Posts Tagged ‘Religion’
The problem must be posed anew, the hypotheses inverted, for in this domain ‘ideology’ is but another name for ignorance: the religious expression of a social phenomenon is not its disguise, but its unveiling. Gilles Kepel. (1)
From the 7th of January 2015 Islamist murders at Charlie Hebdo and the Vincennes Hyper Cacher to the massacre on the 14th of July in Nice, on the Promenade des Anglais, was for those living in France, Gilles Kepel, begins La Fracture, “une année terrible”. That the anniversary of the 2016 jihadist killings in Belgium was marked last week by the Westminster atrocity has brought the Islamic State, Daesh, back to European headlines. In Mosul and Syria ferocious battles, waged with few scruples, continue against their genocidal tyranny.
Some figures have reacted to the latest tragedy with what Nick Cohen calls the “lies of the right” – Nigel Farage’s tirade against “migration” in first place – “debase civilised society.” (Observer 26.03.17) In Pour Les Musulmans the journalist Edwy Plenel one of the first to signal the dangers of Le Pen and the Front National in the 1980s (L’Effet Le Pen 1984 has written a generous appeal, in the spirit of Émile Zola’s Pour les Juifs (1896). Against hatred, and the accumulated prejudices against Muslims that makes them a “global enemy” and target in French political life, Plenel offers the British reaction to the 2005 London carnage, “We Are Not Afraid”.
Perhaps now is also the moment to look anew at Jihadism, the most violent wing of Islamism. In his column Cohen reflects a wider dissatisfaction with those who try to explain these outrages as responses to western foreign policy (the ‘anti-imperialist’ left), or the ‘result’ of multiculturalism (the ‘alt-right’).
Kepel was an early critic of the view that political Islam was a “mask” for deeper social causes. Since 9/11 we have heard much of the “religious disguise” that Al-Qaeda and now Daesh presented, while the ‘real’ issue of Western intervention, or more generally ‘neo-liberal globalisation’. While these abstractions count for little, there are without doubt hard social facts that help extreme forms of Islamism flourish. In France the social divisions that leave many of those of North African descent marginalised, time in prison, and the psychological fragility of individuals, are conditions working behind the acts of individual Jihadists. But “l’idéologie donne la conscience de l’action et en détermine la forme.” Ideology is material, and exists, in ISIS/ISIL, as an organised would-be state, with international offshoots. Daesh, Kepel states, aims to provoke a violent fracture in France, which their ideologues elaborate from Salafist materials, a conquest of Europe, ending in the mass conversion, the enslavement or extermination of the inhabitants. (2)
The Islamic State.
These may be outrageous beliefs, but Kepel does not misrepresent them. The Way of Strangers is a thorough account, first hand evidence, of Islamic State ideas. Those wearied by the media use of the “so-called” before Islamic State will find that, after consideration, Wood, uses the term they use themselves. He shifts the attention to what they are and not to what a ‘real’ ‘Islamic’ state might be. It cannot be grasped as “Jacobinism with an Islamic veneer. It has its own story, the will of god written on the battlefield.
“The notion that religious belief is a minor factor in the rise of the Islamic State is belied by the crushing weight of evidence that religion matters deeply to the vast majority of those who have travelled to fight. “(3) Not only does it issue mountains of Fatwas and other pious declarations, but also, Wood demonstrates, the Islamic state cannot be understood without a deep immersion in the ideology of Salafism and a variety of Islamic schools. The “simplest explanation” for their roots is that their founders were “extreme Islamists”. As for effort to dismiss their faith basis, those doing so rarely have any knowledge of the clerics and scholars in its ranks.
“Since 2010, tens of thousands of men, women and children have migrated to a theoretic state, under the belief that migration is a sacred obligation and that the state’s leader is the worldly successor of the last and greatest of prophets. If religious scholars see no role for religion in a mass movement like this, they see no role for religion in the world.” (4)
In meetings, across the world, with those in sympathy with this goal Wood talks to figures, many of them converts, Musa Cerantonio, ‘Yahya’, Anjem Choudary, and some with decided distance from the Islamic state, such as Hamza Yusuf. The Way of Strangers melds these encounters, invariably over Halal food, with considerations on Islamic history, above all the legal school of Dhaharism, which rigorously bases its rulings on the Qur’an and the prophet, and no additional material or judgements. Parallels with the seventh century Kharijites, a vicious Muslim splinter group who practised mass excommunication, and denied all authority but their own, are dawn.
