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IOS Minaret Vol-1, No.1 (March 2007)
Vol. 10    Issue 17   16-31 January 2016

The Muslim Ummah’s Predicament
Need for Collective Self-Introspection

Professor A. R. MOMIN

The current worldwide population of Muslims is estimated to be around 1.85 billion. According to projections by the Pew Research Centre, a reputed American-based think tank, if current demographic trends continue, Muslims would make up 29.7 per cent of the world’s population by 2050 (nearly equal to the number of Christians worldwide) and would outnumber Christians by 2070. Between 2010 and 2050, the world’s total population is expected to rise to 9.3 billion (an increase of 35 per cent). During the same period, the population of Muslims worldwide is projected to increase by 73 per cent. Today Islam is the world’s fastest-growing religion.

Today the Muslim ummah is faced with a host of seemingly insurmountable challenges and problems, including widespread poverty and inequality, a conspicuous deficit of human development, the erosion of the community’s moral fibre, rising intolerance, extremism and terrorism in the community, discrimination and exclusion, and the growing spectre of Islamophobia. These challenges have engendered a deep sense of anguish, despair and disorientation in the Muslim ummah. A large number of Muslims around the world, particularly those who are at the receiving end of racism and xenophobia, discrimination, exclusion and demonization, feel that the whole world has turned against Muslims because of their faith. There is a general tendency to lay the blame for the challenges and problems faced by the Muslim ummah exclusively at the doorstep of our enemies and detractors. This is a partial and myopic view. The fact of the matter is that the responsibility for the unenviable situation in which the Muslim ummah finds itself rests not only with our enemies and detractors but also with ourselves.

The Prophet Muhammad (SAAW) foretold the Muslim ummah of this unfortunate situation more than 14 centuries ago. He is reported to have said, “Verily, I can see afflictions and adversity falling on your homes like rainfall.” The Quran says:

“Whatever good happens to you is from Allah, and whatever evil happens to you is from yourself. And We have sent you an Apostle to guide mankind, and Allah is enough for witness” (4:79). A Hadith narrated by Abu Dawud says that the Prophet once said, “A time will come when all the world’s people would get together to fight with you. They would call each other (to join in the fight against you) quite like the way hungry people call each other to food. One of the Companions asked, “Would it happen because our numbers would be small in the face of the great multitude of our enemies?” The Prophet replied, “No, Muslims would be large in numbers, but they would be swept away like garbage or dross is washed away by the currents of a river. Your enemies would have no fear of you in their hearts and your hearts would be filled with “wahn.” One of the Companions asked, “What is wahn, O Prophet of Allah.” He replied, “Wahn is to be seduced and captivated by the worldly life and the dislike of dying for the sake of Allah and to run away from it.”

An attempt has been made in this article to understand and analyze the dynamics of the predicament of the Muslim ummah. I have argued that, in many ways, the Muslim ummah is guilty of willfully violating Islam’s cherished values and principles and betraying its glorious traditions and that Muslims are largely to blame for the abyss of misfortune and adversity in which they find themselves.

Muslim World’s Resources

Several derivatives or forms of the term capital have gained currency in contemporary social science discourse. In its original and still prevalent sense, economic capital refers to cash, income and assets. The term social capital, popularized by the American political scientist Robert Putnam, refers to social connectedness, networks, trust and shared values that bind the members of a community or society together. The French sociologist and philosopher Pierre Bourdieu used the term cultural capital to draw attention to cultural assets such as education, skills, demeanour and style of speech, which promote social mobility. Bourdieu also used the term symbolic capital to refer to honour, prestige or recognition. I have used the term “metacapital,” which refers to an integrated set of deeply-held beliefs and convictions, ethical and legal principles and worldview, which are a perennial source of inspiration and guidance for a people. Metacapital, in the sense in which I use the term, is altogether different from its usage in modern economics. I believe that this metacapital constitutes the Muslim ummah’s most prized possession and has the potential to lead it to towards the goal of regeneration and revitalization.

