Posts Tagged: Imperialism

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If Professor Dabashi had waited two years to publish this book, he might have been able to include Mona Eltahawy, Maikel Nabil, Ruwayda Mustafah, Adnan Arour and..er..himself. The ‘Arab Spring’ and the nuanced mainstream coverage shone the limelight on English-speaking, Twitter-savvy, Western educated young ‘liberals’ who were handily able to tell European and American viewers that all they wanted was what we had, but crucially, they were assuring them they were not a threat to them.The thought of Arabs and Muslims engaging politically is very frightening to a lot of white people, so they were careful to stress words like “freedom” and “democracy” and “human rights”, all the while ignoring that the real driving forces behind the tumult in Egypt and Tunisia were rooted in poverty and lack of economic opportunities which were almost entirely attributable to their corrupt Western-backed regimes and imbecilic Western-prescribed capitalism.The ‘Arab Spring’ has been portrayed as a phenomenon whereby people who have been ‘deprived’ of our liberalism are desperately striving to acquire it, partly to bolster waning faith in Western liberal capitalism in the wake of the recession and austerity programmes, but also to deflect attention from growing social problems at home exacerbated by said recession and austerity programmes.

Brown Skin White Masks is supposed to be a twenty-first century adaptation of Frantz Fanon’s 1952 Black Skin White Masks, an analysis of the psychological effects of colonialism on black people who have been conditioned to have feelings of dependency and inadequacy in front of their white colonial masters. By frequently referencing the late Professor Edward Said’s Orientalism and Malcolm X’s ‘House Negro’, Dabashi credibly argues that “comprador intellectuals” such as Azar Nafisi, Salman Rushdie and the implausible Ibn Warraq are significantly responsible for the dehumanisation of Muslims which preceded, coincided with and succeeded the genocides of Palestinians, Lebanese and Iraqis at the hands of American or American-backed militants. They all have extensive and emotive works designed to ratify Westerners’ misinformed and prejudiced suspicions about Islam, and to exalt Western neo-liberal imperialism as a model and justified intervener in the Muslim world.

Again, as I did with Open Veins of Latin America, I won’t go into too much detail about the contents of the book, but I’ll write a bit about what it made me think about, and why I mentioned the names that I did at the top.

Although the days of the old-style conventional colonialism might be in the past, colonialism is by no means a thing of the past. While traditional colonialism was justified in the name of development and civilisation, neo-colonialism is gift-wrapped with shiny phrases like “Feminism”, “Human Rights” and “Peace”.

The first sign to identify a House Muslim is when they use narrow and rightward skewed parameters to define themselves in search of recognition and approval from white people. Muslims are made to feel compelled to pledge their commitment to ‘peace’, which only gives credence to the idea that when we don’t say so, we are not. It automatically demotes us into a position where we are changing to suit our seigneurs and accommodate their prejudices. The biggest aggressors in recent history have been white people, yet many of us have been subconsciously made to believe that we are the inherently hateful miscreants. By pledging an exclusive commitment to “dialogue” to work towards a narrow, nuanced, mendacious definition of “peace”, not only are we validating the notion that only they are civilised, but it ignores the reality that they are appropriating our homelands and characters through violence and malice, while also defining the acceptable form of our resistance.

After the aggravated grand larceny of their land and natural resources (minerals, labour and culture), Imperialism’s next most significant contribution to its colonies is the establishment of compliant bourgeoisie; the ‘enlightened’ and ‘cultured’ anomaly of subservient natives who recognise the sophistication imperialism has brought to their ‘uncultivated’ lands. Using the age old successful tactic of ‘divide and conquer’, colonialism seeks to separate the ‘good’ native from the ‘uncivilised’ native. Good natives seeking more crumbs from the master’s table will do everything in their power to oppose resistance and uprising by the ‘bad’ natives.

