Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Who's the Bully?

The arrogant captain of the Australian cricket team and his backers, who are rightly being berated in the media for their repugnant sportsmanship in the viewpoint of most cricket fans -- except by the usual suspects: one-eyed nationalists and yobs, have a lot in common with the crew of the three U.S. Navy warships and the aforementioned. On one hand, you have Australian players who are world cricket's worst sledgers, yet find it a moral duty to report the slur of an Indian player. On the other hand, you have a branch of the US military treating the Strait of Hormuz as their favourite daddy's jacuzzi, and when the Iranian Revolutionary Guard naturally threatens them (as disclosed by 'US officials') it is described as a "significant provocative act". Does it remind anyone else of the Gulf of Tonkin incident? Also, this comes at a time of Bush's visit to Israel, which is planning to brief him concerning striking Iran. How would it be if Iran had continually threatened to bomb the US? And the Iranian Revolutionary Guard would be patrolling the waters in the Gulf of Mexico? And then when the US Navy threatened the Iranian fleets over their presence, the Iranian officials described the American response as a "significant provocative act". I think Iran has been extremely patient following threats of nuclear strickes from Israel. And that if Iran had dispatched fleets to toss around on the coast of the US or Israel, it would most likely result in them being blown up one of those lean explosive missiles which liberal democracies use liberally, especially against those Ayn Rand, based on her colonialist moorings, demeaned as "savages", "typically nomads", "primitive" etc. Please can anyone inform me of the number of Iranian warships off the coast of the United States? Who's the bully?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Martin Amis's Distorted Sympathy

Martin Amis is a troubled writer, so incredibly afflicted since 9/11, that even the terminology 'right-wing' is insufficient to fathom his deep-rooted failure to either favour sensible realpolitik (like the globalists in London and Washington) or downright conscientious appreciation of other civilisations and peoples. Indeed, the cradle of civilisation is Mesopotamia in the Eastern hemisphere, however incomforting the fact may be to perceived liberals and Likudniks. In his address to the students at Manchester University recently, Amis decried the "abject failure" of Muslims to condemn suicide bombing and terrorism. However, it gets interesting when he legitimises "retaliatory urges" among the British public on learning about Muslim terrorist schemes.

Only a machine would not have felt anger, he said.

Most of us don't have a problem with that reflection, except that it illustrates Amis's own "distorted sympathy". Amis permits no sense of "retaliatory urges" among Muslims when they learn about the British military aligning with the US in the occupation of Iraq, an action which has cost the lives of over 1.2 million peoples. Holocaust deniers disagree with the figure. On suicide bombings, Amis calls for factory sirens "from every corner of the West" exhibiting "disgust for these actions". He does not make any call for factory sirens "from every corner of the West" for outrageous Western actions, which surpass privatised terrorism in their scope and disregard for human life.

His comments on the Palestinians prove to be the most absurd.

"I have sympathy for Israel. It's not nothing to have six million of your number murdered in central Europe in the last century. Don't you think that this has had a psychological effect on this race or religion, or whatever you want to call the Jews?"


"Palestinians have never suffered anything as remotely terrible as that."

While Palestinians may not have suffered gas chambers en masse, complete ethnic cleansing is the officially sanctioned and predictable outcome of Israeli policies. Ilan Pappe, the fearless Israeli academic, documents this in The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. Edward Said's 1979 essay Zionism from the Standpoint of its Victims is one of the strongest critiques of Zionism and its supporters.

One needs to repeat that what in Zionism served the no doubt justified ends of Jewish tradition, saving the Jews as a people from homelessness and anti-Semitism and restoring them to nationhood, also collaborated with those aspects of the dominant Western culture (in which Zionism institutionally lived) making it possible for Europeans to view non-Europeans as inferior, marginal, and irrelevant. For the Palestinian Arab, therefore, it is the collaboration that has counted, not by any means the good done to Jews. The Arab has been on the receiving end not of benign Zionism-which has been restricted to Jews-but of an essentially discriminatory and powerful culture, of which, in Palestine, Zionism has been the agent.

And Amis is dead wrong.

Exactly a year ago, Ziauddin Sardar coined the word "Blitcon".

The British literary landscape is dominated by three writers: Martin Amis, Salman Rushdie and Ian McEwan. All three have considered the central dilemma of our time: terror. Indeed, Amis has issued something of a manifesto on the subject he terms "horrorism". In their different styles, their approach and opinions define a coherent position. They are the vanguard of British literary neoconservatives, or, if you like, the "Blitcons".

It is more relevant now. As for Amis's essay 'The Age of Horrorism' that appeared on the eve of the fifth anniversary of 9/11, much of it illuminated by the Orientalist Bernard Lewis's crafty crusade (concealed under shades of scholarship) to legitimise and promote American and Israeli imperialism against Arabs, it was proof of another writer's mind collapsing with the twin towers.

