The Islamic World Poised Between Reform and Collapse
№3 2003 July/September
Alexei Malashenko

Research Director of the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute, Berlin, Germany; a member of the Research Council of the Carnegie Moscow Center and the chair of the Carnegie Moscow Center’s Religion, Society, and Security Program. He holds a Doctorate in History.

Alexei Malashenko, Doctor of Science (History), is
Vice-President of the Academic Council of the Moscow Carnegie
Center and professor at the Moscow State Institute of International

Alexei Malashenko

The period of time between September 11, 2001, and the Iraqi war
of March-April 2003 proved to be too brief. Numerous books
concerning the new geopolitical future were published over those 18
months, but they were outdated before they ever had a chance to
become bestsellers. In the history of political relations between
the Christian and Moslem actors, Osama bin Laden, Afghanistan and
Iraq are certainly not the final landmarks.

It may be argued that the events following the “bombing” of the
World Trade Center in New York have turned the Moslem community
from an important actor in world politics into its object; it can
be conquered, lectured and “improved” so that it may better conform
with world standards. It can be altogether ignored – except, of
course, for its remaining radical fringe – in determining its new
alignment of forces. Indeed, the collapse of its political
macrosystem over the last few years has resulted in the Moslem
world losing its freedom of maneuver and independent action. But
can we go so far as to say that “the Moslem Ummah now remains a
lamb intended for slaughter” as was voiced at the Russian Moslem
web site?1

There is no simple answer to this question. First of all, at the
start of the 21st century Islam began to be perceived by the world
community from the perspective of its social and cultural
homogeneity. The “time has come to re-establish anew the thesis of
[Islam’s] homogeneity not so much as a thesis but as a problem,
since, despite their indisputable differences, Moslem communities
are remarkably alike,” wrote Ernest Gellner in the 1990s. Indeed,
he believed they were so much alike that “One has the impression
that one and the same deck of cards is played, at least, in the
main part of the Moslem world, in the main Islamic region from
Central Asia to Africa’s Atlantic coast.”2

However, such an approach presupposes a certain ambiguity of
national contours and impedes the mutual understanding of specific
issues between individual countries. On the other hand, it is
consistent with the basically new and provocative idea of
renouncing the absolute dominance of national sovereignty in
international relations and attaching more importance to the
transparency of national borders. This idea stems from the
modernization of backward societies, and the need to introduce
democracy to them; it comes from the attempt to create civil
societies, while reinforcing the human rights issue.

The Islamic ideology places the main emphasis not on individual
peoples (and states) but on the Ummah, that is, an Islamic nation,
a supranational phenomenon. Problems that are common to the entire
Moslem world, and that can be solved only through concerted
efforts, will naturally require a limitation of national
sovereignty. There is nothing humiliating about this – the
Europeans are forced to do the same thing when addressing their own

Besides, some Moslem countries and communities often interpret
the idea of sovereignty in a very loose way; this is often done in
order to satisfy their own interests. Hence, the heightened
occurrence of inter-Moslem wars, separatist movements, and rash
attempts to establish states on the sovereign territory of other
nations. Suffice it to recall the invasion of Kuwait in 1990, the
Indo-Pakistani conflict, as well as separatist movements in various


The Moslem world has approached a line beyond which it will
either undergo profound changes or collapse. Positive changes can
take place only in the context of global processes and provided
there is an intensive outward influence on the Moslem world; it
would be essential that the latter adapts to an outside world which
is more advanced in its social, economic and informational
development. Can one speak in this case of a partial loss of
“civilized sovereignty” and an erosion of the traditional
distinctive features of Islamic culture, including its political
culture? On the face of it, yes, one can. On the other hand, the
Islamic tradition, like any other tradition, is not something which
is necessarily permanent in its present form. Islamic traditions
have been evolving for centuries, and there have been occasions
when they have retracted from some very persistent ideas.

The transformation of the Moslem world does not affect the
Moslems alone; it is a major factor in mankind’s evolution. A
stable world order is impossible without the peaceful interaction
of different civilizations. This circumstance alone does not allow
one to speak of a peripheral nature of Islam.