In this section, I focus on three components of the Muslim world’s resources: (i) economic (ii) Awqaf resources, which represent economic, social, cultural and metacapital (iii) demographic capital or demographic dividend.

Many Muslim countries are endowed with rich and abundant natural resources. Of the top ten oil-producing countries, five are Muslim: Saudi Arabia (which has 18% share of the world oil output), Iran (4.77%), Iraq (3.75%), UAE (3.32%), Kuwait (2.96%). Saudi Arabia has the world’s largest proven oil reserves and is the largest producer and exporter of oil. In addition, Algeria, Kazakhstan, Qatar, Azerbaijan, Indonesia, Oman, Malaysia and Egypt have substantial oil reserves. Nearly 40% of the world’s oil is produced in Muslim countries.

The world’s ten largest natural gas reserves are in Qatar, Russia, Iran, Turkmenistan, USA, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Nigeria, Algeria and Australia. Qatar has the world’s largest reserves of natural gas, producing 77 million tonnes of gas per year. Saudi Arabia has the world’s fifth largest gas reserves. In addition, Iraq, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Malaysia, Kuwait, Egypt, Libya, Oman, Yemen, Brunei Darussalam, Syria, Tunisia, Bangladesh, Sudan and Bahrain have substantial gas reserves. The world’s largest goldmines are located in Uzbekistan and Indonesia.

Though much of the landscape in Central Asia is dominated by sprawling arid deserts and barren mountainous terrain, the region has vast natural resources. Kazakhstan has the second-largest reserves of uranium, chromium, lead and zinc in the world, the third-largest manganese, the fifth largest copper reserves and the 11th largest proven reserves of petroleum and natural gas. It has 3% of the world’s oil reserves, 4% of coal and 15% of its uranium. It has the world’s largest reserves of zinc, lead and chromite. Kazakhstan is among the world’s top ten suppliers of copper, iron ore, gold and manganese. Turkmenistan has 4.5% of the world’s natural gas and nearly 500 million barrels of oil. Uzbekistan has about 0.8% of the world’s natural gas reserves and sizeable gold, copper, lead and uranium reserves. Geologists believe that the quantum of commodity wealth in the Central Asian states is much bigger than estimated.

During the past ten years, Chinese, Russian, European and American companies have vied with each other to secure Central Asia’s natural resources. China is making heavy investments in oil fields and mineral projects in the Central Asian states. Over the past few years, the volume of trade between China and the five ‘Stans’ has increased by over 40% a year, reaching around $20 billion in 2010. It is estimated that Chinese gas imports will double between 2010 and 2020, most of which will come from Central Asia. A gas pipeline linking Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to China was opened in 2009. In 2011, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India signed an intergovernmental agreement for the construction of a 1,735-kilometre gas pipeline at the cost of $8 billion. By 2014, when work on the pipeline will be completed, Turkmenistan will export 33 billion cubic metres of gas to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

Surveys carried out by the US Geological Survey and the Pentagon in Afghanistan over the past few years indicate that the country has vast, untapped deposits of precious minerals, including gold, copper, iron ore, cobalt, oil and natural gas, as well as rare earth elements such as lithium and niobium. These reserves are estimated to be worth a whopping $1 trillion. Oil fields in northern Afghanistan are estimated to hold up to 18 billion barrels of oil. In 2008, a Chinese mining consortium bought a 30-year lease on Mes Aynak in northern Afghanistan for $3 billion. They estimated that the valley contained potentially $100 billion worth of copper, possibly the largest such deposit in the world. It is estimated that the project would provide $300 million a year by 2016 and about $40 billion in total royalties to the Afghan government. Iraq has some of the world’s largest untapped and under-exploited oil reserves, including nine “super giants” around Basra, each with 5 billion barrels of exploitable crude. According to the US Energy Information Administration, Iraq has about 115 billion barrels of oil, the fourth largest oil reserve in the world. Much of it remains to be exploited.

