Colonization is one of the older more tried and tested forms of harmful and deliberate islamophobia, with long lasting cancerous effects. It is a well-known fact that historically colonial empires produced calculated destructions of local cultures. A lot has been written about the impact of historic colonization and its relationship to the current geo-political crisis in different parts of the world today.
In summary, imperial powers were rarely accommodating of local traditions, principles, or religions and forced changes that removed local peoples from their roots. In other cases entire populations of the indigenous civilization were exterminated. Certain exceptions that exemplify contradicting accounts to this narrative are the cases of Muslim rule in Spain and the Ottoman Empire through most of its history- with the treatment of its very diverse subjects, where diversity was encouraged and local cultures flourished. Such examples however are few and far between.
For Muslims the colonization by mostly islamophobic western powers has carried impacts with reverberations that are still felt even today. This is because western colonial powers put in place policies which actively tried to alienate and cut Muslims from their traditions. Some examples include Napoleon openly trying to influence Al-Azhar to “modernize” it, or the British Raj in India. Britain went after the education system, and to sum up their plan superbly, Lord Macaulay’s 1835 address on education reforms stated:
“I have traveled across the breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such caliber, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage and therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English good and greater than their own, they will lose their self esteem, their native culture will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation”.
The end result of this was a large population of Muslims cut off from their traditions, roots, and values. What came out of this experiment was something out of a science fiction novel- like Frankenstein. A large population of Muslims grew up unable to internalize what it means to be Muslim. The values that created a civilization of faith have been lost to due islamophobic policies. Muslim civilization’s main contribution to the world was a moral code that is no longer utilized. What we are left with on one side is a disenfranchised community that is very angry with the result that they have been left with as a result of islamophobic colonial policies. However they also do not know how to respond to this; they respond to it the only way their western masters taught them to respond which is with violence.
Islam has a code of conduct for war and protest, best exemplified by Salahuddin and his treatment of his enemies. The irony of the current situation today is that Islam is being blamed for being inherently violent in its essence and therefore responsible for terrorism. But just like Frankenstein attacked his master, the actual truth is that the islamophobic policies that were adopted by colonial powers created this contemporary Frankenstein monster that is now going after its creator. It is the alienation of a whole generation of Muslims created by conscious efforts to remove Islam from their life, that has given way to the creation of Al-Qaeda and ISIS. While their grievances resonate with Muslims, their methods are clearly unIslamic, as lessons which they learned from their masters.
As Malcolm X said in his famous, politically incorrect but true nonetheless, statement- “never foresaw the chickens would come home to roost so soon”. Islamophobic policies are not only devastating for Muslims, they do not do any favors for anybody. Muslims need to be allowed to practice their faith with dignity and freedom.
Focus Keyword: The Fruits of Colonization