Muslims’ three encounters with the West

Dr. Syed Habeeb Ashruf


A new nation the United States of America declared independence in 1776. The nascent nation struggled for seven years for recognition in the world body. The very first recognition came from the Muslim world. Sultan Mohammad the Third, The Sultan of Morocco was the first sovereign in the world to recognize the new nation in 1783.
During the same period, when the Muslims were driven out of Europe and European Powers and Russia were occupying Muslim lands, Muslims were brought in USA as slaves from Africa. A beginning of third encounter was made. According to Yuvoune Haddad 1/5th of all the slaves who were brought to America were Muslims. Fareed Nauman, a Muslim researcher says that from the year 1530 to year 1860 ten million slaves were brought to North America. Thirty percent of them were Muslims. This was the first wave of Muslims, which was brought to the USA by force. The second wave of Muslims came to the USA after the breakdown of the Ottoman Empire after the First World War. In the mid-sixties of the last century, at the height of the Vietnam war America needed skilled labor. The Johnson’s administration relaxed the immigration laws. Highly Qualified Muslims immigrated to the USA from 65 different countries. This was the third wave of Muslims to come to this country.
Within a span of thirty years 1914-1944 two World Wars took place and caused a colossal murder and mayhem. About the First World War Charles L Mee wrote “By November 11, 1918 when the armistice that marked the end of the war was signed eight million soldiers lay dead, twenty million more were wounded, diseased, mutilated, and twenty two million civilians had been killed or wounded”. About the Second World War, Patrick Buchanan wrote that fifty million died to bring Hitler down.
After the Second World War there was an acute shortage of manpower in North Western Europe (the heart of Europe) and United Kingdom. UK needed labor. Muslims came with others from India and Pakistan. France needed labor. Muslims arrived from North Africa. Germany needed labor. Muslims came from Turk
As I pointed out before in the first and second encounters the Northwestern Europe (the heart of Europe) and UK were spared. Muslims could not penetrate there. For the first time in history during the last 50 to60 years Muslims have established themselves in the heart of Europe (Northwestern Europe) and UK along with the USA and Canada.
There are 23 million Muslims in Northwestern Europe and British Isles. Total number of Muslims in Europe as a whole in 2007 was about 53 million (7.2 %). Bradford is 24% Muslim. Birmingham is 22% Muslim. Belgium is 5 % Muslim. Copenhagen and Manchester are 15% Muslim. 10% of Paris is Muslim and 10% of London is Muslim. Muslims in British Isles have done extremely well. They are present in every walk of life. You see them on BBC some are members of Parliament, a few in House of Lords. Mayor of London is a Muslim. There are 1500 mosques in England where there were only two 70 years ago. There are 100 Sharia Courts. Mr. Gibbon must be uncomfortable in his grave because a department of Islamic studies has been established at Oxford University under the patronage of the heir apparent, Prince Charles.
In France the number of mosques doubled in 20 years from 1000 to 2300. Mr. Charles Martel must be turning in his grave because a mosque is built in Tours, where he claimed to have stopped the advance of Muslims in 732.
In Germany there are 2600 prayer areas out of which 1200 are called mosques. 114 mosques have minarets.
In Austria, according to recent Gatestone Institute report, the Muslim population now exceeds 500.000 (or roughly6% of the total population), up from an estimated 150,000 (or 2%) in1990. The report further states that Muslim students now outnumber Roman Catholic students at middle and secondary schools in Vienna, the capital and largest city of Austria and Austria is also in the process of introducing new taxpayer-funded textbooks for the formal teaching of Islam in all public elementary schools across the country. This is the first time Islam is being taught to Austrian students in German language.
Belgium had 350 mosques as of 2005. A few years ago the municipal council of Brussels (the capital of the European Union) of 21 members had 10 Muslim members.
In Spain Muslim population has almost doubled from about a million in 2007 to 1.9 million today.
Switzerland has 114 mosques catering for the need of 400,000 Muslims. Recently the government of Switzerland has banned the construction of minarets.
In Canada there were 579,740 Muslims according to 2001 census.
In United States of America there are 4 to 5 million Muslims. There are 2007 Islamic Centers/mosques. There are two Muslim members of Congress.
