Archive for the ‘Islam’ Category
Iranian Theocracy: Islamism is Incompatible with Democracy.
As ‘elections’ in Iran approach (February the 26th) it’s well to take stock.
Not so long ago, well in 2010, Labour Candidate for Chippenham (2015), Andy Newman argued (Socialist Unity),
Iran simply is a constitutional democracy. I refer Dave to the discussion of the 1979 constitution in Ervand Abrahamian’s book “A History of Modern Iran” Cambridge, 2008. pages 162 to 169. Abrahamian is no apologist for the government, and his book is dedicated to the “memory of more than three hundred political prisoners hanged in 1988 for refusing to feign belief in supernatural”. Abrahamian discusses how the constitution tempers the power of the Guardian Council.
The electorate, all women and men over 16 years old, can vote for the president, as well as for members of the the Majlis (parliament), and provincial and district councils. The Majlis has authority to pass laws, scrutinise the activity of the executive, approve or veto the president’s choices of ministers, debate any issue, and appoint people to the Guardian Council. Indeed over the last 30 years the majlis has acted as a much more substantive parliamentary body in holding the executive to account than the Palace of Westminster has.
The maturity of the democracy is shown in the way that two loose political parties, the Radicals and Conservatives have developed, that government initiatives are often modified or defeated by the Majlis, and that contested transitions of power have been effected by means of democratic vote.
The paradox that this democratic infrastructure exists alongside the concept of “jurists’ guardianship”velayet-e faqeh derived from the revolutionary Islamic theory of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini explains a lot about modern Iran. The Islamic revolution was not per se a religious one, but one that combined a complex mixture of nationalism, political populism and religious radicalism.
This ‘paradox‘ is getting a parading just now.
The grandson of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of Iran’s Islamic Republic, will not be allowed to stand in this month’s election in Iran, the clerical vetting body said on Wednesday, in a blow to reformist forces in the country.
Hassan Khomeini, 43, the first member of the Khomeini family to register for polls and an ally of President Hassan Rouhani, lost an appeal to the body against a ban. The setback comes at a time of growing rivalry between reformists and conservatives stirred by a deal with world powers that lifted economic sanctions against Tehran as part of a nuclear agreement.
Hardliners fear Iranian voters will now be more inclined to reward reformist and moderate candidates in Feb. 26 elections to the 290-seat parliament and the 88-seat Assembly of Experts, the body responsible for choosing the next Supreme Leader.
The Guardian Council, a clerical vetting body responsible for overseeing all elections, excluded thousands of parliamentary hopefuls and hundreds of candidates for the Assembly of Experts, leaving a field mostly of conservatives.
You will find scant reference to the details of this “Vetting” in the house journal of the anti-imperialism of fools, Coutnerpunch. They are more concerned, as, criticising US imperialism first obliges, in the Washington Tehran nuclear deal.
Franklin Lamb for example concentrates on this,
Notes from Tehran. February the 12th.
Many relatively moderate candidates were rejected by hard-liners during the vetting phase. Several of these blocked candidates support President Hassan Rouhani, a key architect of the Iran nuclear deal that they support.
So-called moderate supporters of Iran’s President Rohani may have a major impact on this month’s elections and bring changes to Iran. The Iranian public is sophisticated about what JCPOA is likely to mean for them. Recent polls show that there has been an approximately ten percent drop in public support for the agreement.
It is left to Jane Green in the Morning Star to expose the nature of this ‘Islamic Democracy’.
…the coming elections in Iran are little more than the veneer of democracy, as the ability to stand is tightly controlled by the Guardian Council and the Supreme Leader, Ayotollah Ali Khamenei.
Elections to the Majlis (parliament) are held every four years and prominent figures hoping to appear on the ballot paper need to determine beforehand whether Khamenei and his inner circle of advisers will oppose their candidacy.
It is said that the Supreme Leader does not explicitly advise anyone against running, but his office or other high-ranking officials will often reveal his views on specific cases.
Also, when candidates register their names, the Guardian Council has to qualify them based on several criteria, notably their full “practical” loyalty to the Supreme Leader and their recognition of his authority over all matters of the state.
Finally, once elections are complete, the Guardian Council is solely responsible for endorsing the final result, despite sharing supervision over the vote counting process with the Interior Ministry.
Through these methods the Islamic Republic can claim that the elections are free and fair because everyone is eligible to vote.
While attempting to control the outcome of the elections, the regime’s leaders are keen for a massive turnout for the contest in four weeks’ time and have mobilised their entire publicity machine.
The turnout in this election has assumed significance since it will be used as a measure of the popularity of the regime and a test of its political stability.
However this disguises the high degree of manipulation which precedes the selection of those who appear on the ballot paper at all.
Given the conservative nature of the regime in Iran and the fears of many hardliners that Rouhani is “too reformist,” there is every chance that conservatives will take the opportunity to further squeeze out the limited voices for change which there may be in the Majlis.
Of 3,000 candidates put forward by reformists, only 30 have been allowed to stand by the Guardian Council, a mere one in 100 of those wishing to stand.
It is worth remembering that these are candidates who are deemed “reformist” within the very narrow confines of that term in Iranian politics.
There are no candidates opposed to the regime, standing for the rights of women or actively promoting the right of Iranian workers to engage in free and open trade union activity.
