Ramadan exemplifies the powerful spiritual calling of Islam. Dry fasting is more a test of the spirit, the will, proof of devotion, than just some health gimmick. And it is precisely this cultivation of mass “mind over matter” that frustrates Western secularists, so used to indulging every consumer fetish on a whim. Why are Muslims so stubborn in nurturing ancient beliefs and rituals when they fly in the face of modern capitalist society? Secular critics dismiss Islam as a harmful, even dangerous anachronism. Why disrupt one’s busy day five times to pray, slow down the whole economic order for an entire month every year, ban alcohol and interest — the bedrock of Western society?
Yet the now rich and self-satisfied secular West, after centuries of conquest and imposition of its colonial and now neocolonial order, has found itself at a nightmarish deadend. Wars, riots, drug addiction, corruption, famine, ecological Armageddon … There is little to cheer for and no coherent explanation for the impasse and the way forward. So the demand that the Muslim world follow in Western footsteps rings hollow.
For non-believers, there are social laws that can help to understand Islam’s continued relevance. One is Mayer Rothschild’s dictum: “Give me control of a nation’s money and I care not who makes its laws.” The other is Carl Clausewitz’s “War is the continuation of politics by other means.” Together, they point to the underlying economic and political problems which have led to the current crisis. In a nutshell, the dominance of banks (as opposed to governments representing the popular will) in controlling economic affairs has created a world where politics serves their particular needs (interest and profit), and the politics which promotes the interests of banks is — just look around — war and speculation (read: pillage and theft).
This is the “logic” underlying modern Western society, especially in the past three decades, with the alternative to capitalism, the Soviet Union, now dismantled, discredited, and more or less absorbed into the Western economic order. This triumph over the “enemy” left the field open to the Rothschild-Clausewitz mechanism. Electoral democracy is vaunted, but is a threadbare facade, for while the popular will consistently rejects war and banker hegemony, no political party is able to get elected to represent this popular will.
Believers need no explanation for the why and how of Islam and the devilish deadend the West now faces. Islam advocates a social order where there are no one-sided usurers using their monopoly on money to control economics and politics, a social order where peace (Islam) is the highest attainment of society, the goal of all “policy”, to which all should submit. If presented with the choice between the current chaos and the true Islamic alternative, there is little doubt that the Islamic alternative would be the overwhelming choice of the common people, both in Europe and America, despite the fact that Muslims represent only 2-8 per cent of the population in the West.
Of course, this social order is the ideal. The history of Islam witnessed periods of benign and far-from-benign rule. It began with military victories and the spreading of the Caliphate from Atlantic to Pacific. The majority of conquered peoples decided to adopt this powerful religion, converting from polytheism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Judaism, though, contrary to Western prejudice, not “by the sword”. Throughout the various Islamic political orders, Christians, Jews and others continued to profess their faiths, enjoying a peaceful coexistence with Muslims. There was no period of imperial conquest and genocide equivalent to the Western imperial order from the fifteenth century to today.
The westward march of Islam was stopped in Spain and on the fringes of Byzantium by Emperor Charlemagne in the ninth century. The Iberian peninsula — Al-Andalus — was the pearl of Islamic civilisation from 711 to 1492, as a province of the Umayyad Caliphate, and later the Caliphate of Cordoba and the Emirate of Granada.
Islamophobes portray Europe today as in danger of a new Muslim conquest, politicians and mass media egging on the likes of Norway’s Anders Breivik, who calls for the ethnic cleansing of all Muslims from Europe, much like Christian conquerors expelled Muslims and Jews following the reconquest of Spain in the fifteenth century. But consider for a moment the legacy of Moorish Spain. This period saw Muslims, Jews, and Christians living in harmony, creating a prosperous, peaceful society, a highpoint in Spain’s history. Under the Caliphate of Cordoba, Al-Andalus became a beacon of learning, and the city of Cordoba became one of the leading cultural and economic centres in both the Mediterranean basin and the Islamic world.