It is now appropriate to consider certain conflicts that
persist, covertly or latently, in the Moslem world, as well as on
the border with the Christian world. There is no need naming them
all since they are very well known. What is important to understand
is that these conflicts check the development of the Moslem
community and maintain tensions inside and around it. The
spontaneous aggravation of various crises, together with the
ongoing attempts to settle them, presuppose that Islam will
maintain a permanent presence in the center of geopolitics.

Another circumstance that keeps the Moslem world in the
spotlight of global politics is the activity of particular
extremist organizations. These groups have never respected the
national sovereignty of any nation; they view Islam as a single
space which is destined to be an Islamic state, and they are in
permanent confrontation with the opponents of this idea. The extent
of this confrontation is often overstated, in particular in Russia
where it is linked with Chechen separatism. Those interested in
overstating the scale of the problem sometimes include the secret
services, who seek to boost their own importance and prestige, not
to mention their financial allocations from the national budget.
The anti-terror struggle has long become a political instrument in
the hands of many state governments, such as the United States,
Russia, China and India. The anti-terror campaign is being used as
a tool to pursue their interests.

The immediate results of the Afghan and Iraqi wars served as a
major barrier against the religious extremists. The appeals for a
world jihad, made by the charismatic bin Laden (not to mention
Saddam Hussein), did not stir the Moslem world, nor did it result
in any large-scale mojaheedization. Furthermore, the suicidal
regiments of kamikaze shahids (martyrs), with which some Moslem (as
well as Russian) generals frightened the West, never materialized.
During the Iraqi conflict, new – and large-scale – terrorist
attacks seemed to be almost inevitable. Today, many analysts are
attempting to explain why they did not take place, but no one dares
to suggest that there is no more threat of terror from the Moslem
extremists. An independent U.S. analyst, Grenville Byford, was
right when he compared the war against terrorism to wars against
poverty, crime, drugs, in which “opponents never give up.”3

Terrorists have achieved their main goal: they have proved the
vulnerability of every nation. This would include the United States
– the world’s only superpower – which is militarily capable of
replacing regimes “with a wave” of high-precision weapons. However,
no nation can guarantee its own security alone.

 The absence of actual Islamic solidarity during the Iraqi
conflict (the numerous militant statements, which were only to let
off steam, do not count) was one of the reasons why extremists
moved into the background. They returned only in May 2003, when
they committed terrorist acts in Chechnya, Saudi Arabia, Morocco
and Palestine.

Another problem discussed in connection with the Moslem world is
the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear
weapons. On the face of it, this problem seems to be
overexaggerated. With regard to Saddam’s Iraq, the emotional
content of the struggle against WMD proliferation was almost
ridiculous. However, the fictitious threat from Iraq has not made
the proliferation issue any less important since Moslem countries
now possess, or may develop, WMD. One such country is Iran.
Following the Iraqi war, some third world policymakers began to
view nuclear weapons as the only guarantee against foreign
invasion. Furthermore, the possession of nuclear weapons is a
source of national pride; it is a bragging right, and can be the
source of advantageous diplomatic bargaining as well. Naturally,
Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are “a Pakistani national bomb more than
anything else.”4 But if they are
ever used, the situation will acquire confessional significance
within the Moslem world and in other regions. The number of
“nuclear club” members may increase due to those states with an
explosive social and political situation. The Director for External
Relations and Policy Coordination of the International Atomic
Energy Agency (IAEA), Piet de Klerk, holds that the balance between
nuclear and non-nuclear states is genetically not stable.5 This instability will persist
throughout the present decade, and probably longer.

The most dangerous development would be fringe politicians and
radical religious organizations getting their hands on WMD. The
matter at issue is not a “nuclear Mauser” or “nuclear grenade”
(although the creation of such dirty toys is only a matter of
time), but the use of chemical and, especially, biological weapons,
against which there is no antidote, and probably never will be.