Persistent reports in Iranian opposition media indicate that the powerful Sepah Pasdaran (the Guards Corps) are confident that at least 180 out of the 290 seats of the new Majlis will be filled with their candidates, carefully selected from within the ranks of their commanders and ideologists.
In total 40 per cent of the 12,000 hopefuls for parliamentary election, including a significant number of MPs in the outgoing Majlis, have failed to qualify.
Those disqualified include Ali Motahari, a persistent critic of the hard-line Islamists in the regime, and Rasoul Montajabnia, the vice-president of the pro-reform Etemad Melli Party founded by Mehdi Karoubi, one of the two reformist candidates during the 2009 presidential candidates.
Others excluded are Majid Farahani, the head of the pro-reform Nedaye Iranian Party, and Akbar Alami, a former reformist member of parliament.
Sadegh Zibakalam, professor of political science at Tehran University, stated that the reformists now expected the president to step forward.
“According to the constitution, as the president and the country’s second power [after the leader] Mr Rouhani should supervise the implementation of the constitution. So now everyone’s expecting him to protest against the wide disqualifications.”
Jamshid Ahmadi, assistant general secretary of solidarity group Committee for the Defence of the Iranian People’s Rights (Codir), has called into question the legitimacy of the elections.
“It is clear that many potential candidates have been excluded due to their political opinions,” he said.
“That hardly makes for an electoral process that can, in any normal sense, be described as free and fair.
“Until real opposition candidates are allowed to stand and the Iranian regime cleans up its act on human rights the elections will be little more than the illusion of democracy.”
Islamist Theocracy is incompatible with democracy.
In France the film, Les Salafistes, has created intense controversy. At one point it seemed as if it might be banned. Now the documentary has been released, with a certificate than denies cinema entry to under-18s. In Saturday’s Guardian Natalie Nougayréde discusses the picture, which includes videos from Daesh (Islamic State – IS, also ISIS) and al-Qaida au Maghreb islamique (AQMI), with interviews with Salafists (rigorist Islamists) and jihadi leaders (Les Salafistes is gruelling viewing – but it can help us understand terror.)
She states, “The most gruelling moment comes when an Isis propaganda films shows a line of captured men walking towards the banks of a river; jihadi militants then shoot them in the head, one by one. The waters of the river start flowing with blood. And we see the pleading, panic-stricken faces of Isis’s victims, filmed close-up just before they are killed.”
Nougayréde considers that Les Salafistes “opens our eyes to a fanatical world”, that we “need to understand that ideology, however twisted and repulsive” Claude Lanzmann – the director the monumental film on the Holocaust, Shoah, she notes, has defended the film and asked for the age limit to be withdrawn. The screen shows better than any book the reality of the most fanatical form of Islamism. Lemine Ould M. Salem et François Margolin, have created a “chef d’oeuvre”. Its formal beauty brings into sharp relief the brutality of the Islamists, and “everyday life under the Sharia in Timbuktu, Mauritania, in Mali, Tunisia (in areas which have been under AQMI occupation or influence), and in Iraq. The age restriction on entry should go. (Fleur Pellerin, ne privez pas les jeunes du film, Salafistes! Le Monde 29.1.16.)
Lanzmann also argues (which the Guardian columnist does not cite) that Les Salafistes shows that “any hope of change, any improvement, any understanding” with the violent Islamists it portrays, is “futile and illusory”.
In yesterday’s Le Monde (30. 1.16) there is a fuller account of Les Salafistes and the controversies surrounding it, as well as on Made in France a thriller that imagined a jihadist cell preparing an attack on Paris. With a planned release in November, as the Paris slaughters took place, it was withdrawn and now will be available only on VOD (View on Demand).
Timbuktu not les Salafistes.
Saturday’s Le Monde Editorial recommends seeing the 2014 fiction Timbuktu rather than Les Salafistes. The Islamic State has already paraded its murders and tortures before the world. Its “exhibitionnisme de l’horreur” poses a serious challenge to societies that value freedom of expression. In the past crimes against humanity, by Stain, Saddam Hussein, Hitler, Pol Pot or Pinochet, were carried out in secret. The Nazis or the Khmer Rouge’s propaganda was designed to hide the reality of genocide; Daesh’s videos are explicit and open, produced to terrorise their enemies and to rouse the spirits of their supporters. Margolin and Salem’s film does not, the Editorial argues, offer a sufficiently clear critical approach for a non-specialist audience. The victims only speak under the eyes of their butchers. The drama Timbuktu, where ordinary people in the city of that name are shown grappling with the everyday despotism of AQIM occupation – the rigorous application of the Islamists’ version of the Sharia, is a better way of thinking through the phenomenon of Jihadism. Its quiet and subversive message, the simple acts of playing prohibited music and smoking (banned), many would agree, unravels the absurdity and cruelty – the callous stoning of an ‘adulterous’ couple – of Islamism on a human scale.
Le Monde’s account of the controversy (La Terreur passe mal sur grand ecran) also observes that books about the Islamic State have reached a wide audience. They offer a better way, less influenced by the emotions that the cinema screen arouses, to understand Jihadism. It is equally the case that, through the Web, a substantial number of people have already seen the kind of horrific scenes Les Salafistes brings to the big screen.
The Empire of Fear.
