Middle East Resources

History: Fact of Fiction
An Essay on Why the West is Wrong about Islam

Bassam Michael Madany

20 May 2022

Early in May 2022, I received a summary of “The Fate of Abraham: Why the West is Wrong about Islam,” that had appeared on the book and on all advertisements of the work.i The following is the summary’s text:

“As the Cold War faded into history, it appeared to have been replaced by a new conflict - between Islam and the West. Or so we are told. After the events of 9/11 and the advent of the 'war on terror', this narrative seemed prophetic. But, as Peter Oborne reveals in this masterful new analysis, the concept of an existential clash between the two is a dangerous and destructive fantasy.

“Based on rigorous historical research and forensic contemporary journalism that leads him frequently into war-torn states and bloody conflict zones, Oborne explains the myths, fabrications and downright lies that have contributed to this pernicious state of affairs. He shows how various falsehoods run deep, reaching back as far as the birth of Islam, and have then been repurposed for the modern day. Many in senior positions in governments across the West have suggested that Islam is trying to overturn our liberal values and even that certain Muslims are conspiring to take over the state, while Douglas Murray claims in his new book that we face a 'War on the West'. But in reality, these fears merely echo past debates, as we continue to repeat the pattern of seemingly willful ignorance.

“With murderous attacks on Muslims taking place from Bosnia in 1995 to China today, Oborne dismantles the falsehoods that lie behind them, and he opens the way to a clearer and more truthful mutual understanding that will benefit us all in the long run.”ii 

I was stunned by the first paragraph. Peter Oborne has concluded that after the end of the Cold War, the West had to find a replacement for the USSR, It’s Islam!  In fact, not one reputable source supports Mr. Oborne’s thesis!

This is not to deny the terrible events that took place in Bosnia after the dissolution of the Yugoslavian Federation.iii

The plight of the 12 million Uyghurs, mostly Muslim, living in Xinjiang, is well-known, even though Muslim countries are not doing much to help them.          

One would have expected Iran to have championed their cause, but “Iran's economy is particularly vulnerable to supply chain problems because of its reliance on China.”   (ME Quarterly 17 May 2022)
                                                                                                                                         
Several serious works have been published since the early 1990s about the post-USSR world; none would substantiate Oborne’s claims. Here are examples:

Francis Fukuyama’s “THE END OF HISTORY AND THE LAST MAN  describes his vision of the world following the end of the USSR.

“As the tumultuous twentieth century shudders toward its close — with the collapse of communism leading to a transformation of world politics — Francis Fukuyama asks us to return with him to a question that has been asked by the great philosophers of centuries past: is there a direction to the history of mankind? And if it is directional, to what end is it moving? And where are we now in relation to that "end of history"? It is Fukuyama's brilliantly argued theme that, over time, the economic logic of modern science together with the "struggle for recognition" lead to the eventual collapse of tyrannies, as we have witnessed on both the left and right. These forces drive even culturally disparate societies toward establishing capitalist liberal democracies as the end state of the historical process.” 

Not a word about the problems facing the West and Islam. Perhaps Mr. Fukuyama had not specialized in Middle East studies, and thus did not reflect on the impact of the Islamic Revolution in Iran on the region and beyond.

However, the late Samuel P. Huntington did refer to Islam in his book, “The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order” v  Here is a relevant passage:

“In all these places, [reference is to Middle East and Africa] the relations between Muslims and peoples of other civilizations --- Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Hindu, Chinese, Buddhist, Jewish --- have been generally antagonistic; most of these relations have been violent at some point in the past; many have been violent in the 1990s. Wherever one looks at the perimeter of Islam, Muslims have problems living peaceably with their neighbors. The questions naturally rises as to whether this pattern of late- twentieth-century conflict between Muslim and non-Muslim groups is equally true of relations between groups from other civilizations. In fact, it is not. Muslims make up about one-fifth of the world’s population but in the 1990s they have been far more involved in intergroup violence than the people of any other civilization. The evidence is overwhelming.” Chapter 10: From Transition Wars to Fault Line Wars, P. 256

His book was well-documented; in fact, one Arab writer agreed with his analysis and contributed an article to a daily online newspaper with this title: “Was Huntington Wrong in his Clash of Civilizations?vi  

At this junction in history, it’s important to rely on the expertise of Arab scholars who have written on the history of the Arab/Islamic civilization as they reflect on subjects from within an Arab/Muslim milieu and having studied in their homelands and at western universities. 

Here are three writers that I am well-acquainted with their contributions.

Ahmed Saad Zayed, is an Egyptian scholar who champions rational objective thought. His writings include a critique of traditional Islamic worldview. Dr. Zayed is the founder of the “Salon al-Insaniyya (Humanity)” and lectures on the urgent need for the modernization and reform of Arab/Islamic civilization. vii

Hamed Abdel-Samad is a German-Egyptian scholar whose contributions are numerous and available in Arabic, German, English, and several other languages. viii  

Héla Ouardi, a Tunisian Professor of French Literature and Civilization at the University of Tunis, and Associate Researcher at the CNRS Laboratory for Monographic Studies. ix

Had these three scholars noticed anything akin to the thesis of “The Fate of Abraham: Why the West is Wrong about Islam,” they would have denounced it as arising from a Conspiracy Theory of History.

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i https://www.simonandschuster.co.uk/books/The-Fate-of-Abraham/Peter-Oborne/9781398501027

ii Peter Oborne is an award-winning writer, journalist and broadcaster who has worked for various newspapers, including the Spectator, the Daily Mail, and the Daily Telegraph, where he was the chief political commentator until his resignation from the paper in 2015. He now writes for Middle East Eye. He is the author of numerous books, including The Rise of Political Lying (2005), Wounded Tiger (2014) and the Sunday Times bestseller The Assault on Truth (2021)

iii https://clinton.presidentiallibraries.us/yugoslavia-dissolution

iv http://aps-ua.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/The-End-of-History-and-the-Last-Man-Francis-Fukuyama-1992.pdf

The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order
Samuel P. Huntington, Published in 1996 by Simon & Schuster, New York, NY 10020
 

vi Was Huntington Wrong in his ‘Clash of Civilizations?’

vii الحضارة العربية الاسلامية - تأويلات النص - الذروة والمآل- أ. احمد سعد زايد - YouTube
Ahmed Zayed - YouTube 

 

viii Hamed Abdel-Samad - YouTube

Hamed Abdel-Samad: Enlightenment Requires Clash With Heritage | MEMRI

Hamed Abdelsamad - Violence in Surat Al-Tawbah - YouTube

For more information click on the following: Videos of Hamed Abdel Samad On YouTube

ix Hela Ouardi - Quatre siècles de lecture : Les Orientalistes et le Coran. Essai de périodisation. - YouTube
Séance inaugurale - Conférence "Islam au XXIe siècle" du 26 février 2019 à l'UNESCO - YouTube
Réécrire l'histoire de l'islam | Hela Ouardi | TEDx https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYfvUR-554ACarthage - YouTube