The confrontational relationship between the West and the Muslim world remains a failure in our time. If citizens had engaged in a movement that promoted dialogue and diplomacy, we would have prevented many conflicts and wars. We need the legitimacy and goodwill that naturally emerges from such movements in order to ensure progress and constructive engagement.
Unfortunately, both the Muslim world and the Western world failed to reach out to one another in earlier times. At the same time, vested interests exploited this divide in order to consolidate their own agendas. Corrupt and powerful elites wanted to maintain the status quo, greedy financial institutions wanted to increase profits, extremists wanted to promote hateful ideologies, and many others wanted to do many horrible things. Sadly, these events occurred in the absence of forceful citizen voices promoting diplomatic engagement between the Muslim world and the West.
This failure is one of the greatest tragedies in our time. Leaders and citizens on both sides relied too much on governmental decision-making processes, failing to realize their own responsibility to maintain peace. In today’s globalized societies, we must bring about a transnational countervailing force that compels greater accountability from engaging governments
Granted, some international organizations perform commendable jobs in issue-specific areas such as human rights, charity, and environmental protection. But we still lack a comprehensive and transnational approach that simultaneously addresses political, economic, and social dimensions in order to promote long-term solutions. In the absence of such a citizens’ movement for conflict resolution, nations and citizens will continue to be victimized by special interests.
In particular, Western Muslims have a monumental responsibility today. Who can promote conflict resolution better than the common denominator between both groups? Who can build stronger bridges than the ones who understand the lands on both sides of the bridge? Western Muslims should step up to the plate and form a transnational peace movement that promotes a win-win situation between the West and the Muslim world.
Major military generals across the Atlantic confess that only diplomatic engagement can ensure long-term solutions. However, Western policies often traded long-term solutions for short-term gains within the Muslim world, reinforcing authoritarian puppets instead of popular concerns. Wars and violence left hundreds of thousands people dead, hundreds of billions of dollars spent, nothing measurable achieved, and no end in sight. If we want to change our future, we should learn from our past. Western Muslims need to raise an effective leadership that will change the conversation.
Among Western Muslims, American Muslims definitely need to step it up. They are citizens in a country that is intensely engaged with Muslim-majority societies. At the same time, America offers an environment conducive to raising a dialogue for change. Muslims have failed to utilize this opportunity to create a unified dialogue. This country has charted an amazing course of changes in the past two hundred years, which has prepared it for a major leap forward in international affairs.
We need rapid economic and social progress in the Muslim world to overcome monumental problems — poverty, illiteracy, dysfunctional governance, the list goes on. A fast-growing young generation remains frustrated regarding the manner in which their societies are managed. If we do not offer a constructive path for transformation, we inevitably guarantee a destructive path towards transformation. The West desperately needs stability and prosperity in the Muslim world in order to ensure its own security and welfare. More than ever before, a symbiotic relationship needs to exist between these two vital yet confrontational camps of humanity.
A visionary leadership from Western Muslims will secure grassroots support for this constructive engagement. Diplomatic engagements have worked wonders in the past, as constructive engagement helped to transform China into a world partner, while the constructive approach of détente with the Soviet Union ended the Cold War. If we applied a similar visionary approach in the Muslim world, we could help to ensure security and stability for a global population that controls 75% of the world’s oil reserves. Without a watchdog to ensure that this happens, however, we will follow the same course straight to our grave.
The concentration of wealth and power in our time remains alarming. This inequality creates injustice and instability in our world. While small numbers of elites and extremists remain victorious, silent majorities become victims. In our global affairs today, this is our shortcoming. We need more involvement from ordinary citizens, more comprehensive approaches from civil societies, and more demands for governmental accountability in international affairs.
Paradoxically, the confrontational world that we live in today contains unprecedented technological and political opportunities to improve well-being. Even though some well-intentioned initiatives failed due to mutual distrust, Western Muslims can still lead the way towards peace, justice, and progress within both worlds.