Awqaf Resources

The term waqf (plural awqaf) refers to an endowment, including mosque, educational institutions, land, buildings, scientific or academic institutions, libraries, public amenities and health care institutions, which is established by an individual, family or state for the purpose of public welfare, particularly for the benefit of the poor. According to Islamic law, Waqf properties or institutions cannot be sold once they have been declared as an endowment. Charitable activities and endowments date from the time of the Prophet, and the tradition has continued uninterrupted through the centuries.

The institution of waqf had a profound and far-reaching impact on the course of Islamic history and civilization. Large endowments instituted by Muslim rulers, members of the nobility and wealthy merchants supported a wide range of institutions, including mosques, madrasas, public libraries, caravanserais, universities and hospitals. The famed Al-Azhar University in Cairo, founded in 972, was financed by revenues which accrued from waqf properties. In the early decades of the 19th century, waqf land comprised 570,000 acres (over 20%) out of a total of 2.375 million acres in Egypt. In the 19th century, almost half of the total land in Algeria and one-third in Tunisia were under awqaf. Nearly three-quarters of the land in the Arab region that were part of the Ottoman Empire belonged to awqaf. In Turkey about one-third of the country’s total land area was committed to waqf at the turn of the 20th century. The Shishi Children’s Hospital in Istanbul, founded in 1898, is one of the dozens of hospitals which were supported by waqf revenues. There are an estimated 358,710 awqaf properties in Indonesia, which cover some 1.5 million square metres (Pascale 2011). The Islamic Development Bank has recently established World Awqaf Foundation.

In the Indian subcontinent, hundreds of thousands of endowments were created over the past seven or eight centuries, especially during Muslim rule. According to the Sachar Committee report, there are nearly 500,000 registered Muslim endowments in the country, which encompass a total area of approximately 600,000 acres. The state of Bengal has the largest share of endowments (with an estimated 184,000 properties), followed by Karnataka (with more than 33,000 properties). These endowments are worth billions of rupees at current market rates. The 1654-acre waqf land adjoining the shrine of Hazrat Husain Shah Wali in Hyderabad is worth Rs. 32,000 crores at the current market value. Unfortunately, a very large proportion of Waqf properties in India has been misappropriated, usurped and illegally disposed off or is under illegal occupation or encroachment, thanks to a deeply-entrenched nexus and collusion between trustees and custodians, State Waqf Boards, politicians and ministers, officials and the land mafia. The report of the Joint Parliamentary Committee says that nearly 70 per cent of Waqf properties in the country have been encroached upon. If Awqaf resources are adequately harnessed and efficiently managed, they can be a potent instrument for the alleviation of poverty among Muslims and for the development of local Muslim communities.

Demographic Dividend

The term demographic dividend refers to the correlation between accelerated economic growth and the rising share of working-age people to the population. Demographic dividend plays an important role in a nation’s development. Demographic dividend accounted for a third of economic growth in East Asian countries from 1965 to 1990. In many emerging Asian economies, demographic dividend has added nearly 2 per cent to the annual growth in per capita income. A substantial segment of the population in Muslim countries consists of young people. In 2010, 34 per cent of the population of Muslim-majority countries was under the age of 15 and 60 per cent under the age of 30. In sub-Saharan Africa, more than 40% of Muslim population is younger than 15 years. The median age among Muslims in sub-Saharan Africa is 17, in the Middle East and North Africa 23, and in the Asia-Pacific region 24. In the Arab region, young people under 25 years of age make up about 60 per cent of the region’s population and represent its fastest-growing segment. The median age in the Arab region is 22, compared with the global average of 28. Nearly three-quarters of Saudi citizens are under 30 years of age. Nearly half of Egypt’s population is under 25. More than 28 per cent of Algeria’s population is under 15. Some 60 per cent of Yemen’s population is under 24. Nearly one-third of the population of Iran is under 30. Nearly 30% of Turkey’s population of 76 million are under 18 years of age. It has a median age of 28.1 years (compared with 44.3 in Germany, 43.7 in Italy, 44.6 in Japan and 39.7 in France). In Pakistan, nearly 60% of the population is below the age of 30.

