The other war
The US war on so-called terror coincides with another war waged by Western officials, artists, writers and clerics against Islam and Muslims. The right-wing writer Samuel Huntington fired the first shot, predicting a post-Cold War clash between Islam and Christianity, between reason and myth, and between ignorance and knowledge. In his theory, Islam is depicted as a force that impedes progress.
The 9/11 attacks gave the US the pretext it needed to attack Afghanistan and demolish Iraq. The onslaught on Arabs and Muslims needs justification. That justification is what lies behind current attempts to demonise Islam. Just as wars were being fought in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon, the Western mainstream media waged its own war on Islam and its prophet.
President Bush once said he would launch a "crusade". But this wasn't a mere slip of the tongue, as he later said and his officials reassured us. A couple of weeks ago, the US president equated Islam with fascism.
Earlier this year a Danish newspaper published offensive caricatures of the Prophet Mohamed, claiming that it stood by free expression. This is hard to believe, for Western countries continue to prosecute writers who question the Holocaust. Apparently, the boundaries between criticism and insults seem to erode when it comes to Arabs and Muslims.
Pope Benedict XVI finally joined the charade, suggesting that Islam spread by the sword. The Daily Telegraph went a step further, describing the Prophet Mohamed as a "general" whose soldiers decapitated hundreds of captives. The Times, not to be outdone, said that Arabs needed to hear this message from the pope.
The war of civilisation is curious. It is one-sided, unregulated, and uninformed. Some people have called for a "dialogue of civilisations" but this hasn't taken us anywhere. Let's admit it. What we have here is a conflict of interests, not of civilisations.
The followers of Islam are being accused of being genetically violent and of embracing a religion that spread by violence. These are false accusations. Everyone knows that. Islam is as progressive as the next religion. It has been embraced by the Arabian tribe of Koreish, which proceeded to build a central state in Arabia that soon turned into an empire. Some people within the boundaries of that empire believed in Islam. Others didn't.
The people of Syria, Egypt and Iraq waited for the Arab armies to rid them of Byzantine and Sassanid rule. The Arabs made conquests, as everyone else did. The Babylonians, Greeks and Romans built up empires by conquest before Arabs came onto the scene. All empires, up to the end of World War I, were formed by conquest. The concepts of self- determination and sovereignty were not enshrined in international law until the beginning of the 20th century.
The Christianity we know today is not the one that existed before Martin Luther in Germany and John Calvin in France kick-started the Reformation in the 16th century, paving the ground for the separation of church and state. The industrial revolution and the rise of new social classes offered the final impetus to secularism and ended up confining the Catholic church to a small section of Rome; namely, the Vatican.
There was a time when churches gave out indulgences and many thought that this was perfectly fine. Then things changed. The Europe we know today has contractual agreements and man-made regulations. And yet some people have a vested interest in reviving the old clash with Islam. And they will keep doing so for sometime to come.