Meeting with a book has sometimes to do with luck. Sometimes it is because you are at the airport with some foreign currency which you couldn’t spend even after you visited the restaurant, the café and the duty-free shops. And then you spot a book with a catchy title and the right price to empty your wallet. So you buy it and read it during the 12 hours-long flight. Then you decide to write a review because you have nothing more interesting to write about.
This is what happened to me and this book.
Well, not exactly. I decided to write this post because the book’s topic is essential in our present days where so many wars are said to be launched against Islam-ist groups and threat.
In “A world without Islam“, Graham Fueller tries to picture a world where Islam wouldn’t have existed and considers the current trends to find out whether they would have been different or not. Would there still be a war on terror, a clash of civilisations, hatred towards the US, etc.
Fueller starts by a long historical account on the East/West relationship before and after the advent of Islam. He suggests that “competition” between these two parts of the world was present a long time ago and Islam had nothing to do with it. Even for the crusades, he argues that their true motive wasn’t to fight against Islam and return Jerusalem to Christendom.
He then goes on relating the situation of Muslim people today in non-Muslim states. Russia, Europe, India, China… Here again, with the exception of India, he argues that most of the conflicts between these states and their Muslim minorities are essentially ethnic.
The last part, which is the most interesting, deals of what’s happening today and what role Islam plays in the current conflicts. Fueller explains that Islam is used as a unity factor to get many people under one banner. He explains that Socialism, pan-Arabism, etc. played this role in the past decades and failed. So today, all activists turn to Islam and use it for this purpose. He acknowledges the specificities of Islam which make it a more efficient factor.
On the other hand, he stresses on the Western powers role. He goes back to colonialism and its wrong-doings. He even says something I hadn’t seen elsewhere, that Western colonizers made sure to marginalize Muslim scholars and schools which therefore evolved (or not) apart from the societies. And today that these scholars are back to their ‘normal’ role, it is normal to see the dissent between what they say and what their societies want.
Besides colonialism, US imperialism is shown as a major cause behind the flourishing of terrorism. Fueller suggests some solutions to reduce terrorism and bring peace to this part of the world, i.e. to the whole world. He says the first move must be made by the US and the US must keep on moving in the right direction even if terror acts continue because, he says, it will take time before peace. He argues that the US must act as if Islam did not exist in formulating its policies in the Middle East.
Below are some of the actions the author thinks would help:
- Western military and political intervention in the Muslim world must cease.
- US must withdraw its special support from pro-American dictators that discredit the US.
- Democratization must be allowed to proceed in the Muslim world, but the US must not be the vehicle for its implementation.
- US must accept that under democratic processes Islamic parties will be legitimately elected in early elections in most Muslim countries. He believes these parties will be quickly discredited as they wouldn’t be able to fix their countries’ issues.
- Early solution to the Palestinian problem must be found.
- Only Muslims (i.e. locals) in the end will be able to find solutions to deal with Islamic radicalism.
I think this book is a good addition to the debate in the West and especially in the US as it voices an opinion which goes against the mainstream thinking. That Fueller was vice-chair of the NIC, worked for the CIA in Kabul and had been at the CIA and US state department for over 27 years raises some questions. Does this mean he had almost no influence in shaping US foreign policy and CIA actions, or does it mean it would have been worse had he and others with similar opinions not been there? I guess somebody has to write about “a world without Graham Fueller”.
Here you can read an article by the author on the same topic.