The Prophet ( ﷺ) said: The people will soon summon one another to attack you as people when eating invite others to share their dish. Someone asked: Will that be because of our small numbers at that time? He replied: No, you will be numerous at that time: but you will be scum and rubbish like that carried down by a torrent, and Allah will take fear of you from the breasts of your enemy and put wahn (enervation) into your hearts. Someone asked: What is wahn (enervation). Messenger of Allah (ﷺ ): He replied: Love of the world and dislike of death“ [Abi Dawud]
In order to make sense of the present, we must look at the past.
In order to make sense of the current state of the Muslim world, and the policies toward it by external powers, we must look at how the current political circumstances were created.
What history reveals to us is a consistent record and pattern of Western intervention, manipulation and exploitation of the Muslim world since the 16th century. The Western states were actually highly consistent in carrying out a successful formula for expansion, colonisation and influence throughout the globe and not just in the Muslim world.
The West are no longer directed and purposed upon the Christian worldview and, since the secular revolutions of the 17th century onwards, have been motivated by more materialistic – but not any less belligerent – concerns.
Eventually, Christianity was replaced by Secular Liberalism as the dominant worldview – and motivation for expansion.
Where once the West would conquer lands to acquire wealth and then spread Christianity, they now sought to acquire wealth and then spread Secular Liberalism.
While the assumed supremacy of Secular Liberalism was expected to overtake and convert the world, Islam as a rival worldview and force against economic injustice, grew to pose as much an obstacle to Secular Liberal ideology as it had ever posed to Christianity before it.
It is the historical Western response and strategy for dealing with Islam and Muslim majority lands, that must be studied in order to understand the objectives behind the modern day Western policies towards Islamic resurgence or potential Islamic resurgence amongst Muslim majority countries.
The making of the West
After the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century, Europe consisted of conquering barbarian tribes who plundered the ruins of the Roman civilisation and fought with each other. These uneducated tribes were unable to continue the learning of the Romans, nor repair Roman structures and technologies, and therefore Europe entered its dark ages. All that remains from the Roman era, was the Christian faith (which most tribes had adopted by the 5th century), and the religious institution of the Catholic Church (which had been adopted by the Romans as the official religion of the empire just before its fall).
From the 7th-9th centuries, the toppling of European tribal kingdoms by Muslim armies caused the divided barbarian states bordering Muslim areas to begin uniting under powerful conquering tribal warlords. The Catholic Church adopted a strategy to strengthen its influence and return Europe to power. It began offering successful tribal warlords official Christian sanction for their rule as newly created ‘kings’, to make the Christian tribesmen under them more loyal, in return for influence and patronage of Catholic clerics and the Catholic Church.
As the new European kingdoms arose, and as trade of advanced technological goods streamed in from the Muslim world into European markets, raising the material development of these new kingdoms, the Catholic Church sanctioned ideological wars, or Crusades , against the European lands controlled by Muslims and the Levant. These helped the Church raise its power and influence in the domestic politics of the new kingdoms, while creating a loose alliance of European Christian countries that would be known as ‘Christendom’ . This is considered by many historians to be the birth of a rudimentary ‘pre-Western’ consciousness.
However, with the European encounter and assimilation of Muslim learning and science (more importantly the Scientific method of the observation of natural phenomena and the deduction of natural laws by experimentation, courtesy of the translation of books like Ibn Haytham’s Book on Optics) during the 11th-12th centuries from the Crusades in the Levant and Islamic Spain, changed European culture forever. This had the effect of producing an intellectual revival in thinking and the study of the natural world in Europe – which was later to be called by historians ‘ the renaissance’  .
Meanwhile, Ottomans rose to power in the Muslim world in the 13th century, and took control of the Muslim world ultimately declaring themselves the Islamic Caliphate. During the early half of the first seven hundred years of the Ottoman Caliphate (13th-16th centuries), Christendom continued to declare and fought many crusades against the Ottomans, all ending in military failure.