Empire of Fear. Inside the Islamic State (2015) by the BBC correspondent Andrew Hosken is one of many accessible studies that have reached a wide audience. It is a thorough account of Daesh’s origins in the Al-Qaeda milieu and how it came to – separate – prominence in the aftermath of the US-led Coalition’s invasion of Iraq. Hosken has an eye for detail, tracing out the careers of key Daesh figures such as Zarqawi and Baghdadi. He challenges for example the widely claim that Islamic State leader Baghadadi and ‘Caliph’ was “radicalised” in a US prison in Southern Iraq in 2004. In fact “hardening evidence” indicates, “Baghdadi may have started his career as a jihadist fighter in Afghanistan and may even have known Zarqawi there.” (Page 126)
The failure of the occupation to establish a viable state in Iraq, the absence – to say the least – of the rule of law, and the importance of Shia mass sectarian killings of Sunnis in the Islamic State’s appearance. The inability of the Iraqi army to confront them, culminating in the fall of Mosul, were conditions for its spreading power, consolidation in the Caliphate, in both Iraq AND Syria, and international appeal.
Empire of Fear is valuable not only as history. Hosken states that by 2014 it was estimated that there were between five to seven million people living under Islamic State rule. “The caliphate has not delivered security, human dignity, happiness and the promise of eventual pace, let alone basic serves, but it has produced piles of corpses and promise to produce piles more.” (Page 200) He states that the “violent Islam-based takfirism” – the practice of declaring opponents ‘apostates’ worthy of death – has taken its methods from former Ba’athist recruits, always ready to slaughter opponents.
The suffering of those under the rule of Daesh is immense. “Men and children have been crucified and beheaded, homosexuals thrown to their deaths from high building and women stoned to death in main squares.” (Page 228) The Lion Cubs of the Khalfia, an army of children, are trained for battle. Even some Salafists initially allied with Daesh – with counterparts in Europe still offering succour to the dreams of returning to the golden days of the prophet, have begun to recoil. Hosken observes “..they have ended up with Baghdadi and his vision of an Islamic state with its systemic rapes, its slaves and concubines, child soldiers, murder, torture and genocide.” (Page 236)
The Islamic States efforts to capture more territory and people will continue with or without Baghadadi. The film title Salafistes reminds us that the Islamic State’s totalitarian Islamism is not isolated. It is connected to a broader collection of groups preaching rigorist – Salafist – Islamism, not all users of extreme violence, still less the public glorification of murder. The creation of all-embracing State disciplinary machines to mould their subjects to Islamic observance is a common objective of political Islam, from the Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia to Daesh’s mortal enemies in Iran. The religious cleansing of religious minorities, Yazidis and Middle Eastern Christians continues under a variety of Islamic forces. Yet the degree of oppression and genocide marks the Islamic State out.
The recent Channel Four Documentary The Jihadis Next Door indicated that there is a European audience, however small, for Daesh’s genocidal propaganda. In Britain alone up to 700 people have been attracted enough by Islamic State death videos to go and join their ranks. One can imagine that amongst them some will be capable of watching Les Salfistes in a spirit far from the critical intentions of the film’s directors. It is to be doubted that they would have been reached by the scorn for Islamist rule and the resilience of humanity displayed in Timbuktu.
Hosken concludes, the “group may end up destroying itself or being destroyed by its many enemies. However, whatever happens, its virulent ideology looks likely to survive in a Middle East now riven by sectarian division, injustice, war and authoritarianism,” (Page 257)
The British left, with no government at its command, is not in a position to negotiate in efforts that try to bring “security, justice dignity and peace to a deeply troubled region”. We have little leverage over Bashar Assad’s own despotism in Syria. But we may be able to help Syrian democrats, and those fighting the Islamic State, to give our support to those fighting for dear life for freedom – from the Kurds to Arab and Turkish democrats – by ensuring that there is no quarter given to Daesh’s Salafist allies in Europe and totalitarian Islamists of any kind, independently and against those who see the Syrian Ba’athists as an ultimate rampart against IS.
To defend human rights we need to align with the staunchest adversaries of all forms of oppression, the secularists, the humanists, the democratic left, and, above all, our Kurdish and Arab sisters and brothers who, with great courage, face Daesh every day on the battle field.
Photo by Yemeni photographer Boushra al-Moutawakel.
This has appeared in Left Foot Forward.
Earlier this week, Ofsted head Michael Wilshaw confirmed that inspectors can downgrade schools if they feel that the wearing of the niqab – by either teachers or pupils – is impairing learning. Phrased like this, it seems a reasonable policy.
In reality, however, opening the door to penalising the wearing of Islamic dress in this way is deeply worrying.
For a start, it’s unclear exactly why the niqab might be an obstacle to learning. Muslims have been teaching, learning and otherwise communicating wearing the full-face veil for centuries in Islamic countries all around the world.
I shall not discuss her comments on Ofstead’s targets.
I shall leave aside the obvious point that the full-face veil is clearly a barrier to anybody who relies on lip-reading, and is clearly a barrier to interacting to people on an important non-verbal basis – seeing people’s expressions.
And the fact that dress codes exist in all schools.
The full-face veil introduces the fact of religious practice into all school activities.
The author of the article puts approval of sanctions on the Niqab in the context of the Prevent Strategy and attempts by the British state to tackle Islamist extremism. She sees this as part of a “a trend in recent weeks and months that has seen the practise, expression or even discussion of Islam in schools as suspicious.”
