Philip Almond does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Less than a week after the attack on the Twin Towers in New York on 11 September 2001, US President George W.
The refusal of the UK to allow Shamima Begum, the school girl who left London in 2015 to join ISIS, to return to England is the most recent example of the fear of home-grown terrorism and the enemy “within”.
That she appears to endorse a violent Islam and is lacking in remorse has not helped her cause.
The image of a vibrant, active, progressive West against a passive, inert Islam was congenial to colonial enterprise.
Ironically, the religion of aggressive action now came to be viewed as passively stagnant, decadent and degenerate, ripe for domination by an assertive West.Thus, from the 8th century to the middle of the 19th, it was the virtually unanimous Western opinion that Islam was a violent religion whose success was due to the sword.That Islam is, at its core, a violent religion is an attitude still present among some today.Cut to the 21st century and a post-imperialist age, and Muslim nationalisms are again on the rise, not only in the Middle East and North Africa, but in Indonesia, India and Pakistan. The myth of Islam as essentially violent has re-surfaced.But, interestingly, it has done so in a different way.The inability of Western commentators in the 19th century to endorse a newly submissive Islam arose from a deep-seated Western incapacity to treat Islam on equal terms.Indeed, the greater value of the West over all those it variously characterised as backward, degenerate, or uncivilised was a central feature of most discussions of non-Western forms of life. And there was a strong tendency throughout the Victorian period to blame Islam for all the imagined ills of Oriental societies – the moral degradation of women, slavery, the physical and mental debilities of men, envy, violence and cruelty, the disquiet and misery of private life, the continual agitations, commotions, and revolutions of public life.Bush gave a remarkable speech about America’s “Muslim Brothers and sisters”.“These acts of violence,” he declared, “violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith.” After quoting from the Quran, he continued, “The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. Islam is peace.” This speech is remarkable, not only for its compassion towards Muslims in the face of the attack on the US, but also because Bush was contradicting what has been, since the beginnings of Islam, the standard Western perception of this religion – namely that it is, at its core, a religion of violence.The doctrine of Jihad (holy war), declared The Quarterly Review in 1877, “is not so dangerous or barbarous a one as is generally imagined”.Islamic cultures now came to be seen as spheres of Western patronage, secular and religious.