Leadership (Abuja)

22 July 2013

Egypt: Western World, Egypt, Political Islam and Lessons to Learn

Photo: Amru Salahuddien/Xinhua
Egyptian protesters clash with riot police (file photo).

A world of clashing civilisations, however, is inevitably a world of double standards: people apply one standard to their kin countries and a different standard to the others. - Samuel P. Huntington

In a report immediately after the ouster of the democratically elected Morsi's government of Egypt by the country's military, it was learnt that USA actively supported the plan and preferred the ouster despite its status as the champion of democracy across the globe. The reasons are not farfetched. Huntington in his thesis of The Clash of civilisations, twenty years ago, presumed that in Muslim countries, democracy provides the ground for people who hate the West to take control of governments. He advised the West to, among other things, make sure it creates allies in Muslim countries with whom it can do business with. Impliedly even only at the expense of the much taunted democracy that is the hallmark of the western civilisation.

Apparently the West as personified by the political and military might of the USA heeds to late Huntington and other scholars who share his sentiment like Bernard Lewis who wrote extensively about the same subject matter and almost at the same time with Huntington. However what is surprising is the persistence of such opinions shaping Muslims and the West's relationship for over two decades now. Does this underlie the assumption that over these decades the dynamics of Muslims versus West's relationship have not changed a bit? Does this mean new grounds have not been broken for better understanding of the complex relationship between the two supposedly opposing interests?

It is my humble opinion that we are at a critical time of our history that requires a reflection and a revision. The truth of the matter is Muslims everywhere will not stop the yearning for governments they think will operate in tandem with requirements of God for humankind in this world. On the other hand it is not going to be in the interest of peace and fair neighbourliness for USA to always intervene whenever Muslim ideologues secure power and truncate democratic processes. That is tantamount to drawing unto itself justified criticism. It is making sacrifices that will confer on the western civilisation and its ideals some integrity deficit.

Granted that there are Muslims groups and in almost every Muslim country that house deep resentment against the western civilisation and its current leadership of the world. But there are many others who believe they can manage to keep pure their faith and relationships even while being friends with the West. In my opinion and looking at the trajectory of the happenings on the Egyptian political space since the assumption of the Muslim brotherhood to power, the brotherhood has been keen and at home with the idea of keeping a healthy relationship with the West while it retains its Islamic ideal. In fact the brotherhood came to a lot of compromises by maintaing a cordial relationship with Israel, otherwise seen by Islamists as the number one enemy of Muslim states and a major port of US interest in the Middle East. The brotherhood even secured an IMF loan and mortgaged further the future of their country to the West.

Taking the special case of Egypt for consideration, the pointers are it is the West that is still not comfortable with the Muslim ideologues in power by choice of keeping to suspicion and stale scholarship. A critique of both Huntington and Bernard Lewis was written in 2004 by Richard W. Bulliet, The Case for Islamo-Christian Civilisation. In it the fallacy in the scholarly assumption that Muslims everywhere hate and will continue to hate the West forever was exposed. The case was made that the arguments by Bernard Lewis and Huntington were based on lack of proper appreciation of some historical realities and epistemologies. He encouraged the West to also explore the possibilities of allowing Muslim nations and people to choose and decide for themselves on how they want to build their democracy and maximize its gains.

As Muslims of Northern Nigeria we have a serious stake in this discussion as it relates to what the future holds for all of us. Huntington, while strengthening his thesis asserted that Islamic civilisation over time has produced three of its variants that are Turkish, Malay and Arab civilisations. He did not think the Muslims in the Sub-Saharan Africa are a variant of Islamic civilisation but rather erroneously lumped us all under Arab civilisation; more so the Muslims in the North of Nigeria.

As events unfold, the fate of Muslim northerners as a block in the turbulent waters of world politics will largely depend on what America thinks of them. Former American ambassador to Nigeria and an erudite scholar of the West on Africa, John Campbell, had so far not maintained a too positive opinion about them as allies for the US in development. Yet the US should know that in spite of the negative image some of the Muslims here hold about it there are many deep scholars who seriously think otherwise.

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