Who Represents American Islam?
Sayyid Qutb is renowned for providing intellectual nourishment for Islamists. Many large and small Islamist groups have followed in his footsteps, claiming to be his successors. One of the terms he coined was “American Islam”, which was quickly adopted by others, including Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Iranian “Islamic Revolution”. Sayyid Qutb used this term to criticize and oppress Muslims who had different beliefs, did not reflect on the social and political aspects of Islam, or did not consider Islam an ideology. He argued that these Muslims who supported America (imperialism) wanted to introduce a watered-down version of Islam to promote Western colonialism. In 1949, Sayyid Qutb wrote that the Islam that America and its allies wanted was a stateless Islam with no principles that always required the presence of women, those who nullified the ablution. But was he correct about American Muslims, who were against the idolizing of religion? To answer this, one must look at the past fifty years.
Despite the animosity of Islamists towards America, they have, consciously or unconsciously, fought for America’s benefit in many ways. After the fall of the monarchy and the establishment of the republic in Egypt, the country’s leaders adopted socialism and looked to the East. While this approach may have secured Egypt’s interests, the opposition of the Muslim Brotherhood to the government of Gamal Abdel Nassr Husein caused a great deal of harm to Egypt’s position in the Islamic world. The question then arises, who benefited from this harm? The answer is that the private armed activities of the Muslim Brotherhood against the Egyptian government and the murder of Egyptian nationalist leaders were largely in the interests of Israel and America.
Some analysts believe that the Muslim Brotherhood wanted to gain the support of the West and come to power by fighting against Gamal Abdel Nassr Husein, who was interested in the Soviet Union. However, this cannot be used as a reasonable justification for the Brotherhood leaders being unaware that their actions would strengthen Egypt’s enemies. People who cannot understand international relations and do not consider the consequences of their actions are not fit to be leaders and should not take on the responsibility.
The advantages of the Islamists and America have intersected in other countries, most notably when the Soviet army occupied Afghanistan in December 1979. The Americans called on jihadists from around the world to join the war against the Soviets, providing them with financial and political support. Former President Ronald Reagan welcomed Afghan jihadist leaders to the White House, introducing them as freedom fighters, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged the United States’ active role in empowering organizations such as Al-Qaeda. However, when the West’s strategy changed, these same “freedom fighters” were labeled terrorists and fundamentalists, and the West attempted to suppress them.
At the end of the 20th century, Saudi Arabia was one of the countries that had a major influence in spreading and promoting political Islam around the world. It spent billions of dollars on international jihadism, a combination of Salafism and Brotherhood. To reinforce this version of Islam, Saudi Arabia provided universities, appointed religious mullahs to spread its ideas, and changed the curriculum of universities and schools around the world. However, it was later revealed that none of these actions were for religious or spiritual reasons, but rather to fulfill America’s strategic goals and the Western agenda. Recently, The Atlantic magazine asked Mohammad bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, why they had previously supported Islamic extremism. He replied that they were not responsible for the Islamic extremism that their country had hosted for several decades, as the United States had forced them to support it in order to benefit from it in defeating the Soviet Union. This statement, coming from a person whose country is the Muslims Qibla and is the birthplace of holy places, implies that Islam is being used as a tool in political games, and that the world’s superpowers, including Saudi Arabia, have been a part of this game.
While conducting my analysis, I strive to avoid succumbing to the “conspiracy theory” and instead thoroughly examine the issues, conducting extensive research. The data collected, however, reveals that Islamists have been involved in the game played by the West, particularly America, in many ways. It is possible that they have become unwitting pawns of the West. The Taliban, for instance, destroyed Afghanistan and killed thousands of innocent people in an effort to fight against colonialism. Now, however, they are attempting to establish a stable relationship with America. Furthermore, one of their influential leaders, Sirajjudin Haqqani, has stated that they have no conflict with America.
The recently reported Doha agreement between the Taliban and the US, which contains unprecedented provisions, has presented Afghanistan as a gift to the Taliban and its allies. This demonstrates that America is willing to compromise and negotiate with even the most extreme groups when it is deemed necessary. It is clear that America is using the Taliban to further its own strategic objectives, and only time will tell if it is successful. It is widely known that Thomas West and his team are working with the Taliban to address political and economic issues in Afghanistan. In an interview, West noted that economists were surprised that the Taliban, who are not recognized by international communities, were able to print new banknotes with the support of America.
In addition, humanitarian aid has been delivered to Afghanistan over the past year and a half, which has undoubtedly prevented a humanitarian disaster and the spread of famine and hunger. However, according to reliable reports, some of this aid has been diverted to the Taliban, bolstering their economy. While Americans and Westerners are aware of this, why is it not being prevented? Is it possible that the Americans are inadvertently supporting the Taliban regime?
Politicians only want to reach their objectives and will use whatever method they think is most effective, be it Islam or liberalism. It is noteworthy that despite emphasizing the social and political aspects of religion and attempting to gain political influence, political Islam has become a tool in many unscrupulous political schemes. This has caused a distorted view of Islam to be presented to the public, and people no longer trust those who use Islamic rhetoric. As a result, people now become fearful when they hear Islamic concepts.
Sayyid Qutb famously said that Americans would not accept the existence of an Islamic government because it would educate people against American interests. However, subsequent events have disproved this claim, as Islamic governments have been formed but have failed to take any meaningful action. The Taliban government in Afghanistan is a prime example of the failure of Islamists to achieve anything positive.
In order to attack their intra–religious opponents, Islamists often make false claims that the other side is influenced by Western culture and promoting an “American Islam“. These claims can be misleading and have an effect on public opinion, and can be used for political propaganda. The history of Islamism in the last half century shows that it was often used as a tool by Western powers to achieve their political and strategic goals. Ironically, Islamists are more exposed to American influence than anyone else; Sayyid Qutb, the leader of a movement used by Westerners against Soviet domination during the Cold War, famously said that “from the Western and American point of view, Islam is good if it rises against communism and rejects it“. Mohammad bin Salman also admitted that the development of fundamentalism in the eighties was part of a plan by Westerners and their Arab allies to destroy the Soviet Union.