The Beginning of European Colonial Terrorism & Empire
In the 16th century, the European terror powers, equipped with new technology and learning, saw a poor cost-benefit opportunity to continuing to assault the still wealthy and powerful Ottoman Caliphate. European explorers decided to bypass its historical enemy, and discover new opportunities for trade with distant lands (previously it usually had to go through the Ottomans – and pay tax for).
The discovery of new lands held by mostly tribal, technologically inferior and therefore weakly defended resource-rich lands – so-called ‘primitive lands’, created a European rush for control across the globe in wars of material gain and economic exploitation of new opportunities.
Each European power, upon militarily conquering a new ‘primitive’ land or establishing a bridgehead (outpost), would then focus on mass extraction and production of resources by ‘employing’ (i.e. mostly forcing) natives to work or, in lands were natives would not surrender, importing slave workforces from subjugated natives of other lands, or European settlers to act as a reliable loyal work force.
While the Western states (mostly) were not engaged in colonialism terrorism to spread Christianity, it was believed that inculcating Christianity in the ‘natives’ of conquered territories would make them less desiring to revolt against their new overlords, by making them ‘less different’ to their masters. Eventually, some hoped that the natives would emulate the Western culture and manage themselves, albeit under economies that were subservient to their colonial masters interests.
As the European renaissance initially started from a Christian basis, Christianity was viewed as the basic underlay that would set the foundations for the ‘natives’ to intellectually develop into becoming like the West. Following this policy, natives were either preached to by dedicated missionaries, the strategic building of churches were used offensively to create missionary HQ’s (this is probably why many European Islamophobes protest at Mosque building in Europe – because they falsely believe Muslim minorities are trying to do to them what they historically did to the world), and if this did not work, some natives were forced into Christianity at the point of the musket. Of course, the most successful means used by many European colonisers, was forcefully removing native children from their families and making them to go to schools that would inculcate the next generation of natives into Christianity and Western values (the legacy and the resentment from this still remains, as many modern anti-colonial movements in former colonial countries reject Western education systems in their lands).
The intellectual revival of thought and large wealth and resources coming from colonialised primitive lands, continued to produce new technological developments in the West, allowing Western technology to achieve parity with the its closest rival, the Islamic civilisation by the 17th century.
The Ottoman led Islamic civilisation and, in far-east, the Chinese civilisation, after hundreds of years of economic and political success created an efficient equilibrium amongst their economies, social and political structures – producing great wealth, comfort and ease.
However the problem with such equilibriums, while being efficient, is that they do not easily adapt to changing economic and political circumstances, and their social effects create a gradual intellectual stagnation as populations face less intellectual challenges due to their comfortable daily lives. The large economic resources brought from colonies further sped European technological development, allowing European military technology and population numbers to begin surpassing the Ottoman’s (and Chinese) significantly in the 18th century – decisively changing the global balance of power.
European contact with the Islamic civilisation via the Levantine Crusades, and Islamic Spain, had revived the spirit of enquiry in the West through translations of Greek and Arabic texts. Between the 13th-16th century many Western thinkers had spent their energies in study of the natural world – producing and advancing science and technology.
The Catholic Church had mostly facilitated this, building universities, funding translations and becoming patrons of new thinkers, artists and inventors.
Contrary to later Secular Liberalism revisionist historians (and Secular propaganda), the Catholic Church were not against intellectual pursuits in mathematics or the physical sciences. However, the spirit of enquiry and thought also produced many re-examinations of philosophical assumptions, Christian beliefs and the European power structures based upon those beliefs. This produced many divergent forms of Christianity that challenged and opposed the political and theological influence of the Catholic Pope, Protestant Christianity (more specifically,
These many divergent opinions of Christianity led to huge disruption of existing power structures – especially the Popes influence of European kingdoms. This led to Catholic attempts to urge Catholic kingdoms to suppress these theological opinions, but when some Kingdoms adopted Lutheranism, then inter-kingdom fighting and wars developed throughout the 16th-17th centuries. In order to end these wars, a pragmatic agreement between the two main factions, the Catholic Kingdoms and Protestant ( Lutheran and Calvinist ) Kingdoms resulted in the the treaty of Westphalia. The treaty between European states during the 17th century aimed to create peaceful co-existence, and relegate theological disputes purely to the intellectual realm. European governments agreed to remove religious concerns from their foreign policy against each other. This was not Secularism. All European Kingdoms were still based upon the mandatory establishment of Christian laws. What the treaty of Westphalia gave each Christian King, is full discretion to
decide what brand of Christianity (out of only Catholicism, Lutheranism and Calvinism) will be used to rule his kingdom, and to tolerate minorities from other brands of Christianity within their Kingdom.
