Islam: The Greatest Colonizer Of All Time
Whenever there are terrorist attacks against west, there is a tendency in the Muslim world to interpret that these attacks against western societies as a natural backlash of the colonization of the Islamic world by Europeans for almost two centuries. I was reminded of this argument again, when I recently watched the video of the discussion of the noted secular Muslim activist Wafa Sultan on Al-Jazeera TV where an Egyptian Muslim cleric presenting this claim asking her, who colonized whom, whether UK colonized Egypt or Egypt colonized UK.
European colonization began with the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus in CE 1492 and this was a unique historical event with political, cultural, military and religious aspects that lasted for half a millennium and the consequences of this well discussed and much written chapter of history continues to produce more and more related discussions and of course, will cause more and more related events in the future as well.
European colonization had been in two different ways, one that happened in Americas and in Australia, where the indigenous population was systematically oppressed and were forced to flee from their own land and the Europeans migrating to theses lands. This was the transculturalization of a region wherein the indigenous people of these lands finally lost their existence and the United States and Canada and even the geographically east Australia and New Zealand collectively being known as being part of the western civilization, there was a cultural destruction.
In the first case there were large scale immigration from Europe to Americas and Australia and the ethnicity of the majority changed and that was the reason why these continents are now regarded as being part of the west. But indigenous masses of Latin-American don't claim that they are part of the west, but express their identity whenever possible, even as the evil of colonialism still hunts them. Any way western colonialism could not make the natives a part of its own civilizations or west had no such intention.
Another way was what happened in Africa and Asia where the indigenous people were relatively not forced to flee their lands and there was no large scale immigration from Europe to these two continents but the Europeans just ruled over them so that the cultural and social identify of the people of Africa and Asia were not much affected. These regions continue to be part of the pre colonial civilizations to which they actually belonged. This was the way that the Islamic world too had been colonized by Europeans, there were only political and military effects and the culture and religion of the so called Islamic world were unchanged, there was relatively no cultural destruction.
The spread of Christianity in Europe too had its own cultural impacts, but the people of Europe are not unaware or ashamed of their pre Christian pagan past but they are proud of it. Admittedly, paganism in Europe was heavily struck down by Christianity from the very day that Emperor Constantine the great decriminalized that religion in his portion of the empire in CE 313 and later in the entire Rome that he reunified in CE 324, the empire that had been partitioned by Diocletian, his predecessor.
Pagans were subject to strong persecution, pagan temples were either destroyed or were converted to Christian churches, Pagan books and literature were burned. The destruction of this European or classic Paganism was imminent as the imposition of Christianity over Europe was very rapid given its support from the successive rulers and was finished by the time of Emperor Justinian-I. Historians may go ahead with their debate on the intensity of the influence of paganism on Christianity, as argued by Edward Gibbon, but the destruction of European paganism as a religion and a culture was almost total.
Europe, where Christianity flourished, was the seat of two other prominent civilizations, Greek and Roman. The Greeks embraced Christianity, but only as another religion, they haven't lost their logistic, cultural and civilization identity and they find esteem dignity in the civilization that existed before the introduction of Christianity.
The Roman civilization may no longer be there as it had been known as it has now been divided into different cultures like Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. This was a natural process as Latin as a language began dying and new languages derived from Latin. Modern people of these cultures find no reason to be ashamed of the that much celebrated pre Christian pagan Roman civilization to which they once belonged.
The justification that many Muslim intellectuals find for Islamic terror is that it is a result of the long political oppression of the Islamic world by the west in the colonial period and they allege the west of being egotist ethically, culturally and intellectually. But not only Muslim society was the victim of western colonialism, so were the Hindu (Indian), African and scenic (indo-china) societies. None of these societies have produced terrorism and the contemporary rise of Hindu nationalism in India can not be viewed as a product of western hegemony.
When the term Islamic world is used, one has to be aware of the fact that the so called Islamic world is because of an Islamic colonialism, stronger and powerful than that of the west. A careful analysis will conclude that Islam was the greatest colonizerr of all time and the most egotist ideology ever known to humanity.
