Hussin Mutalib's essay ("Misunderstood: Political Islam in Southeast Asia," Summer 2006) is riddled with errors, both factual and conceptual, but I shall focus on just one: his falling into the too-common pattern of blaming the Muslim world's tribulations on the West. Take for example these passages:
- The futility of the US-led war in Iraq and the failure of the ‘coalition of the willing' to secure UN approval to attack Iraq have heightened Islamic animosity in the region and across the Muslim world.
- Radical Islam will continue to grow if Muslims, despite being the world's second largest religious community, continue to be treated like pariahs of the international community.
- The hypocritical US policies in the Middle East generally—and in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Palestine specifically—have caused deep-seated resentment of the West among Muslims.
And so on, and so forth. Have Muslims not made their own fate? For an argument that they have, at least for the Middle East, see the brilliant study by Efraim Karsh and Inari Karsh, Empires of the Sand: The Struggle for Mastery in the Middle East, 1789-1923, Harvard University Press.
So long as this blame-the-West mentality prevails among Muslim intellectual leaders such as Mutalib, what hope is there for Muslims to break out of the extremism, conspiracy theories, and violence that currently wracks their societies? Does he not have a sense of responsibility to adopt a more robust and constructive approach? Has he no faith in Muslims?
Until Mutalib and his colleagues break out of this slough of despair and irresponsibility, Muslims will likely remain in their current self-created predicament.