It needs to be emphasized that demographic dividend is a potential asset and resource, which can bear fruit only in a conducive climate involving an expansion of education and professional skills and the availability of employment opportunities.

Poverty and Inequality in the Muslim World

The unity, equality and brotherhood of mankind, regardless of the distinctions of birth, class or caste, are among the cardinal principles of the Islamic faith. The Quran says that all human have been created from a single primordial pair, Adam and Eve, and are therefore equal (49:13). Islam considers the distinctions of birth, lineage, class, wealth or caste inconsequential. The only worthwhile distinction or honour is piety and moral virtue. Thus the Quran says: “O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, so that you may know each other. Verily the most honoured amongst you in the sight of God is the one who is the most righteous of you” (Quran 49:13). In his sermon during the Last Pilgrimage, the Prophet declared: “O people! Verily, your Lord is One and your father (Adam) was one. Verily, an Arab is not superior to a non-Arab nor is a red-skinned person superior to a dark-skinned person, nor is a dark-skinned person superior to a red-skinned person, except in respect of piety and righteousness. All Muslims are brothers unto each other.” Though Islam takes cognizance of social differentiation and the existence of groups that are based on descent, kinship ties and tribal affiliations, it emphasizes that that such distinctions are meant to serve the purpose of social identification and that they must not be used as a criterion of ranking or hierarchy. Islam recognizes distinction and privilege only in respect of righteous deeds, piety and learning (Quran 49:13; 58:11).

Islamic law recognises a set of wide-ranging human rights, which have a close bearing on the issue of equality. These rights include the right to life, equality and justice, freedom of belief and conscience, freedom of movement, the right to honour, chastity and dignity, the right of equal treatment before the law without discrimination and the right to property. It also recognises the right to participate in public affairs and in government and to express dissent in respect of public policies that are likely to harm the well-being and interests of society.

The Islamic economy is guided by the concept of human well-being (falah), which entails the sharing of available resources, fellow-feeling, social justice and philanthropy. Islam is against the concentration of wealth in a few individuals or families (Quran 59:7). The Islamic ethos of social justice is reflected in the Prophetic tradition: “Take wealth from the rich and turn it over to the poor.” The Quran says that the needy and the dispossessed have a rightful share in the possessions of the rich (Quran 70:25). In the Islamic view, poverty and destitution result largely from the inequitable distribution of resources and the concentration of wealth in the hand of a few. In addition to the emphasis placed on charity and philanthropy, two important mechanisms facilitate the process of social justice in Islamic society: an obligatory tax (zakah) on every Muslim with some means of livelihood, and the law of inheritance. A highly important institution in Islamic state for the alleviation of poverty is the state treasury (bayt al-mal), which was created during the caliphate of Umar. Through the state treasury, financial assistance was provided to the poor and the needy, elderly people, orphans, widows and the disabled. Funds from the state treasury were also provided to families affected by droughts and floods.

The social, economic and political scenario in the contemporary Muslim world is fraught with glaring contradictions. Nearly 70% of the world’s energy resources and 65% of natural gas reserves are located in Muslim countries. Despite this vast natural wealth, Muslim-majority countries are among the poorest in the world. More than 40% of the population in Muslim countries live in poverty and account for 40-45% of the world’s poor. The Middle East and North Africa, where the bulk of the population is Muslim, are home to about 70% of the world’s poor, living on less than $2 a day. Ironically, three of the 10 nations with the highest GDP worldwide – Qatar, Kuwait and Brunei – are Muslim, but three of the 10 countries with the lowest GDP per capita – Afghanistan, Niger and Somalia – are also Muslim. The percentage of people living below the poverty line in some Muslim countries is given in the following chart.