Undoubtedly the government’s plans and actions do little to deal with what is a real problem. Few will have much confidence in a Cabinet or a Prime Minister’s anti-racist status when they have shown callous disregard for refugees.
But if indeed Van der Ham thinks that there is no problem with Islamism then she is welcome to visit Kobane and see the graves the martyrs who died protecting the Kurdish town from Daesh, and the unmarked remains of the tens of thousands of who have been slaughtered by the genocidal Islamists, enslaved, been raped and tortured. Fighting the religious cleansing of non-Muslims form the region, and the inter-Islamic murders, are frankly the number one issue in the world today.
Faced with this horrifying religious murder it is no doubt commendable that the Young Greens find time to worry about the fate of school pupils proclaiming their religious identity.
She could have there to see our Kurdish sisters and brothers when this happened: Kurds Celebrate Liberation of Kobane as Islamic State Calls for New Paris-Style Attacks. Liz Fields.
If Van de Ham thinks that this do not affect Britain – however much the hundreds of UK volunteers for the death squads of Daesh are in the minority – then perhaps she should have watched The Jihadis Next Door, or looked at the list of those who have left the country to join the genociders.
There is another context.
It is impossible to ignore that it is an erosion of the separation of religion from the state and legal and educational system.
Time to end the special favours shown to faith schools: Allowing new free schools to select 100% of admissions on the grounds of religion would be a backward step that would further divide communities.
Jamie Martin Guardian 26th of January.
Faith schools accused of ‘religious racism’ for turning away pupils. Rabbi says closing the door to children over race would be ‘intolerable’ but religious segregation is permitted.
Richard Garner. Independent. 28.1.16.
Supporting the full-face veil in schools lets the way open for religious division and the exercise of religious power in the classroom, and, one should underline, will happen if the teacher herself is wearing this garment? What message does this give to ‘non-believers’?
There are many serious difficulties at stake.
This article explains some of the wider issues about what some would call the “religious racism” of the Niqab.
Why feminists should oppose the burqa. (New Humanist)
Islamic veiling is a form of sexist patriarchal oppression, and supporters of equality have a responsibility to say so, argues Terri Murray
In Islamic cultures the predominant theological reasoning for veiling seems to be that the female body is such a powerful sexual object that nothing short of covering it can prevent men from molesting it. According to Islamic Hadith (or poor interpretations of it) the female body is so powerfully sexual that it is literally irresistible to the opposite sex. I refer those who argue that this is a misinterpretation of Islam to this statement by Australia’s influential senior Islamic cleric, Sheik Taj Aldin as-Hilali:
“If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside. . . without cover, and the cats come to eat it. . . whose fault is it, the cats’ or the uncovered meat’s? The uncovered meat is the problem. If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab, no problem would have occurred.”
Some Westernised Muslim academics deny the primary theological significance of the burqa and instead claim that it is imbued with powerful symbolism by Western colonialism. Westerners, they argue, see the burqa as a symbol of the irrevocable “otherness” of Muslims. Accordingly the “hysterical” reactions to veiling are just a Western contrivance (a pretext for racist attitudes towards Muslims following 9/11). Yet the discourse vacillates between this claim and the contradictory claim that the veil has no special significance other than what the wearer intends it to mean, and so is no more than a form of personal expression – a symbol of Muslim women’s freedom to “be themselves”.
Sharia law is still enforced in approximately 35 nations, where some form of veiling is compulsory. An estimated 83 Sharia courts operate in England today. Many Muslim families living in Western Europe use legal forms of coercion to make girls and women conform to veiling. The murder of Shafilea Ahmed, by her own parents, is a case study in how Europeans respond to these situations of family violence with an embarrassed silence, rather than the kind of outrage that would be seen as appropriate were its victims not exclusively female. The Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (Ikwro) found last year that 39 out of 52 police forces across the UK had recorded at least 2,823 “honour” attacks over 2010. Some forces showed a jump of nearly 50 per cent in such cases from 2009. This is the backdrop against which Muslims in Europe claim that wearing the burqa is a “choice”.
The claim that covering yourself up in public is an empowering choice insults the intelligence and dignity of women everywhere, just as the theological claim that the burqa is a necessary defence against predatory male sexuality insults Muslim men insofar as it treats them as fundamentally incapable of responsibility for their sexual behaviour.
The reason Western feminists (male or female) object to seeing women in burqas is not that we can’t tolerate diversity, but that the burqa is a symbol of patriarchal Islam’s intolerance of dissent and desire to contain and repress female sexuality.
The Jihadis Next Door was not pleasant, but nevertheless, was essential viewing last night.
It featured interviews with Abu Rumaysah, who’s believed to appear in an Isis execution video.
The former bouncy castle salesman – whose real name is Siddhartha Dhar but is now more commonly known as Jihadi Sid since he fled the UK for Syria and issued a chilling threat against the UK – features in The Jihadis Next Door for Channel 4 .
“My name’s Abu Rumaysah,” he says in the first trailer for the documentary. “One day when Sharia comes, you’ll see this black flag flying everywhere,” he added as he poses next to a black flag.
The Independent reports,
The extraordinary footage of Abu Rumaysah, who fled the UK to join Isis in 2014 having previously been arrested six times, was shot by the film-maker Jamie Roberts for a Channel 4 documentary, The Jihadis Next Door, screened on Tuesday night.
