The Death of Osama Bin Laden has brought about a mix of reactions from around the globe. His organisation al Qaeda lead the terror attacks that caused the death of nearly 3000 civilians in America in 2001, his death therefore a cause for celebration for many US citizens. It is however, interesting to ponder the cause of this sudden increase in extremist activity, or if it is sudden at all, and if it is in fact an amalgamation of years of struggle and conflict between east and west.
Islamic Fundamentalism has become the new demon of ideologies. Samuel Huntington, author and political scientist once said that Islam would be the next big enemy after communism, and he seems to be right, but why? Islam is traditionally a strongly family orientated religion, first formed on a bed of Christian beliefs and can be traced back to as early as the 10thcentury. The Muslim people who practice it believe in stark contrast to the US and the west that religion and civic values should be the central organising principles to society and government. In the west, religion and governance tend to be largely uninvolved, over the years, this disagreement has fuelled and facilitated the ever increasing divide between east and west.
From the 11th century religious battles occurred across the area no known as the Middle East. The ‘Crusades’ that transpired throughout this period including conflict between Christians, Muslims and Judaism started a familiar trend of fear and hostility between the Christian West and the Islamic East. As the west industrialised, and grew in military and economic power, there was an increased aggressive thirst to secure colonial empires that were on the path of trade routes needed to ensure further financial growth. The Middle East became a hot favourite for the global powers, and to pacify the threats caused by existing regimes, imperial powers took control of large areas and changed laws to suit their own capitalist agenda to the complete humiliation and disadvantage of the native peoples. This imperial aggression reached a peak after World War Two, when the Ottoman Empire was divided up to suit the short term needs of Britain rather than the long term concerns of the people. The long established country of Kurdistan was split into Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria, splitting up the Kurdish people. The UK set up camp in Iraq, implementing a monarchical system, and unsuitable form of governance which lead to the rise of the rebellions that spurred the start of the political career of Saddam Hussein. In British controlled Israel, the post war structure formulated by western powers lead to an influx of Jewish immigrants which aggravated the native Islamic Arabs who felt their own culture and standing devalued, leading to increased rebel activity and terrorism until the state of Israel was independently formed. A similar case in India, where after World War Two the state split into Hindu India, and Muslim states of Pakistan and Bangladesh. All of these events occurred due to western intervention which facilitated increased religious tensions. All parties involved experienced political dissatisfaction, a sense of lost identity, and a new found sense of nationalism based on religion.
The actions of the UK and the US in the Middle East are, in criticism, often put down to to the lucrative oil reserves that the area hosts. Intervention due to this resource can been seen across history, most notably in Suez Crisis of 1956 which caused further rifts between Israel and the Arab world due to western prerogatives. In Iran, the oil industry assisted by the US created great wealth… for the top 4 per cent of the country. The remaining 96% of the population (of whom a large proportion were Muslim), received no economic benefits and had their culture severely challenged. As a result of this, religious leaders across the area began to speak out against the Americanisation of their nation, something which proved good for the minority making money from the Oil industry, but which was thoroughly undermining the core values and traditions that the majority of the population prided themselves on. This was the start of religious fundamentalism as we know it today. A movement that from this point onwards, has grown more and more hostile to the imperial ethnocentric nature of the global powers and their cultural impregnation, that is now expressed in the form of people willing to give their own lives to take a stand against years of subordination and suppression. Unrest in Iran saw the emergence of one of the first governments formed on fundamentalist religious principles, after the Americans fled due to an attack on their embassy in 1979. The case of Iran saw the goal of protecting traditional Islamic culture made universal, something which the west is increasingly wary of today.
Afghanistan is another example; it has been the site of conflict for Britain and Russia for centuries. In 1973 a military coup saw a Republican form of government rise to power that was heavily affiliated with the USSR. Through the Cold War prism, America armed guerrillas in an attempt to take down the so called pro-Soviet regime, this lead to success in 1988 when Soviet troops relinquished power after the death of over two million civilians, and 6 million asylum seekers fled to neighbouring countries. It just so happens that the Taliban were also part of the anti-Soviet efforts at this time, and so consequentially took over governance and implemented a new, conservative style of Islam with which the west most heavily identifies today, including the oppression of women and the teaching of fundamentalist values. It was at this time that Bin Laden set up training camps, to form the terrorist group al Qaeda, who went on to commit the biggest single assault on the west, and particularly on capitalism. Now America are in Afghanistan again, trying once more to implement a government that sits nicely with their values and capitalist ideology (the bible of the bankers), even after decades of resistance to their style of modernisation. Ideology has the amazing effect of bestowing blindness onto those who follow it; alternatives are never appreciated as a true form, or a real option. This inability and pure ignorance to acknowledge or appreciate other cultures leads to a process of demonization for that which we do not understand. As we in the developed world live in short political cycles, the leaders of the day never seem to take into consideration the long term consequences of the actions they take in search of short term benefits.
All the cases above are evidence that the west intervenes, as and when it suits, when its own interests are at stake, when there is money to be made, and ideological capital to advance (or at least tried). The old democratic principle of the right to self determination, and of a peoples to self govern is long gone, as now nations have to suit the agendas of the west. It has always been said that politics is a boys club, who enjoy playing with guns and tanks, and that political leaders are always remembered for their foreign accolades. So for now it may be Obama: 1, Osama: 0, but this ‘game’ is far from over. As more Americans and Europeans flee to the riches of the Middle East, to push economic growth and get rich off the back of another nations resources, those fully committed to the established traditions are increasingly put out and infuriated as foreign intruders take the wealth made, and leave behind a trail of McDonald wrappers. The West has systematically raped not only the Middle East, but also Africa and Asia for their resources over centuries, diplomacy and compromise has failed, if it was ever even given a chance.
Terrorism is the sorrowful communication that the Islamic world has had to revert to say ‘no sorry, we don’t like the idea of the American Dream, now please leave us alone’.