When one reflects on these encounters certain realities, certain facts emerge. In the first and second encounters Muslims gave their blood and treasure. Hundreds of thousands were martyred and maimed but they could not penetrate in the heart of Europe. In the third encounter, not a single person died or injured and Muslims established themselves in the West. It is a divine design. It is a test for Muslims.
In the beginning it was said that each encounter has a point of beginning and an end. In between it reaches its peak its pinnacle, where it is hindered, hampered or stopped. The peak of the first encounter took place in 732 and of the second in 1401.The third encounter also had to have its peak, exactly after 600 years of 1401 the unfortunate incident of 911 occurred in 2001. Please also note that only we the Muslims are responsible for what happened in all the three encounters. It is only our doing. If Muslim soldiers were united in 732 things would have been different. In 1402 if two big Muslim Powers would not have fought with each other things would have been different. In732 Islam’s advance was stopped at Tours (France) and in 1683 Islam’s advance was stopped at Vienna (central Europe). But after 911 Islam did not stop. Islam for the first time in the history has become really global…..that every household of the world hears about Islam 24/7. It is a different matter that the honeymoon of Islam with the US came to an end. The cold war, which was fought with the communism under its red banner ended. A new war, which is rather hot, started in earnest on the pretext of terrorism with Islam’s green banner.
It is a fact that so for the establishment of Muslims in the West, especially the heart of Europe is concerned, the third encounter is the most successful. Bernard Lewis has acknowledged this fact in his book ‘Islam and the West’.
The real question is how this third encounter is going to end? Will there be a new inquisition In Europe like1492 to expel all the Muslims from Europe. Will there be an internment of All Muslims in USA as it was done to Japanese after the Pearl Harbor incident? These are the issues, which Muslims have to ponder about. In my opinion there will be no inquisition or internment. There will be no battles or battlefields. There will be no armies or armistices. There will be no truces or treaties. It will be a different kind of struggle. The end result of the third encounter depends as to how the Western Muslims shape up. Choice is ours. Either it will be a story of rack and ruin of Islam or a rebirth and renaissance of Islam. The prevailing condition among the Western Muslims points to the most likely scenario that our progeny will get drowned and dissolved in the predominant, pervasive, permissive, and most alluring and seductive Western culture-will get melted in to the melting pot. The story of rack and ruin of Islam will be written.
Today 38 to 40% of the Muslims of the world live as minorities. There are 77 countries in the World in which the Muslim population is 2% or more than 2% and soon USA will be the78th. By the year 2050 more than 50% of the Muslim masses will live as minorities. Western Muslims especially the Muslims of USA have to lead. They are highly educated and most economically viable and live in the only super power of the world (decisions made here have a global impact). We must know as to where we stand. The press writes about and we boast about that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the West. But nobody knows and nobody talks about as to how many second generation Muslims are leaving the fold of Islam or are just Muslims for names sake. The efflux is greater than influx. To have the rebirth and renaissance of Islam the challenges are many. The greatest challenge is to keep our progeny on the right path.
US Muslims have many challenges to meet.
The challenge is to muster up a political clout that the media dare not demonize us and dehumanize us.
The challenge is to create a place for ourselves in the public square——-to get a place on the table—-to have a platform from where we can persuade our government to not only sit in the world as a military might but to stand tall morally right—to tell our government that the national interest is not just to have a continuous flow of cheap oil. National interest is to fight for the truth, for human rights and justice for all, to have a platform from where we can demand loud and clear to stop the name calling; there is no such thing as Militant Islam, Mystic Islam, Political Islam and Radical Islam. Islam is Islam Deen-Al-Haq. Yes, a Muslim can be militant, mystic, radical or fanatic. American Muslims are not militant, mystic, radical, terrorist or fanatic. We are peace loving, law abiding, and tax -paying citizens. We have to have a platform from where the immigrant Muslims will say loud and clear that we made this country our country and the indigenous Muslims will say we are the sons of the soil, part of the American soul. We the American Muslims, Immigrant and indigenous will make this country a better country. We are going to live here and we are going to die here. We are not selfish people. We are a unique lobby. We want equality for all, justice for all, whoever he may be, an atheist, a Buddhist, a Christian, a Hindu, a Jew or a Muslim. We embrace the constitution of the USA, not only because we are the subjects of the land, but for its greatness. All Islamic values are embedded in it. We want our administration, also, to hold to our constitution.
