Today's date:
Winter 2002


Islam Is a T-Rex

Munawar Annees, formerly editor of Periodica Islamica, now heads a Templeton Funds project on science in the Islamic world.

Rabat, Morocco - It is time for alienated Muslim intellectuals to tear the Orientalist veil that obscures the face of Islam, re-enter the historical currents they have abandoned, create a deeper understanding of the dynamics of derailed Islamic societies, and lead them into an Islamic vision of a world where all communities participate in a race to create works of excellence. The West too must give up its false notions of Islam as the irreconcilable "Other," that must forever be battled and besieged. If Islam is a greater threat to the West than India or China, that is because our actions-in large part-have succeeded in preventing it from reconstituting its center, its wholeness and history.

More than a fifth of the world's population seek their place in the world within a stream of history that flows from the Koran. They want to live by ethical ideals that in the past have produced nobility, magnanimity, sobriety, tolerance, science, mathematics, philosophy, architecture and poetry. Islam may do so again if only we lift the siege-and allow the light, freshness and sweetness at its core to find expression again in a contest of creative minds and soulful hearts, intertwined with reason and mercy. (Alam)

Let us face it. All is not well with the Muslim world. The West must not be blamed for all the ills that plague the Muslim world. There is much in the body of oppression, corruption, gender discrimination, poverty, illiteracy and lack of civil liberty for which the Muslim world has neither shown the courage to accept the blame nor the will to fight against these enemies. While we talk of image manufacturing in the West in relation to Islam, what is the nature of image within Islam?

The nature of image within Islam is synonymous with the image of a T-Rex. T-Rex, as we know, was a dinosaur. We are told it grew to enormous proportions. Today, it lies scattered in stony fossils decorating museums or giving Mr. Spielberg a chance to make money. It failed in the face of change and evolution. And it became extinct. The Muslim ummah of today is no different from T-Rex. At one time it too grew as the biggest empire in the world, larger than the Roman Empire. Today, just like T-Rex, the most precious relics of its cultural heritage lie in the Western libraries and museums. And little wonder that Hollywood spins out flick after flick, just like T-Rex, demonizing Islam, Muslims and Arabs. True to the T-Rex syndrome, the mind of the Muslim world is frozen into the nostalgia of the bygone glory. Thought is sterile. The Muslim world is insular to the rapid changes taking place around the world. It has grown immune to change. It has forgotten the very dictates of its own faith that God does not change the affairs of a people unless they change themselves.

If the West, in its profitable trilogy of images, portrays Islam and Muslims as an iconized evil, it is the Muslim world itself that provides the script for that trilogy. It is upon its fossilized intellect that the edifice of Hollywood and the media is built. Mindless uttering on Islam, as a religion of peace and mercy, does no good if these words are not matched by deeds. The Koran speaks of the advent of the Prophet as a mercy to the entire universe. But look at the Muslim world where one Muslim is not immune from the atrocities of another-all ceaselessly committed in the name of either a king, a dictator or an autocrat disguising himself as a democratic ruler-Mahathir of Malaysia being the latest incarnation. On that count, the media are patently wrong.

The Muslim world is not at war with the West. It is at war with its own. It is engaged in an orgy of self-annihilation. In violation of the Divine decree, its organic existence can only be redeemed through exacting justice. Instead of shouting hollow slogans in frenzied voices, the stagnation, the fossilization and the creeping decay must be brought to an end if the Muslim world is ever to face the challenge of the 21st century and beyond. The reanimation of the glorious past in the post-textual age needs neither an apology for Islam nor an ill-conceived jihad. Let freedom and justice ring across the Muslim lands as the harbingers of partnership in a new world born in the mercy and compassion of Allah.