It is often described as the day that changed the world but, in fact, 9/11 only brought home to the West what had been simmering, and sometimes breaking out violently, in different parts of the world for nearly half a century.
“At the heart of extremism is an ideology, a world-view – and not just concerning the perceived wrong done to the Muslim Umma (or people). Such an ideology expects Islam to dominate rather than to accept a subservient place in world affairs. It promotes pan-Islam and the ultimate rejection of nation-states, even Muslim ones… its ultimate aim is a single Islamic political, social, economic and spiritual entity,” Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Archbishop of Rochester, writes in The Telegraph.
By Michael Nazir-Ali
9/11/2011 Islam (The Telegraph) – The effects on America and Europe were nothing short of traumatic. There was an immediate questioning of a growing “globalism” and the emergence of a siege mentality. Heightened security has eased people’s minds, but there still lurks a basic anxiety about when, and where, the next attack will be.
Siren voices sometimes ask us to believe that 9/11 was caused by the pathological actions of a few, and that all Muslims should not be blamed for acts of terror. It is true that there are many moderate Muslims who condemn unequivocally what has been done in the name of their religion and assert that Islam had nothing to do with it. But we still need to ask how terrorism on such a vast scale was possible.
At the heart of extremism is an ideology, a world-view – and not just concerning the perceived wrong done to the Muslim Umma (or people). Such an ideology expects Islam to dominate rather than to accept a subservient place in world affairs. It promotes pan-Islam and the ultimate rejection of nation-states, even Muslim ones. It may be that some extremists chatter about an Islamic state, in this part of the world or that; however, its ultimate aim is a single Islamic political, social, economic and spiritual entity.
For many, the restoration of the Caliphate is integral to this project and, given past history, we should not be sanguine that Western powers will not collude with it if they believe it promotes a temporary self-interest. Such a vision of pan-Islam is not restricted to the Muslim world as it is now but also includes lands “lost” to Islam whether that be India, Palestine, East Timor, South Sudan or the Iberian countries.
Since the death of bin Laden, there have been reports of the demise of Islamist extremism itself. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is true that al-Qaeda leadership in Pakistan and Afghanistan has been weakened, but it has not been eliminated.
The so-called Arab Spring is not a single event but a mosaic of different interests and people. An element of youthful idealism has been present and secular points of view have been represented, but well-organised Islamist programmes are at the fore.
The re-emergence of politicised Salafism in Egypt, and the violence associated with it, has already given the Coptic Christian community cause for concern. In Libya, al-Qaeda and the Taliban-related fighters have been in the vanguard of the struggle to oust Gaddafi. People whom the West would bomb in other circumstances have been the beneficiaries of Western air cover in Libya.
So what should be done about the rise of this kind of Islamism? In the Muslim world, the answer is clear. Democracy is not enough in itself or it could simply become a tyranny of the radicalised. It must be accompanied by internationally backed guarantees of liberties for women, non-Muslims and even moderate Muslim opinion. There must be one law for all and the equality of all before the law. A common view of citizenship will prevent the re-appearance of the dhimma for non-Muslims, under which they are little better than subject peoples without equal rights.
In the West, too, citizenship is where to begin. This means the West will need, once again, to acknowledge the Judaeo-Christian tradition and aspects of the Enlightenment that have made it what it is. How can we expect others to integrate when we are suffering from amnesia about our own identity?