Friday, December 07, 2007

John Pilger on Terrorism and the Iraq War

On state terrorism:

Statistically, the majority of terrorism is our terrorism. It is state terrorism. There's no question about that. And the greatest victims of terrorism are Muslims. Those who either died as a result of the medieval embargo imposed on Iraq during the 1990s or Palestinians who've died and others. So the whole understanding of terrorism is upside-down.

On the other terrorism:

Now there is, as opposed to state terrorism, a kind of privatised terrorism. It's very tiny. It's run by organisations called Al Qaeda. There is one study at the University of Chicago that found that of this privatised terrorism in the last thirty odd years something like twenty odd thousand people had died. A very tiny figure compared to the millions who've died as a result of state terrorism.

On the Anglo-American war on terror that has gained worldwide credence to oppress foreigners, ethnic groups and minorities for various aims:

I don't think there is a war on terror. I think that's a propaganda notion. The attacks of September the 11th were appropriated by a clique in the US establishment in order to further its aims around the world. If that isn't clear to most people, as I believe it is, then I don't know where they've been for the last few years. But it is not reported that way. Yes, a lot of journalists put terrorism and war on terror in inverted commas, but after a while they're weary of that. It's as if there really is a war on terror or there isn't a war on terror.

Friday, November 30, 2007

UK Teacher Not Guilty for Naming Teddy Bear "Muhammad"

Say: "Whether ye hide what is in your hearts or reveal it, Allah knows it all: He knows what is in the heavens, and what is on earth. And Allah has power over all things." (Aal `Imran 3:29)

Guilt is a feeling of culpability for offenses. Ikhlas or purity of intention applies all over Islam, like the Golden Rule. I am referring to the case of the British teacher in Sudan who was arrested (to be prepared for forty lashings) in Sudan for naming a teddy bear 'Muhammad'. But which 'Muhammad' are we talking about? Not the Apostle, but a little boy in her class. The children, not the teacher, voted for the name. The dominant Western media is very accurate and 'objective' in reporting the errors of other parts of the world, which is not necessarily a bad thing, so we know it is true. Where do we move from here? Express outrage, yes. That's a collective obligation on the rest of the world. My purpose is to look at it from a slightly different perspective, while making clear my objection to it.
  1. There has been a tendency among some Muslims to completely whitewash the sensibilities of Muslim peoples living in Asia and Africa, something I myself have been guilty of in the past. The Muslim Council of Britain is spot on when it decribes the judgment "completely injustified", but there is no attempt made to change the system that produces those judgments. Words like "ridiculous" and "unfair" flow readily from the lips of Muslims who are educated enough to know better, but they ignore the dignity of the people they are talking about. On scaling the Everest, Hillary said: "I came, I saw, I conquered." With more privileged Muslims in capitalist democracies, it's like: "I came, I saw, I spoke aloud so the crowd could hear [that would make one good Muslim] and I went home feeling smug." Shame on us.
  2. Is this the first time this year that a teacher has been subjected to forty lashings? If a strong case can be made against a smokeless barrel [reminds me of the WMD], I'm sure there were plenty of rulings against Sudanese teachers before this. So let's not turn this into a debate about a "British woman". It is a ruling against an innocent lady, and it is incumbent upon the Muslim-majority state to protect her just like it must protect its own citizens.
  3. The non-humanitarian, war-mongering, pro-Globalisation Western Right's response on various newspaper columns is symptomatic of a disturbing anti-Muslim war that is being waged for imperial hubris and geopolitics. They care as much about justice and life as a B52 cares about a little boy in Afghanistan before blowing him to shreds. It doesn't make sense when people who articulated the war against Iraq and demonise Muslim immigrants in Europe with fascistic fervour get pro-justice all of a sudden.
  4. And the question of ikhlas or the purity of intention. Ask yourself. Most of all, this is something the Sudanese authorities should be asking themselves for imprisoning an innocent lady. Will their ego let go?

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Story of Hamid Sayadi

I urge everyone to read Chris Collin's moving report of a post-9/11 harrassment case in the US. Chris, who writes a weekly column for the San Francisco chronicle, speaks with a fair amount of empathy, though rightly dispassionate to maintain 'objectivity' in whichever way you may understand the concept or semantic, which is all but missing from journalism these days. Or was virtue ever mainstream?

His story is one of the many that have both nothing and everything to do with 9/11. A witty and eloquent Kurdish-American in his 50s, Sayadi waved the flag of his adopted country and cheered its military for three decades — all to end up stripped to his underwear one day, in the boiler room of his workplace, he says, a ragged and sobbing husk of his former self.

