It is often said that what happened to the Jews in Europe in the past is now happening to the Muslims. Britain has opted for Brexit because it resents immigrants and “different-looking” Muslims who have always attracted British racism. France threatens “Frexit” because it despises its ghettoised Muslims. There are other complaints too, mixed up with Muslim-related resentment. Globalisation has squeezed the welfare-oriented economies and capitalism’s success, through inequality, is being finally questioned, without any alternative system being mooted.
The Jews were in Europe long before the Muslims arrived; they were there even before the Christian era, under the Roman Empire. The bloodshed began after Christianity conquered Europe and began the Crusades in the East, with the killing of local Jews. Then, of course, Hitler happened.
But one shouldn’t forget the Eastern Orthodox hatred of the Jews much earlier: The Russian word “pogrom” for collective murder came from eastern Europe. Anyone who looks different and is unable to integrate will attract an almost animal-like prejudice.
The West received immigrants because its economies needed labour for jobs that the locals wouldn’t do without raising costs. America was the model. Its rise and dominance disarmed Europe; then, the “colonials” arrived to do menial jobs. America was happy with a constant stream of refugees from the dysfunctional states of South America. Britain got its South Asians and France got its Muslims from the African coast. Post-colonial conflicts in the liberated, but dysfunctional, new states caused many from the Third World to seek livelihoods in the West. What was earlier racial prejudice controlled by law is today transformed by another crisis — a crisis of capitalism trapped by a populism, which shows up as “direct democracy”, speaking through referendums.
Today, populism in the West is attacking Muslims, not other nationalities like Hindus from India, who actually outnumber the Pakistanis and Arabs in the UK. Muslims are in the spotlight because of the transformation of the Muslim man globally into the primal homo-Islamicus, who has the world-changing sharia on his mind, especially after the Islamic world let go of education as an Enlightenment phenomenon, and nurtured the madrasa instead. The stage of “looking different” is past. The stage of jihad or rejecting the non-Muslim laws of the host state attracts the Muslim mind and makes him reject integration.
Britain, which didn’t mind non-integration, favoured multiculturalism; France, favouring integration, objected to Britain letting its Muslims fly off the handle. There was the Finsbury mosque cell of the al-Qaeda run by Abu Hamza Al-Masri, an Egyptian who had lost an arm and an eye fighting in Afghanistan. Al Masri published Usrat al-Ansar, the weekly version of the murderous GIA in Algeria, and got his son to abduct British tourists in Yemen for the sake of jihad. Al Masri has been expatriated to the US to stand trial because the British were still tolerant of Muslim extremism.
Another Egyptian, Yasser al-Sirri, headed the London-based Islamic Media Observatory, the news agency that provided letters of accreditation to the fake journalists who killed Ahmad Shah Massoud in the north of Afghanistan, three days before 9/11. The Pakistani expat in the UK changed himself into a bearded cleric, his women trailing behind him in burqa. Exhorters like Anjem Choudary, now in jail, openly challenge British democracy from the vantage point of the sharia, which enjoins jihad. UK Indians might start doing so too, given the way the BJP is pushing India into aggressive Hindutva.
Till 1989, the Algerian Muslim community in France was not identified with Islam. In Algeria, the left-wing secular party FLN had wrested the country from France in 1954 by appealing to Islam and invoking Arabic as the national language. FLN tried to block the Islamisation of Algeria, started in 1931 by Sheikh bin Badis. It used Arabic as a nexus with the rest of the Arab world and later, as a means of connecting with Egypt’s left-wing Nasserite nationalism.
Like what happened in Turkey later, secular FLN’s incompetence and corruption had the effect of changing the policy of Arabisation into Islamisation, based on an intense hatred of France. An Islamic backlash, in the shape of FIS, was created in 1989 with extreme positions under foreign salafi and Pakistani (Tablighi Jamaat) influences, allowing the party to evolve a considered position against democracy. The founding of FIS coincided with the Islamic “scarf” affair in France. In 1991, FIS swept local elections, forcing the ruling FLN to scrap national elections and ban the FIS. This unleashed an ugly civil war in Algeria, in which radical “Afghan” FIS offshoots killed Muslims under the doctrine of “jahiliyya” (darkness), as conceived by Pakistan’s Maulana Abul Ala Maududi and elaborated by Egypt’s Sayyid Qutb.
While populism in the West is clearly suicidal, the transformation of the identity of the migrant can’t be separated from the factors that form the Western mind today.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines