CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Twice in recent history, political revolutions have originated through religious institutions.
In America, Martin Luther King, Jr., through the black church, led the political movement culminating in the passage of the 1960s civil rights legislation. In Europe, the election of a Polish cardinal -- John Paul II -- and the political awakening of Eastern Europe generally, led to the tearing down of the Berlin Wall in November 1989.
People deprived of power in political institutions will find another path to power; we have no difficulty accepting that analysis in these examples.
The countries that form what we now call the "Middle East" were for seven centuries a political monolith occupying "the Caliphate," a colossal landmass extending from Istanbul, the western most point of Turkey, around the Eastern Mediterranean to Egypt and across Northern Africa to Morocco. In the late 19th century, the sultan, based in Istanbul, had fallen under the control of Western financiers as a result of profligate spending. As a consequence, the Sultan backed the Kaiser, his banker, in the Great War, and became collateral political damage on a massive scale at war's end.
In 1922, the British and the French divided the spoils of the Middle East. Churchill, recognized early that oil would replace coal as the fuel of the industrial revolution and become the basis for projection of Britain's naval power; Britain took Iraq and Iran, plus Egypt, the water route to India. Thus, at the same time that the Treaty of Versailles was abolishing colonial rule in much of Africa and Asia, the Middle East became the last portion of the world to fall into the hands of colonial predators.
The British ended up with a "concession" on the oil of Iran, effectively the host country had ceded national ownership of the minerals underground. Viewed today as the zenith of colonial economic exploitation, to those who ended up as king of the local mountain, the concessions were great big piggy banks that need not be shared with a population that still lived in the distant past of Islam. It was Iranian Prime Minister Mosaddegh's 1951 nationalization of the concession holder -- the Anglo-Persian Oil Company -- that led to the British-American coup in 1953 that installed the Shah, and guaranteed the blow back in 1979 when Islamic fundamentalists pushed aside the Shah to create the first Islamic state.
Sayyid Qtub was the most important Egyptian religious figure of the 1940s and '50s; his major literary work was a 30-volume commentary on the Koran. Qtub initially supported Gamal Abdel Nasser's 1952 military coup that threw out the financially corrupt and sexually depraved monarchy of King Farouk in Egypt. But Qtub became disillusioned with the secular objectives of Nasser and became the inspiration for the Islamic Brotherhood, the fundamentalist movement in Egypt that sought to impose an Islamic state. Nasser hung Qtub, but not before the idea of Islamic fundamentalism was out of the bag as a political movement.
What connection do Qtub's writings have to al-Qaida today? Among other things, he described the United States for his followers. Traveling in the United States in 1956, Qtub was repelled by the pervasive materialism, and observed -- harshly but not inaccurately -- that "America is highly religious; unfortunately their god is money."
Qtub's influence on al-Qaida was felt through his brother, Muhammad Qtub, a professor of Islamic Studies, who taught Ayman Zawahiri, a member of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, imprisoned and tortured for participation in the assassination of Anwar Sadat (the Egyptian president and soldier who had made peace with Israel). Later Zawahiri was a mentor of and deputy to Osama bin Laden; in May 2011, Zawahiri became his successor as leader of al-Qaida. And the "Arab Spring" has just witnessed the Islamic Brotherhood winning the first democratic elections in Egypt's history.
What was Osama bin Laden's single stated political objective? Restoration of the Caliphate, the huge geographic expression of the last pre-colonial political institution led by Islam. In short, this review of Middle East history of this century suggests that it is independence of colonial exploitation, not religious fervor, that drives Islamic fundamentalism.
If the United States and the West could collectively shed their dependence on Middle East oil, the primary perceived threat to the independence of the Islamic states would evaporate. The case for U.S. domestic reliance on home-grown fuels, whether alternative fuels or more conventional fuels, is a compelling piece of the solution to a major source of international political tensions.
Historically, all fuels, conventional and alternative, have had subsidies. The question is not whether we can afford those subsidies; the question is whether we can afford not to subsidize energy independence. The path to energy independence for the United States is the road to political independence for -- and peace with -- an Islamic-led Middle East. And peace is the truly priceless commodity
Source : http://wvgazette.com