As part of the Alliance of Civilisations, Spain is now rediscovering this Golden Age before the Christian re-conquest of Spain, which saw the torture, murder, forced conversion and expulsion of Muslims and Jews, and the genocide of New World Indigenous peoples following the “discovery” of the continent by Christopher Columbus. While Al-Andalus lasted eight centuries, the post-Islamic period of Spain has lasted only six centuries, and suffers poorly in comparison to the Islamic Golden Age that preceded it.
This was acknowledged by Spain’s current leader, Socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, when he co-sponsored the Alliance of Civilisations along with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2005, as a way to “bridge the divide” between the West and Islam, through projects in youth, education, media, and migration. Forums have been held in Madrid (2008), Istanbul (2009) and Rio de Janiero (2010).
Given the current tyranny of money that characterised Western civilisation, it is not surprising that the Zapatero/ Erdogan attempt at bringing peace and understanding among the founding faiths of Spain and the Middle East is greeted with sneers and resentment by Israel and its supporters in the West. Israel-firsters such as Soeren Kern twist the positive moves to bring East and West together as a cover for “Muslim countries in the Persian Gulf and North Africa funnelling large sums of money to radical Islamic groups in towns and cities across Spain”.
But there is a more enduring dialectic at work in Europe. Despite the Israel lobby’s energetic efforts to blacken Islam, the wave of revulsion against Israeli apartheid continues to grow throughout Europe, but especially in Spain. Ilan Pappe describes how all Israeli ambassadors to Europe are more than glad to end their terms, complaining about their inability to speak in campuses and whining about the overall hostile atmosphere in Europe these days. The Israeli ambassador to Spain, Raphael Schutz, just finished his term in Madrid, and in an op-ed in Haaretz’s Hebrew edition, he summarised what he termed as a very dismal stay, charging that he was the victim of local and ancient anti-Semitism, comparing the situation to the Inquisition of five centuries ago.
In “Why the Spanish hate us”, Schutz states that the people of Spain are anti-Israeli because subconsciously they are anti-Semitic and still approve of the Inquisition. He ignores the fact that the Muslims were the main victims of the Inquisition, that Jews fought and suffered side by side with their Muslim allies as the Christian invaders flooded into Spain. Claiming that Spaniards who criticise Israel are racist and motivated by 500-year-old Christian bigotry rather than by Israeli’s criminal policies is just a feeble attempt at hasbara(public diplomacy) by desperate Israeli diplomats who have long ago lost the moral battle in Europe.
The Kerns and Schutzes are supported by Spain’s real latterday Inquisition, the National Intelligence Center (CNI), which published a report in July, warning of tens of millions of dollars coming to Spain from Kuwait, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia to support Muslims, and calling for close monitoring of these funds. The CNI’s report hinted that the money would be used to promote Islamic courts, remove girls from schools, and encourage forced marriages. The Spanish government’s knee-jerk response was to call for all donations from the Gulf Arab states to be channelled through a government-controlled “Islamic Commission of Spain”.
The CNI pointed to the Kuwaiti government’s funding of the construction of mosques in Catalonia, from which Islamic preachers are supposedly “spreading a religious interpretation that opposes the integration of Muslims into Spanish society and promotes the separation and hate towards non-Muslim groups.” Qatari donations are made through the Islamic League for Dialogue and Coexistence in Spain, a group the CNI says is “linked to the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria”.
While the CNI talks only of the need to monitor funds, such as Kern argue that this is all part of a conspiracy by Muslim countries to take back Spain. He points to “the UAE, together with Libya [sic] and Morocco”, which paid for the construction of the Great Mosque of Granada. Says Abdel Haqq Salaberria, a spokesman for the mosque: “It will act as a focal point for the Islamic revival in Europe. It is a symbol of a return to Islam among the Spanish people and among indigenous Europeans.” Worse yet for Islamophobes, Muslims in Cordoba are demanding that the Spanish government allow them to worship in the main cathedral, which was originally the Great Mosque of Al-Andalus and is now a World Heritage Site.
