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Political Islam takes center stage since 9-11

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  • Zafar Khan
    http://www.islamawareness.net/Politics/ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Political Islam takes center stage since 9-11 By Andrew Hammond Tue Sep 5,
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 7, 2006

      Political Islam takes center stage since 9-11
      By Andrew Hammond Tue Sep 5, 10:30 AM ET


      RIYADH (Reuters) - In the five years since the
      September 11 attacks, U.S. intervention abroad has fed
      the extremism it seeks to destroy and cemented the
      rise of political Islam as the ideology of choice for
      millions in the Middle East, experts say.

      Today, political Islam -- a diverse movement with
      moderate as well as hard-line elements -- has been
      widely embraced in the Arab world, where many feel
      alienated by corrupt rule and foreign policies seen as
      serving the interests of the United States and its

      "Since September 11, I have worked on massive public
      opinion polls in the Muslim and Arab world. You can
      see the animosity between September 11 and now. It's
      growing and it is worrying," said Jihad Fakhreddine, a
      Lebanese analyst based in Dubai.

      "The line between religiosity and extremism has become
      thinner. In the time of colonialism, the antagonism
      was not perceived in terms of the West and Islam.
      Independence movements in the Arab world were driven
      by nationalist feelings."

      Radicals hitching themselves to the al Qaeda banner
      are now fighting U.S.-allied governments in
      Iraq and Saudi Arabia, and have staged attacks in
      Morocco, Egypt, Yemen and Jordan.

      Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, a moderate Islamist group
      which espouses non-violence, made a strong showing in
      elections last year, while Palestinian Islamist group
      Hamas, born in 1988 during the first Intifada against
      Israeli occupation, won polls in January.

      Islamist discourse dominates in the pan-Arab media,
      where both nationalists and Islamists revere
      Osama bin Laden, the al Qaeda leader seen as the
      mastermind of the 9-11 attacks, as "Sheikh Osama."

      Nationalist politicians, who on the face of it have no
      reason to support Islamist movements, cheer their
      ability to challenge the West on popular channels like
      Al Jazeera.


      The U.S. response to 9-11, when 19 Arabs struck a
      deadly blow to the heart of the world's only
      superpower, has driven more people toward Islamist
      politics, analysts say.

      "American actions against political Islam after
      September 11 have ironically contributed to its
      further rise and emergence, even in its most
      fanatical, extremist forms," said Lebanese-born
      academic As'ad AbuKhalil, who teaches in California.

      The United States has invaded Iraq and backed Israel
      in its conflict with the Palestinians, presenting both
      policies as part of a plan to spread democracy in a
      dysfunctional Arab world.

      Public opinion in the region has traditionally seen a
      resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict as the key to
      solving the region's problems of democracy and
      religious extremism.

      "Moderate Muslims are having a difficult time. They
      are not at peace with the radicals, but they cannot
      somehow make their point heard convincingly in the
      West," said Jawad al-Anani, a former Jordanian
      government minister of Palestinian origin.

      President George W. Bush's recent comment that the
      United States is battling "Islamic fascists" has
      crystallized a widespread sense that the "war on
      terror" is a war on Islam, Anani said.

      "The Islamists have some ... valid arguments. They say
      'we are fighting your enemies, who don't do anything
      to solve your problems, who take Israel's side
      blindly, who don't show any sympathy for Muslims being
      killed in Palestine or Iraq'."


      Political Islam began its ascent long before 9-11.

      Analysts say its roots largely lie in the failure of
      secular Arab nationalism to challenge Western hegemony
      and return land to dispossessed Palestinians.

      Over 700,000 Palestinian Arabs fled or were driven
      from their homes when Israel was created in 1948.
      Israel won control of the remaining 22 percent of
      historical Palestine in 1967, though its native
      Palestinians remained in place.

      "The rise of political Islam in the Middle East, to
      which the United States and Western governments
      contributed, only became noticed after September 11
      with those attacks," AbuKhalil said.

      "The underlying causes for the rise of Islamist
      movements are non-religious in nature. It's about
      foreign policy and the stand against corruption and
      tyranny," he said.

      Fred Halliday, a professor of international relations
      at the London School of Economics, also pointed to
      nationalism and the discrediting of past ideologies
      that have failed in the domestic and foreign arena.

      "9-11 was a very important event, but I don't actually
      think in terms of Islamism in the Middle East it is
      the main event," he said.

      "Political Islam uses a lot of nationalist ideas and
      themes. Bin Laden says countries are occupied by
      foreigners and have the right to fight. With him,
      Hamas or Hizbollah, 80 percent of the rhetoric is
      secular nationalism reconfigured," Halliday said,
      adding that Shi'ite Hizbollah also borrows from

      Islamist movements today offer empowerment in the face
      of U.S.-allied governments who argue that fighting the
      America-imposed order is futile and that Palestinians
      should make do with what they can get through talks

      Islamists, with their slogan "Islam is the solution,"
      say it doesn't have to be that way.

      Saudi cleric Saleh bin Humaid captured the zeitgeist
      during Friday prayers in Mecca this month.

      "We are now, with God's will, witnessing a new dawn
      that implants self-confidence in the (Muslim) nation
      ... so that it relies on its unity, its people and
      wise policies rather than on international
      organizations and resolutions," he said.
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