My apologies to Chris and my readers for such a tardy response. I consider this story a people's case of Islamophobia. We know that 'Islamophobia' is in danger of being hijacked by some Muslims who wish to deny their wrong behaviour, just like the supporters of Israel who hurl the charge of 'anti-Semitism' whoever questions their apartheid. And I think we have to watch out for that. I try to allay that fear by having several posts on "introspection" on this blog. However, there is no doubt that there exists a people's case of Islamophobia. What I mean by a "people's case" is that its victims are Muslim individuals, because they are Muslims or even Arab or African Christians. The "people's case" of Islamophobia is affected by the "cultural and religious case" of Islamophobia, which have been concocted from European expeditions to the Orient, purposes of which are/were not merely enlightened curiosity, contrary to what the agent of the Cold and New War Bernard Lewis writes, but which have been a time-honoured excuse for imperialism. I think I may gone a bit off tangent, but that's what I consider this: a people's case of Islamophobia. This can be fought by the media, and salutations to Chris for informing the public in such an eloquent and noble journalistic capacity.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Muslim Terrorism

In their brilliant introductory book 'The Vision of Islam' that I advise everyone to read, Murata and Chittick nonetheless commit the same error of generalisation that I commented on in the previous entry by reducing wide-ranging Muslim practices to 'modernist Islam'. But what I agree with is their analysis of Muslim terrorism. I state that the phrases 'Islamic terrorism', 'Islamist terrorism' and 'Islamic rage' are all clever lingual constructions that mostly conceal the actions of the state that is engaged with them, but there indeed is a segment of Muslims that participates in ways which are both ignorant and criminal. Murata and Chittick argue that modernist Islam rejects the intellectual understanding of the tradition. I will not employ their term, because it is deficient in itself. Instead I will use Karen Armstrong's phrase "Qutbian terrorism" in its place.

One is the tremendous stress placed upon tanzih and the almost total eclipse of tashbih, at least among those who speak up vocally for Islamic values [eg. Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda], especially those with political agendas. In some cases, the celebration of God's wrath and anger is used to justify methods of warfare - such as mass killing and terrorism - that are explicitly forbidden by the Shariah....Islam does have its own political teachings, but these have always remained peripheral: To place them at the cent[re] is to break with the tradition. Of course, the political ideologies of contemporary Muslim movements are seldom rooted in Islamic teachings; rather, they are reinterpretations of the [Qur']an and the [Ah]adith based on modern presuppositions concerning democracy or other "good" forms of government...[1]

I think this is a really good analysis, and it basically explains in a few words what they don't tell us. They is more than they here. Yes, it is.


Sachiko Murata and William C. Chittick, The Vision of Islam (New York, USA: Paragon House, 1994), pp. 333-334.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Contemporary Islam?

Some people incorrectly use the phrase "contemporary Islam" to prove that the actions of Al Qaeda are not discordant with Islam as practised in this day and age. Whatever tranformation has come has been with Muslims and not Islam, so the assertion that Islam was itself transformed in the 12th Century is a shot in the dark. What we call "Islam" is the religion based on the Qur'an and the Ahadith. With these unchanged, it is impossible for Islam to "change". Hence, Christianity and Judaism cannot be compared to Islam in this essence. Instead what has happened is the muddling of interpretation with nationalist ideologies and sometimes revolutions or the rejection of some of its teachings. In this regard, which considers it isn't just 12th Century but all the centuries after the death of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) there has been an array of Muslim movements, whether proggie or salafi or sufi, that have constructed their own Islam. But true Islam has always been there unchanged, open to dialogue, tradition and revivalism.

Summing it all up, one commits the crime of "generalisation" when one boxes the experiences and ways of living of more than a billion people on this planet into one phrase -- "contemporary Islam" -- which one then argues is not discordant with the heinous actions of "some of its adherents". In fact, there is nothing like "contemporary" Islam. Islam is as diverse as there are Muslim communities around the world. The actions of some of its adherents can be understood by placing it in a colonial context, mostly nationalist struggles that have learned to strike back at centres of power, mostly killing innocents (thereby replicating the actions of the centres of power), but always uncaring of the system of war in Islam. In my philosophy class, our tutor told us about what inspired Osama bin Laden to plan 9/11 from a documentary he had watched. According to Osama bin Laden, it was the Hiroshima bombings. This doesn't justify his brutal act of terrorism amd neither does it fully reprieve centres of power, but it does show the "roots of Muslim rage", contrary to what the person who coined the phrase says to his enlightened readers.

This rescues Islam from being framed by some as a religion that fosters terrorism. On the other hand, there is credible information of brainwashing of little boys in schools in tribal regions of Pakistan who chant "Osama" far more than they chant "Allah". They are taught hatred of Jews, Christians, whites, Westerners and other non-Muslim communities. I guess I've made my point that Islam is far too great and the Muslim community is far too diverse to be hijacked by Al Qaeda's Islam, which is falsely replaced by "contemporary Islam". The many Islams cannot be generalised, but so often they are as is evident in the writings of Melanie Philips, Daniel Pipes, Robert Spencer et alii.