Channel 4 has declined a Metropolitan Police request for a pre-broadcast viewing of the film, in which two other activists already known to the authorities, Mohammed Shamsuddin and Abu Haleema, laugh while watching an Isis murder video and speak of recruiting fellow British Muslims through “brain-washing”.
Abu Rumaysah, real-name Siddhartha Dhar, has not been officially confirmed as the masked figure in the video, released a couple of weeks ago, which shows the murder of five men accused by Isis of spying for the UK.
In the Guardian Sam Wollonstan was struck by the giggling and smirking of the pair,
Haleema and Shamsuddin were and what they believed. But no, they’re watching a brutal Isis video. People are being drowned in a cage. Others have explosive belts wrapped around their necks which are then detonated. “The guy’s foaming at the mouth, wow!” laughs Shamsuddin. “And I’m eating, hahahaha.”
There were some memorable scenes when Pakistani worshipers at a Mosque confronted, with great anger, this bunch protesting at celebrations of their country’s Independence day and when a Muslim man denounced them as ISIS recruiters in Oxford Street.
Amongst the reactions to the programme most have made the point, amply proved, that these are a very small fringe group.
But there are over 700 people from the UK who have travelled to the Middle East to join the Daesh Einsatzgruppen.
The scale of the mass killings, the slavery, the oppression of people by the Disciplinary Machine of the Islamic State, the cleansing of religious minorities, means that people across the world are justifiably concerned at the activities of their supporters, wherever they may be, and however marginalised they are.
All of these bigoted supporters of mass murder spoke perfect English – so much for plans to make ‘language tests’ part of the ‘anti-extremist’ Prevent strategy. Indeed the idea of subjecting people to this, apart from the obvious fact that the government has cut funding for English language teaching for adults, is more than patonising: it is setting up a criterion that’s designed to label and exclude a group of people.
For once we agree with the SWP.
Though we have to add this.
There was one word the Islamists in the documentary used, ‘kufer‘ which though formally meaning ‘unbeliever’ has come to signify something in the same category as ‘nig-nog’ ‘yid’ or ‘wog’. That is, a racist term.
It is surprising that the word is not treated in the same way as plain racialist abuse.
The scenes of merry laughter at videos of torture and slaughter, a lot more than this case of hate-speech, means that The Jihadis Next Door raises some weighty issues.
The principal one is: how can the Daesh supporters be fought?
They are part of a wider, fractured Islamist movement, some of which is as violent as they are, others are ‘conservative’, and pursue their aims without overt coercion. All gravitate around the idea that the ‘law’ of ‘god’ has priority over human law – and therefore human rights and democracy.
It would be better if the left, while rightly criticising the government’s Prevent strategy, had something of its own to offer that defended human rights.
We would suggest that this should start with alliances not with “Muslim” groups with a ‘moderate’ agenda, but with those people who openly stand for freedom and secularism, such as British Muslims for Secular Democracy.
Internationally we could not do better than backing the Kurdish people in their life and death struggle against Daesh and the repression of the Turkish state.
Just as we should ally with the left and liberals in countries where Islamists pose a real threat to all, we should be working with their generous, courageous and open-minded counterparts here.
As indeed some of us already are.
Germans and refugees protest against sexism and racism in wake of Cologne attacks
Germans, Syrians and others have protested in Cologne against the sexual assaults of New Year’s Eve. As the backlash against refugees grows, some people with migrant backgrounds feel they’re becoming public enemies.
Reports Deutsche Welle.
Beneath a grey January sky, a handful of men gathered in front of the towering Cologne Cathedral carrying placards and waving German and Syrian flags. Then, as curious bystanders began to trickle over, the men unfurled a banner with a message scrawled in black and green.
“We’re refugees from Syria,” it read in German. “We’re against racism, sexism and war.”
It marked the beginning of the first of two demonstrations on Saturday meant to counter the increasingly negative image of refugees in the wake of the events in Cologne on New Year’s Eve.
Since that night, in which more than 500 women reported being sexually harassed in front of the main train station by a mob of men, most of them from migrant backgrounds, male refugees from the Middle East feel they’re suddenly the enemy in a country that only a short while ago had celebrated their arrival.
Jabbar Abdullah, a 28-year-old Syrian who organized the first, smaller demonstration, said he wanted to convey to the public that there was a distinction between the men who committed those crimes and ordinary refugees.
Slavoj Žižek wrote some words of sense at the end of last year (In these Times. November).
Another taboo we must address concerns norms and rules. It is a fact that most of the refugees come from a culture that is incompatible with Western European notions of human rights. Tolerance as a solution (mutual respect of each other’s sensitivities) obviously doesn’t work: fundamentalist Muslims find it impossible to bear our blasphemous images and reckless humour, which we consider a part of our freedoms. Western liberals, likewise, find it impossible to bear many practices of Muslim culture.
These comments are easy to extend.
It is the case, as everybody knows, that vicious sexual harassment is a particular problem in many Muslim cultures, in the Middle East and North Africa.
In liberal and tolerant Tunisia the issue has become extremely important. In June last year this (amongst scores of articles) appeared: SEXUAL HARASSMENT IS MAKING LIFE HELL FOR WOMEN IN TUNISIA By Hana Rekik.
One would have wished for Žižek to show some awareness of this.
Unfortunately he has reverted to form and this week has written appalling drivel on the topic in the New Statesman.
I will not dignify him by directly citing it.