Thanks to the imperialist-serving indoctrination brewed in Riyadh, many Muslims are now convinced that other Muslims are a bigger enemy to them than Zionism. The instinctive opposition to the Zionist Entity has become tokenistic; the ire supplanted with an irrational, feather-spitting sectarianism analogous to England and Scotland at the time of Elizabeth I and the two Marys (Bloody and Queen of Scots), and the European Inquisitions, meaning much of the Muslim community is acting out a script that has already been played out five hundred years ago in Western Europe. They’re unaware that they foam like Nazis and Zionists, and the malignancy of Zionism now looms where there is no physical Zionist presence.

Now, feminism. This is the bit that stretched my brain the most, as you would expect. My research naturally brought me to the work of Leila Ahmed, née Khaled (no not that one!) who has plenty to say about the deprivation of rights for women under the various eras of “Islam”, as I suspect, would I, if I were to sit down and write a book about it. Nevertheless, Professor Ahmed still makes the impossible-to-overstate point about European colonisers not being the emancipators of Muslim women*. The colonialists squawk about the veil in Muslim countries while at the same time upholding or introducing policies that make women tangibly worse off in both the colonies and in their own home countries. When Muslim women or women from Muslim countries are encouraged to speak out against the “barbarity” of Islam and Muslim men against them to Western non-Muslims, the only intention of having them air these views out is to condition Europeans and Americans into emotionally supporting a colonial invasion, which they are assured will liberate the ever-suppressed women. The actual definition of imperialist liberation of Muslim women is “to bomb them into removing their veils. Side-effects of invasion may cause hundreds of thousands of women to be orphaned, widowed, raped and murdered”. But by then the colonial feminists will have long cashed their cheques for the TV appearances and the Guardian columns, and they’ll have moved on to cheerleading the next crusade.

Muslims who ululate about atrocities in Syria but negligently omit the fundamental detail about the killings ought to wake up to the fact that their public acts of sorrow are nothing but cylinders in the engine of colonialism. Blaming “violence” implies it’s a passive phenomenon that just naturally exists and kills people like a hurricane or a virus. Unassigned “violence” perpetuates the orientalist narrative about Syria; that they have a sectarian “butcher” as leader, ordering up torture and infanticide like people order coffee. By not pointing out that the death and suffering in Syria is at the hands of imperialist-supported terrorists, Muslims are guilty of inviting colonial invaders into the last bastion of Arabism and opposition to Zionist colonisation in the Homeland.

Why? To show we are moderate. That we are tolerant of Western values. That we are capable of criticising “Muslim regimes”. To feel accepted by the white man and be anointed one of his lackeys. By insisting on accepting the imperialist narratives as fact in the name of moderateness or intellectualism, Muslims are furthering the goals of imperialism - while it’s obvious to see that those goals are only material and monetary, the social and cultural abrogation of Islam and Arabism is essential.

Of all the great and many ills afflicting Muslim society globally today, crying to the white man about each other is up there at the very top. Their culture or their idea of civilisation is not superior to ours. They have no intention of alleviating our problems, but they still manage to fool Muslims with the crocodile tears and the guilt pangs and the myths of freedom and prosperity. Dabashi writes about Said’s characterisation of orientalism being “intellectual colonialism”, the development of a narrative of the ‘East’ being a socially and culturally inferior place that needs Western intervention, it cries for Western intervention. The delusive parameters shaped by imperialist academics and media of “moderate”, “values”, “tolerant”, “liberal”, “freedom” and so on have choked our thinking and interactions. We have to at least accept this if we want to be taken seriously. We can’t argue with this because then we won’t even be allowed in the conversation. How’s that freedom of speech and expression working out for you then?

Emancipation doesn’t reside in the moral sinews of our colonisers, and if it does it won’t be shaken from its slumber with obsequiousness and hollow “interfaith dialogue” many of us have become preoccupied with. Non-violence and “dialogue” is importuned on the besieged by disingenuous, allegedly ‘detached’ liberals as the sole acceptable means of protest against occupation, with only silence or lip service afforded to the savage oppressors.

