The rift between the Western World and Islam has perhaps never been greater than it is today. Yet despite the injustices, mistakes and misconceptions, there is also a serious effort by people on both sides to bridge the gap and better understand one another. Understanding Muslim-West Alienation is a welcome effort by Arshad Khan in this direction.
Having lived in both the Middle East and America, Khan is in a unique position to straddle the two worlds and present to each side their role in initiating and escalating this complex conflict. He does so in simple and easy to read chapters. Beginning with the rise of Islam in Arabia, Khan traces a rift with the West during the Middle Ages that gradually increased with European domination of the Middle East during the early years of this century. During these years, the European powers engaged in the redrawing of borders between several countries in the Arab world, which as the Iraqi aggression into Kuwait has shown became a perpetual source of conflict. Following the departure of the Western powers, something else was discovered in this region that was to shape global events for the next few decades: oil.
Spurred by the oil resources and eager to possess control over it, the Western world led by the United States started a policy of political interference to introduce puppet regimes that could be controlled by them. Regimes such as the Shah’s regime in Iran, Saddam Hussein’s in Iraq and Zia-ul-Haq’s in Pakistan, etc., wielded by stifling and thwarting democratic movements in these countries. The discontent in the Arab world became the breeding ground for the rise and growth of Islamic militancy. With such corrupt governments in power, people looked to Islamic movements to bring about political change.
In other major events taking place in the world, the Israel-Palestine issue, the ruthless extermination of Bosnian Muslims by Serbs and the Afghan and Kashmir problem, Muslims felt that the West in general and America in particular took a deliberate anti-Muslim stand. These events thus served as catalysts to unite militants across the Muslim and Arab world in a terror war against the West.
Khan does not spare the Muslims, either, for their role in the conflict. Lack of democratic institutions, modern education policies and religious reform throughout the Arab and Muslim world are responsible for the current situation, he says. Harshly critical of the Muslim leadership for its failure to introduce any kind of reform be it in political or social circles, the author blames the politicians for bringing religion into political struggles and triggering violence and terrorism in the name of Islam. He also implores the silent majority and moderates among the Muslims to make themselves heard and be more vocal in their condemnation of terrorist acts.
With its plain and simple text, this book written for the politically uninitiated describes and analyzes various aspects of the Muslim-West dichotomy. The reader is left with a holistic view of this complex situation and some idea of the politically tough decisions both sides need to take to diffuse the tension.