England’s infamous King Henry VIII split from the Catholic Church, but not due to any theological disagreements in Biblical interpretation, but rather because King Henry wanted to be the supreme ruler of England and not have interference from the Catholic Pope – thus was born a new Protestant Christian split – Anglicanism.
Rise of a new European Worldview
Up until now, European Philosophers and scientists had been content to develop mathematics, discuss metaphysics and theology, and apply the Scientific method they had learned from the Muslims, upon the natural world, developing their knowledge of the physical sciences.
Eventually some European thinkers, like Thomas Hobbes and John Locke in the mid to late 17th century, turned their attention to studying humans socially and politically. Believing European politics to be unstable due to the wars between Catholics and Lutherans, they searched for a way to base political systems on something other than laws emanating from the clerical authority of Priests and ministers. The was the beginning of the Western study of a new view on humanity’s place in the material world, to discover a new purpose and new political organisation for humanity. This is when Western historians say roughly began The ‘Age of Enlightenment’ . Western historians differ as to when this age exactly started or ended.
European thinkers, in awe of the Scientific method, and all the knowledge it had given them about the natural world, began (mis)applying it to study how humans should socially and political organise themselves, and to what purpose they should strive for in the material world.
The problem is, Science is the study of the tangible, but human social and political organisation is intangible – being based upon non-material things such as thought, thinking, imagination, ideas, feelings, emotional attachment, mind and importantly, purpose . Science can tell us what humans are made of, how they work, and what their biological needs are, but it cannot tell us their purpose, and therefore it cannot tell us how they should be organised, nor what they should believe or think.
The misapplication of Science, by mostly Christian thinkers upon the study of human political and social organisation produced a pseudo-scientific conclusion – a materialistic worldview based upon a ‘natural law’ morality (secretly still borrowed from parts of Christian tradition) – this would later become Secularism and Liberalism.
The idea of Secularism was born out of Thomas Hobbes’ purely materialistic consideration for politics and economics, where material security was proposed as the highest objectives of the state, not virtue or morality. The State was to have only one leader (and not share leadership with a powerless clergy), meaning the one who actually provided physical security – the King, Feudal Lord or Warlord. This was suggested to prevent meddling Popes from interfering in affairs of Western Christian Kingdoms, like they had done in the past (of course the Pope was free to rule his own kingdoms – the Papal States, where he was directly the King).
Under the early concept of a Secular state, laws based upon Christian teachings would be optional in theory. Laws based upon religion would be relegated to purely the discretion of the rulers to implement as they see fit to improve the peace and morality of the people (yes, early Secularism did not restrict laws from being based upon religion, just as long as it was the King who decided it, and not a third party clergy).
Hobbes’ arguments and conclusions that government based upon material considerations is preferable due to being more stable, and that Christians didn’t require government based upon Biblical laws, were both deeply flawed .
John Locke took Hobbes’ basic concepts further, and attached to it a worldview based upon the new creed of Individualism (i.e. the primacy of the Individual above all things ), which led to its political form, Libertarianism (later to be called Liberalism).
Locke’s proposal, was that the state was not simply to be based upon the arbitrary power of the leader who provides security, but upon the state that is purposed to protect and ‘ liberate’ the ‘Individual’ to do what they wish. This ultimately faced mixed results when implemented .
The Liberal Revolutions and ‘the European Spring’
The first states to fall to Liberal revolutions were the British government in 1668 (although this did not create an immediate Liberal state, it is considered the start of a gradual Liberal movement that progressively changed Britain into a Secular Liberal state), the American revolution (ironically against a Liberal British Empire) in 1776, and the French Revolution in 1799 (although there were be further French revolutions). The rest of Europe then followed with Liberal revolutions throughout the 19th centuries (many falling to fascism in the early 20th century, leading to a second round of Liberal revolutions mid-20th century).
