Friday, 8 April 2016

Trump is good for Islam - no joke!

No, the title is not an error. Yes, the man who wishes to ban all non-resident Muslims from entering the United States is good for the Islamic world![i]

Why is it good for America's Republican party's presidential frontrunner to treat Muslims like a sub-human species? The answer is quite simple: disruption. Trump will give significantly disrupt the status quo, hopefully ushering in a new, better era.   

Trump - you the man! (Photo: Wikipedia)
Disruption is a concept more familiar to entrepreneurs and start-up entities: disruption. Disruption may be defined as a "disturbance or problems which interrupt an event, activity, or process." Industries ripe for disruptions are generally bloated, stagnant and slowly heading into oblivion.

Alright, no one argues Islam is heading towards extinction. Nonetheless, there is little doubt Islam requires a radical rethink about its place in the world and the religion's relevance to a globalized 'Digital Age' population.

Islam's traditional prism for viewing the world no longer works. By most measures, the Islamic world is isolated and backwards. The post-colonial Islamic world has desperately clung onto linkages, economic and military, with former colonial masters to maintain power and preserve the status quo. Hence, peacefully (yes, peacefully!) disrupting the present state of affairs will be no bad thing; peaceful disruption, not regime change engendered by American bombs and NATO soldiers.

The 2003 US led invasion of Iraq transformed one of the Islamic world's most secular and well integrated multi-religious societies into a war zone and crucible for Islamic extremists.
(Map: Wikipedia)
Theoretically, peaceful disruption provides more time for nations to adapt and modify – not creating vacuums for extremists like Daesh to conveniently step into. 

A Trump presidency will prompt some soul searching among political elites in most Islamic countries. Some might even be forced to dispense with the crutches of Western economic and military dependencies provided by Western nations.

In poorer Muslim nations such as Egypt and Pakistan, politicians will realize leadership comprises of more than receiving and dispensing financial aid from bilateral and multilateral agencies. For wealthier oil rich nations the choices will be more difficult. Oil riches and the lifestyle it engenders are predicated upon a dependency on Western nations. In fact, in several oil exporting Gulf states it is the US Federal Reserve Bank which dictates local monetary policy!

So the question vexing the Kings of oil rich Arab nations will be, "Shall we continue to sell oil to countries like the US in the face of ongoing humiliation and being treated as second class citizens of the world? We may have oodles of money and even property in the right zip codes but we pray in the wrong direction and to the crescent and not the cross."

It's not an easy question to answer when trillions of Dollars are at stake.

This is not the first wake-up call heeded by Islamic intellectuals. In the early post-colonial period, a group of left leaning secularists Muslim modernizers arose. People like Syria's Assad senior, Egypt's Nasser and Iraq's Saddam were ready to shun religion for socialist ideology. In the new millennium that era has been relegated to the annals of history.

The current environment appears ripe for a new wave of Muslim modernizers; for Islam's reinvigorated intelligentsia to address the problems faced by Muslims in the Internet Era. The new paradigm must emerge following meaningful debates about governance, transparency and civil rights.

Muslim faithful pray at the main mosque in snowbound Pristina, Kosovo. (Photo: Wikipedia)
1960s Westernizing secularists demonstrated that blindly aping Western liberal democratic societies is not an ideal solution for Muslim societies. Seamlessly synthesizing modernity and Islam will only work if the new structure respects the unique cultural traditions of different Muslim cultures and geographies.

A Trump presidency will call into question many of the assumptions about civil relations between many predominantly Muslim countries and the US dominated Western world. This reset may act as a catalyst for Islamic political and social elites to redraw their own social contract within their own nations.  

Many analysts argue the present status quo is sustainable due to inequitable wealth distribution and poor state delivered social services. The violence perpetrated by extremists, e.g. Daesh, Taliban and Al-Qaeeda, outside the established political structure suggests most Muslim countries are crying out for some form of change.  

A divided era reminiscent of the historic Crusades? (Illustration: Wikipedia) 
So, Mr Trump, your insensitive and racist rhetoric may actually be helping those against which you spew your hatred. The possible earthquake to the established 'business as usual' modus-operandi may force the Islamic world to stand on its own feet. For that, Mr Trump, the entire Muslim world thanks you and your multitudes of supporters disgorging your regular obscenities.

Now if I were an American Muslim living and working in America I may have a very different opinion of Trump's popularity!

[i] How such a blanket ban will work in practice is difficult to imagine. For example, will all Muslim crew members of a Singapore Airlines flight landing in the US be made to stay on the aircraft overnight? How will Muslim foreign diplomats and functionaries dealing with Washington go about their business? Ultimately, there may be so many exemptions that the ban becomes a mockery ... that is, of course, if any Muslims wish to visit the country voluntarily simply to be humiliated and possibly put themselves in harm's way. But that's a topic for another day.
Imran is a Singapore based Tour Guide with a special interest in arts and history. Imran has lived and worked in several countries in his career as an international banker. He enjoys traveling, especially by train, to feed his curiosity about the world and nurture his interest in photography. Imran can be contacted at Follow Imran on twitter at @grandmoofti and Instragram at imranahmedsg.