Muslims that are Western liberal paradigm cheerleaders, colonial feminists or sectarian bigots are all House Muslims. Their careers, egos and place as doorstoppers for imperialists are more important to them than their own communities or their own homelands. They earn their acceptance by enabling a backward image of Islam and Muslims, sitting in the corners of their puppeteers’ houses with their noses and chests in the air, oblivious to the strings tied to their tongues and fingertips. Their mainstream relevance and acceptability rely on their proclivity to bash Muslims and justify Western aggression and invasion. They have reduced us to rabid neanderthals defined by sectarianism and misogyny. They are not our role models, representatives, spokespeople or community bricklayers. The digital, post-‘Arab Spring’ House Muslim might be harder to spot, because they’re younger, they dress like us and some of them even look devoutly religious, but they’re still only compradors, quislings and sellouts. Traitors.



* http://mdbrady.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/women-and-gender-in-islam-by-leila-ahmed/

 

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After the revolutionary fervour and constructive* tumult over the last twenty-something months across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), the second most used phrase in the world after ‘Arab Spring’ must have been ‘Islamist’, followed by the obligatory concern and subsequent vexation expressed at the likelihood of said munificently hirsute men emerging as the biggest winners. It turns out they were right^.

*puerile, fraudulent and morally bankrupt
^actually the biggest winner was imperialism, but it’s cool in nouveau intellectual circles to be superficial, simplistic and oblivious to the big picture.

It was not my intention to discuss their policies, politics or paragons here (it turned out this was impossible), but merely the adjectival slight committed on all Muslims and the English language with the incessant, unconsidered use of the word “Islamist”. What on earth are Islamists? And what’s the difference between them and plain old Muslims? 

After some canonic Googling, it appears that ‘Islamist’ is a word bequeathed to us by the French, and it means “someone whose political philosophy is derived from Islamic values”. Some people flippantly use it to describe Muslims who are simply active in their Muslim practices. It has, more commonly, come to mean “An Islamic revivalist movement, often characterised by moral conservatism, literalism, and the attempt to implement Islamic values in all spheres of life”. 

I believe in the oneness and omnipotence of Allah (SWT); I believe the power to judge is exclusive to Him. He created the universe and everything inside it - all of our personal qualities, differences and similarities are nothing but a manifestation of His will. He made us all at the same level, so no human being is subordinate to another, and certainly no human being should be allowed to get absurdly rich when others starve. I think it’s our Islamic responsibility to make sure everyone is provided with basic amenities like healthcare, education and shelter, and society has a duty to empower those that are always stepped on, be they young, elderly, disabled, or simply female. But I especially believe we should all be left free to make our own life choices and leave others alone to make theirs, because ultimately we will all be tried individually. 

My political and social views all derive from my Islamic views, am I an Islamist? Aren’t all Muslims Islamists? Even if one’s idea of Islamic utopia is a secular co-existing society, wouldn’t pursuing and promoting that also make one an Islamist? His Eminence the departed Sayyid Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah strongly objected to being labelled an Islamist; he said there are only Muslims. 

Another fundamental Islamic belief is that the universe and everything inside it belongs to God, including us and our bodies. The only thing we have that is our own is free will. No ‘Islamic’ good deeds are worth anything unless they’re done completely of one’s own accord, and not from fear of reprisals from other people. No edicts have been issued to warrant anyone being the Islamic Gestapo. There is no clergy or papacy in Islam, so if nobody can forgive anyone’s sins, they have no right to “punish” them. Conservative political ‘Islamism’ seeks to compel people to abide by Islamic falsified conservative boundaries and policing them with totalitarian thugs. This is not what the Muslim world needs to progress, what it needs is more universal education which would encourage people to think for themselves so they can make their own choices (and mistakes), and in turn create a better, more enlightened, and likely a more ‘Muslim’ society. 

