VIDEO: Global Islamic Movement? Still Relevant?

I stood in for a speaker at the IHRC, SACC & DIN Islamophobia Conference in 2022: Is the Sun Setting on the Western Empire? Exploring Shifts in Global Power and Islamophobic Thinking, and talked about the term ‘global Islamic movement’.

I addressed the loss of Muslim confidence during the period of the permanent wars.  I chart this loss as starting from before 9-11, and relating to a combination of governmental interference and Muslim internecine squabbles and sectarianism.  In particular I explore the idea of the ‘global Islamic movement’ was / is there one, and is this still a relevant or revivable term?

An adapted transcript can be found below the video.

Session 1: Muslims at the Periphery of the West: What Will the Shifts Bode for Them?



This year, 2022 was the 25th anniversary of the founding of Islamic Human Rights Commission. It has been some time for reflection for myself as one of the people who was there from the beginning. Listening to the presentations both today and yesterday evening from Professor Ramon, and I must thank everyone, they’ve been absolutely superb and really opened up a space, which is what we really want, which is to discuss issues which otherwise (Yasser [Louati] touched upon this very nicely and actually also Olsi [Jazexhi]), Muslims have been increasingly forbidden, literally, by the law to discuss and to speak about.


Going back those 25 years when IHRC was set up, I was recalling that we used to talk about things like, and feel that we were part of something called the ‘global Islamic movement’. I am smiling thinking about it, and I think a lot of people redaing would even smile. Some of them with affection, some of them quite cynically, some of them may just think I have used a really weird phrase because they’re quite young and it’s not something you talk about anymore as far as I am aware.   The idea of a global Islamic movement became something in the wake of the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979.  I bring it up for this reason, because listening to these presentations and just ruminating on my own thoughts, there are two central issues in my mind about how we discuss. Islamophobia at this current moment with regard to kind of worldwide geopolitical conversation, as opposed to what I’m very used to talking about Islamophobia in Western domestic settings. That is this dichotomy or a couple of dichotomies. One is between the idea of what we need to do to survive, whether that is as highly oppressed, minoritized communities in the Western, Westernized situation (of which I’ve spoken about a lot and I disagree with a lot of my peers in civil society about in terms of approach). Secondly, about narratives of liberation.


I think we’ve heard a lot about the kind of alliances we need to survive. João [Silva Jordao] has picked up on it. Ramon spoke about it yesterday. Sometimes they are going to leave a very bitter taste in the mouth because they’re based on survival and necessity rather than the coming together of liberatory thinking or solidarity, etc.  Be that conversations with China, alliances with Russia, or other scenarios, particularly going on in West Asia in the last decade.


The idea of liberation, however, is something that was very central to this idea of global Islamic movement. That to me seems to be something that we were struggling to hang on to and maybe even in recent years have almost completely lost. When we are talking now about the opportunity of this moment, (which I think no one disagrees with, except perhaps (but not even then) the kind of public intellectual / think tank community in the US), waning of US unipolarity. We have this space to, if not necessarily escape immediately from the old world, but start creating another world. That said, we seem to have lost as Muslims the ability to speak about liberation through our own terms or possibly our own ideas.


Tis takes me back to the central question of the conference, which is, are there shifts in Islamophobic thinking given that there are shifts in state of the world at the moment, this move towards multipolarity? I want to flag up a couple of questions based on what we’ve been listening to in the last couple of days, and maybe we can unpack them more because my colleagues would be much better suited to answer them than myself.


One is this idea of about how Islamophobia was instrumentalized in foreign policy, particularly by the US, but by extension, various Western countries. There is a conversation about when that started, and there’s a lot of support for the idea that this became a thing after 9-11, that this is the war on terror, and it has shifted. We heard about this last night [from Ramon Grosfoguel-, that we are no longer in the moment of the war on terror. That basically that kind of discourse has dissipated into a shift towards hostility to Russia and China and or  just China.


However there are other arguments.  You can go back  to the 1990s see that Willie Klaus, then Secretary General of NATO, talking in 1995, was identifying Islam as the next ‘big thing’. That Islam is as bad as communism, and we ‘the West’, have to kind tackle it. This is our new Cold War, or hot war, as it turned out. But did the instrumentalisations of Islamophobia start in 1995 also? Timewise, his comments come at the end of the Balkan Wars, not at the beginning.  We can find [US] President Bill Clinton writing in his memoirs that whilst he was pushing for some kind of resolution in Bosnia, European countries did not want to assist, or in some cases actively tried to prevent / break the aspirations of a nation state in Bosnia based on the idea that they did not want a “Muslim state” in the European area. Is that the start of Islamophobia? I think not. I think we have to look back even further. I think even if we said it started in 1979 and Iran, (and there’s a lot to be discussed about how that’s the real starting point of the current era), we can go back forever and ever and ever.


I want to challenge all of us to think that whether the US is no longer a player, the discourse, the Islamophobic discourse that has existed in some form or another, popping up here, there and everywhere. Because ultimately, if you look at e.g. the Balkans, the discourse is not coming purely from the [so-called] West, it was also coming from the East, it was coming, for want of a better word, ‘Slavic’ Islamophobia, as opposed to the British or US versions.


The space that’s now opening up leaves us very vulnerable to these unchallenged types of Islamophobia. I am not even going to unpack China because I don’t have time. What is it we can be doing now to talk about liberation, not just as Muslims?


I ask because I think part of the issue, the idea of the global Islamic movement, was that we were often talking simply about Muslims without nuance (we were all very young) and not looking at actually the reality on the ground, which is that we don’t live in silos and blocks, we live in multicultural cosmopolitan societies, and we always have. So how then does Islam as a political, social and economic narrative fit into that in the current moment? How do we bring that back as part of the conversation, and not just sit in a kind of repeating cycle of at best second or third in the hierarchy of an alliance that is more of the same, but of a different color or flavor or a slightly different cultur?  How do we actually start working towards alliances and movements where narratives of liberation play a role.?


I am not being naive here, I’m not saying we do nothing, or that we don’t work with any of these countries because of X, Y, Z, or that we can only sit and talk about, the grand scheme of Islamic economy and not be involved in the changing the changing economic world order. But does that mean we have to sit down, shut up and be quiet? I think that is where I want to  leave it. I have a lot of notes, but this has already been a bit of a stream of consciousness and I don’t want to kind of take up too much time without having a succinct or plausible conclusion, if you like, because this is something that I don’t have an answer to. I haven’t really. I’ve been struggling with it for a long time and I don’t know what the solution is here. I don’t know what to even suggest as a way forward. I need people who are better versed in this to at least be having this conversation. Thank you.



Seyfeddin Kara


Olsi Jazexhi

João Silva Jordão

Yasser Louati

Arzu Merali (standing in for Mohammed Marandi)

Organised by IHRC, SACC & DIN