Sage Publications (I) Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi; Year:2014; Pages:324; Price:Rs.995
Reviewed by Humera Ahmed, freelance writer and author of short stories. Currently, Managing Editor of an e-journal “ehsasforwomen.com”. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Taj Hashmi, the Assam born Professor of Security Studies at the Austin Peay State University at Clarksville, Tennessee, is the author of the book. Hashmi’s credentials in attempting the study are impressive. He has vast experience in teaching Islamic and Modern South Asian History and Cultural Anthropology in various universities – Bangladesh, Australia, Singapore, Canada and authoring several papers, essays and books on these subjects. His book Women and Islam in Bangladesh is a best seller in Asian Studies.
So how does Mr. Hashmi explain this phenomenon of “Jihad” which seems to be spreading so menacingly and distressingly beyond Afghanistan and Iraq to Syria, Yemen, Nigeria, Mali, Somalia, and God only knows, which other country will be in line next. And what about the rise of Islamists in Egypt after the euphoric Arab Spring? And what does he consider the solution to this phenomenal clash between the Islamists and the West? What does the book offer on the loaded concept of Global Jihad? Is it another addition to the growing corpus of the ever-increasing literature on Global Jihad versus War on Terror or does it throw new light on this burning issue?
According to Hashmi, the book is an attempt to examine and understand the clash between the West and the Islamists in its proper perspective since literature churned out after 9/11 gives the impression that “Islamist terrorism is the biggest threat to Western civilizations”. The Western policy-makers, influenced by the advice of such Islamophobes, take counter-terrorism measures such as preemptive strikes and unauthorized invasion of countries, exacerbating the problem. Unfortunately, the Muslim World, under the fanatical influence of anti-west clerics and Islamists, portrays the West as evil, programmed to destroy Islam and regain the lost colonies, and therefore, promotes the concept of global jihad against all perceived to be anti-Islam including the deviant Muslims.
While examining the clash between the Islamists and the Islamophobists, Hashmi has critiqued the following issues : whether post-colonial terror and anarchy are legacies of European Colonial rule; whether terrorism is/was an existential threat to America or any Western Nation; is Islam a religion of peace, and therefore, not responsible for the terror outfits spawning in many Muslim countries; has globalization created an uneven playing field between the western and the Muslim nations and, consequently, resulted in a surge of Islamic militancy; whether the West–Islamist clash is due to the Military–Industrial Complex and the Israel lobby in America; is America an empire and is its imperialistic behaviour the biggest threat to world peace; and, whether the Islamists are playing second fiddle to Russia, China and other old contenders in the conflict of hegemony between America and others .
Each of these issues takes the shape of a chapter followed by pages of Notes and References. In the introductory chapter itself the author cum scholar cum professor summarizes each chapter and explains each issue, thus providing a glimpse of the discussions emerging in each chapter.
The first chapter explains the difference between Islam – the religion, as emanating from the Quran and Islamism, which is a political ideology emanating from the various interpreters such as the Salafis and Wahabis. The author explains how a religion, which inspired and sustained a unique civilization and dominated many parts of the world for over a millennium, declined like many others due to complacency, neglect of science and technology, internal feuds – sectarian, tribal or racial, and through foreign invasions. Today, most of the Muslim nations created by arbitrarily drawing lines by the colonists, ignoring traditional, ethnic, tribal and cultural affinities, positioning a Zionist, aggressive Israel in a Palestinian dominated territory, have made them acutely aware of their backwardness and subjugation by an advanced, techno-savvy west and the community feels threatened and humiliated. To emphasize this, Hashmi quotes Lindner : “Humiliation is the strongest force that creates rift and breaks down relationships among people ….. Men such as Osama bin Laden would never have followers if there were no victims of humiliation in many parts of the world….”
And therefore, terrorism is a weapon “of the weak”, the disempowered and exploited people who cannot otherwise overpower strong and powerful states. In the case of the Muslims, they tend to take recourse through Islamists, invoking a “Utopian” past, as the present secular leadership which is perceived as corrupt, autocratic and pro-west has failed them.
Ironically, Islamism, as manifested through the Taliban, was welcomed by the West against Russia. It is only in the post Cold War period, and the aftermath of 9/11 that the Islamist have been identified with terror. But not all Islamist, only those who are not conducive or favourable to the West. Thus Iran – anti-West and anti-Israel – poses the greatest threat, while Saudi Arabia, whose antipathy towards Iran, a Shia nation – ideologically against the Salafi and Wahabi Sunnis dominant in Saudi Arabia and Egypt – is a staunch ally. Global Jihadism, therefore, has acquired a different context – it is no longer just anti-West and anti-Israel, it has become a sectarian and ideological strife between the different sects and interpreters of Islam. More Muslims, than non-Muslims, are killing Muslims whom they term as deviant. The proxy war between the Wahabi/Salafis and the Shias and other sects of Islam has spilled over into Pakistan, Iraq and Syria in gigantic proportions. The Palestinian problem, which commenced in 1948 and is the primeval cause of the conflict between the Muslims and the West, continues to fester while the Palestinians are bombed and terrorized by Israel; and America continues to destabilize and remove governments hostile to it, or allows its allies to fund Terror and then declare a War on Terror especially in resource rich or strategically located countries.
By the time we reach the concluding chapter, the reader is aware of the causes of Global Jihad and the summarization that it has no existential ramification for America or the West. For them, the threat is a myth, but for different sects of the Muslims, it is very much a reality and will continue as long as America continues to be dominated by the Israel lobby and the Military-Industrial Complex which needs war and sale of weapons, and till the Palestinian problem is resolved.
Taj Hashmi’s book offers no solution to the 100-year strife, but it is an erudite study and a positive addition to the body of literature which counters the Islamophobia propaganda and makes an attempt to create a better understanding between the West and the Muslims.
From FF Digital Team: The reader has had a good dose on the subject of “Terrorism” with the above book review and prior to that, the article by Dr. B. Ramesh Babu on “Failure of Terror Talks” between India and Pakistan – sort of a never-ending matter between the two warring neighbours. To lighten up a bit, our next post will also be the review of a book, a random recollections of an ancient aviator, entitled “Airlooms” by Air Vice Marshall Cecil Parker.
Do keep the conversation going by commenting on the posts. HAPPY DIWALI CELEBRATIONS!