Conservative ‘Islamism’ is allowed to exist because Western elites need the populations of MENA to be suppressed while they pilfer their oil and gas reserves, and at the same time their radicalisation and amentia is of great necessity to the US-Israel complex and the greater imperialist venture. Even from a more tangible perspective, the promotion and spread of conservative ‘Islamism’ is facilitated by the perpetually acclivitous investment in the ‘stable’ states of the Gulf - which notably spiked recently thanks to flight capital from democracy-yearning Tunisia and Egypt - giving the troglodytes in Riyadh and Doha even more cash to spend on miseducating and arming the scores of lost and confused young men across the Arab and Muslim world who have been alienated by the impellent secular (and often “free-market”) societies forged by corrupt dictators and Western stooges post-independence. 

The alternative to forceful, conservative Islamism, however, is not stringent secularism. While there is a lot to be said for separation of religion and the state, in practice this has meant the erosion of Muslims’ rights and the degradation of Islam in society. Women in Turkey were not (and technically, are still not) allowed to cover their hair in public institutions from the time of the ‘moderate’ darling, Kemal Ataturk, while Muslims in Tunisia were deterred from praying in congregation in the Tunisia of Bourgiba and Ben Ali. Extremist state secularism has contributed as much to society’s ills as extremist religious fundamentalism, if just by strangling it. The consequences of the last half century of such policies demonstrate this in many of the revolts we see today.

Although the justifications of Ataturk, Bourgiba et al regarding ‘private worship’ being more beneficial for Islam as a whole can be easily dismissed as short-sighted opportunism, the issue here is not secularist politicians and Islam, but conservative ‘Islamists’ and Islam. In a recent pre-khutba speech at the new Turkish masjid outside Midrand, near Johannesburg, Moulana Ebrahim Bham drove home the point that the way to spread Islam and improve its image does not come through private worship, but through public conduct. When so-called Islamist governments in Turkey, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia are categorically discriminating against people - Muslims - on racial, sectarian and gender grounds, can they still be called Islamist in any sense of the word?

What use is conservative Islamism if the plight of Muslims isn’t being ameliorated? Pro-Palestine movements are struck down in Tunisia and Saudi Arabia by Salafist and Wahhabi agents. There is no Islamism, only conservatism - the consolidation of public resources by a tiny private oligarchy and the silencing of ordinary citizens with Western-provided force and through hijacked religious indoctrination - all co-opted and blessed by conservative non-Muslim extremists and capitalists. For all of Saudi Arabia’s vile anti-Semitic rhetoric, had it the choice to extirpate the fundamentally anti-Muslim Zionist Entity or Muslim Iran, it would choose Iran in a heartbeat. Egypt’s “democratically elected Islamist government” continues to barricade the Rafah Crossing shut and keeps an Israeli ambassador in Cairo, never mind a peace treaty. 

Islamists have been taught how to talk the vacuous talk of liberal diplomacy by their imperialist landlords during their exiles in Paris and London. Like Western neo-liberals and their proclivity to invoke panacean pipe dreams of democracy, freedom and economic efficiency, their words mean nothing. All of their self-styled adjectives claiming peace and liberty for all have borne out to be completely false, simply by their own actions upon assuming power. They’ve corrupted the meaning of Islamism, they’ve poisoned the spirit of much of the Muslim ummah, and they’ve proved to be nothing but imperialist glove puppets with added novel beards and high ankle trousers. And while they bandwagon on condemning apparitional film-makers that insult Islam and the Prophet of Allah (S.A.W.), every time they open their mouths or take to the streets, they render it impossible to decipher who’s actually more harmful.

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Outrage has been this week’s special as Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution last Saturday (4th Feb) “condemning” the reported violence from government forces in Syria on “democracy protesters”.

Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and William Hague all had their moments in the spotlight telling everyone this was about the Syrian people, human rights, freedom and all those other warm and cuddly things our governments perpetually assure us they’re yearning to bring to foreign countries through ‘natural’ globalisation, “diplomacy” and - if things get really critical - [official] military interventions. (Intervention is an interesting word, since it’s also used to describe a situation where the friends and families of someone addicted to alcohol or narcotics “intervene” to help their loved ones overcome their addiction. “Saving them”, is oft-said.)

