its soldiers are lavished with praise and their crimes against humanity are overlooked. At the end of last year, President Obama told the troops coming home from Iraq: “As your Commander-in-Chief, and on behalf of a grateful nation, I am proud to finally say these two words.”
Worse still, there are no serious efforts by America’s political establishment or senior officers to change the uncivilised conduct of US troops. Wherever they are stationed, the Pentagon immediately seeks immunity from prosecution, as a mandatory condition in exchange for security pacts or military aid. In other words, there are no repercussions for the evil acts committed by the US soldiers against indigenous populations. If by chance aUSsoldier is found guilty, sham trials are convened by theUS military (the conclusion of Haditha massacre trial early this year) to ensure that punishment does not fit the crime. The US military goes to great length to instil savagery within its ranks by making certain that this kind of behaviour is institutionalised. The recent National Defence Authorisation Act passed by the US Senate epitomises such measures, which legalises sex with animals and permits sodomy.
As the US military is committed to preserving its barbarian code and despicable values, one can only imagine what type of training theUSmilitary imparts to nations around the globe. So, what is the root cause behind such reckless behaviour that defies human logic? The explanation that “a few rotten apples” are to blame is no longer plausible and does not merit a discussion. Nor can America’s military culture institutionalised by the Pentagon be held solely responsible for nurturing a generation of young men and women, who show scant respect for foreign cultures and people.
On the contrary, the military culture is based on the very foundations that the rest of American society is built. The sole driver for such behaviour is freedom, which is the bedrock ofUSA’s cherished ideals and responsible for shaping popular culture, corporate culture, social values and ethics. It is on this very basis that the military in Western countries, especially in America, is responsible for moulding the attitudes of its military personnel.
Men and women, fed from a young age on a diet of freedom enlist in the army as defenders of freedom, undergo weapons training and are eventually deployed overseas. Here, they find themselves in a different environment; laws and restrictions of the home country no longer impinge on what one can say and do and the weapons in their possessions makes them feel that they can finally say and do whatever they desire. Naturally, the indigenous populations’ beliefs, values, property, life and dignity are quickly trounced upon – all in the name of freedom.
Freedom is a fanciful idea and always leads to disputes and violence. The West claims that individuals are free to do whatever they choose and indoctrinates within its populace the desire to be free. But, in practice, this leads to unending conflicts amongst the people, as the views expressed by a few, or the behaviour exhibited by some, can be interpreted as offensive and insulting to others. Hence, the Western governments are persistently intervening in disputes and resort to severity of the law to protect the freedoms of some people by depriving others of their freedom to express thoughts and behave in a certain way.
Often, the real benefactors of freedom are those individuals or groups whose views or conduct coincides with the interests of the government, or the powerful capitalists who possess the ability to exert influence over the government. That is why so many institutions, including military establishments in the West, are given free rein to attack Islam because their fiery rhetoric and discriminatory policies are in full harmony with the West’s unfinished war on Islam. However, if the Western media, or its numerous institutions, were to insult Jews or the Zionist state ofIsrael, the Western governments would swiftly adopt stern measures to restrict their insults.
Islam does not believe in the whimsical idea of freedom, where a handful of men decide which thoughts and behaviours are legally beyond censure, and which thoughts and practices are subject to criticism and can be tried in a court of law. Islam stipulates that life, honour, blood, property, belief, race and the mind are to be protected by the Islamic State. All the citizens of the Caliphate are guaranteed these rights, irrespective of whether they are Muslim or non-Muslims.
Islam also protects the rights of non-Muslims to worship without any fear of retribution, or vilification of their beliefs. The Messenger (saw) of Allah said: “One who hurts a dhimmi (non-Muslim citizen of the Caliphate), he hurts me and the one who hurts me, hurts Allah.” Therefore, it is prohibited for a Muslim to insult the beliefs of a non-Muslim, spill their blood, harm their places of worship and desecrate their property.
The Islamic history is unrivalled in its capacity to guarantee the religious rights of non-Muslims under the shade of the Caliphate. At the time of Umar ibn al-Khattab (RA), the Islamic army conquered Syria, but quickly returned the Kharaj collected from Homs, a town inhabited by Christians and Jews. The Muslims reasoned with the non-Muslims that they were returning the money, as they were unable to protect their life, blood, honour and property from the regrouping Roman Army. So impressed were the non-Muslims that they said: “We like your rule and justice far better than the state of oppression and tyranny in which we were. The army of Heraclius we shall indeed, with your ‘amil’s’ help, repulse from the city.” The Jews rose and said: “We swear by the Torah, no Governor of Heraclius shall enter the city of Homs, unless we are first vanquished and exhausted!” Saying this, they closed the gates of the city and guarded them.
If America’s military really wants to reach out to the Muslim masses and win their hearts and minds, the very least it can do is to radically alter the indoctrination of its military officers by representing a more balanced view of Islam that is fully inclusive of the Caliphate and Islam’s contribution to human civilisation. Perhaps Pentagon’s trainers can draw on the writings of Bernard Shaw who said, ”I have always held the religion of Muhammad in high estimation because of its wonderful vitality. It is the only religion which appears to me to possess that assimilating capacity to the changing phase of existence which can make itself appeal to every age. I have studied him – the wonderful man and in my opinion far from being an anti-Christ, he must be called the Saviour of Humanity.”(Sir George Bernard Shaw in ‘The Genuine Islam,’ Vol. 1, No. 8, 1936). Or more recently from one of America’s leading business personalities, Carly Fiorina who said,” There was once a civilization that was the greatest in the world. It was able to create a continental super-state that stretched from ocean to ocean, and from northern climes to tropics and deserts. Within its dominion lived hundreds of millions of people, of different creeds and ethnic origins…its military protection allowed a degree of peace and prosperity that had never been known. The reach of this civilization’s commerce extended from Latin America to China, and everywhere in between. ..While modern Western civilization shares many of these traits, the civilization I’m talking about was the Islamic world from the year 800 to 1600, which included the Ottoman Empire and the courts of Baghdad, Damascus and Cairo, and enlightened rulers like Suleiman the Magnificent.” (“Technology, business and our way of life: What’s next”, September 26, 2001).
Failing to conduct root and branch revision of the educational curriculums for the US military and indeed for many of America’s institutions will only reinforce the impression in Muslim minds that America is hell bent on the destruction of Islam. It will also enable a small cabal of neo-conservatives (the extremists) to perpetrate new crimes in the name of the American people (the moderate majority). Americans like to use labels such as extremists and moderates to describe the Muslim world, yet they are oblivious to the fact that they are being held hostage by a small faction of extremists, who are unwavering in their determination to terrorise another civilisation in their name.
Abid Mustafa is a political commentator who specialise on Muslim issues and global affairs.