Finally, the Moslem world remains in the focus of the
international community’s agenda because of their continued
migration from Moslem countries, primarily to Europe. This factor
is changing the traditional face of the Old World and raising the
important issue of a “Christian-Moslem dialog.” It must now include
specific ethnopolitical and socio-economic considerations. The
“Islamic migration boom” has prompted some experts to speak of
Europe’s Islamization.6

The Moslem migration in Europe now seems to be at the point of
bifurcation, and there is no predicting how things will develop in
the future. On the one hand, it is believed that the adaptation of
Moslems at work, home, and places of leisure is inevitable. On the
other hand, radical and even extremist sentiments have already
struck roots among some of the Moslems in Europe. German secret
services estimate the number of extremists in their country at
60,000.7 In Britain, some mosques
have been made into centers of fundamentalist propaganda, where
police occasionally find caches of weapons. In France, there is
Faith and Deed, as well as the Islamic Salvation Front
organizations. The rector of the Grand Mosque in Paris, Dalil Abu
Boubakeur, is confident that Islamic radicalization is sweeping

The Islamic issue in Europe is not reduced to migration alone.
There have emerged Moslem states on the continent. The two modest
Moslem countries in Europe – Albania and Bosnia – will soon be
joined by Turkey with a population of 70 million. And then the
continent will again become Christian-Islamic, like in the good old
medieval times. God forbid that such developments should be
described as an “Islamic threat.” Things are much more complicated,
especially considering the birth rates in Moslem countries.

So I dare say again that, although international attention is
now riveted on the world dominance of the United States, and on the
Euro-Russian-Chinese reaction to this phenomenon, the 21st century
geopolitical problem cannot be solved without taking the Moslem
world into consideration. All major recent conflicts (the Taliban,
bin Laden, Iraq, etc.) involved the Moslem world. And this
intricate drama with many characters is still a long way from its
final chapter.


How long will Washington remain preoccupied with the Moslem
world, now that the U.S. has dealt several powerful blows at
international terrorism, and carried out victorious wars in both
Afghanistan and Iraq? Washington has already expressed its
readiness to undertake the mission of delivering democracy to the
Moslem countries. The executive director of the Arab American
Institute, Jean Abi Nader, warns that democratization of Moslem
countries is a complicated process. The U.S. should delicately
establish contacts with local elites and help them consolidate
civil societies rather than impose their own recipes and frighten
them by preventive wars.9 This
warning sounds rather banal, but no one can give any specific
advice on this issue to anyone, including America.

Of course, the U.S. can build a strict hierarchy of interests in
the Moslem world. But this would be a cumbersome issue since there
are many issues of equal priority, each containing their own valid
arguments. These would include, first of all, transforming Iraq
into a “pilot democracy project.” The U.S. is now optimistic about
this prospect, believing that “the job of building democracy in
Iraq, although difficult, may not be quite as hard as many critics
of the war have warned.”10

The importance of Iraq’s reconstruction does not, however,
overshadow the perpetual Middle East conflict, which is now showing
signs of a possible settlement. Never before has the United States
possessed such an opportunity for influencing the conflicting
parties as after its military success in Iraq.

The time has come to clearly define Saudi-U.S. relations. In the
last few years they have been growing more and more ambiguous.
Washington now wants more say in the internal affairs of the
“cradle of Islam” and has already demanded that Saudi Arabia cease
supporting radical Islamic organizations. (Meanwhile, in May 2003,
terrorists staged a major terrorist act in the kingdom, in which
dozens of U.S. citizens were killed and injured.) It remains
unclear what role will be assigned to the “axis of evil;” perhaps
now all of the remaining “evil” will be argued to be centered in
Iran. But despite the triumphant struggle against Saddam, an Iraqi
version may not work in the neighboring country.

Southeast Asia is another region remaining in the focus of
Washington’s attention. (The U.S. Department of Defense named it a
priority region back in 1992.) The U.S. watched the growth of
influence and ambitions of “quiet” Malaysia with great
apprehension. Also, it cannot afford to ignore the tendencies in
Indonesia which boasts a population of 220 million. According to a
2002 public opinion poll conducted by the Jakarta-based Tempo
magazine, 58 percent of Indonesian Moslems are in favor of
proclaiming their nation an Islamic state. Of course, confessional
statistics should not be trusted implicitly, yet one should not
ignore the growing activity of religious extremists on the
archipelago, and the persistent tensions in ethnic and confessional
relations there. On top of this, there is also nuclear-capable
Pakistan to consider.

