Kissinger and the Vision of the Islamic World

Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s book “World Order” was released last year among the few non-fiction books which portrays political events and facts through the lens of history, philosophy, sociology and religion. Although this book contains writing of prestige and respect, it did not when it addressed the Arab region. Deserving debate and instigating controversy, the book devoted many pages to politics, religion and conflicts in the Arab region of both the past and present.

Kissinger asserts in his book that due to some Middle Eastern governments today, coexistence among different faiths depends on the structure of the national state and the global system and is therefore not always feasible. The book addresses those who are faithful to the modern ideology which seeks to impose sacred Islamic mandates as arbitrators and main points of reference in personal, political and international affairs. Particularly as Islamist movements are on the rise, the Muslim world still confronts these inevitable issues along with the rest of the world.

The honored U.S. diplomat warns that nowhere in history has a society had sufficient power to impose its laws permanently on the whole world. No leader has the capacity to withstand and impose his authority. No religion is so dynamic as to impose its laws on the whole world. The world has demonstrated that the idea of globalism as such is an illusion even in the case of Islam, he argues.

Kissinger admits that a holy war is fueled by strong efforts and is becoming the greatest factor. But it is doomed to fail in light of underestimated strategic and political realities — a fact proven by many historical events of various civilizations that outweigh ideology and beliefs.

Kissinger explicitly recognizes that as a result of these misperceptions, the West is obsessed with rebels like Khomeini and Sayyid Qutb, whose statements may only be metaphoric or used as a bargaining chip. But Islamic extremists, like the Shiites this year, hold views which represent real laws and customs brought about by the Peace of Westphalia or any global regime. These extremist views have called radicals and jihadis in the Middle East and beyond to mobilize for decades. Al-Qaida, the Taliban, Hamas and Hezbollah, the rulers in Iran, Hizub Tahrir, Boko Haram, al-Nasra and Islamic State have echoed these sentiments. These modes of thought represent the exact opposite of the Peace of Westphalia. Kissinger summarizes this basic hardline, religious idea as a closed and radical ideology which shows a fresh face to the world. He says, “The state cannot be the point of departure for an international system because states are secular, hence illegitimate; at best they may achieve a kind of provisional status en route to a religious entity on a larger scale. Noninterference in other countries’ domestic affairs cannot serve as a governing principle, because national loyalties represent deviations from the true faith and because jihadists have a duty to transform dar al-harb, the world of unbelievers.”

“Purity, not stability, is the guiding principle of this conception of world order.”

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