The Role of Colonization on the Political System of the Muslim World

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  Andreea-Nicoleta Geafir RISE,I The Role of Colonization on the PoliticalSystem of the Muslim World The Quran and the Sunnah have been the guide of Muslim political and moralactivism throughout the centuries. The example of how the Prophet Muhammad and hiscompanions led their lives and developed the first Muslim community serves as a blueprint for an Islamically guided and socially just state and society.More than a prophet, the Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, wasthe founder of a state. In the era of the Prophet Muhammad and his successors, allMuslims belonged to a single community whose unity was based upon theinterconnection of religion and the state, where faith and politics were inseparable. Islamexpanded from what is now Saudi Arabia across North Africa, through the Middle Eastand into Asia and Europe. Historically, Islam has been the religious ideology for thefoundation of a variety of Muslim states, including the great Islamic empires: Umayyad(661–750), Abbasid (750–1258), Ottoman (1281– 1924), Safavid (1501–1722), andMughal (1526–1857). In each of these empires and other sultanate states, Islam was the basis of the state’s legal, political, educational, economic, and social institutions.By the11th century the Islamic world was under attack by the Turks and the Mongols. Theywere not conquered by Islam; rather, they entered the Islamic world as conquerors andconverted to Islam over the following centuries.Over the last two centuries the Islamicworld has been under another transformation from the West. The Europeans who camein the 19th and 20th centuries to militarily colonize the Muslim world did not convert likethe Turks and Mongols. For the first time, Muslims were politically subjugated by theEuropean empires of Russia, Holland, Britain, and France.The 20th century was marked by two dominant themes: European colonialism and the Muslim struggle for independence. The legacy of colonialism remains alive today. Colonialism altered thegeographical map of the Muslim world. It drew the boundaries and appointed leadersover the Muslim countries. After WWII, the French were in West and North Africa,Lebanon, and Syria; the British in Palestine, Iraq, Arabian Gulf, the Indian Subcontinent,Malaya, and Brunei; and the Dutch in Indonesia. The legacy of colonialism remains alivetoday. Colonialism altered the geographical map of the Muslim world. It drew the1  Andreea-Nicoleta Geafir RISE,I boundaries and appointed leaders over the Muslim countries. After WWII, the Frenchwere in West and North Africa, Lebanon, and Syria; the British in Palestine, Iraq,Arabian Gulf, the Indian Subcontinent, Malaya, and Brunei; and the Dutch in Indonesia.It replaced the educational, legal, and economic institutions and challenged the Muslimfaith. Colonial officers and Christian missionaries became the soldiers of Europeanexpansion and imperialism. Christianity was seen by the colonialists as inherentlysuperior to Islam and its culture. This attitude can be seen in the statement of LordCromer, the British counsel in Cairo from 1883-1907, “…as a social system, Islam has been a complete failure. Islam keeps women in a position of inferiority…it permitsslavery…its general tendency is intolerance towards other faiths…”European colonialismreplaced Muslim self rule under Islamic Law, which had been in existence from the timeof the Prophet Muhammad, by their European lords. The colonialists were modernCrusaders – Christian warriors going out of their way to uproot Islam. The French spokeof their battle of the cross against the crescent. The only difference was that theEuropeans came, this time, not with cavalry and swords, but with an army of Christianmissionaries and missionary institutions like schools, hospitals, and churches, many of which remain in Muslim countries to this day. The French seized the Jami’ Masjid of Algiers and turned it into the cathedral of Saint-Philippe with the French flag and crosson the minaret, symbolizing Christian domination. The Muslim world’s centuries of longstruggle with Western colonial rule was followed by authoritarian regimes installed byEuropean powers. The absence of stable states has led many to ask whether there issomething about Islam that is antithetical to civil society and rule of law. The answer tothis question lies more in history and politics than in religion. Modern Muslim states areonly several decades old and they were carved out by European powers to serve Westerninterests.In South Asia, the British divided the Indian subcontinent into India andPakistan, giving portions of the Muslim-majority state of Kashmir to each of them. Theconflicts that resulted from these actions have led to the