As one reads The Way of Strangers happy talk about Islam as a “religion of peace” quickly evaporates. The ‘literalist’ Islam of the Islamic, baked by scriptural authority, state sanctions the most severe forms of Hudud punishment, slavery, infamously including sexual captives, and the regulation of all aspects of personal life fused around loathing of the non-licit and the ‘kuffer’. It is obsessed with, The Way of Strangers continues, the takfir¸ the “sport” of declaring those who disagree with them and claim to be Muslims “apostates” under sentence of death. It has genocidal intentions, already put into practice against Yazidis. Wild dreams of a worldwide apocalypse the Islamic state’s followers, to come in decades not months, round off the picture.
Most people do not want, Wood writes, to be part of a religion seen as “fanatical and bloodthirsty.”Most religions have zealots that the mainstream would prefer to make disappear and the Muslim bind is not unique”. Yet, is the Islamic State Muslim? “Whether it is ‘legitimate; is a question other believers answer for themselves, overwhelmingly in the negative” That can be said of any minority, “the group led and supported by Muslims albeit Muslims with whom they vociferously disagree.” To say that it has “nothing to do with Islam” is to deny that they “cite Koran, hadiths, and carefully selected thinkers within the Islamic tradition.” In brief, the denial of the Muslim roots of Daesh is a way of avoiding answering uncomfortable questions, starting with the fact that the Qu’ran does contain verses that support slavery, sexual oppression, and is riddled with ideas that are hard to reconcile with democratic values. Word for word reading shows them, and reasoning by analogy, historical context, and other methods used to adjust Islam to today, on the model perhaps of Saint Augustine’s 5th century reading of the Bible in On Christian Doctrine always runs up against the problem that the book is claimed, however bizarrely, to be the inerrant word of god. (5).
The Way of Strangers is not just an important and brave book. It is a way of confronting difficult issues about religious politics above all religious genocide based on a form of spiritual racism. The immediate response to defend universal human rights a point of unity between people. Yet Wood leaves us with multiple dilemmas. If the Islamic State is now facing defeat in its Caliphate, will it be able to retain and rebuild support in other violent conditions? What will happen to those who have joined its genocidal regime? Will they return home, or will they, like the butchers of the Nazi Einsatzgruppen be tried and imprisoned?
(1) Page 234. Gilles Kepel. The Roots of Radical Islam Saqi 2005. Originally published as Le Prophète et Pharaon. La Découverte. 1984.
(2) Pages 47 and 256 – 8 La Fracture. Gilles Kepel.
(3) Page 73. The Way of Strangers. Encounters with the Islamic State. Graeme Wood.
(4) Page 77. The Way of Strangers.
(5) Pages 217 – 8 .The Way of Strangers.
PM Defends Right to Speak of Hope, Love, Joy and Peace.
Much has been made, in the French media, about François Fillon’s (successful) efforts to moblise the Catholic, and more broadly, conservative religious vote behind his Presidential bid.
Where Filly flows, May meanders behind.
CHRISTIANS must be free to speak about their faith and Christmas without fear of repercussions, the Prime Minister has said.
Her comments come as a report from a think tank warns religious freedoms are being eroded after teachers, magistrates and other professionals have been disciplined and sacked for living according to their beliefs.
Reports the journal of record, the Sun.
Conservative MP Fiona Bruce, who sits on the Ecclesiastical Committee, warned that Christians have become “fearful” about mentioning their faith in public in case they encounter a backlash.
She told Prime Minister’s Questions: “Comments this week by the Equalities Commissioner not to be worried about talking about Christmas at work were important because many Christians are now worried, even fearful, about mentioning their faith in public.
“So would the Prime Minister join me in welcoming the recent Lawyers Christian Fellowship report Speak Up, which confirms that in our country today the legal rights of freedom of religion and freedom of speech to speak about one’s faith responsibly, respectfully and without fear, are as strong today as ever?”
The Prime Minister fearlessly replied,
Theresa May, the daughter of a vicar, said religious tolerance is a fiercely guarded principle in Britain that must be respected.
She said: “You raise an important issue that matters to both you and me, and I think that the phrase that was used by the Lawyers Christian Fellowship was ‘the jealously guarded principle’ of that ability to speak freely, as you say respectfully and responsibly, about one’s religion.
“I’m happy to welcome the publication of this report and its findings.”
She added, we learn,
Of course we’re now into the season of Advent, and we have a very strong tradition in this country of religious tolerance and freedom of speech, and our Christian heritage is something we can all be proud of.
I’m sure that we would all want to ensure that people at work do feel able to speak about their faith, and also feel quite able to speak freely about Christmas.”
Snipers comment (Left Foot Forward).