Pointing to Saudi financing of the construction of Islamic Cultural Centres and mosques in Madrid and elsewhere, Kern conjures up the Saudi Wahhabi bugaboo, arguing that most Muslim immigrants in Spain are poor, and their low standard of living and low level of education make them susceptible to Saudi propaganda, ignoring the fact that Saudi Arabia is a close ally of the US, that Wahhabism is the quietist brand of Islam, and the only real way to improve the security situation is to raise the standard of living and level of education of the poor.
Despite such cries of “Wolf!”, attempts to reintegrate Islam into the fabric of Spanish culture are proceeding. Morocco recently co-sponsored a seminar in Barcelona titled “Muslims and European Values”, explaining that the construction of big mosques would be “a useful formula” to fight Islamic fundamentalism in Spain. According to Noureddine Ziani, a Barcelona-based Moroccan imam: “It is easier to disseminate fundamentalist ideas in small mosques set up in garages, than in large mosques that are open to everyone.” Using this logic, Spain should welcome more Libyan funding of Great Mosques, rather than participate in NATO’s efforts to destroy the Libyan state and create real grounds for terrorism.
Ziani also said that Islamic values are compatible with European values and that the so-called Western “Judeo-Christian” civilisation is really an “Islamo-Christian” one. The cultural construct “Judeo-Christian heritage” entered the English language only in the 1940s as a reaction to Nazism, and is used by the imperial elite in its “clash of civilizations” targeting Islam. A concept useful to a largely Christian empire where Jewish elites play a powerful role, but one which is rejected by serious scholars, both Christian and Jewish. Talmudic scholar Jacob Neusner calls it a “secular myth favoured by people who are not really believers themselves”. Not only Ziani but American scholars such as Richard Bulliet argue for the use of “Islamo-Christian” to characterise Western civilisation.
Spain suffered several terrorist bombings in the wake of 9/11, notably the 2004 11-M bombings in Madrid, but no evidence was ever presented to suggest Al-Qaeda or Muslims were the perpetrators. Many observers point to Basque and other independence movements as the culprits, or even the Spanish police themselves as part of a false-flag operation. The reality of Spain today is not the existence of any external threat from Islam, but on the contrary, domestic unrest due to the economic crisis and political paralysis.
This gloomy situation prompted concerned young people to boycott Spain’s elections in May and — ironically — emulate their largely Muslim Arab Spring heroes by constructing tent cities in protest at the lack of meaningful democracy. Just as Egyptian revolutionaries borrowed techniques from their Western counterparts to throw off their taskmasters, so Spaniards are emulating them in turn — a true Alliance of Civilisations. European, US and Canadian youth are also impressed by the endurance, the resolution of Palestinians in the face of Israel and its supporters, a 21st-century Judeo-Christian Inquisition persecuting Muslims, not only in Palestine, but in so-called Eurabia and North America.
The Islamophobes turn the truth on its head, attacking the Alliance of Civilisations as a “one-way bridge” undermining European society. But the West’s relations with the Muslim world show just the opposite — the West has invaded and continues to try to shape the Muslim world to meet capitalism’s requirements. That Muslims stubbornly hold to their beliefs and traditions is an important contribution to the search for a way forward for a crisis-ridden world.
Britain’s riots prove that Muslims are a boon to European society, being inherently peaceful and law-abiding. Muslims from the East London Mosque and the Islamic Forum Europe played an important role in helping to fight the looting and preserve public safety. Three Muslims died in Birmingham defending shops from looters, though in the media they were merely called Asians. “When accused of terrorism we are Muslims, when killed by looters, we become Asian,” a Muslim student told Al-Jazeerah bitterly.
Rather than the “clash of civilisations” advocated by Islamophobes, those who seek social and economic justice can find inspiration in the eternal truths of Islam, looking to Europe’s own Islamo-Christian heritage — past and present — to discover an alliance of civilisations that rejects war, theft, moral degeneration and racism. This is the lesson that Ramadan offers to the West today.
Eric Walberg is a journalist who worked in Uzbekistan and is now writing for Al-Ahram Weekly in Cairo. Read other articles by Eric, orvisit Eric’s website.