Clinton, Obama and Hague also managed to get their shots in at the respective delegates from China and Russia, the two members of the Security Council who vetoed the resolution, criticising them for protecting strategic self-interests and showing disregard for the Syrians who were “now free to continue being butchered” by that “tyrant”, Bashar al-Assad.

Naturally, the first feeling this would invoke among the few free-thinking, principled souls among us is a sickening nausea, brought about by the laughable hypocrisy from the self-proclaimed crusaders for democracy and humanity whose track records with regards to freedom include the Patriot Act, the 28-day-detention-without-charge law, not allowing women to drive, banning the expression of religious symbols and the genocide of Armenians – and that’s just within our own borders. Beyond them, we’re guilty of war crimes in Afghanistan, Japan, Iraq, Pakistan and Vietnam, and if that wasn’t enough, there’s our complicity in crimes against humanity in Palestine, Chile, Lebanon, Congo, the Dominican Republic, Australia, Nicaragua… The list goes on.

But, after this unpleasant feeling has passed, the question still remains. Even if the US, Britain, Saudi, France and Turkey have done all this, does it mean they’re wrong about Syria? More importantly, does it mean they have no right to talk about Syria?

Despite the Mariano Rivera-esque cutters - such is the mastery of their deception - thrown by the BBC, the Guardian, the Independent, Al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya with their portrayal of events in Syria, it’s not a one-sided crackdown by the government on peaceful protesters. It’s clear for the whole world to see that the ‘movement for democratic reform’ has been hijacked by criminal elements that target civilians whom they perceive to be “pro-government” - those that don’t participate in anti-government protests, give water to soldiers, or – an especially heinous ‘crime’ – being Christian (fifth para). It’s become so obvious, that the mainstream media doesn’t even bother calling them peaceful protesters anymore, they leave that to the Syrian expats/exiles, racist bigots and mouthy twitter “activists” (you know who they are).

Every day there are terrorist atrocities committed by the so-called “Free Syria Army” - which should surely be called the “Free Syria For Anglo-Franco-Qatari-Saudi-American Interests Army” - but we’ll accept that FSFAFQSAIA has less of a ring to it than FSA. What government struggling to keep order in their state detonates car bombs in civilian areas (in their biggest support bases), abducts and molests children, or kills 200 civilians by indiscriminately shelling Homs the night before a United Nations Security Council vote? Where’s the logic to this?

Let’s look at the “evidence” used by anti-government parties. Here’s one of those fabled “protests” (thanks @Hey_Joud), apparently in Syria. This picture was aired last week on Al Jazeera (thanks @syriancommando), after the so-called massacre in Homs where army shelling allegedly resulted in 200 deaths (which was later revised down to 39, not that you would have heard about that). The caption reads “40 dead and more than 100 injured after shelling by Syrian army on Khaledeya neighbourhood in Homs”. I don’t know what sort of technology is in Syrian mortar shells, but it must be pretty special if they can tie people up, strip them and not leave a mark on their torsos, and I haven’t even mentioned the walls that haven’t been scorched or the window AND CURTAINS that are still intact. (Yes, now I’ve mentioned it.)

It’s widely accepted that many of the so-called peaceful anti-government protests are nothing but a bunch of kids meeting up in the street, unfurling a banner and a couple of flags, bang some pots and pans, film themselves from a flattering angle with a mobile phone, and then scatter after 5 minutes. And then there’s the “Syrian Observatory of Human Rights”, and their creative numbers on casualties. Or did I mean the “Syrian Observatory of Human Rights”? I forget.

If you look closely, the mainstream media will occasionally report the mass rallies in Syria in support of President Assad, which can reach up to six figure attendances (even if this gentleman puts on his best Shane Warne act whenever he’s impelled to acknowledge it). The majority of Syrians still support Assad - if anything his popularity has probably increased among some sectors in defiance in the face of the terror that has befallen the country.

