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Imagine a world without Islam!

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Take away Islam, and the world would still be left with the main forces that drive today’s conflicts, including colonialism, cross-national ideologies, ethnic conflicts and terrorism, says Graham Fuller, a former Vice-Chairman of the National Intelligence Council at the CIA in charge of long-range strategic forecasting and currently a professor of history at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada).


In his article entitled A World Without Islam, published in Foreign Policy, Fuller believes that given our intense current focus on terrorism, war, and rampant anti-Americanism it’s vital to understand the true sources of these crises. He poses a question, is Islam the source of the problem or does it tend to lie with other less obvious and deeper factors?


Fuller presents his thoughts on Islam in an extended game of "what if." What if Islam had never arisen in the Middle East? What if there had never been a Prophet Mohammed, no saga of the spread of Islam across vast parts of the Middle East, Asia, and Africa? Would there still be violent clashes between the West and that part of the world? Would the Middle East be more peaceful? How different might the character of East-West relations be?  


Fuller ponders a litany of history’s major battles and events to drive home his message that while Islam might be a convenient culprit, but global strife, past and present, can’t be blamed on any one religion. Europeans would still have wanted the spoils of the Middle East and launched the Crusades albeit under a different banner. “After all, what were the Crusades if not a Western adventure driven primarily by political, social, and economic needs? The banner of Christianity was little more than a potent symbol, a rallying cry to bless the more secular urges of powerful Europeans. In fact, the particular religion of the natives never figured highly in the West’s imperial push across the globe. Europe may have spoken upliftingly about bringing “Christian values to the natives,” but the patent goal was to establish colonial outposts as sources of wealth for the metropole and bases for Western power projection.”  


And so it’s unlikely that Christian inhabitants of the Middle East would have welcomed the stream of European fleets and their merchants backed by Western guns, he says adding that Imperialism would have prospered in the region’s complex ethnic mosaic--the raw materials for the old game of divide and rule. And Europeans still would have installed the same pliable local rulers to accommodate their needs. We doublespeak about promoting democracy in the Middle East as we back autocratic, despotic and undemocratic client regimes there.


On the U.S. occupation of Iraq, he says that it would not have been welcome by Iraqis even if they were Christian. Fuller points out that the United States did not overthrow Saddam Hussein, an intensely nationalist and secular leader, because he was Muslim and other Arab peoples would still have supported the Iraqi Arabs in their trauma of occupation.  “Nowhere do people welcome foreign occupation and the killing of their citizens at the hands of foreign troops. Indeed, groups threatened by such outside forces invariably cast about for appropriate ideologies to justify and glorify their resistance struggle. Religion is one such ideology.” 


The West still would have tried various ways to get control of oil-rich areas, according to Fuller. But Middle Eastern Christians would not have welcomed imperial Western oil companies, backed by their European vice-regents, diplomats, intelligence agents, and armies, any more than Muslims did. Look at the long history of Latin American reactions to American domination of their oil, economics, and politics. The Middle East would have been equally keen to create nationalist anti-colonial movements to wrest control of their own soil, markets, sovereignty, and destiny from foreign grip--just like anti-colonial struggles in Hindu India, Confucian China, Buddhist Vietnam, and a Christian and animist Africa.


On the current Israeli-Palestinian problem, Fuller believes that Jews would have still sought a homeland outside Europe and the Zionist movement would still have emerged and sought a base in Palestine even if the Middle East was Christian. Why, because, he explains, it was Christians who shamelessly persecuted Jews for more than a millennium, culminating in the Holocaust. These horrific examples of anti-Semitism were firmly rooted in Western Christian lands and culture, he says. “And the new Jewish state would still have dislodged the same 750,000 Arab natives of Palestine from their lands even if they had been Christian--and indeed some of them were. Would not these Arab Palestinians have fought to protect or regain their own land?”


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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
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