The report itself has to be read in this context. It offers Christians guidelines (which it makes clear are not legal advice) on how to talk about their religion so more people follow it or adopt its ideas.
As Speak Up‘s introduction says:
“As Christians, it’s our responsibility to share the good news …
We know what a difference the gospel has made to our lives, and we should be passionate about seeing as many people as possible know this transforming good news, as well. …
We should grab hold of this opportunity and tell our friends, families, neighbours and colleagues about the life-changing good news we have received.”
In the conclusion, Dr David Landrum, advocacy director for the Evangelical Alliance, writes:
“The lost need the gospel, so we need to be intentional about sharing it. We hope that this resource will inform followers of Christ about the freedoms we have to do this, and encourage confident and fruitful evangelism in every area of public life.“
The report has sections on ‘sharing the gospel at work’, ‘sharing the gospel in public’, and ‘sharing the gospel on social media’. It includes advice on where you can talk about people’s ‘sexual orientation’ and how far you can go.
The report doesn’t appear to call for any rule-bending, and does seem like a good faith (excuse the pun) attempt to inform people about their rights and the law. But it does so in order that they know how best to ‘share the gospel’ as part of a clear political agenda.
How political? A Dispatches investigation in 2008, In the Name of God, found Andrea Williams, then LCF public policy director, called the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill the work of the devil, supported banning abortion, considered homosexuality sinful and was a young earth creationist. Williams no-longer works for the LCF.
But both groups are committed to seeing their views shape public policy, with the help of friendly MPs like Fiona Bruce. How nice for the Prime Minister to give them a boost under the banner of the non-existent ‘Christmas wars’!
With less than 59 per cent of Brits identifying as Christian (most of them Anglican), and at least a quarter ticking ‘no religion’ on the census form, this is a strange move for a PM who wants a society that ‘works for everyone’.
My Advent Card:
Jack and Dinos Chapman: Fucking Hell.
Left must speak out about Persecution of Christians.
The murder of Père Jacques Hamel follows so many atrocities that it is hard to comment on them without being overwhelmed by sadness.
There are those who still wish to see in ISIS killings a response – a “blowback” – to Western intervention in the Middle East. There are those who point to discrimination against Muslims in Europe. French Christians responded with dignity, calling, with representatives of other religions and secular figures, reminding people that the Priest called for a “un monde plus chaleureux, plus humain, plus fraternel. ” a warmer, more human, more fraternal world.“
Giles Fraser in the Guardian has stated that, the sacrifice of the mass is the non-violent absorption of human violence” and that the “Eucharistic sacrifice” is life-giving, which is not a helpful commentary on what is at stake at the present time and borders on the maudlin.
Instead of looking at these events through ready-made the explanations of why murderers are attacking targets in Europe, it would be appropriate to begin by outlining what the violent strand of actually existing Islamism is doing. One important aspect which few left or liberal writers look at is the way they have targeted Christians – well before the tragedy this week.
Yesterday le Monde published an article on the persecution of Christians in the Middle East: Les chrétiens d’Orient, cibles des djihadistes et otages des pouvoirs.
Christophe Ayad described the kidnapping and murder of Père Paolo three years ago, the ISIS’s desecration of Churches and the interdiction of public Christian worship in Rakka, and the expulsion of the entire Christian population of Mosul, the attack, in 2010, on the Baghdad Cathedral of Notre-Dame-du-Perpétuel-Secours, which left 50 dead, and the relentless pressure to expel all Christians from ‘Muslim’ land. There are few Christians left in Iraq. One could add many many other terrible atrocities.
Avad states that in many respects, despite a formal belief that followers of Jesus were ‘people of the Book’ and entitled, if they accepted a second class status and paid a special tax, to protection’ in the present wars the Christians were a soft target, a substitute for the ‘West’.
It would be important to indicate that in the sectarian conflicts which have devastated Syria and Iraq Muslims have been the majority of victims. And that the fate the Yazidis, not recognised as People of book, has left them facing slavery and genocide. That if we are in no position to gauge who is a “true” Muslim or not one thing is certain: the immense majority of Muslims have not just opposed jihadism, but that there are Muslims here and now fighting for dear life against the genociders of Deash.
But before we talk of the present blood-stained actions of Deash, and other intolerant Islamists, such as the Al-Nusra front, as part of the fall-out from -Western intervention in Iraq Ayad reminds us of the pogroms and persecution of the Egyptian Copts.
In modern times these began in 1981.
Those wishing to read about this can find great, detailed, and extremely sad information here: Persecution of Copts.
In what sense were these the result of deflected anger against ‘imperialism’, or acts against the ‘West’?
