As a muslim, this is a hard one to write.
The thing is, after several years of this whole War on Terror, I've begun to notice that where we are as muslims in this world, in terms of character, and society is not where we should be.
To clarify, there are only a few outcomes from the current situation:
- West Wins - Osama turns up dead, Islamic insurgent movements across the world are suppressed, and Muslims worldwide bear the brunt of endemic and long lasting Islamophobia, sowing the seeds for further and deeper conflict. A lot of people in the West would be happy with this outcome. Not so much the non-pink people who live there.
- 'Islam' Wins - West gives up in Iraq, Gives up in Afghanistan and pulls out as the cost/tolls of the war rises, and eventually one or more of the horrific attacks continually being planned against the USA/UK etc. get through until there is a massive shift in policy, and the extremists get some of their demands, and cast a long very dark, very evil shadow over Muslims worldwide.
- The Fudge - the worldwide 'debate' moves on from the Terror thing, as it did from the Drug thing, leading in its wake a set of draconian laws which can be used at will to suppress Muslims worldwide. This is already being tried with Climate Change, (with mixed success).
Okay so to put this in perspective, a lot of this is going on against the backdrop of a severe world recession, massive public debt, and shocking revelations of torture/corruption at all levels of governments and civil life. And we're just talking about the Europe/USA here, things are a lot worse in other parts of the world. We used to be poor, persecuted, but with some protection under the law, domestic and international. Then 9/11, and now suddenly we're poor, persecuted, pariahs, and penalised for having principles. It's suddenly wrong to be a Muslim who believes in his/her faith fully, as that makes one a 'fundamentalist'. This annoys a lot of people, and most especially it annoys me and has made me take a good long hard look at the place where I live, England and wonder why I spend so much of my time worrying, and frankly, annoyed.
The Real Islamic Civilisation
Islam is a way of life. This is true. Every muslim, even those who are slightly wayward, will tell you this. But a way of life which is all encompassing, as Islam should be, has within it certain political and economic truths which are inescapable. In effect, Islam is a blueprint for a society: a society which has a welfare state, is pluralistic, adheres to free-market principles, an evidence based court system, and promotes a knowledge economy, oh and peaceful interaction with neighbours.
This is hard to explain to people outside of the 'House of Islam' because rather than look at the society as a whole, their attention is drawn to the differences between individual muslims and themselves, or their inherited identities and the developed one of Islamic Society.
The Anthropology Effect
So your average muslim ends up spending most of their time explaining these differences to the outsiders, and actually, porportionally less time living AS muslims and creating this society. This may be intentional. The anthropology effect as it's known, is a great way of destroying and assimilating cultures, the West has been doing this for a few centuries now. Basically you get a 'primitive' culture and fight it. Then dangle a carrot to say 'we wouldn't fight you if we but understood you' so the people in the primitive culture allow antropologists in who steal their items, write down bad interpretations of their rituals, and fill whole libraries full of grant driven rubbish to impress the upper class back home with how much they 'know'. Meanwhile, violence continues, the prevailing economic models of the culture are replaced with the alien ones, and the cultural war exhausts the native population who end up finding now that the largest and most widely accepted sources for their own identity are now held in a library far away in a foreign capital rather than in the heads and hearts of their very own people. Muslims steadfastly resist this, at several levels.
If you spend 90% of your time telling other people that you're muslim, and being muslim is different from 'normal' people, then you've already lost.
The truth is you are normal, and your own growth pattern is the one that the 'other' people should be using as a gold standard for communication with you. That's called respect, and it's something that considerate muslims have forgotten to command over the last few decades.
The simple fact is that the West doesn't care to know what Islam is, just why their usual methods of assimilation and exploitation meet with so much overt and successful resistance. For example: you are reading this in English, probably work in English, wear English inspired western clothes, grew up thinking English was the 'normal' language, and a sizeable portion of you likely live in English colonised nations as well. Yet you're Muslim first, and know that because you are so, you can largely ignore the silly rules and fashions which drive so much of the wider society, you can cut across cultural and language barriers and spend time with people from across the world, and forge fast and long lasting bonds with people who have taqwa. Spiritually driven, non-hierarchical, egalitarian ethics. You know that your ideas of right and wrong aren't cultural, and there are some things which are sacred. And it is that notion of the sacred in modern life, which separates most Muslims from the rest of the herd. And it is this very sacred which moves me to say that Muslims - especially in The West - should lose the war on Terror.
The No-War Win Scenario for Muslims
The fact is that sooner of later, without the war, Muslims will prevail. At the moment we spend most of our time trying to 'fit in' with the wider society and 'explain ourselves' to them. It's not what they want, and it's not what we need. We need fairness in the coinage and the courts, and a real voice in those arenas where we live, work, and play. We need to have space for the sacred in our lives so that more people can experience it, and more can understand what we are about through real knowledge and interest rather than fear and conflict conversation. For that we need to build schools, mosques, leisure centres, libraries, hospitals, banks, food places, parks, nice courts, etc etc etc, and the people who will give life to these institutions. This won't happen under the War. And if we let Osama bin Laden and his crew succeed or even credibly claim success in this war, then their vision of destruction of the civil fabric of our Islamic society will prevail and the positive future most people hope for will vanish with their growing influence. We are to know the peoples of the world, and live alongside them, not destroy them. This is a Quranic principle for anyone who wants to look it up.
If we as Muslims 'lose' this war then we have to deal with Islamophobia and the massive struggle to reform the legal and social norms in the West. It's a setback of a generation, perhaps two. On the other hand.. If Osama 'wins', then we are caught in another post-9/11 scenario, and then perhaps another, and we will forever have to keep proclaiming we are the religion of peace, while non-muslims continue to make war on us...