On the US, attempting to eradicate terrorism through war, and on Islam, concerning its major complex about the West
Faculty of International Relations, University of Shizuoka
Born in 1955 in Yamanashi Prefecture, Associate Professor Miyata completed his major in history major at Keio University’s Graduate School of Letters, and he finished a master’s degree at the Graduate Division of the University of California, Los Angeles. He specializes in Islamic political history and international politics. He has written many books including Gendai Isuramu no Choryu (The Tide of Modern Islam, published by Shueisha Shinsho) and Isuramu ni Maketa Beikoku (The US and its Loss to Islam, published by Asahi Shinsho).
—How has the relationship been between the West and the Islamic world since 9/11?
It hasn’t been very good. For example, there were 14 terrorist attacks in Pakistan in the year 2000 before 9/11 happened, but that number has risen to a steady 600 per year.
There have also been terrorist attacks at the hands of Islamic extremists in European countries that cooperated with America’s war on terrorism, such as Spain and Great Britain. There hasn’t been a major terrorist attack in the US since the September 11th incident due to tighter controls. However, since America’s war on terrorism, the world has become extremely constrained. For example, police now board bullet trains in Japan and check luggage.
—Why is there no end to terrorism by Islamic extremists?
The Arabic word for the Islamic world is “Dar al-Islam”, which originally meant “House of Peace”. Muslims feel a strong backlash, due to their religious feelings, towards pagans that enter their ‘house’, disturb that peace, and sacrifice weak women and children through war. Terrorists seek to link ordinary people to their groups based on this feeling or backlash.
Even I feel that there is something strange about America’s current idea of trying to eradicate terrorism with war. I believe the normal way of coping with terrorism is through strategic interventions whereby the perpetrators are caught and brought to justice, as was the case with the incident in Britain. America’s method of trying to eradicate terrorism with war, which embroils ordinary citizens of other countries, has made the global situation worse.
The Backlash Against America’s Policies Toward the Middle East
The special relationship between America and Israel is also a major reason why the Islamic world despises America.
In light of international law, Israel’s actions are completely unlawful. It is still doing things like increasing Jewish settlers on the West Bank and seizing Palestinian land and assets. America is not very critical of Israel’s West Bank policies, and the US does not make an issue of Israel’s arsenal of nuclear weapons even though it has brought Iran’s development of nuclear weapons into question. The backlash of the Arab nations towards America’s unfair policies such as the above is incredibly strong.
—The actual cause of the Palestinian issue is in the Old Testament because God gave the land of Canaan to the Jewish people.
Conversely, and this is something I heard when I went to Bangladesh last year, a political party in Bangladesh called the Liberation Party is claiming that it was “formerly the territory of the Ottoman Empire and it will restore Spain and Eastern Europe to Islam” and the group seems to be gathering young supporters. If countries start saying such things, the current global order will become all messed up. It is no different from when China says, “Give Okinawa back.”
The Mistake of Appealing to Religious Views For the Sake of Carrying Out Violence
Are there any elements in Islam that should be shunned and feared in Western society?
The Islamic lifestyle is vastly different from that of other religious traditions. For example, they worship five times a day, and women wear scarves. People usually adapt to the culture and society of the country they migrate to, but the number of those who obstinately preserve their Islamic culture is not insignificant, and that’s where the friction occurs. However, I feel that this is also a problem with the countries that have accepted them.
Western society is without a doubt terrified of the concept of jihad (holy war) that radical Muslims advocate as well as the acts of violence that they conduct, such as suicide bomb attacks, as a backlash against America’s war on terrorism. People should not appeal to religious concepts in order to justify their performance of violence. Religion is essentially something for the pursuit of people’s happiness.
Further, there is the fact that Muslims have a complex about and are jealous of the West. I have been to nearly every Islamic country, and many impoverished people exist there. Although multinational corporations have come to the Islamic world, and even part of the affluent population enjoys American culture and its benefits, the lifestyle of the majority of the citizens has not become enriched at all. I think it is also because politicians are not really aware of this problem, but I heard talk in Islamic countries that the backlash towards the West arises from this issue.
—What can be done to improve relations between the two?
Political lobbying from both Israel and powerful right-wing Christians organizations is strong in America, thus the basic character of the government is unlikely to change. I feel that conflict with the Islamic world will increase in intensity.
I think that Japan should lessen the distrust between the two sides even just a little without becoming involved in the conflict. There is an extremely strong sense of respect in the Islamic world for Japan that, despite having been nuked by America, it has achieved a high level of economic development. I think that this feeling in the Islamic world is an asset for our country. Because Japan’s contribution to Islamic nations in terms of technology and education will form a foundation for the development and peace in those nations, I think that Japan should actively consider extending its involvement in the region.