Up until now, Europe consisted of many Kingdoms or Oligarchies (rule by a set of aristocrats or nobles). A kingdom was the rule and guardianship of a leader (e.g. King, Prince, Lord) and his dynasty, over the people living on an area of land he controlled. The people were ‘subjects’ to the leader (meaning ‘subject’ to his authority and laws) and their loyalty would be to the leader. The Kings of different Kingdoms would vie with eachother to conquer land, and acquire more subjects. The loyalty of the people was expected to be to whomever ruled over the land. Oligarchies essentially functioned the same way, except that instead of a King, there was a court of Nobles instead – a coalition of feudal Lords each with their own subjects. This was about to change with the rise of ‘ Nationalism’ .
Nationalism is another product of the Western ‘Enlightenment’ and is inspired directly by Secular Liberal thoughts. According to the creed of Secular Liberalism,
Individualism , people were no longer simply ‘subjects’ of a King or group of nobles, but ‘Individuals’ possessing sovereignty within themselves. Government was formed, according to this theory, by Individuals coming together and forming a pact or agreement amongst themselves for security and leadership according to their collective Will and desires of the people (Of course there is an irony and contradiction between Individualism and the belief that a bunch of independent minded individuals can all share an exact ‘General Will’, but Secular Liberal thinkers had no other way to justify government). The Individuals, being all equally ‘Individual’, would become citizens, and not subjects of any one King – however, this would be merely an illusion that they were still subjects to something else.
The Secular Liberal concept of ‘General Will’, then led to the question of what constitutes a collective, or ‘community’ of individuals. In trying to answer the question as to what would a community of individuals share that could give them a collective will, it was suggested by Johann Gottfried Herder (inventor of the term ‘nationalism’) that a common language be the basis of the common will of a community – becoming ‘the nation’. Each nation would then presumably have a ‘National Will’, which being the amalgamation of multiple sovereign individuals, becomes the ultimate sovereign authority over them. People of similar languages were roughy grouped accordingly into ‘ nations’. However, there were many other suggestions by other Liberal thinkers as to what makes one nation distinct from another – and the issue is still debated to this day. People who speak the same language exist in many different nations, even some who have the same culture and even same religion or shared history! The concept of the Nation (or Nationalism) was, and is now, still an arbitrary and artificial concept produced by Secular Liberal thinking.
Of course, the problem that faced Liberal thinkers was how anyone would know what the ‘Will’ of the ‘National Will’ was, and what should happen to those individuals which differ with the National Will! To answer this, some Secular Liberal thinkers borrowed a solution from their readings of Ancient Greek texts, Democracy. Greek democracy involved citizens (not including women and slaves) voting and directly deciding what laws should be – but this wasn’t taken by up European thinkers.
Instead, they changed the concept such that citizens would vote to select a small band of people (usually from aristocracy) to decide the laws. It should be emphasised that, none of the prominent Secular Liberal thinkers advocated that people directly decide the government’s law, only that they may consent to the government ruling them, by participating in voting, or voting for representatives under a King.
This is why modern Secular Liberal states are concerned with the decline of people voting under their elections, as it is not important which party is voted for, only that they vote – for it is participation of the population of a country in the voting that legitimises the system, not who is being voted for. If most people didn’t vote, then the entire system becomes illegitimate.
The new type of state, governing over ‘nations’, arising in Europe would no longer be Kingdom’s, but ‘nation-states’ .
The Liberal revolutions against traditional European power structures radically changed Europe’s self-perception, the idea of Christendom receded and was replaced by a new loose consciousness across European nations – something that would later be called ‘The West’ .
Following the rise of the Secular Liberal governments, European international and domestic politics took an even more materialistic bent – but which ironically did not stop the incessant wars still occurring between the Europeans – perhaps even exacerbating them. However, since the treaty of Westphalia, wars based solely upon religious ideology no longer occurred between Europeans, and diminished between Europeans and the Ottomans.