deaths of millions in thecommunal warfare between Hindus and Muslims, the civil war between East and WestPakistan that led to the creation of Bangladesh, and conflicts in Kashmir over Indian rulethat persist to the present day. In the Middle East, the French created modern Lebanonfrom portions of Syria, and the British set the borders for Iraq and Kuwait and created a2  Andreea-Nicoleta Geafir RISE,Inew entity called Jordan. They also created a new country called Israel, ousting non-Jewish locals and taking land once belonging to Christians and Muslims and surrenderingit to a foreign Jewish authority. Such arbitrary borders fed ethnic, regional, and religiousconflicts including the Lebanese Civil War between Christians and Muslims, theoccupation of Lebanon by Syria, the Gulf War, which resulted from Saddam Hussein’sclaim to Kuwaiti territory, and the Israel-Palestinian conflict which need no further explanation.Political and economic models were borrowed from the West to replace theIslamic political and economic systems after independence from colonial rulers in themid-twentieth century, creating overcrowded cities lacking social support systems, highunemployment, government corruption, and a growing gap between rich and poor.Rather than leading to a better quality of life, Westernization led to the breakdown of traditional family, religious, and social values. Many Muslims blame Western models of  political and economic development as the sources of moral decline and spiritualmalaise.Unelected governments, whose leaders are kings, military or ex-military officers,rule the majority of countries in the Muslim world. State power is heavily reliant onsecurity forces, police, and military, and where freedoms of assembly, speech, and pressare severely limited. Many Muslim states operate within a culture of  1 authoritarianismthat is opposed to civil society and a free press.In addition to influencing those who cameto power in emerging modern Muslim nation-states, Europe, and later America, forgedclose alliances with authoritarian regimes, tolerating or supporting their non democraticways in exchange for, or to ensure, Western access to oil and other resources.When people ask themselves why the Muslim world is distraught with violence and unrest, theanswer can surely be found in the colonial interference, both past and present, in theregion. Therefore, any future success depends upon returning to a society which isgoverned by the principles of the people who live in it, one in which all its affairs aregoverned by Islam. 2 12 3  Andreea-Nicoleta Geafir RISE,IA short history of Islam religionThe literal meaning of Islam is peace; surrender of one’s will i.e. losing oneself for thesake of God and surrendering one’s own pleasure for the pleasure of God. The messageof Islam was revealed to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings on him) 1,400 years ago. It was revealed through angel Gabriel (on whom be peace) and was thus preserved in the Holy Quran. The Holy Quran carries a Divine guarantee of safeguardfrom interpolation and it claims that it combines the best features of the earlier scriptures.The prime message of Islam is the Unity of God, that the Creator of the world is Oneand He alone is worthy of worship and that Muhammad (peace and blessings on him) isHis Messenger and Servant. The follower of this belief is thus a Muslim - a Muslim’sother beliefs are: God’s angels, previously revealed Books of God, all the prophets, fromAdam to Jesus (peace be on them both), the Day of Judgement and indeed the Decree of God.A Muslim has five main duties to perform, namely; bearing witness to the Unity of God and Muhammad (peace and blessings on him) as His Messenger, observing the prescribed prayer, payment of Zakat, keeping the fasts of Ramadhan and performing the pilgrimage to Mecca. Islam believes that each person is born pure. The Holy Quran tellsus that God has given human beings a choice between good and evil and to seek God’s pleasure through faith, prayer and charity. Islam believes that God created mankind inHis image and by imbuing the attributes of God on a human level mankind can attain Hisnearness. Islam’s main message is to worship God and to treat all God’s creation withkindness and compassion. Rights of parents in old age, orphans and the needy are clearlystated. Women’s rights were safeguarded 1,400 years ago when the rest of the world wasin total darkness about emancipation. Islamic teachings encompass every imaginablesituation and its rules and principles are truly universal and have stood the test of time.In Islam virtue does not connote forsaking the bounties of nature that are lawful. On thecontrary one is encouraged to lead a healthy, active life with the qualities of kindness,4
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