Those who want to read it it’s here: The Cologne attacks were an obscene version of carnival.
I would also like to state that in relation to the controversy about the Charlie Hebdo cartoon that those who have used this drawing for their own ends, to spread hatred of French leftist secularists are also beneath contempt.
This Cologne demonstration is dignified and moving.
There have been many other reactions to the sexual assaults.
It pains me to say this but amongst them the Riss cartoon in Charlie Hebdo is not worth the paper it’s written on.
The hysterical anti-Charlie people who jumped like fleas on the drawing – some claiming that it shows proof that ‘Israel’ was reaping a reward for donating to the Weekly – are beneath contempt.
Some have tried to explain the meaning of the picture:
The fact remains that Riss is neither funny -nor exactly cutting against the grain.
The Tendance backs Charlie Hebdo to the hilt – not every cartoon in it.
This gives some reasons why the Tendance does not defend Riss’s dessein, and yes, I do get the ‘culture’.
The drawing did not especially disturb me. Nor did it make me laugh. It only brought to mind the spirit of Hara-Kiri [CH’s anarchic 1960s forerunner], the spirit of its Choron-Cavanna-Reiser era, indiscriminately going after everything that moves — the cops AND the protestors, the generals AND the pacifists, the idiots, the government bureaucrats, the fascists, the academics. And so, why not, the migrants too, without giving all that much thought to whether we’re talking about the migrants themselves, or the migrants as les fachos depict them. Throw it all in, it’s all good for ink.
Islamic State, Fascism, Totalitarianism and Evil.
The decision of the British Parliament to back Prime Minister David Cameron and join an alliance of forces to fight the Islamic State (Daesh) in Syria has aroused great emotion. Hilary Benn and others have described these Islamists as fascists. They are therefore in the class of the wicked against whom we can all unite.
Others notably supporters of the Stop the War Coalition, assert versions of Terry Eagleton’s different view in On Evil (2010) While the “lethal fantasises” of Islamic fundamentalists (his term) may be “vicious” and “benighted” Jihadist acts of mass murder, like the destruction of the Twin Towers, arise from the “Arab world’s sense of anger and humiliation at the long history of its political abuse by the West.” Terrorism, the cultural thinker opined, has its “own momentum”. – to meet it with violence is to “breed more terror”. (1)
The traction of the ‘anger and humiliation” motor was much used in these quarters in the wake of the slaughter at Charlie Hebdo and the Hyper-Cacher last January. Rules for the correct and authorised use of satire were drawn up, excluding being rude about the humiliated. Little power in this ready-made explanation was left over for the Paris massacre last month. That was simply to be condemned. Much liberal reaction, while often shy of the fascist label, tends to agree that Daesh is uniquely evil. We “all” denounce this barbarity – including within this all, Muslim voices underlining their profound horror at ISIL.
So Daesh is both exceptional, and fascist. Or not, as those keen to proclaim, from an anti-imperialist and Marxist standpoint, that the West has committed worse crimes, not least in the Middle East, and the difference that this “state” “created” by Western intervention in Iraq shows from European fascism and Nazism. Daesh is not, they have discovered, on scholastic authority, a “battering ram” against the workers’ movement; it does not mobilise the “petty bourgeoisie” behind Monopoly Capital, to destroy bourgeois democracy. It is not a response to a crisis of capital accumulation and a strong labour movement challenge to capitalism. It is has little beyond fringe support in the imperialist nations. The priority is the fight against the imperialists, to work together for their defeat. There is no need for a united front in the “struggle against Islamist fascism”. (2)
Fascism and Islamism.
Comparisons with the 1930s, not to mention contemporary far-right populism in Europe, are self-evidently hard to make. The differences between Daesh and European fascism are perhaps better illuminated by Michael Mann in Fascists (2004) tired to draw out common features of these far-right movements and states. In doctrine, he observed, they are marked by: 1) Thus, nationalism, the “organic, integral unity of the nation”, rebirth, 2) Statism, “Fascists worshiped state power”. 3) Transcendence: they attacked both capital and labour, with the objective of the “supposed creation of a new man”. The nation and state comprised their centre of gravity: they hoped to subordinate capital to their goals. 4) Cleansing, “because opponents were seen as ‘enemies’, they were to be removed, and the nation cleansed of them.”5) Paramilitarism, a key value and organisation form, popular, vanguard of the nation. “Violence was the key to the ‘radicalisation’ of fascism.”(3)
Mann argued that Islamism has many common features with European fascism, “The new jihadis (popularly called ‘fundamentalists’) do seek to create a monocratic, authoritarian regime that will enforce a utopian Koranic ideal. This regime will create a new form of state and a new man (and woman), Its predominant organisation is the paramilitary taking various but always dominant forms – guerrilla international brigades in the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan, armed bands of terrorising enforcers under the Taliban and Iranian Islamists (rather like the SA or SS), and clandestine terrorist networks elsewhere, All this is decidedly fascist.”(4)
Nevertheless they are not nationalist and the state is not an end in itself: its role is to enforce the Sharia. Mann concluded, “Unlike fascism, they really are political religions. They offer a sacred, but not a secular ideology. They most resemble fascism in deploying the means of moral murder but the transcendence, the state, the nation, and the new man they seek are not this-worldly. We might call this sacred fascism; of course though perhaps it is better to recognise that they human capacity for ferocious violence, cleansing, and totalitarian gaols can have diverse sources and forms, to which we should give different labels – fascist communist, imperialist, religious, ethno-nationalist, and so on.”(4)
Mann did not anticipate the more recent argument that Daesh and other jihadist groups such as Al-Qaeda, recruiting from dislocated social layers, in war-torn Syria and Iraq, have created a “religion de rupture” based on a cultural and generational break. The Islamic State, from this standpoint, is, the specialist in Islamism, Olivier Roy argues, “nihilist”. (Le djihadisme est une révolte nihilste. Le Monde 25.11.15) they are “more Muslim than the Muslims”. The ideology, their ‘imaginary’, of Daesh dwells on death and war, the extermination or enslavement of the non-Muslim Kufur, and the killing of Muslim heretics (in Takfir terms, all non-Sunnis, and all Sunnis who do not accept their doctrine). Their objective is less a utopian society, the recreation of an ancient Caliphate, than the Nothingness that Terry Eagleton identified with the Death Drive – a desire hinted in Nazi extermination. (5)
Richard Rechtman traces Daesh’s practice, from the creation of disciplinary machine that enforces the Sharia in all aspects of life, to genocide. He calls them simply, “génocidaires” (genociders), who mark a line between the “pure” and the “impure” – eliminating all who are unclean. (La Violence de l’organisation Etat islamique est génocidaire. Le Monde. 28.11.15) Daesh has “deterritorialised” its genocide. The Charlie Hebdo journalists, the Jewish customers of the Hyper-Cacher, the tens of thousands of martyrs in Iraq, Syria and Africa, are murdered for what they “are”.