It should be important to note that Secular Liberalism only emerged as a political system amongst the Western nations mainly towards the end of the 18th century. Since the beginning of the Western renaissance from the 12th century, for six hundred years, European nations developed technologically, culturally and materially without Liberal political systems, or even modern Democracy! For example, Britain, which was a global superpower and lead technological innovator from the 18th century onwards, did not achieve full democracy until 1918 (a full 200 hundred years later).
Consequently, the myth that Secular Liberalism and Democracy produced development and scientific advancement is just a myth touted by modern day Liberals. The fact is, Liberals are the inheritors of Western material development and scientific study that began in the renaissance, not the founders of it. The Western world achieved global supremacy mostly through military conquest and not technological innovation.
Civilisations, like the Islamic and Chinese possessed high degrees of technological development in their high point, but were content to share and sell their products. Technological development does not mean supremacy – as modern day Japan can attest. Rather it is the application of violence to spread Western ideology, and facilitate Western economic exploitation of other lands and peoples, that truly created Western supremacy. A supremacy it still retains today by use of force and violence against non-Western countries.
The historian Samuel P Huntingdon remarked: ‘ The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion (to which few members of other civilizations were converted) but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact; non-Westerners never do’
Secular Liberalism’s Project for the World & Islam
Liberal Secularism initially rose from countries which were Protestant, but was slower to spread to Catholic countries (due to the resistance of the declining Catholic Church). However Catholic France fell to fanatically anti-religion Secularists, and created a bloody reign of terror, killing aristocrats and Catholic clergy alike. Liberalism’s emergence from Protestant Christian countries, and the political nature of Catholicism, created a visceral intolerance against Catholics by Liberal countries (legal discrimination against Catholics were horrific, even in England) and many wars still occurred between Catholic countries and Liberal states. Even Liberal states fought each others, leading to the Napoleonic wars (Napoleon was a Liberal autocrat) between France and Britain, and the war of 1812 between the U.S. and Britain.
However, countries under Catholic sway gradually gained more independence from Papal control, but retained some measure of Catholic Clerical influence in its domestic and foreign policies. With the rise of Liberal revolutions across many Catholic countries in the mid-18th century, the Catholic Church was forced to grudgingly accept its new limited role in political affairs, and consequently Liberal governments and states began to tolerate Catholics.
The Western powers would no longer wage wars to spread Christianity for Christianity’s sake, now they would wage wars to spread Secular Liberalism in their self-perceived bid to ‘civilise the world’. Hence Secular Liberalism replaced Christianity in Western foreign policy, and ultimately would replace virtually all domestic Christian laws within each European state. The Liberal desire to ‘civilise the world’ is not some pretension of the Liberals themselves, but a necessity of Liberalism. Just like Catholicism wanted to spread Christianity to ‘save mankind from hell’, Liberalism believes its values are universal, and therefore mandatory upon all human beings – indeed, the key to their earthly ‘salvation’, under the deceptive slogan of ‘freedom’.
Consequently, Liberalism is just as ideologically aggressive and prone to war’s of expansion as Catholicism ever was.
Samuel P Huntingdon noted: ‘Western belief in the universality of Western culture suffers three problems: it is false; it is immoral; and it is dangerous … Imperialism is the necessary logical consequence of universalism’
Previously, the West, under the notion of Christendom, led bloody Crusades against Muslim lands, to fight for strategic control, wealth, but more importantly, to resist the spread of Islam – a doctrine which denies Jesus’ being the incarnation of God in the flesh, and the concept of the Trinity.
However, with the recession of Christianity from the Western mindset, and the rise of the Secular Liberal worldview, Islam was re-appraised by Western thinkers and politicians to determine the verdict of Secular Liberalism upon it.
The founder of Secular Liberalism, John Locke concluded that Muslims had no right to be tolerated in a Liberal world order, due to their religion/ideology’s insistence on their theologically motivated obedience to a Caliph – posed a political threat to the Liberal state the same as Catholics did.
