‘Muslims are the root of problems’
Wherever I go in the world, it is often hinted that Muslims are the cause of all problems faced in contemporary times!
“You mean I am a problem,” is my wide-eyed response and the answer invariably is, Not you, but those others.
Once I did not know what to say to a psychoanalyst
friend in Vienna, Austria’s capital city and birthplace of Sigmund Freud, when he spoke condescendingly of ‘a Muslim mentality’ and the flooding of Europe with an endless flow of Muslim refugees.
“When Europe stops encouraging the bombing, together with the US, of Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, the Palestinian people, and Syria the flood of refugees to your part of the world will magically dry up,” I said.
As far as I am concerned, Islam is just another great idea that was introduced to the world by a concerned citizen of his time. Islam is no less or more troublesome than numerous other beliefs that exist in the world.
And Muslims are as good or as wicked as people belonging to so many other families, communities and nations. That Muslims total nearly 22% of the world’s total population of six billion people is a historical reality that is just 1,400 years old. Before there were Hindus, Jews, Christians and Muslims, there must have been other people trying to engage in the mystery of life and death, and battling for survival.
Surely, there were wars over territory and natural resources in pre-historic times too. The story of Islam is similar.
Sandwiched between Persia and Rome, the two superpowers of that time, the people of the arid Arab peninsula were possessive about the markets of Mecca even as they envied the agricultural riches of the fertile crescent to their north, along the Mediterranean and the lush lands of the Persians that stretched to the Chinese and Russian borders in the east and to the shores of Greece in the west.
When they could, the Arabs burst out of their homeland in the desert to drive the Romans out of the Middle East and to conquer tired Persian armies that had already ruled the world for centuries. The massive conquest of territories outside the parched lands of Arabia began in the mid-seventh century. And because there was little to eat except for date palms, the expansion continued outwards.
From Mecca, Muslims moved to Medina and to Damascus. Baghdad was the new capital founded in the eighth century by the new conquerors of the world after the Greeks, Persians and Romans on the fertile banks of the Tigris and on an important trade route between Iraq, Iran and Syria.
Local armies fell due to exhaustion from long external conflicts, internal lack of administration, and oppression of the people by cruel monarchs. The new conquerors were often welcomed as they promised equality, stability and security.
These are some reasons why the mighty Persian empire of the Sassanians collapsed as did the Greco-Roman Byzantine empire, and Palestine and Syria were conquered too. Muslim armies moved westward to take over Egypt and other north African societies. In the eighth century, the Sindh region in South Asia too fell.
Over time, the Muslim people were no longer just Arabs. Out of diplomacy, fear or belief, conquered populations became Muslim, mainly for survival.
It is the Ottoman empire of Turkic origin and with its capital in Istanbul that is responsible for conquering large territories all over the world, making populations Muslim and swelling their number to about 1.6 billion today. However, decadence and corruption eventually stole its wisdom and the Ottoman empire too had to call it a day after seven centuries of lording it over the world.
In a state of amnesia about all the good that the Ottomans had once achieved, the empire found itself embroiled in the very dirty politics of Europe. It sided with Germany for reasons of increased trade but found itself on the wrong side of the British, on whose conquered lands the sun never set. In the last century and before the sun finally set on their rule, the Ottomans lost in both the world wars as they fought alongside fascist Germany.
Before that happened, world-wide colonisation by Europeans had already created many economic, social and cultural imbalances amongst a huge population of different societies around the world that continue to fight against injustices introduced into their lives by colonialists.
The present-day battle on the globe, therefore, is not just a clash of religions but a cry for a more just distribution of Earth for everyone and for a more equal distribution of the planet’s wealth amongst all its inhabitants.
How Muslim or how dangerous is this mentality, is my question.