This is where we need to look back on the spread of Islam. Islam spread to all the territories that it conquered. Not only did the indigenous population of these conquered countries embrace Islam for one reason or another, but the cultural, social and intellectual aspects of of these lands were subject to a concrete transformation without immigration. Finally these civilizations became extinct and became known as part of the Islamic civilization even while the ethnicity of the people of these lands did not change.
The shores of all the rivers referred to as the cradles of civilization ,except the Huang-He-Yangtze in China which was not subject to Muslim conquest, the Tigris-Euphrates in modern day Iraq, the Nile in Africa, the Indus in the Indian subcontinent have all lost their connection to their profound inheritance. The Muslim masses on the banks of these rivers are either unaware or ashamed of their great pre Islamic heritage.
What happened with Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) and Egypt was even worse - that Arabic, the language of Islam, was forced upon them and that these regions lost even their languages, Egyptian in the case of Egypt and Sumerian in the case of Mesopotamia. Even in this case, the Indus valley or the modern Pakistan is only a partial exception, as Urdu which was not the tongue of the land but one that was born out of Islamic conquest is the official language. This was a cultural holocaust.
The most notable point here is that, the invaded masses who embraced Islam are totally in the dark about their pre-Islamic heritage and are ashamed of the same, which did not happen with the people colonized by the west. At least as far as the non Arabs conquered by Islam are concerned, for them Islam was not just a submission to Allah, it was a submission to Arab language, Arab culture and Arab tradition and a submission to fight for the Arab cause, Arab superiority and Arab Imperialism. Whereas communities colonized by westerners defended this conquest later, because of the unique colonial nature of Islam, people conquered by Islam found a cause in being conquered and the conquered joined the conqueror in fighting for this cause, triggering a chain reaction of Muslim conquests.
No colonized people glorify and iconize invaders or alien rulers as their heroes but Muslims do. We can not imagine Native Americans glorifying Columbus or Indians of the subcontinent glorifying the British or Russians or Ukrainians glorifying Genghis Khan. The best example of this peculiar psyche would be that of Invaders like Mahmud of Ghazni and Muhammed Ghuri who attacked the people of the Indus valley.
Even though they looted their properties, massacred their forefathers, gang raped their foremothers and enslaved them, they are the heroes of Pakistan and its people. Finally, this glorification and iconization turned so ridiculous where Pakistan naming one of its missiles after Muhammed Ghuri and Afghanistan opposing this saying that Pakistan has no claim over Afghan heroes and that only peaceful concerns may be named after them!
That the invaders glorify the invasion is understandable, but here, in the case of Islam, both the invader and the invaded glorify these bloody invasions. Western colonialists did try to brainwash the natives through the education system that they introduced, but even this kind of attempt was not very effective
Islam as an Identity of the invader was so potent that it has been able to brainwash and indoctrinate the indigenous people to that extent that they find pride in being invaded. This indoctrination was clever enough to cleanse out all these people had in their memories about their past, so that for them their history and civilization began only with this invasion.
Along with the western factor, Islam too has been a threat to the social, cultural, linguistic and religious identities of the colonized societies. But the hands and arms of Islam have even been mightier than that of the west, as far as the indigenous people of the lands invaded by Islam, from Morocco to Pakistan to Indonesia are concerned, and they consider themselves to be a part of the Islamic world. The people of the territories ruled by west are not treated, or they don't treat themselves as being a part of the western world.
Islamic colonialism was so horrendous and destructive when compared to the characteristics of western colonialism, as it was not only something political or militarily but something more influential, cultural, religious and psychological too. To be more exact, even the one fifth of the humanity which identifies itself as Muslims is a product of this ultra-colonial nature of Islam.
The ethical, cultural and intellectual egotism of the west may be a fact, but such egotism and hegemony are even deeper for Islam. This has always been apparent in its intolerant nature towards other cultures and religions; the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas is a recent example. This will be apparent again, if Islam becomes more powerful than the west, politically or militarily.