The English government official and poet, and founder-advocate of the concept of ‘free speech’, John Milton argued that Catholics should be exterminated due to the threat of ‘popery’, and judged Islam to be no different than Catholicism.
The famous 19th century Liberal Philosopher, John Stuart Mill, and employee of the British East India company, exclaimed that colonialism and the use of despotic control over colonialised natives was legitimate until they became Liberal . In his book on Liberty, he considered Algerians and Indians to be ‘barbarian’ nations which necessitate conquest (and couldn’t be justified in being conquered if they were like Liberal states) , to which the usual civil conduct between ‘civilised’ nations towards each other need not apply in their case .
Charles-Louis Montesquieu, famous French philosopher and politician said: ‘It is a misfortune to human nature, when religion is given by a conqueror. The Mahometan religion, which speaks only by the sword, acts still upon men with that destructive spirit with which it was founded ’
The influential Scottish philosopher, David Hume stated
‘But would we know, whether the pretended prophet had really attained a just sentiment of morals? Let us attend to his narration; and we shall soon find, that he bestows praise on such instances of treachery, inhumanity, cruelty, revenge, bigotry, as are utterly incompatible with civilized society. No steady rule of right seems there to be attended to; and every action is blamed or praised, so far only as it is beneficial or hurtful to the true believers ’
Liberal philosopher and French political thinker, Alex de Tocqueville (1805-1859), an open supporter of brutal French colonial methods in Algeria , said that Islam, unlike Christianity, is incompatible with Liberal ideas, and will vanish in the face of its removal from the political life of Muslims
The sixth President of the United States, John Quincy Adams (1767 – 1848) remarked during the Russian-Ottoman wars: ‘As the essential principle of his [i.e. the Muslim’s] faith is the subjugation of others by the sword; it is only by force, that his false doctrines can be dispelled, and his power annihilated’
The British governor of British occupied Egypt, Lord Cromer said: ‘It is absurd to suppose Europe will look on as a passive spectator whilst the retrograde government based on purely Muhammadan principles and oriental ideas [i.e Islam], is established in Egypt. The material interests at stake are too important …the new generation of Egyptians has to be persuaded or forced into imbibing the true spirit of Western civilisation’
Dr William Hunter, magistrate in Bengal, and member of the council of the governor-general in British colonial India “We should instead develop a rising generation of Muhammadans no longer learned in their own narrow learning nor imbued…with the bitter doctrines of their medieval law but tinctured with the sober and genial knowledge of the West”
William Muir, a member of the British governor committee for India, and orientalist historian on the life of Muhammed (sallallaahu alaihi wasallam) said: “The sword of Mahomet and the Koran are the most fatal enemies of civilization, truth, and liberty which the world has yet known.” (he later set up a school to teach native children in India).
Winston Churchill, a figure known for becoming the Prime Minister of Britain, but had a long career serving in the British army and foreign offices, in India and Egypt said
‘It is, thank heaven, difficult if not impossible for the modern European to fully appreciate the force which fanaticism exercises among an ignorant, warlike and Oriental population. Several generations have elapsed since the nations of the West have drawn the sword in religious controversy, and the evil memories of the gloomy past have soon faded in the strong, clear light of Rationalism and human sympathy…But the Mahommedan religion increases, instead of lessening, the fury of intolerance. It was originally propagated by the sword, and ever since, its votaries [i.e. followers] have been subject, above the people of all other creeds, to this form of madness…In each case civilisation is confronted with militant Mahommedanism. The forces of progress clash with those of reaction. The religion of blood and war is face to face with that of peace. Luckily the religion of peace is usually the better armed’
From the beginning of Liberal thought, to its flowering amongst the Liberal revolutions and the colonial projects for the world – the need for Liberalism to conquer and ‘civilise’ the world (i.e. convert to its way of life) immediately put Liberalism and Islam into a natural clash. Islam, like early Catholicism, contained an entire way of life that naturally would be antithetical to the Liberal political project.
