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.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Diction of War Propaganda

One of the ways in which the victims of Empire are dehumanised and misrepresented is through ‘language’. The English language is a beautiful language, and has earned itself the title of the ‘universal language’. How did English spread? While it is a kind of colonial poltergeist that cannot be forgotten or underestimated, it is largely a simple, easy language that has incorporated from many nations and peoples. It is no more “the British way of speaking” that reflects “the British way of life”, but is now the world’s way of speaking. It is a force that unites peoples. But an old misgiving still lurks in Anglo-American and even Australian politics, which is the tendency to repeatedly borrow from its imperial discourse and throw up words like “civilisation”, “democracy” and “freedom”, to which I have previously hinted elsewhere. During the Crusades, both Muslims and Christians referred to each other with this good vs. evil imagery, whereby they represented a more superior civilisation, not by actions and good deeds but polemics. I was going through John E. Richardson’s book ‘Analysing Newspapers: An Approach from Critical Discourse’, and it explained this really well:

They launch
Sneak Attacks
Without Provocation
Their men are
Saddam Hussein is

We launch
First strikes
Our men are
George Bush is
At peace with himself
Resolute [1]
Much of the media is concentrated in the ‘North’ (America, Europe), and this lends a veneer of acceptability to actions which would otherwise be viewed as crimes. Hence, the ‘South’ is depicted as an area of expendability, and how best it may serve the interests of the North. Such is the state of the ‘media’ that my pointing out this failure will be construed as radical, while what is actually radical i.e. contemporary newspaper reporting will be construed as ‘normal’. But no matter how serious and eloquent the propaganda, truth will out time and again. Alan Greenspan, "America's elder statesman of finance", has claimed (as reported yesterday) that "the prime motive for the war in Iraq was oil". As the sectarian killers in Iraq undermine Islam, so do the war profiteers in America undermine the very Western values they exhibit as "saviours" to the lesser peoples 0f Iraq.


John E. Richardson, Analysing Newspapers: An Approach from Critical Discourse Analysis (New York, USA: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), p. 48.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Ramadan Mubarak!

Too many things have been going on in my life, but it has been utterly devoid of blogging or as I call it "hunting big game Islamophobes". Assignments, assignments and assignments. But here's a song of Ramadan, to accumulate some of this year's frustration and success on to a cloud, to sprinkle the earth. I am not making any sense. I know. Don't ask. Ramadan mubarak! The long overdue articles like 'The Black Armband of History' will insha'Allah be up soon. Do keep checking. Sinister laughter.