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Aftermath of the Colonial Period


It was only after the Second World War and thedismemberment of the British, French, Dutch and Spanishempires that the rest of the Islamic world gained itsindependence. In the Arab world, Syria and Lebanon becameindependent at the end of the war as did Libya and thesheikdoms around the Gulf and the Arabian Sea by the1960's. The North African countries of Tunisia, Moroccoand Algeria had to fight a difficult and, in the case ofAlgeria, long and protracted war to gain their freedomwhich did not come until a decade later for Tunisia andMorocco and two decades later for Algeria. Only Palestinedid not become independent but was partitioned in 1948with the establishment of the state of Israel.


In India Muslims participated in the freedom movementagainst British rule along with Hindus and whenindependence finally came in 1947, they were able tocreate their own homeland, Pakistan, which came intobeing for the sake of Islam and became the most populatedMuslim state although many Muslims remained in India. In1971, however, the two parts of the state broke up, EastPakistan becoming Bangladesh.

Far East

Farther east still, the Indonesians finally gained theirindependence from the Dutch and the Malays theirs fromBritain. At first Singapore was part of Malaysia but itseparated in 1963 to become an independent state. Smallcolonies still persisted in the area and continued toseek their independence, the kingdom of Brunei becomingindependent as recently as 1984.


In Africa also major countries with large or majorityMuslim populations such as Nigeria, Senegal and Tanzaniabegan to gain their independence in the 1950's and 1960'swith the result that by the end of the decade of the 60'smost parts of the Islamic world were formed intoindependent national states. There were, however,exceptions. The Muslim states in the Soviet Union failedto gain their autonomy or independence. The same holdstrue for Sinkiang (called Eastern Turkestan by Muslimgeographers) while in Eritrea and the southernPhilippines Muslim independence movements still continue.

National States

While the world of Islam has entered into the modernworld in the form of national states, continuous attemptsare made to create closer cooperation within the Islamicworld as a whole and to bring about greater unity. Thisis seen not only in the meetings of the Muslim heads ofstate and the establishment of the OIC (Organization ofIslamic Countries) with its own secretariat, but also inthe creation of institutions dealing with the whole ofthe Islamic world. Among the most important of these isthe Muslim World League (Rabitat al-alam al-Islami ) withits headquarters in Makkah. Saudi Arabia has in factplayed a pivotal role in the creation and maintenance ofsuch organizations.