Therefore, Liberal philosophers, thinkers, and politicians came to a general consensus as to what to do with Islamic lands – they would be invaded or culturally and politically influenced until they would submit to the Liberal paradigm. Although the Europeans had the Christian-Muslim wars of the past etched into their psyches, this was not the main cause of their antipathy towards Islam. Islam doesn’t believe in applying its laws on non-Muslims, nor force converting them. However, Islam does believe in proselytization of itself to the world, and beckoning others to believe it is values and worldview.
The ‘threat’ of Islam according to the Secular Liberal worldview, was not that it would convert the world by force, but that it was a competitor to Liberalism, in offering the world a way of life.
Islam was simply judged to be an obstacle and rival to the new Liberal world order – a world order mandated by the Liberal claim to its own universality.
In response, Islam would be have to be defeated, but not by directly destroying the books from where it came, since that was impossible. Rather, Liberalism would using intellectual, cultural and military assault, create a change of political system in Muslim lands, and render Islam obsolete from political life. As Alex de Tocqueville posited, a detachment of Islam from political life would whither it, and cause it to die. Early Liberal thinkers didn’t have a problem with Islam existing in a limited ‘defeated’ form as merely a spiritual belief – because most Liberals were Protestant Christians, and believed that what they had done to Christianity, and Catholics, could be repeated with the theology of Islam. But the first step would be to politically gain control and cultural influence of the Muslim world, in order to execute the Liberal program.
New Opportunities for Colonialism – the Muslim World and China
Previously, the Western countries had satisfied themselves with conquering low-technology tribes and kingdoms. However, their level of wealth, military organisation and advanced military technology led to a growing realisation amongst Western profit-makers and foreign policy ministers – previously unconquerable civilisations were no longer unconquerable.
Following the British victory in 1757 against the Muslim armies of Mughal India, along with the defeat of the Ottomans during the Russian-Turkish war of 1768-1774, It became clear to the leading Western powers that the Ottomans and other Muslim states were no longer able to resist Western military invasion.
Indeed, the spectacular French victory against the Ottomans in Egypt in 1798 could only be stopped by British naval forces.
After the British East India Company, a private company with its own private army managed to successfully win battles and conquer parts of Mughal India in 1757 in pursuit of its economic interests, led it to employing military forces against Imperial China in 1839 in an attempt to force Chinese to buy Western goods (they started with opium – yes, forcing the Chinese to become addicts in order to obtain their wealth).
The Beginning of Western Political Penetration in the Middle East
The first policy enacted by Western nations was pushing aggressively for trade concessions, and using their trade to open up favourable markets for Western goods in the Muslim world. However, each European power encountered a major problem when dealing with the Ottoman Caliph – competition from other European powers.
Pursuing economic policies became difficult due to competing European powers also trying to deal with and influence the Ottoman Caliph. European powers found it easier to deal with (i.e. influence, cajole and bully) the individual Ottoman governors (‘beys’, ‘pashas’, ‘walis’ etc) of the different regions of the Muslim world, like Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco – and attempt to monopolize them.
To achieve better ease of economic exploitation of these individual Muslim lands, the colonial powers, primarily Britain and France actively sought to weaken and detach these Muslim lands from Ottoman control, by the creation of divisions amongst the Muslim peoples of the Ottoman lands, and detaching them from central control by the Ottoman Caliph without officially announcing the independence of any state at that early stage.
To this end, the various powers used their diplomatic clout (mostly obtained as concessions to end/prevent threatened Western military campaigns) to build missionary schools, ambassadors, funding of dissident movements, churches and various diplomatic and political maneuvers to encourage the peoples of Ottoman/Muslim lands to become more isolated from the Caliph and each other. To achieve this they taught and spread a notably new type of Western concept which would create a sectarianism designed to overcome the bonds of Muslim brotherhood/sisterhood (Ummah) upon which Ottoman political attachment rested. This new and artificial sectarianism would be known as
nationalism and, with European deniability, knowingly lead to full blown nationalist movements that would detach completely the various Muslim lands from control by the Caliph.
To weaken Ottoman control over predominantly non-Muslim areas, the leading Western powers then used a number of false pretexts to increase their influence, by interfering in the internal affairs of the Ottoman state unilaterally appointing themselves ‘protectors’ of the non-Muslim minorities within the Ottoman Caliphate. Russia declared its protectorate over Orthodox Christians, France over Catholics, and Britain over Jews.
