Mon, 17 Oct 1994

`Rise of Islam seen as a threat to Western world'

JAKARTA (JP): A top diplomat hinted that the rise of Islam in the post-Cold War era is seen as a threat that could challenge Western hegemony.

"After the fall of communism, Islam is now the biggest threat to the West," former Indonesian ambassador to China Abdurrahman Gunadirdja told a seminar.

Such was the concern addressed during the seminar held by the Association of Moslem Intellectuals (ICMI) on Saturday.

Abdurrahman argued that the threat stems from the fear that the rise of Islam could suspend the riches and resources of the Third World to the West.

"They (the West) see the Islamic world as a rising force which could undermine their economic prowess," he said.

Though somewhat more diplomatic, Soendaroe Rachmat, head of the Foreign Ministry's Research and Development board, acknowledged the deep concern of Islam as a rising force.

Nevertheless Soendaroe's explanation on Saturday did not explicitly identify those fears or in what way they posed a threat to the Western world.

Abdurrahman on the other hand went into detail of how the Western countries have from the times of colonial occupation always shown a religious tendency in their favoritism of colonial rule.

He explained that when the Dutch ruled Indonesia they would consistently use religious considerations when hiring and promoting indigenous workers in the colonial bureaucracy.

The first perceived threat the Islamic world posed to the West came after the Cold War when the Middle Eastern countries, which are dominated by Moslems, discovered huge oil reserves.

Western fears were heightened still with the creation of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) which refused to accept the low oil prices, Abdurrahman said.

New ways

OPEC's actions immediately proved perilous to the affluent living of Western society and drove Western governments to seek new ways to dominate the Moslem world.

The new strategy came in the form of monopolizing technology and financial institutions.

"At this time there is not a single Islamic state or country where a majority are Moslems that can be said to be developed," the former ambassador argued.

According to Abdurrahman, peoples' movements to break the West's domination, though some have been successful, have mostly been stifled by the Western countries.

He cited the Gulf crisis as an example where Iraq did not really have to bullied by so many countries.

"Clearly there were ulterior motives as to why Britain, France and Italy participated in destroying Iraq," Abdurrahman said, adding that it was a good opportunity to weaken Islamic solidarity and keep the allied arms factories from going bankrupt.

Abdurrahman stated that the near annihilation of Iraq was also beneficial to the West since it weakened the only Islamic force which could counter Israel.

He further cited the case of Bosnia as another example of the West's attitude towards Moslems.

He condemned the two-faced approach in allowing the Serbs to annihilate the Moslems population while at the United Nations they continue to place an arms embargo on the Bosnian army.

With all these impositions emplaced the developing Islamic countries have to be wary of the future in trying to develop their economies, he added.

He called for a revision of the educational curriculum which contains many theoretical frameworks adapted by the West that have to be filtered so as not to alter young Islamic minds into thinking and adopting Western-like standards.

Otherwise they could, unconsciously, become agents of the West, he stated. (mds)