Lies of the Western ‘Science of Islam’

Parvez Manzoor


Undoubtedly, for Muslims, the unkindest cut of modernity is its claim to have dispensed with every source of transcendence that Islam holds so dear. God, revelation and the moral law emanating from it, are, accordingly, all ghosts of an infantile and obsolete metaphysics: they are nothing but deceitful and untrustworthy idols of the unfree and the un-enlightened. However, Islam’s suffering form the affliction of modernity is twofold: it is not only the target of the transcendence-negating rationality of Enlightenment, but also the victim of all the passions and phobias of an unforgiving Christianity. How tragic then that for many Muslims today, there are no other mentors but orientalists, missionaries, media pundits, political analysts and other nondescript experts. For who can deny that even a minimum allegiance to the notion of a western political identity leads to the construction of difference that renders Islam as the ultimate other that must not to be taken on its own terms. Thus, for all its achievements and respectability, western ‘science of Islam’ is but an instrument for the propagation of a message the ultimate aim of which is to ensure the western dominance of the world.

Given the ineluctable fact that all systems of knowledge proceed from certain unproven axioms, it is not unfair to express the tenets of Western ‘islamology’, which is the polemical branch par excellence of the supremacist doctrine of the West, as follows: Muslim reality, whatever its abstruseness, intractability and recalcitrance, is always subservient to the theoretical vision of the Western scholar. Western reality may be complex, contingent and impenetrable (but that is to be expected because of richness and sophistication of western history and institutions, not to speak of the profundity and versatility of the Western mind!) Islamic reality by contrast is arid, insipid and predictable..

That Islam is firmly committed to the command of the Transcendent from beyond presents the Western intellect with no insurmountable epistemological problems. The transcendent in the case of Islam needs no other explanation than the historical; the claim of borrowings from the Biblical tradition is more than adequate to account for the Muslim obsession with God and the Hereafter. Similarly, like Muslim faith, Muslim history is an open book. Whatever the cunning of history, the Western scholar is always able to penetrate the smokescreen of Muslim ideology and self-deception. Islam as a historical phenomenon, therefore, is not what Muslims believe it to be. No, it is what Western scholars have shown it to be, because the Western vision is academic, objective and scientific. Islamic vision, by contrast, is mythical and self-aggrandising. (The paradox that the Western vision of Islam is part of its self-image, and hence equally mythical and self-aggrandising, does not bother the self-confident Western scholar!)

Given the erroneous nature of the Muslims’ image of Islam, it is but natural that Muslims cannot ‘represent’ it in scholarly forums; they cannot have the ‘objectivity’ and ‘intellectual perspicacity’ of the Western islamologues who alone are the scientists of things islamic and the true arbiters of islamicity. All authoritative works on Islam, be these encyclopaedias, dictionaries, standard historical accounts or general cultural tracts, cannot therefore be made the springboards of Muslim propaganda: Muslim contribution to these, inasmuch as it is de rigueur within the charade of multi-culturalism, must be restricted to remote areas and modern themes. Nothing touching the formative history of Islam and the sensitive issues of its message and ideals must ever be interpreted by the Muslims themselves; and if they ever succeed in doing it, they must be branded as ‘apologists’.

The grandest delusion of Muslim self-understanding - such is the tacit, or at times not so tacit, ground of Western islamology - is that God spoke to Muhammad (S). Now, everybody knows that God does not exist and hence does not speak, and least of all to a heathen and gentile people like the Arabs. Or, if one insists upon using the theological language, then there can be no denying that the only genuine discourse on God is found in the Biblical tradition. Only the theological genius of the Hebrews, or the philosophical profundity of their successors, the Christian Church, can claim to having engendered and cultivated a universal morality which is the ultimate gift of the theism.

Islam is not a religion in the true sense of the word: it is too this-worldly, sensual, obsessed with power and earthly glory, to qualify as a genuine salvational doctrine. Christian charity and overcoming of the forces of evil, by the paradoxical, nay scandalous, stratagem of surrender and self-sacrifice, is the only true path to individual redemption. That the West has created a civilisation that is far more secular, sensual and power-intoxicated than any other known to man, islamic included, does not, of course, refute the Western claim, or falsify the Christian rhetoric of love. There is no duplicity of morals and power in the Western tradition; what it possesses is a unique tension between the unattainable ideal of self-transcendence and the easily achievable reality of self-worship. Nothing, none of the umpteen genocidal wars against ancient Barbarians, medieval Saracens, modern American Indians, African natives, and countless number of other non-Western tribes, can blemish the peaceful and compassionate image of the Western world-polity.

The West is the source of all the humane ideas of the world. Hence, its military technology, which canonises remote-killing and sanctions the indiscriminate slaughter of non-combatant civilians in the name of collective good, cannot be likened to the terrorist acts of our times. Mass killing in the name of the state is legitimate and justified; sporadic acts of violence in the name of religion (read: Islam) are illicit and immoral. In the final analysis, however, it is the nature of the victim that decides the issues of morality: causing Western deaths is always ungodly and unpardonable; exterminating non-western peoples carries no such moral stigma. Terrorism, in short, is a Muslim invention, and like fanaticism must be applied exclusively to Islam.

Humanity, in the hegemonic perception of the West, is an abstraction devoid of political content. It exists in the moral universe of man but has nothing to do with the power-structures of states and nations. Humanitarian visions of a Just Global Order are therefore vehicles of political blackmail by the powerless and the marginalized. Human Rights, on the other hand, embody true norms of political morality and civilised behaviour. Besides, the powerful and the privileged never utilise them as instruments of Realpolitik and self-promotion. Thus, if in order to safeguard an individual’s political rights, wars need be waged, nations need be destroyed, humanity need be made to suffer, so be it. The individual is sovereign over the state - except of course, if the state happens to be Western and the individual a non-Westerner. That the legal provision of equality before law within the same state did not prevent the extinction of Jews in Nazi Germany and massacre of Muslims in Bosnia, is besides the point. For a Jew, or a Muslim, as citizen may be equal to his German or Yugoslavian fellow-citizen, but Judaism as a community, and Muslims as an umma, cannot be given the same status vis--vis the Christian West.

Those who do not accept these tenets of the hegemonic Western worldview and reject the canons of its global order are bound to disappear from history. For the goal and meaning of universal history is the self-realisation of the free and rational man - the Western man par excellence.

Given the nature of this indoctrination, which denounces every expression of Muslim identity as a conspiracy against humanity, which degrades every aspiration of Muslim morality as a return to medieval bondage, which reduces the Islamic Project to a barbaric obssession with the subjugation of women, which disfigures the soul of Islam for the sake of propagating the myth of Western superiority, isn’t it high time that Muslims start resisting the cultural and intellectual imperialism of the West. The battle for the recovery of Muslim self-image is a battle for the repossession of truth.