I have mentioned the larger part of the Moslem world, while some
Moslem regions will find themselves in the background, however.
Professor Martin Spechler of Indiana University holds that once the
Afghan phase in the war against terrorism is over, Central Asia
will again find itself on the edge of the world economy in
geopolitical terms.11

The rapid growth of the West’s interest in Central Asia was
prompted by its proximity to Afghanistan, its ties between the
Taliban and their Central Asian supporters, the frequent military
activity of local Islamists (for example, the Islamic Movement of
Uzbekistan,  and Hizb ut-takhrir al-Islami), the general
conflict-prone situation in Fergana Valley, as well as other
factors. It is not ruled out that the local elites, sensing a loss
of U.S. interest in their activities, may again try to scare the
hesitant sponsors with a new wave of extremism. Such attempts were
already made in 2002 when the local press carried reports about a
formidable Islamic Movement of Turkestan.

The Moslem world is a giant system of communicating vessels, and
events taking place in it require a structural approach. Obviously,
the modernization and democratization of this world, however
asynchronous and disproportional, must cover whole regions, if not
the entire Moslem community. It is difficult to imagine a
democratically developed society surrounded by semi-medieval

Moreover, any attempts to introduce innovations into the Moslem
community will inevitably face the challenge of modernizing the
religion itself. It will be necessary to adapt some new Islamic
interpretations concerning, above all, earthly issues: social,
economic and moral. Without it, any transformation of Moslem
society will face immense problems; it will not be able to conform
with the demands of modern society. Efforts to influence the
religious education of Moslems are a serious step in this
direction, and are already being made. In any case, U.S. official
bodies are ready to allocate tens of millions of dollars for the
reformation of religious education in some major Moslem
universities. In all, about one billion U.S. dollars has already
been allocated for Islam-related projects.

All of this only confirms the exceptional difficulty of the
goals that the modern “missionaries” have set for themselves. For
many Moslems, their activities will inevitably be associated with
globalization, the latest expansion of the infidels, and a new
colonization of the Ummah. Even Americans are unable to carry this
unbearable “weight.”


How do Moslems react to these attempts to transform their public
and political life, including their somewhat cautious
indoctrination? One should hardly expect a new interpretation of
events from them.

In Iraq, people cursed the dictator Hussein at the site of mass
graves, victims of his fallen regime. At the same time, they
demanded that the American forces leave their country so that the
Moslem people may freely address their problems. Iraq is a
particular yet illustrative case. People’s dislike of their own
rulers, who are not at all perfect from the religious – and other
–  viewpoints, is combined with their self-identification as
victims of foreign expansion.

Moslems have long been nursing an inferiority complex, which has
in the last few decades been aggravated by the collapse of
socialist and non-socialist attempts at modernization, as well as
national and various imitated models; eventually they largely
settled for the Islamic alternative. Domestic crises, lost wars in
the Middle East, and other factors have exacerbated the growing
economic and power gap between the Moslem world and Western

The September 11 terrorist acts came as a concentrated
expression of this inferiority complex. The show-like strike at New
York was a gesture of despair, as well as a signal of an imminent
clash of civilizations. Bin Laden was completely sincere when he
apparently stated that “this event has split the world into two
parts: those who have faith and who are not hypocrites, and those
who do evil, may Allah save us from them.”12 He described a direct clash between
these irreconcilable antagonists as inevitable.

The collapse of Moslem hopes looks particularly painful against
the trend of globalization. The establishment of U.S. hegemony,
whose policymakers speak in a didactic manner, initiates great
irritation among Moslems and apprehension among local elites. The
latter are fearful (and quite reasonably) of large protests in
their countries against U.S. policy. On the other hand, the U.S. is
aggravated with the inability of the local leaders to direct the
movement of their societies toward a “normal” civil society and
democracy. Granted, this is something the local rulers do not want
to transpire.

The Moslem world is a realm of authoritarianism of diverse
modifications: from cruel and totalitarian in Saddam’s Iraq and
Saparmurad Niyazov’s Turkmenistan, to moderate in Kyrgyzstan and
Tunisia. U.S. scholar Marina Ottaway described the latter as
“semi-authoritarian systems” that are “not imperfect democracies
struggling toward improvement and consolidation but regimes
determined to maintain the appearance of democracy without exposing
themselves to the political risks that free competition
entails.”13 Her definition will
remain relevant for at least the next decade.