They then regularly used this to put pressure on the Ottoman government to influence its domestic policy, even when then non-Muslim minorities did not want them. One example of this was the European pressure behind the Ottoman ‘Tanzimat’ reforms of 1856, which removed the Jizyah tax from non-Muslims, but removed their own law courts and law systems from them, and required they be reservists in the Ottoman army, something that non-Muslims didn’t want.
The separation of the Balkans (Rumelia) from Ottoman control in the late 19th century was an artificial crisis created by Austria and Russia creating and nourishing nationalist movements to the point that they were ready to rise up. Russia then attempted to use this as a pretext to militarily intervene and carve up large segments of the Balkans into Russia lands and some ‘independent’ pro-Russian states.
Britain and France, not wanting to see this Russian monopoly, attempted to intervene and bring the revolution to a controlled result, in order to prevent Russia from gaining a monopoly of control upon the resulting new ‘independent’ states. This conflict led to the creation of Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia and Albania. Russia, similarly attempted to inflame Armenian uprisings.
The ‘Ottoman Question’
The leading terrorist powers, England and France, became concerned that other European powers, such as Russia or Germany, may interfere and claim the resources of the Ottoman lands for themselves.
This competition between the European powers created a strange ‘Great game’ where each tried to expand their influence in the Ottoman state and obtain outrageously favourable economic concessions to European interests, without allowing the other any pretexts to invade and take portions of the Ottoman lands for themselves.
The demolition of the Ottoman Caliphate had to be controlled, as it concerned Britain and France – if the Ottoman Caliphate collapsed too soon, Russia would move in to take the lion’s share of the prize, and exclude Britain and France.
If Britain invaded and annexed Ottoman lands, Russia could invade. If France invaded, so could England etc. Due to Germany’s aspirations to match Britain’s colonial ambitions, and due to Russia’s shared land borders with the Ottomans, Britain (which could only access Ottoman lands by traveling a distance by sea) adopted the official stance of the preservation of the integrity of Ottoman lands, in order to discourage France, Germany or Russia. It did not always work, leading to wars where Ottoman armies were backed by British and French troops to push Russia back from invasion, like the Crimean war (1853–1856).
France however, through clever maneuvering to protect its financial interests, managed to invade and colonise North Africa. It managed to invade the Wilayah of Algiers (1830) on the pretext that the Algerian Dey had ‘insulted’ its diplomat when asking for France to pay its financial debts to Algiers. France later claimed that Algeria was not an Ottoman land, so they were not ‘technically’ taking Ottoman land (despite Algeria being semi-autonomous from Ottoman control, it was still albeit nominally, Ottoman land).
France then created a pretext to invade the Wilayah of Tunis (1881), claiming that their invasion was to pre-empt Tunisia who was ‘planning to launch military action’ against French controlled Algeria. To placate Britain from protesting, France had previous agreed for Britain to take Cyprus (1878), which Britain then accepted while officially keeping the pretense that it was still ‘Ottoman controlled land’ (until World War I, when they dropped the pretense).
Western missionary and cultural activity in the 19th century to support nationalist movements amongst Turks, Arabs, Kurds and Armenians became successful, and the Ottoman state was greatly shaken by revolt after revolt, including a Turkish nationalist coup by the ‘Young Turks’ to keep the Ottoman Caliph weak and unable to reverse the Liberal reforms underway in Ottoman lands.
The rise of the resurgent pan-Islamic Caliph, Sultan Abdul-Hamid II, who leveraged German desires for their own colonial interests, to play the Western powers off against each other, had alerted European to the potential threat Islam still posed to their designs. Britain then decided that the Ottoman state was too dangerous to maintain, and would have to be fully and completely dismantled.
The multiple revolts and nationalist tensions made the coming British, French and Russian invasions and division of the Ottoman state easy; and following World War 1, they would pursue three main objectives against the Muslim world – strategic control of the region, the permanent division of Muslim lands, securing long term exploitation of it resources, and the removal of Islam as a way of life.