A few days ago this was published:
The attack on a French church signals the arrival in Europe of a type of intimidation long familiar to Christians in the Middle East, whether from religious extremists, other armed groups or even secular governments.
In areas of Syria and Iraq under its control, Islamic State has seized churches, dismantling crucifixes and vandalizing paintings depicting scenes out of the Bible—considered to be idolatry in their hard-line interpretation of Islam. Many Christians flee when the militants sweep their areas; thousands escaped from northern Iraq when Islamic State took over in summer 2014.
Its branch in Libya killed 21 Egyptian Christians and 31 Ethiopian and Eritrean Christians in two separate massacres last year, slitting their throats and recording their deaths for Islamic State propaganda, which highlighted their religion as justification for the slaughter.
Islamic State’s Egyptian affiliate, Sinai Province, in late June claimed the shooting death of a Christian priest in the north Sinai city Al Arish. The group said the priest was targeted for being a “disbelieving combatant.” It has attacked hundreds of police and military personnel in the area since 2014.
Comrade Owen Jones wrote one of the best responses in 2014
Why the left must speak up about the persecution of Christians.
Those of us on the left – who advocate religious acceptance and diversity – must surely speak louder about the persecution of Christians. The suffering and oppression is real, and in many places, getting ever worse. If we do not speak out, the danger is it will be left to those with ulterior motives who wish to hijack misery to fuel religious hatred – with disastrous consequences.
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).
Crabb: Standing up to Hard-Edged Secularists.
The Guardian reports.
A Tory cabinet minister has said that Britain’s increasingly secular society risks “pushing more young Muslims into the arms of Isis”.
Stephen Crabb, the Welsh secretary, used a speech to claim that a “hard-edged” secularism in Britain was partly to blame for “aiding and abetting” extremism, as mainstream religion is marginalised in public life.
Crabb is a committed Christian who voted against gay marriage and is one of at least two prominent members of the Conservative Christian Fellowship in the cabinet, alongside the education secretary, Nicky Morgan.
He made the intervention on Tuesday, the day after the commission on religion and belief in British public life proposed that schools should no longer face a legal requirement to provide daily acts of worship of a Christian character. It also suggested the teaching of religious belief should be overhauled to make it more relevant in a diverse and increasingly secular country.
Although extremism is not part of his usual brief, Crabb spoke about the issue as he gave the annual Wilberforce address for the Conservative Christian Fellowship.
Apparently religious liberty is menaced.
The minister, who has been tipped as a possible outside candidate for the next Tory leadership race, said he thought freedom of religion was now under threat, citing the case of the advertising company that refused a Church of England cinema commercial promoting the Lord’s Prayer.
In the speech, he claimed the current mood meant “faith gets squeezed further into the margins of public life and religion becomes delegitimised through suspicion, fear or ridicule”. This could have implications for the fight against Islamic extremism, Crabb suggested.
“The answer to the seduction of Isil [Isis] is not a greater dose of secularism that delegitimises their faith in the public space,” he said. “I believe the marginalisation of religion in our national life risks pushing more young Muslims into the arms of Isil.”
On the Spectator Blog Isabel Hardman comments,
He also admitted finding it easier not to talk about his own faith at all as a politician, and worrying that ‘I doubt whether we will ever see again a British Prime Minister who can talk openly about the times when they might pray to God’. He said:
‘So here we are in 2015, in an age when it is easier for a politician to admit to smoking weed or watching porn, than it is to admit that they might take prayer seriously in their daily life.’
Crabb pointed to the open ridicule that politicians such as Tim Farron and Tony Blair invited for saying that they prayed. He also said the decision by major cinema chains to refuse to screen a Church of England advert about the Lord’s Prayer was ‘an act of enormous ignorance and intolerance’.
Crabb’s call has already had a wide echo in progressive circles.
Reports indicate that Goldsmiths College plans to offer a new MA on the intersecting social identities and related systems of secularist oppression, domination or discrimination and marginalisation of faith communities, provisionally entitled Interfaithality.
It is said that Matt Carr, an expert on Jihadism and the Spanish International Brigades (StWC) will be one of the course tutors.
Socialist Workers Party Denounces Feminism in London Debate on Fundamentalism for “Islamophobic Stereotypes.”
Not for Feminists says SWP.
Last weekend this was a panel held during the Feminism in London Conference.