In this context, the following words of James Woolsey, former
CIA director and a candidate for the head of the postwar
administration in Iraq, reverberate in a somewhat different and
unexpected way: “We are on the side of those whom you – the
Mubaraks, the Saudi Royal family – most fear: we are on the side of
your own people.”14 Perhaps this
statement brings to mind the worst examples of Soviet
foreign-policy populism. But the hint is transparent enough: rigid
authoritarianism as the successor to Eastern despotism is no longer
an optimum variant for the survival of the ruling elites in the
Moslem world. And these elites can no longer count on the West’s
unreserved support.

At the same time, many Western policymakers and analysts express
skepticism about democratic “reconstruction,” emphasizing politely
local peculiarities. For example, the U.S. ambassador to
Uzbekistan, Joseph Pressel, commenting in 1999 on the forthcoming
elections, said that a democratic system must, first of all,
reflect peculiarities of society, its traditions and present-day
life.15 Obviously, these
peculiarities are hardly conducive to democratic changes.

Moslems will soon learn the importance of the external factor
through the example of Iraq – the Americans are not restrained by
either external or domestic forces. This type of democracy, which
is imposed from the outside, will clash with the local political
culture and traditions. The result of this clash will be of
strategic importance for both parties, as a successful outcome will
create a precedent that may have an invaluable influence on
relations between the West and the Moslem East.

Meanwhile, even staunch Moslem liberals, sincerely oriented to
Western values, are mostly pessimistic and must admit that the
current attempts to replace the incumbent authoritarian regimes are
unwarranted. They prefer to speak of the natural inevitability of
these regimes and place their hopes on the gradual evolution of the
political system. This point of view was once expressed by one of
the leaders of the democratic opposition in Uzbekistan. Moslem
liberals are also disappointed with the overall position of the
West on which they still pin their hopes, however low those hopes
may now be.


One thing is certain: any interference from the outside will
only serve to consolidate the positions of the Islamic radicals.
According to Jordan’s Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher,
“Radicalization has already started in the Arab World. We need to
show the people that the U.S. does not only care about Iraq but
other problems too.”16

Islamists willingly refer to the idea of the “modernization of
Moslem society,” while interpreting it as an economic, political
and cultural expansion by the West; a “crusade” or a clash of
civilizations. To them the “Western threat” is as real as the
“Islamic threat” is to people in Europe and America. Following
September 11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the boundary
separating the virtual and real nature of the relative threats has
begun to disintegrate in the minds of the two civilizations. The
tendency toward a mutual rejection of each other’s position is
growing increasingly noticeable despite the talk about the need for
an inter-civilization dialog. Some people fear the encroachment of
an incomprehensible globalization, while others fear the inevitable
Islamic terrorism. The inclusion of Moslem countries in the “axis
of evil,” together with verbal threats aimed at Syria and Iran,
have only added fuel to this conflict-prone situation.

Moslems believe that modernization will inevitably deprive them
of their religious and cultural identity and make them totally
dependent on the West. They also hold that they can solve their
domestic problems on their own (which brings to mind the concept of
“China’s way” in Chairman Mao’s times). Therefore, Moslems propose
resolving their crises by working out and implementing an Islamic
alternative. Proponents of this idea reject outside proposals,
while some of them engage in open struggle against the West. This
“new religious discourse is aimed at sacralizing the social system,
while it needs to be replaced,” Gilles Kepel of France

The Islamic radicalism stems from the growing sentiment among
Moslems concerning their “secular imperfection,” of being
“secondary,” and their “inability” to play the role of a legitimate
participant in world politics. This feeling is a “common
denominator” for them, a factor in the self-identification of pax
Islamica with regard to those societies professing Christianity.
Not every Moslem thinks daily about this circumstance,
nevertheless, the unresolved nature of these “general issues”
leaves its mark upon their social and private life. And it is the
radicals who propose a clear and seemingly logical solution based
on the customary ideology. One should not view this solution as
obviously absurd simply because neither Europe nor America will be
able to adequately perceive developments taking place in the Moslem

Radicals are the smaller yet the most active part of the Moslem
community. Considering the believers who sympathize with them, they
represent an important part of the Moslem community and its
consciousness. It would be unwise and risky to believe that the
only form of relations with radicals is by fighting against them
tooth and nail. The sooner the West finds an acceptable form of
relations with them, the sooner the idea of the “clash of
civilizations” will be thrown aside. Such a simple gesture could
spare many lives.