The Arab Human Development Report 2009 estimates that the overall poverty rate in the Arab region is 39.9 per cent and the number of Arabs living in poverty could be as high as 65 million or about 20 per cent of the population. The overall poverty rates in the Arab world range from 59.5 per cent in Yemen and about 40 per cent in Egypt to 28.6--30 per cent in Lebanon and Syria. In Somalia alone five million people live in poverty. Income poverty, and the insecurity associated with it, is more widespread in the rural areas. Human poverty, as reflected in the deprivation of capabilities and opportunities, is far more widespread in the Arab countries than income poverty. The report reveals that in most Arab countries, inequalities and social exclusion have increased over the past two decades.

The report points out that despite its abundant natural resources, hunger and malnutrition in Arab countries are rising. According to Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) figures, Arab countries have a low ratio of undernourished people to the total population. Yet it is one of the two regions in the world -- the other being sub-Saharan Africa -- where the number of undernourished people has risen since the beginning of the 1990s -- from about 19.8 million in 1990-1992 to 25.5 million in 2002-2004. The report notes that the main direct causes of hunger in the Arab world are poverty, foreign occupation, domestic conflict and economic policies for dealing with globalisation.

Thomas Piketty has recently written that the oil-producing monarchies in the Middle East own most of the national wealth while the bulk of the population are kept in a state of ‘semi-slavery.’ The top 10 per cent in the region get over 60 per cent of national income and the top 1 per cent get in excess of 25 per cent of national income (compared with 20% in the US, 11% in Western Europe and 17% in South Africa). This makes the Middle East one of the most unequal regions in the world. Piketty says that inequality in the Middle East exceeds even that of the US. He points out that the oil-rich monarchies are politically and militarily supported by Western powers and their support is motivated by self-interest.

Modern Slavery

Though slavery has been outlawed in all countries, in persists in various, often disguised, forms across large parts of the world. In many West African nations, particularly Nigeria, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Burkina Faso, the children of slaves automatically become the property of the owner. Though Niger banned slavery in 2003, an estimated 40,000 people in the country still live in slavery. Mauritania has officially abolished slavery, but almost 18 per cent of the population still live in slavery. Slavery continues to exist in Yemen despite its official abolition. In 2010 a Yemeni newspaper Al-Masdar reported that slavery was actually growing in the country.

The Global Slavery Index 2013, compiled by the Australia-based Walkfree Foundation, says that there are an estimated 35.8 million people worldwide who are living in modern slavery, without any rights or freedom of movement. The estimate, derived from data from 162 countries, is based on a definition of what the report calls modern slavery, which includes debt bondage, forced marriage and human trafficking. The top 10 countries which have the highest number of slaves include India, China, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Russia, Thailand, DR Congo, Myanmar and Bangladesh. India has the highest number of people, estimated at 14 million – nearly half of the total number of slaves in the world – who are living in conditions of slavery. Pakistan has an estimated 2,127,132 people living in modern slavery. In Bangladesh, 342,192 persons are living in modern slavery. The Global Slavery Index says that slaves in India and Pakistan are still being sold for as little as $ 30-40.

In several Muslim countries, disadvantaged and marginalized groups and ethnic minorities experience widespread discrimination, stigmatization and exclusion. Al-Akhdam (plural of khadim, meaning “servant” in Arabic) are the most marginalized and despised ethnic group in Yemen. Though they are Arabic-speaking Muslims, their dark skin colour, rather short stature and other physical features differentiate them from the mainstream population. According to some researchers, the Akhdam are descendants of Ethiopian invaders who conquered and occupied Yemen for a brief period some 15 centuries ago. They are estimated to number between half a million and one million and are concentrated in segregated shantytowns on the fringes of San’a and other cities. They eke out a living by taking up menial and low-paid jobs such as sweeping the streets, cleaning of latrines and collecting scrap. The Akhdam are considered untouchables and treated with scorn. Very few children from the community are enrolled in school.

Peace vs Violence

Muslims proudly claim that Islam is quintessentially a religion of peace. This is undoubtedly true. However, Muslim extremist groups which indulge in reckless violence have made a mockery of Islam’s noble principles and have lowered the image of Islam in the eyes of others.