Daesh, may have grown as a ‘state’ in the wake of the conditions of the Iraqi invasion and the Syrian civil war and the failure of the democratic aspirations on the Arab spring in that region and elsewhere. It may be marked by its genocidal ambitions. But it is clearly part of a much broader current of political Islam. Gilles Kepel has described the search for divine sovereignty in the aftermath of the First World War and the break up of the Ottoman Caliphate. He states that the central Islamist belief is that sovereignty belongs to Allah only. As developed in what are widely considered the founding writings of modern Islamism by the Egyptian Sayyid Qutb during the 1950s, ““The Muslim umma is a collectivity (Jama’a) of people whose entire lives – in their intellectual, social, existential, political, moral and practical aspects – are based on Islamic ethics (mihaj). Thus characterised, this umma ceases to exist if no part of the earth is governed according to the law of God any longer…”(6) The task of Islamists is to restore this society.
Some commentators assert that Daesh is a new millennialist movement, evoking images of a final battle with the forces ranged against Islam. In this it is clearly not alone. Kepel noted a widely shared Islamist list of enemies, signs of the end times: the “ four horsemen of the apocalypse (who) were: ‘Jewry’, the ‘crusade’, ‘communism’ and ‘secularism’.” He continues, “’Jewry’ is the ultimate abomination. The word ‘Jew’ (yahud) is used in indifferently to apply to both Israeli citizens and other Jews. Israeli citizenship, in fact, is seen as merely an attribute of the Jew, defined ontologically on the basis of racial, historical and religious criteria.” As we have just seen, Daesh has found it easy to move from identifying these ‘attributes’ to calls for genocide. (7)
From the 1928 foundation of the Muslim Brotherhood by Hassan-Al-Banna, already stamped with hostility to democratic “division”, to Qubt’s ideas, and to the present-day forms of Salafism, Al-Qaeda and Daesh, Islamism is no longer “one” politics or ideology. The Muslim Brotherhood is said to have developed an Islamist ‘constitutionalism’, which incorporates a degree of popular consultation underneath of the rule of religious experts. The Islamic State of Iran is totalitarian in some respects (no political freedom for parties that are not Islamic, interference in private lives, mass political killings) but has a degree of “pluralism” within its oligarchy. Saudi Arabia is totalitarian but traditional, a ‘kingdom’. Boko Haram is genocidal in way that parallels movements of ethnic extermination. Somalian Islamists are war-lords – a pattern repeated on a smaller scale amongst the smaller Syrian movements. Al Qaeda has attempted to wage a global war to defend the “umma” from Western aggression, although its affiliate in Syria, Al-Nusra, appears fixed on creating something not dissimilar to Daesh, the reign of men working in the Shadow of god over the country. Daesh may be said to be “glocal” – global and local – fighting across the world, and restoring the Caliphate in Iraq and Syria (Genèse du dijhadisme. Nabil Mouline. Le Monde Diplomatique. December 2015).
These are only some indications that Daesh is not cut off from the mainstream of Islamism. Perhaps, if we wish to clarify the nature of these forms of actually existing Islamism, it would be better to use the broad expression “totalitarian” to describe them. We have seen how ‘fascism’ is not a useful term in itself – only to help highlight some common features and to make differences stand out. Specifically no form of Islamism is organised around what Claude Lefort called an “Egocrat” – a Fascist or Nazi ruler who lays down the interests of the Volk or Nation, or the Stalinist ‘Marxist-Leninist’ line. Lefort, abstractly and probably too generally, cited the breaking of a division between civil and political society, and mechanisms to make world ‘transparent’ to the Eye of the Egocrat’s rule. There is no protection against terror; ‘law’ is a constantly shifting game of paranoia and factional dispute. (8)
Islamism has led to new forms of totalitarianism. Worship of state power, and the organic unity of the community have different sources. They could be said to try to restore a pre-modern unity of unquestioned belief and society. But if their sights are set on ‘otherworldly’ goals, they have the presence of scripture, the Qur’an, to rule intermundane existence; they have a ‘law’, the Sharia, which binds the “umma” together without class or other division. This is, as Mann states, a political religion, reliant on modern mechanisms of power to achieve its aims. All wish to encourage virtue, and punish vice, not only by preaching but also by physical coercion. Not only the divine state but god is said to peer into the private lives and minds of their subjects. It can be considered, in its materialised shape, as a political religion wrapped in totalitarian mechanisms.