However, many people, if not the majority, question the need for
such a dialog. Pessimists proceed from the following premises:
Islamic radicals a priori are doomed to an ultimate political
failure, as follows from their abortive attempts to build an
Islamic state; radicals are reluctant to give up their most odious
ideological tenets, and they are incapable of conducting a dialog;
they are prepared to use extremist methods in their activities.
Finally, after the U.S. successes in Afghanistan and Iraq, one may
think that in the foreseeable future Islamic radicalism will become
a thing of the past and that the most important thing now is to
help it move in this direction.18

Yet, there is another approach to Islamic radicalism. Its
proponents point to the lack of uniformity in radicalism, to the
presence of a moderate wing amongst its adherents, whose
representatives are able to join in the political process and
become its legitimate participants. The experience of some
countries, such as Turkey, Tajikistan and Yemen, demonstrate that
moderate Islamic radicals are able to take a constructive approach.
By way of example one can cite the support given to America by the
Turkish prime minister and leader of the Justice and Development
Party, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, during the Iraqi crisis; there was
also the evolution of Tajikistan’s Islamic Revival Party.
Interestingly, a victory for the Islamists could turn into their
defeat; on the road to power they have to sacrifice their strictest
principles which have won them popularity among the poor

One way or another, Islamic radicalism has not yet exhausted its
potential as an ideology, nor as a political movement. It remains –
and is likely to remain for quite some time – an actor in the
political process, so it should not be ignored. However, the
panorama of the Islamic world is not reduced to radicalism


Islamic radicalism is opposed by the advocates of reform,
although they are still few in number. Sudanese-born philosopher
Abdullahi Ahmed an-Naim, now a resident of the U.S., has repeatedly
emphasized the need for a new interpretation of the fundamental
sources of Islam. He maintains that Sharia law is creating serious
problems in the fields of modern constitutional, criminal and
international law, as well as with respect to the existing human
rights standards.19
Characteristically, professor an-Naim admits that his book, written
in English, most likely will be banned in some Moslem countries and
that its effect on the Moslem world will not be
significant.20 Another work,
which will predictably be greeted with skepticism, is the small
manuscript by Tatar scholar and policymaker Rafael Khakimov. He
also advocates the need to give up a literal interpretation of
Sharia, and proposes the highly questionable, yet potentially
productive, concept of Euro-Islam.21

After September 11, liberals, including members of the clergy,
began to speak of the need for religious enlightenment which, they
believed, would stop the spread of confrontational ideas. Of
course, things are much more complicated. The enlightenment of the
Moslems, together with the improvement of their religious
education, is not enough. Besides, the ideologists of Islamic
radicalism could not be described as non-intellectual people who
possess no theological knowledge or preaching skills. One example
is Osama bin Laden, who could hardly be described as illiterate.
Actually, what is needed is not education and enlightenment, but
new theological and ideological interpretations of secular and
religious problems. Naturally, this will result in a “war of
theological interpretations” which is becoming a natural component
of the political struggle.

Moslem modernists, or reformers, are now in a very difficult
position. Moslem society often regards them as renegades, as people
seeking to undermine its traditions (although many Moslems no
longer observe them scrupulously). Yet, it is already impossible to
imagine the Islamic ideology without its modernist trend. In the
same way, it is impossible to imagine the modernization of Moslem
society without a certain rationalization of its religious tenets.
This will be a long and painful process, but the demand for
modernism is growing.

Advocates of Islam’s modernization are in constant conflict with
their opponents from the camp of radicals. However, even among
radicals there are pro-reform people who, speaking of the Golden
Age of Islam, depart from its literal interpretations.

Strictly speaking, the future of Islam and its relations with
the outer world largely depend on how this intra-civilization
conflict develops. It seems that it is only now that we are
approaching the long anticipated dialog between the two
civilizations. The essence of this dialog is specific and rather
cynical: what can Islam borrow from the West without losing its

A comprehensive modernization of the Moslem world is an
inevitable necessity. It is bound to take place some day. (After
all, Islam is 600 years younger than Christianity.) But the factor
of time is of decisive importance. If Islam makes the most
difficult period within one generation (25 to 30 years), the
results may prove to be too good to be criticized… And if it
happens to require much more time? And what if the costs – of what
Woolsey described as the struggle for the freedom of the Moslem
world – prove higher than the achievements? Is it conceivable that
the reforms give way once again to conservative and fundamentalist

It is impossible to change the entire Moslem world overnight. It
will be easier to create individual “locomotives of progress”
inside its society. Iraq is intended to become one of them.
Afghanistan was planned to be another. In the mid-1990s, it was
believed that a Central Asian country had good chances to become
one such center. But there are 1.3 billion Moslems all over the
world. It is one thing to achieve success in Iraq or Afghanistan.
(By the way, things have already taken a different course from what
had been expected, for example, the rapidly growing production of
opium in Afghanistan.) And quite another thing is to try and “grasp
the ungraspable.” Will the West have enough strength, will, skills
and, finally, finances to accomplish all of this?