This session will overturn many long held perceptions about the British state. In its fight against extremism too many institutions have got into bed with fundamentalists and actively promote their narratives. A growing coalition of secular, left and minority women’s organisations has successfully challenged them Two cases to be discussed are successful campaigns against Universities UK policies permitting gender segregation and the Law Society’s attempt to promote ‘sharia -compliant wills’. These campaigns are part of a global solidarity movement to defend free speech against fundamentalists of all stripes and are seldom reported in the left and liberal press. This session is your chance to hear the left, feminist case for a solidarity movement against fundamentalism and for secularism. Organised by One Law for All, Southall Black Sisters and the Centre for Secular Space.
With Maryam Namazie, Pragna Patel, Gita Sahgal and Houzan Mahmoud, chaired by Yasmin Rehman.
This is what Socialist Worker had to say on the event – Judith Orr.
Unfortunately the panel and discussion in a session on “fundamentalism” was dominated by Islamophobic stereotypes of Muslims with only a minority of dissenting voices.
There is no mystery why the SWP would dislike a panel featuring comrade Maryam Namazie, whose right to speak at Warwick University as an Iranian humanist and Marxist on a left-wing and secularist critique of Islam and Islamism, was not conspicuously defended by the group.
Nor that comrades Pragna Patel, Gita Saghal, some of the most widely admired grass-roots feminists in the land, who have spent several decades (since 1979) defending women’s rights in Southall Black Sisters, and, (founded 1989), have been part of the inspiring Women Against Fundamentalism (WAF), would raise their hackles.
Here is WAF’s statement,
Women Against Fundamentalism (WAF) was formed in 1989 to challenge the rise of fundamentalism in all religions. Our members include women from many backgrounds and from across the world.
In Britain in recent years fundamentalism has increased its influence in all religions. This has been encouraged by government moves to define complex and diverse communities solely according to ‘faith’, with public funds increasingly being handed out to religious bodies to provide services to ‘their’ communities on behalf of local and central government. WAF believes that this increases the power of religious leaders to discriminate against women and other groups and to exclude or silence dissidents within their own communities.
We believe that public funds should be administered by accountable, democratically elected representatives and not by religious leaders. Only secular institutions with no religious agenda can begin to bring about equality for people of all religions or none.
Houzan Mahmoud would have not found favour either. She is a Kurdish women rights and anti-war activist born in Iraq. She was the Co-founder of Iraqi Women’s Rights Coalition. She has led an international campaign against Sharia Law and oppression of women in Iraq
Yasmin Rehman is a secularist Muslim, associated with the Muslim Institute.
For me the Muslim Institute is a beacon of light in what can only be described as a rather depressing landscape for many of us. It is that increasingly rare space for its members to debate, be critical, explore and learn in an open, respectful and most importantly safe space to discuss issues relating to Islam, Muslims and the world at large. It is also a testament to the Institute that it shares its work openly with Muslims and non-Muslims alike. I am deeply grateful to all at the Institute for allowing me to be a part of this work and to share in their work.
It must have been deeply galling for the SWP to have to listen to Iranian women, Kurdish women, women with a heritage from the Sub-continent, and critical – free-thinking – Muslim women.
True secularism is an alliance of these disparate voices – including believers – for a free public domain.
The contributions of these admirable women to introducing to British public life – often parochial and inclined to deference to religious figures of all kinds, particularly the part of the left the SWP, and groups originating in their tradition, such as Counterfire, represents – are to be welcomed.
Do we need to be reminded that all societies in which the Sharia ‘law’ and Islamism have an influence, let alone are principles of the state, and political power, are riddled with oppression? That women are amongst the chief victims?
Heretic, whore, CIA operative – Masih Alinejad has been called all these things, and worse, by the Iranian authorities. What is her crime? Campaigning for equal rights for women in her home country.
Now Ms Alinejad, 39, who was born in the small village of Ghomikola in the north of Iran but was forced into exile and lives in New York, has launched a campaign to get Iranian men to take up the fight in solidarity with their wives.
Growing up, Ms Alinejad would quietly question why she didn’t enjoy the same rights as her brother; but when she began to speak out and criticise her country’s MPs, she was thrown into prison, aged 19 and pregnant.
Upon her release she continued to aggravate the authorities through her work as an investigative journalist before moving to the UK in 2009, and then to the US where she lives with her son, 18, and husband. There, she presents a weekly programme, Tablet, on Voice of America’s Persian language channel which examines issues affecting young Iranians.
Affectionately referred to by her supporters as “Ghomikola Eagle” – a nickname supplied by her husband – the activist has inspired thousands of women to remove their hijabs, thanks to her “My Stealthy Freedom” campaign which she launched last year. The project encourages women to take “stealthy” photographs of themselves without their head covering and send them to Ms Alinejad to post on her Facebook page, which has almost a million followers.
No doubt Masih Alinejad is also full of “Islamophobic stereotypes.”