The contradictions within the forms of Islamist totalitarianism are marked. How far can they restore the Golden Age of Islam? Maxime Rodinson signaled the problems any form of political Islam faces in trying to reconcile ‘justice’ with the recreation of the mercantile capitalism idealised in their portrait of the early years of the Prophet’s rule (Islam and Capitalism. 1973). This ideal looks even more absurd, amongst the oil, contraband and extortion revenues of the Islamic State. And what of their ‘moral’ regulation. Islamists insist on the subordinate but cherished place of women, but only some wish to recreate the benign forms of slavery practiced in early Islam. They show degrees of intolerance towards non-believers, the ‘impure’, from accepting the rights of lesser faiths to exist, to Daesh’s programme of all out war. And who indeed has the right to make the rules of the state, from commerce to administration. Is this to be decided by their own reading or by the studies of learned scholars, skilled in deciphering ancient manuscripts?
Is Islamism related to a crisis of capitalist development, its ‘uneven’ growth and the failure of democratic or nationalist regimes to govern in countries with a majority Muslim population? If this is so, it is the case for all political movements in, to start with, the contemporary Middle East. Efforts to claim that it some kind of “diverted” form of class struggle tend to rely on the notion that an ideal ‘revolutionary’ movement is just waiiting there, ready to leap forward when the time is right.
But what is Islamism’s class basis? From the pious bourgeoisie that backs the various wings of the Muslim Brotherhood, or the Turkish AKP, the ‘popular’ masses who see in them a rampart against the destructive effects of the modern world and globalisation, to those fearing rival Muslim – Shiite – bands in Iraq to the ‘dislocated’ individuals prepared to martyr others for their own glory – about the only clear thing we can say is that it is not the working class in the traditional or “globalised” sense of neo-liberalism. If it is opposed to class struggle and its ‘anti-capitalism’ goes with capitalist economics – with Islamic ‘justice’ – these are not salient points in its politics.The key issue remains ‘divine’ sovereignty against secular authority, either democratic or authoritarian.
Islamism, as we have stated, is not ‘one’ movement. There are major and irreconcilable rivalries between those pursing a ‘Gramscian’ strategy of winning ideological hegemony on the road to power, and those who use terror. Above all, there are fights within material organisations, the Islamic State, the ‘micro-powers’ within communities – ‘radical’ Mosques, Islamist and Salafist associations, Islamic courts, official or unofficial, and the Einsatzgruppen prepared to kill across the planet. These are all part of the wider Islamist ‘mouvance’. To claim that there are sharp distinctions between the distinct elements is to ignore the areas of convergence, notably the practice of violently enforcing a code personal mores – which extends to these small-scale centres across the world, including Europe.
Islamist totalitarianism is a real political threat, not an ‘ontological’ evil, a rent in the world, the tragic side of history. Nor is the problem limited to nihilistic warriors. These forms of totalitarianism have material weight. They are a major political challenge. They are deeply opposed to the notion of ‘human’ rights, the bedrock ideology of most sections of the left, from liberalism to the defenders of workers’ democracy.
Fight Against Islamism.
Those who make alliances with the ‘moderate’ wings of Islamism align with the enemies of socialism and liberal freedoms. Those who state that they stand with the Islamists ‘against’ the State or ‘against’ imperialism’ are collaborating with our worst enemies. But there are not only attempts at compromise and accommodation, or leftist manipulation in the belief that the experience of the ‘struggle’ will win their new friends over to their side. A fight is developing, from the fighters of the Kurdish led groups in Syria, to the democrats, leftists and secularists combating Islamism on the ground across the world. Our objective is free societies, in which the democratic movement for socialism can organise, develop and win power. In this battle there is one force we cannot rely on: the Western powers, locked into an alliance with totalitarian Islamist Saudi Arabia and with the authoritarian Islamists of Turkey.
Human rights are universal: they are not subordinate to political calculation in the conflicts unfolding in the Middle East. The popular struggle against Islamism is only beginning.
(1) Pages 157 – 159. On Evil. Terry Eagleton. Yale University Press. 2010.
(2) See: The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany. Leon Trotsky. Pathfinder Press. 1972.
(3) Page 16. Fascists. Michael Mann. Cambridge University Press. 2004.
(4) Page 373. Mann Op cit.
(5) Page 374. Mann Op cit.
(6) Page 112. Eagleton Op cit.
(7) Page 43. The Roots of Radical Islam. Gilles Kepel. Saqi. 2005
(8) Page 113. Gilles Kepel Op cit.
(9) Essais sur le (yes it is ‘le’) politique. Claude Lefort. Seuil 1986. Un Homme en trop. Réflexions sur l’Archipel du Goulag. Claude Lefort. Belin. 2015 (1976).