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HomeGlobal Perspective & Critical ResearchPolitical Islam and the Endurance of American Empire

Political Islam and the Endurance of American Empire

Author: Abdullah Al-Arian

Affiliation: Associate Professor of History, Georgetown University-Doha

Organization/Publisher: Jadaliyya

Date/Place: June 29, 2020/ USA

Type of Literature: Essay

Word Count: 3699


Keywords: Political Islam, Middle East, US, Empire


In this essay, the author illustrates the contemporary empire of the US which is markedly different from its European predecessors in the way it operates. The US empire is distinguished by a set of institutions and its highly interventionist actions across the globe without any consideration for a state’s sovereignty. As an empire, the US has since the collapse of the Soviet Union also constructed an new enemy, which is political Islam. This can be seen in the case of Lebanon where for the recent parliamentary election after a decade, the electoral factions passed a law which basically found a novel way to include Hezbollah, a “terrorist” organization according to the US, to participate in the elections. This active appeasement of US based “values” is testament to the empire’s influence. The origins of the animosity towards Islam are rooted in Western liberalism and escalated after the Cold War in the absence of communism. However, Muslims were considered redeemable if prodded in the right direction through intervention. The author calls this feature “empire as savior.” This was accompanied by a vocabulary fashioned by the US to facilitate its essentially illiberal policies by negating the notion of sovereignty through the standard of legitimacy. As the US dabbled in foreign governments and put up a façade of peacemaking, its definition of terrorist groups was embraced globally. This led to Al Qaeda and Hezbollah being considered terrorist organizations globally, bringing serious consequences to Afghanistan and Iran. Acceptance of this meant that the US had a right to play the global watchdog when it suspected other states of harboring those who challenge US policies, and therefore their sovereignty was ignored as could be seen in Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The author argues that the Islamist tide against the West is in a way a struggle for national identity, or at least against Western globalization. The US’s historically comfortable relationship with Arab states has become entrenched to the extent that these states, albeit Muslim, have become stringently anti-Islamist too. An example of this is the banning of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and in the GCC, the war in Yemen by Gulf countries, and the conflict in Libya backed by the UAE. The author argues that the coup against the Islamist president Morsi was not initiated by the US but rather by the values that the US had ingrained in the Egyptian military which was substantially backed over many decades by billions of dollars in aid money.

By: Sahar Sadiq, CIGA Research Intern



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