Some observers now suggest that the Moslem world and the West –
personified by the U.S. – are now preparing for a new global
encounter. One should not jump to conclusions, though, or interpret
the attempts to rebuild the Moslem world as the expansion of some
country’s interests. In the long run, European and Russian
colonialism brought about not only tears and blood. Besides, by
taking care of the Moslem world, the West and Russia also take care
of themselves: who wants to live in close proximity to a poor and
irritated neighbor?

And, finally, the last thesis, which some individuals may not
treat seriously. The political and, perhaps, historical experience
is depreciating. The situation involving Iraq should not be
perceived from the viewpoint of the world order that took shape
after World War II; furthermore, it would be a mistake to compare
the United States to the Roman Empire.

Paradoxically, the depreciation of the historical experience has
not entailed a devaluation of the experience of relations between
civilizations with different religious cultures. These ties are
more stable than political systems emerging in the wake of
political upheavals.

Today these relations are being put to a serious and, possibly,
final test. The Moslem community must be viewed as an equal
partner. To this end, the West must give up its antiquated
“challenge-response-challenge” pattern of relations. It must also
reconsider its steadfast, although concealed, stereotypical view
that Islam is somehow secondary to Christianity.


2 Gellner, Ernest.
Post-traditional Forms of Islam. Neprikosnovenny Zapas, No. 6/26,
2002, p. 3. – Russ. Ed.

3 Byford,
Grenville. The Wrong War. Foreign Affairs, July/August 2002, p.

4 Carnegie
Endowment Proliferation Brief, Vol. 4,  No. 17, October 1,

5 Piet de Klerk.
Yadernoye Rasprostranenie (Moscow Carnegie Center), No. 38,
January-March 2001, p. 29.

6 Islam, Europe’s
Second Religion. The New Social, Cultural, and Political Landscape.
Edited by Shireen Hunter. Westport, Connecticut, London, 2002, p.

7 Sukhanov, Pyotr.
Refuge for Terrorists. Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozrenie, January 31
– February 6, 2002, p. 2. –  Russ. Ed.

8 Izvestia, 
May 19, 2003. – Russ. Ed.

9 Izvestia, 
April 21, 2003. – Russ. Ed.

10 Adeed Dawisha
and Karen Dawisha. How to Build a Democratic Iraq. Foreign Affairs,
May/June 2003.

11 Spechler,
Martin. The Economy and Security of Central-Asian Countries After
September 11th, 2001: A Sceptical View of the Situation. Central
Asia and the Caucasus. Luleo (ed.),  No. 1(25), 2003, p. 50 –
Russ. Ed.

12 Le Monde,
October 9, 2001.

13 Ottaway,
Marina. Democracy Challenged. The Rise of Semi-Authoritarianism.
Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace,
2003,  p. 1.

14 http://wais.stanford.edu/mideast_jameswoolseyspeaks4703.html15

15 Democratic
Elections. Narodnoye Slovo, Tashkent, August 18, 1999 – Russ.

16 Michael
Elliott. So, Who’s Next? Time, April 21, 2003, p. 53.

17 Kepel,
Gilles. La revanche de Dieu. Chr?tiens, juifs et musulmans a la
reconqu te du monde. Paris, 1991, p. 14.

18 See, for
example: Mustapha Kamel Al-Sayyid. The Other Face of the Islamist
Movement. Working Paper, No. 33, January 2003.

19 Abdullahi
Ahmed an-Naim. On the Way to Islamic Reform. Moscow, 1999. p. 65 –
Russ. Ed.

20 Ibidem, p.

21 Rafael
Khakimov. Euro-Islam  (preprint), 2003 – Russ. Ed.