In the past few years there has been an alarming rise in intolerance, extremism and militancy in a section of Muslim youth, who are on the fringes of Muslim societies. This is manifested in the proliferation of global terrorist networks aimed at carrying out acts of violence and destruction, in the repressive and misguided policies of the Taliban in Afghanistan, in the violence perpetrated by Al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula, and in the increasingly violent methods adopted by al-Shabab in Somalia, Ansar Deine in Mali, Boko Haram in Nigeria and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Violent conflicts and civil wars in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Somalia have taken a heavy toll of human lives and have led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people. The death toll in Syria’s protracted, bloody civil war has exceeded 250,000, including more than 6,600 children and 4,450 women. More than a quarter of the country’s population of 21 million have been displaced. Syrians are hopelessly caught between a brutal dictatorship and a fragmented opposition movement that has come to be dominated by extremist and militant groups. There are scores of armed militias in the country, who control a number of small cities and towns. Since February 2012, Yemen has faced a secessionist movement in the south and Al-Qaeda-sponsored violence. The country has experienced a series of suicide bombings in the past couple of years, in which hundreds of people have been killed.

A large majority of the victims of terrorism and violence carried out by Muslim youth are innocent Muslim civilians, including women and children. Between 2004 and 2013 almost half of all terrorist attacks and 60 per cent of fatalities due to terrorist attacks worldwide took place in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the victims were overwhelmingly Muslim. The horrendous acts of violence and wanton killing by a small group of extremist and hardliner Muslims have widened the gulf between Muslims and the rest of the world and fuelled Islamophobic sentiments. Suicide attacks carried out by misguided youths in many parts of the world, in which innocent civilians, including women and children are killed, have heightened the atmosphere of fear and insecurity around the world.

The perpetrators of violence and terrorism often justify their actions in the name of jihad. It is necessary to dispel some misconceptions surrounding the idea of jihad. Jihad literally means “striving in the way of God,” which is carried out entirely for the sake of God and is not motivated or blemished by worldly gain, power or fame. Jihad encompasses a wide range of means and methods: it can be pursued by spending one’s financial resources for the glory of God (Quran 9:41, 8:72, 49:15), through self-purification, and by showing courage of conviction in the face of fear and persecution. The Prophet is reported to have said, “The most superior form of jihad is to speak the truth in front of a despotic ruler”. Defending one’s family, honour and faith from external aggression has been described as jihad.

Armed confrontation or combat is one of the forms of jihad, but it is permitted only as the last resort. Islam does not sanction aggression; it only permits a defensive war. The Quran says, “And fight in the cause of Allah against those who fight against you, but do not transgress. Surely Allah does not like the transgressors” (2:190). Armed combat is regulated by wide-ranging conditions and stipulations, including those relating to the avoidance of wanton destruction and barbarities, compliance with treaties with the enemy, the protection of women, children and old persons as well as places of worship (of other faiths) and the flora and fauna in the war zone, and kindness towards the prisoners of war. The Prophet described humanitarian work as analogous to jihad. He is reported to have said, “A person who takes care of widows and the destitute is like one who is engaged in jihad in the path of God or like one who spends the whole day in fasting and the whole night in prayers”. Likewise, caring and providing for one’s family has been described as jihad. Thus the Prophet said, “Seek for your family legitimate means of livelihood, for this is a jihad in the cause of God.”

Erosion of Moral Fibre

The Quran portrays the Muslim ummah as “the best of the world’s people.”

“You are the best of peoples, raised for mankind, enjoining what is right, forbidding what is wrong and believing in Allah” (Quran 3:110). The Muslim ummah has been endowed with the potential to become the world’s best people, a role model for others, if it adheres to the moral imperatives set out in the verse. It goes without saying that one has the moral right to urge others to follow the path of righteousness and to refrain from evil and wrong-doing only when one has imbibed these qualities in his own consciousness and character.