We have to have a newspaper of a national caliber and a TV station. There are 1912 think tanks in this country, maximum in the world. We do not have a single think tank, so far as I know. The challenge is to have one!
These are lofty goals. To achieve them we have to have our house in order, which is properly run. We have to have a hard look as to how our organizations are run, how our children are taught. We have to have a complete paradigm shift. We must abandon the bi-polar management of our organizations and adopt a unipolar management, which is an Islamic model. We must stop marginalizing the 50% of our working force, our women folk. They must have an equal share in running our organizations. We must change the ritualistic Islamic education of children, where the Quran and life of our Prophet SAS is kept at the periphery, to a real Islamic system where the teaching of Quran in its entirety and life of our Prophet SAS in its proper context should have a central position. WE HAVE TO ESTABLISH THE INSTITUTION OF ZAKAT.
Our Deen gives us a golden half an hour every week, our Friday Sermon. That tool, that treasure, is not properly used by the owners of the pulpit. These people are in the driver’s seat. The driver who takes you to the destination safely by seeing through the wide open windshield in front, by looking in the right side and left side mirrors and by seeing through the rear window. Most of them they just drive by seeing through the rear window. There are three purposes of Friday sermon. Remembrance of Allah Subhana-o-Tala, Reverence for our Prophet SAS and relevance to the world we live in. All of them definitely talk about the first two but the third is always missing. The audience say do tell us the old stories but steer us. Do tell us the old narrative but open up new frontiers for us. Nobody gives direction to the younger generation. Nobody tells them that just becoming a pious Muslim is not enough to survive in this world. Nobody tells them to participate in each and every walk of life in this country: to have a broad based education. Nations are not built by just producing Physicians and Engineers. We have to have artisans and artists, architects and astronauts, doctors and diplomats, educationists, and entrepreneurs, geologists and journalists, politicians, poets and playwrights. Friday sermons have become routine ritualistic rigmaroles when there is a hunger among the audience to be kept engaged and to get energized. I am quite sure that our preachers know Islamic history, but they must also know the American history. They must know the constitution of this country. They must read books on current topics and at least one national newspaper every day. Time has come to make the Friday sermons a two way street. Preachers must give their e-mail addresses so that the audience can contact them about their sermons.
American Muslims have to struggle and strive in two spheres namely spiritual and secular—-what I call internal and external struggle. We have to work on both the fronts simultaneously. Internal struggle is the need of the hour, absolutely essential and most vital. The essence of Islam is the development of a God conscious and a God fearing personality. A devout Muslim cannot be melted in the melting pot, but he can become part of a mosaic. He adds beauty and a grace to that mosaic. A good Muslim is a best citizen of any country, is an asset to any community. To become a devout Muslim, one has to struggle with oneself. When returning, from the Hunayan Expedition the Prophet SAS had declared “we are back from the lesser jihad to a greater jihad”. A companion asked, what is the greater jihad o Prophet of God? He answered, “It is fighting the self-ego” to become a better Muslim from our previous self. American Muslims have to hold fast to their Deen and embark on a massive jihad-e-Akbar.
To secure our secular demands, if we cannot create a place for ourselves in the public square or a place on the table, we should join with the ones who have a place. There are hundreds of lobbying groups. We should join hands with the ones who cater to our needs. There are three groups of our interest. The first group is working for the political refinement at home such as Common Cause and Public Citizen. They are working to have term limitation on the politicians and campaign for finance reform. The second group, the Council for the national Interest is working toward a fair and balanced foreign policy in the Middle East. The third group is working on moral issues such as permissiveness, homosexuality, drug abuse and alcohol abuse. They include Concerned Women of America and Mothers against Drunk Drivers. We should continue to work in various interfaith dialogue groups and human right groups. ASSIMILTION IS TABOO IN ISLAM BUT INTERACTION IS A MUST IN ISLAM.
What is to be done to get back the glory for Islam?
There is only one way for each of us is to attain piety coupled with professional perfection and supplement with persistent patience, and prayers to put us on the path of glory for Islam.
Almighty Allah (SWT) knows better what the historians in 2474 will write about the Muslim’s third encounter with the West. Inshallah, it will be a story of rebirth and renaissance of Islam, not the story of rack and ruin of Islam.

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