The seeming suddenness with which Islamic terrorism went from a problem happening “out there” in the hinterlands to a problem happening across the street can be credited as much to the Islamists themselves, as to their enablers.
What the backwardness of the Muslim world and the collapse of its empires of conquered regions into colonies themselves, ruled over by European powers achieved to break down Pan-Islamism, seemingly for good, was swiftly undone.
And it was undone by the fact that virtually every major power in the 20th century fostered Pan-Islamism as a tool against its enemies.
Certainly the worst example of this phenomenon was the Cold War during which the US and the USSR helped create modern Islamic terrorism, by alternately training, arming and turning Muslim guerrillas and terrorists into weapons against each other.
While the USSR helped create the modern Middle Eastern terrorist, the US helped create the Asian Muslim terrorist.
And together, from the PLO to the Mujadeen, from Al Queda to the PFLP, from the Madrassas to the Patrice Lumumba Peoples’ Friendship University, the beast grew and swelled to fill a vacuum that the end of the Cold War created.
And as the modern Muslim terrorist was created out of the Cold War, so were the two major arguments used by conservative and liberal Westerners for supporting or tolerating Islamic terrorism.
The Soviet Union crafted the core argument used by liberals who defend the sort of headchopping Islamist barbarians who would be happy enough to nail them to a wall simply for not having a beard, when it differentiated between “ancient” Pan-Islamism as a tool of religious repression and “modern” Pan-Islamism as a means by which oppressed people revolt against imperialist tyranny.
To understand just how far back this goes, consider this defense of Pan-Islamism by the Chairman of the Communist Party of Indonesia in 1922.
But now one must first understand what the word Pan-Islamism really means. Once, it had a historical significance and meant that Islam must conquer the whole world, sword in hand, and that this must take place under the leadership of the Caliph, and the Caliph must be of Arabian origin. About 400 years after the death of Mohammed the Muslims split into three great states and thus the Holy War lost its significance for the entire Muslim world…
So Pan-Islamism no longer has its original meaning, but now has in practice an entirely different meaning.
Today, Pan-Islamism signifies the national liberation struggle, because for the Muslims Islam is everything: not only religion, but also the state, the economy, food, and everything else. And so Pan-Islamism now means the brotherhood of all Muslim peoples, and the liberation struggle not only of the Arab but also of the Indian, the Javanese and all the oppressed Muslim peoples.
This brotherhood means the practical liberation struggle not only against Dutch but also against English, French and Italian capitalism, therefore against world capitalism as a whole. That is what Pan-Islamism now means in Indonesia among the oppressed colonial peoples, according to their secret propaganda – the liberation struggle against the different imperialist powers of the world.
This is a new task for us. Just as we want to support the national struggle, we also want to support the liberation struggle of the very combative, very active 250 million Muslims living under the imperialist powers. Therefore I ask once again: Should we support Pan-Islamism, in this sense?
The speech in question may date back to 1922 but its sentiments are very modern and commonplace among liberals in the West today. Their view is that Islamism is a people’s liberation struggle against Western imperialism and capitalism because it serves as a common bridge between Islam and the Left today in 2009, just as it did then in 1922.
This reinterpretation of Islamism as an expression of economic and political discontent today tends to be described under labels such as resistance to Globalization or to corrupt Western “puppet regimes”, but it is in fact a carbon copy of the Soviet approach to Pan-Islamism.
This ideological approach enables the left to co-opt Islam in the struggle against Western hegemony. Meanwhile Islamists have long since learned to put forward economic and political grievances in order to make common cause with the left.
Meanwhile on the right, the American approach to Islam, as exemplified by the Green Belt strategy or the current War on Terror (but not on Islam) is that Muslims were potentially valuable allies whose religion would help create common ground against Communism and other evils.
Disastrous incarnations of this approach included Carter’s backing for the Ayatollah Khomeni that resulted in the totalitarian Shiite Iran we know today and America’s longstanding with the Saudi royal family, which has exported Sunni terrorism almost as assiduously as its oil.