We delude ourselves if we fancy, like the Jews, that we are God’s chosen people and the best among the world’s nations simply because we happen to be Muslims. We must remember that this exalted status bestowed on the Muslim ummah is embedded in a moral framework and that it is contingent upon our compliance with the divine mandate. In other words, it is an ideal, which can fructify only if we fulfill its prerequisites.

In 2015 nearly a million and a half Muslim refugees and asylum seekers from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and the Balkans, who fled the horrors of civil war and violent conflicts in their native countries, entered the European Union. Germany alone has given asylum to more than a million refugees. Germany, Austria and many other European countries threw open their borders, welcomed the refugees with open arms and provided them with shelter, food and clothing. Despite rising xenophobia and Islamophobia in many European countries and the growing resentment against immigrants, thousands of volunteers cheered the refugees as they entered Europe. Many of them brought warm clothes, toys and sweets for the children of the refugees.

And how did the refugees reciprocate this exceptional gesture of generosity and large-heartedness? More than 500 German women filed criminal complaints involving sexual assault, including rape and theft, against heavily intoxicated refugees of Arab and North African origin in the German city of Cologne on new year’s eve. Similar cases involving refugees were reported from other European cities. Though the people who indulged in such shameful behavior form a small proportion of the multitude of refugees in Europe in 2015, they have betrayed the trust of their hosts and have lowered the image of Muslims and Islam in the eyes of Europeans. Can these people, who can only be described as the scum of the earth, claim to be the world’s best people?

The Arab Spring and a Season of Betrayals

After more than four years of the Arab Spring, the spectre of violence, lawlessness and political instability is looming large over the Arab region. The jubilation and euphoria that was so conspicuous in 2011 has given way to growing despair and discontent. General Abd el-Fattah al-Sisi deposed Muhammad Mursi, Egypt’s first democratically-elected president, in a military coup in August 2013. Since then the Sisi regime has unleashed a wave of repression, state-sponsored terrorism and violence and suppression of democratic rights and civil liberties. Thousands of peaceful protesters and political dissidents have been killed by the Egyptian security forces and more than 40,000, mosty supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, have been arrested. Mursi and the head of the Muslim Brotherhood, Muhammad Badie, have been sentenced to death by Mubarak-era judges. Sisi has evidently resurrected the dark legacy of the Mubarak era. Yet, the US and European leaders unabashedly support the Sisi regime.

The transition to democracy in Tunisia in the aftermath of the ouster of its former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has been fraught with several challenges and impediments. In the election to the Constituent Assembly held in October 2011, the Ennahda Party won 90 out of 217 seats and took over the reins of power. The killing of two opposition leaders in 2013 led to a stand-off between the ruling Ennahda Party and the opposition parties. In December 2013 the Ennahda-led government stepped down, and a caretaker government was formed. In the presidential elections held in 2014, Nida Tounes, a secular party, won the majority of votes. Tunisia is faced with a crumbling economy, rising prices, high unemployment rates, lawlessness and crime, terrorism and sectarian violence, political instability and the failure of the political class to forge a consensus on the task of economic and political reconstruction.

Following the US-led invasion of Iraq and the sacking of Saddam Hussein in 2003, the country has been in the grip of political instability and uncertainty, sectarian violence and mounting chaos. The gravest threat to peace in the region has come from the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIL) or Daesh, a terrorist group that has splintered from Al Qaeda. Since the time ISIL proclaimed a self-styled caliphate in June 2014, large swathes of land in Iraq and Syria, inhabited by over 10 million people, have come under its control. ISIL has indulged in reckless killings and violence, including public beheading of civilians, soldiers and journalists and the destruction of religious shrines. In June 2015 it spread its deadly tentacles to Tunisia and Kuwait. ISIL has been declared a terrorist organization by many countries, including Muslim nations, and its wanton acts of killing and destruction have been condemned by Islamic organisations and mainstream Muslim groups from around the world.

The distressing scenario in the Arab region has led many people to wonder whether the fruits of the Arab Spring have gone sour.

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