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Muslims Desperately Need To Look Up

Instead of relying on the kindness of others to keep them safe, Muslims must take their fate into their own hands by developing the means to protect and save themselves. Otherwise, the violence and displacement they have endured these past five centuries will continue for many more, costing countless more lives.

Instead of relying on the kindness of others to keep them safe, Muslims must take their fate into their own hands by developing the means to protect and save themselves. Otherwise, the violence and displacement they have endured these past five centuries will continue for many more, costing countless more lives.

I recently watched the hit Netflix movie “Don’t Look Up” about a comet full of precious metals hurtling towards Earth. In the movie, America is the only nation capable of saving the day. However, once its leaders realize how valuable the comet is, they try to mine it instead of destroying it. The movie is a metaphor for climate change but, like all good movies, it has more than one important message. When I watched it, I came away with two subtle lessons that its makers may not have intended.

The first is that our solar system is full of similar rocks that contain wealth measured in quintillions, not trillions. Thankfully, none of them are hurtling towards us. Instead, they are sitting out there waiting to be mined. Before you start to think I’m ignoring the movie’s message by focusing on this wealth, let me expand.

People like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos already know about these asteroids. A few of the world’s governments, like the American, Chinese, and Indian ones do too. That is why they are spending billions developing the technology that will eventually lead to mining them. Some have ridiculed Musk and Bezos for their trips to space by characterizing them as a self-indulgent waste of resources. This criticism is as short-sighted as it is illogical.

These trips and the improved technological abilities they represent are laying the foundations that will allow them to reach these asteroids. In the movie, America already has the technical abilities to attempt mining the comet. But the truth is that it will take at least another decade or two since doing so will require substantial leaps in many scientific fields related to space travel as well as building the infrastructure to bring these metals back to Earth. The process is still in its early stages, but those with the capacity to do so are already positioning themselves to control this wealth by investing in the technology that will lead to it.

These potential breakthroughs are the real reward since they will have both commercial and military uses here on Earth that will lead to even more wealth and power for those that develop them. The nations or companies that invest in creating the industrial and scientific capabilities to develop this technology will be the real winners of the race to mine space because doing so will give them the means to dominate global trade and politics for a long time.

The last time something this momentous happened, it led to the conquest and colonization of nearly the entire world by Western Europe. 500 years ago, Western nations developed technology that enabled them to build sailing vessels armed with cannons that were so powerful, fast, and large they took control of the seas. They used this power to conquer and colonize the Americas while simultaneously attacking communities throughout Asia and Africa.

The wealth acquired from these conquests, particularly the untapped wealth of the Americas, fueled a cycle of technological and economic development that perpetuated and fed off itself. This led to a continuous stream of advancements in military capabilities that were used to establish Western control over the rest of the world that continues today.

Portugal used its new ships and cannons to conquer trade routes in the Indian ocean by destroying Muslim communities from East Africa to the Sub-continent. The Dutch used theirs to conquer the islands that comprise modern-day Indonesia. The English used theirs to conquer modern-day India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Spain used its ships to conquer much of Latin America. I could go on (and on and on), but the relevant point is that these technological advances led to imperial wars of conquests that destroyed millions of lives.

Muslims need to pay close attention because they were and continue to be one of the main victims of this violence. America’s conquests of Iraq and Afghanistan were just the most recent in a long line of wars launched by the West that trace their roots to the developments described above. If Muslims do not independently acquire the power to access and protect the solar system’s mineral wealth themselves, the pattern will repeat itself. History always does until you take the time to learn from it. Those nations that acquire the ability to control space will prosper while those that do not will be at their mercy. Not just because of the massive wealth but because the technology used to acquire it will give them incredible power.

America has already created a military branch specifically focused on fighting in space. Though it will never openly admit it, it is probably developing satellite-based weapons systems that will give it the ability to monitor and attack targets located anywhere on Earth at any time without having to worry about flying over hostile territory or refueling its drones. As always, the technological developments taking shape today will impact how nations fight each other tomorrow. If history is any guide, those nations that do not invest in this technology will regret it.

Thus far, Iran and Turkey are the only Muslim nations that have made meaningful (though limited) progress in mastering the technology to get to space. However, both suffer from the same structural problems, just to lesser degrees, that have prevented most Muslim nations from developing the necessary technical and industrial capabilities.

The Muslim world’s lack of inclusive governments that allow for the fair distribution of political and economic power and its toxic intellectual climate has crippled their ability to nurture and support the type of economic and technological growth necessary to reach space. Ironically, these same factors also allowed Europe to surpass and then conquer it centuries ago.

Amazingly, Europe’s conquest of the Muslim world did not motivate most of its rulers to implement reforms that could prevent such violence from ever occurring again. As such, the prospect of seeing these patterns entrench themselves for another few centuries will probably not change their minds either. But that is exactly what will happen if Muslim societies do not implement serious and deep-rooted reforms to their political and social systems that can lead to rapid technological and economic development.

The urgent need for these reforms is best understood by discussing the movie’s underrated but very important second lesson. The movie depicts fictional politicians, media personalities, and business leaders that are so morally and intellectually bankrupt that they are incapable of taking the measures required to protect themselves, let alone others. Sadly, these fictional depictions are a frighteningly accurate portrayal of America’s elite. The progression of America’s leaders over the past several decades shows a devolution towards leaders that are intellectual lightweights (G.W. Bush did not even know who the leader of Pakistan was when asked during his primary campaign), morally bankrupt (Regan, Clinton, Trump), and increasingly unhinged (Marjorie Taylor Greene). Given these trends, it is not unreasonable to fear America will use the powerful weapons and technology it develops to control space to visit more death and destruction on the Muslim world. If not America, the violent policies implemented in Kashmir and Xinjian indicate India or China certainly will.

Instead of relying on the kindness of others to keep them safe, Muslims must take their fate into their own hands by developing the means to protect and save themselves. Otherwise, the violence and displacement they have endured these past five centuries will continue for many more, costing countless more lives.


This article was originally published here, re-posted on TMV with the author’s permission. 

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