The Pan Islamic Movement
One of the social movements that came out of the Islamic world in the Middle East and Asia during the last half of the 1800s, partly in response to colonialism and the pre-colonial histories of these regions, was the Pan Islamic Movement. Now, historians often say that this was a unifying movement between Sunni and Shia Muslims and Muslim communities across different nationalities, but there was something even more fascinating going on in the treatises and articles written at the time by Muslim scholars. It had the potential to develop into a kind of rebirth similar to the Renaissance era in western history. The Pan Islamic movement gave rise to intellectual debates in science, industry, philosophy, and law.
One of the things scholars debated during this time was the simple question of: Can the countries of the Middle East/Asia establish modern civilization on a foundation of Islamic teaching like western civilizations developed on Christian teachings? With this question came insightful observations about western civilization as it was being studied. Towards the end of the 1800s and early 1900s, Islamic scholars were concerned that western civilization was becoming increasingly secular, and that ultimately this would become the downfall of the west. Muslim scholars of this time period were then troubled by another question: How does the Muslim world industrialize without succumbing to the same problems of secularism that are destined to bring down the west? Dubai is a prime example of Islamic Scholars being able to achieve their goal of, in this case, a city based on Islamic principles, present day Dubai has booming industries and international trade all within traditional Islamic culture.
Clashes and Divisions in the Middle East
Unfortunately, as the 20th century unfolded, these opportunities for development turned into violent clashes between western countries form of statebuilding agendas in the Middle East and Islamic resistance. Countries like Egypt, Iran, and Algeria reflect these often-times violent clashes. Some have even become failed states like Libya. The countries of the west have become markedly less secure permeated by terror franchising and economically less fit. The foreign policy of Great Britain in the Middle East over the course of the 20th century, until they pulled out of the region around 1970, was to stabilize the region by balancing the competing influences of Saudi Arabia and Iran. The US took on this same approach when it entered the region. The power dynamics in the Middle East now consist of Saudi Arabia, US, Israel, and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) generally offsetting Iran, Palestine, Syria, China, and Russia. China and Russia in particular have built their foreign policy approach around US hegemony in the region and have been able to enter through Syria and Iran.
Global Superpowers have new designs for the Middle Eastern and African Regions
At the heart of the region’s instability is this very divide between Israelis and Palestinians and Saudis and Iranians. China has wisely spread its interest across these two divides importing most its oil from Oman, which is one the Gulf Cooperation Council, and Iran in order to diffuse tension and maximize its economic potential. China as a major manufacturer exports to the Middle East much of the regions commodities not produced locally and engages in major construction projects in the region. Russia also has utilized similar opportunities to connect Eastern Europe through its influence in the Middle East. In turn, the US is extending its competitive spirit in the region with new initiatives in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The agreements being pursued now in the Middle East for the peace of the region and the growth of its countries are likely to set up the successes and failures for the next century. The African continent as well stands to gain from the international competition, but presents slightly different challenges. The African continent shows the influences of the Middle East, Russia, and China respectively. With growing international interest in the problems plaguing the African continent Archival Institute, at the May 2018 African Symposium at West Point, offered an approach for reciprocal partnerships that could protect native countries from exposure to Chinese and Russian exploitation that combines the tasks of building critical infrastructure on the African continent and in the US simultaneously. This project is currently in the research phase and will address unemployment, migration, climate change, corruption, and security.