It’s not hard to understand this from our own point of view. Let’s take the UK last summer as an example. We have a government we’re not particularly enchanted with, so we protest. Some opportunistic kids turn it up a notch and start engaging in violence to express their discontent. This brings out the criminal element in society who latch onto this “anti-government” movement even though they couldn’t care less about politics. Even people who may oppose the government will ‘defend’ them because they take issue with the way the ‘revolution’ is being done. Does that sound familiar? The anti-government thugs in Syria see opportunity, both now with the larceny and extortion that will be a profitable by-product of the fear instilled into civilians who have the misfortune of living in “rebel strongholds”, and in the long run, as Saudi, America and the like will promise them such and such rewards for their participation in overthrowing Assad. The same applies to the foreign-based Syrians who have been exiled.

BUT, again, that’s not to say the ‘antis’ don’t necessarily have a legitimate case. The internet activists, the plotting exiled Syrians, and even the rebel forces, what if the lies, the fabrication of protests and civilian casualties, and the homicidal violence is the only way they can bring attention to their grievances and instigate change in Syria? Does the means used to pursue the cause diminish its righteousness?

Let’s go back to the resolution and its sponsors. Do countries whose pasts, presents and undoubtedly their futures are built on inequality, militarisation and imperialism have the right to try and tug people’s heartstrings with tales of state brutality on civilians? Or my personal favourite from Hillary Clinton, complaining about the lack of dignity afforded to activists in Syria! IF the armed anti-government movement was entirely Syrian in its birth and current composition, and IF their aims were peace and democracy for everyone regardless of religious orientation, and this was reflected in their methods, perhaps there would be a case for supporting them. But they’re not.

The FSA’s prominence and the arsenal available to them forces us to consider a crucial point: where are they getting their weapons from? Three options spring to mind - a) smuggled out of the Syrian army b) from rogue criminal individuals/organisations and c) We (the ‘West’, including Saudi and Qatar) are already surreptitiously financing them and providing weapons/training.

The first possibility almost certainly holds, but it’s difficult to see how a significant military offensive can be sustained off the back of a few smuggled rifles - it’s unlikely that even half of the weapons in the possession of armed rebels can be Syrian-issued. If it’s the second, is this really the type of group we should be supporting? And then there’s the third option, the provision of funds, expertise and weapons from our macheted defence budget. There’s barely any doubt that this is the case. Turkey - who have EU aspirations and a pressing desire to deflect attention from their genocide of Armenians and oppression of Kurds, are hosting and abetting the guerrillas, while we help arm them. It’s Nicaragua and the Contras all over again. Turkey also has burgeoning trade links with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, both of whom have sectarian designs on Syria, and their involvement with the armed factions of the anti-government movement is beyond doubt.

But so what, I hear you cry? Assad is a brutal dictator, and we have a moral duty to move him on, because WE ARE BRITAIN and we stand for democracy and FREEDOM! That’s all we’ve ever exported to our colonies and the backward states we’re forced to invade, destroy and then occupy because they don’t know any better, they’d just massacre each other and get rich off their own natural resources if we left them to it!

There’s a familiar phrase – of which I’m not sure of the origin – “Tell me who your friends are, and I will tell you who you are”. Over the last century, our friends have included Anwar Sadat, Hosni Mubarak, Rafael Trujilo, Augustin Pinochet, Ariel Sharon and many, many other despotic hell-bound scumbags. Can you see the link between previous Anglo-American policy and exporting democracy yet? Nope, me neither. Let’s have a look at the present day. We’re best friends with Binyamin Netanyahu, “King” Abdullah Al Saud, “King” Hamad Al Khalifa, Salam Fayyad, Hamad Al Thani and Abdullah Saleh. Is there a correlation between our choice of allies and freedom and democracy in their countries? (I meant positive correlation, you clever maths so-and-sos, you.)

Now let’s look at the UN Security Council, a body that’s officially charged with the maintenance of international peace and security. Russia and China were criticised for “letting the Syrian people down” and so on, so let’s take a short trip back in time, and see the vetoes exercised by the United States [N.B. I started to list them until it became clear they were too numerous to include on this page. You can see the list in full here].

So what’s my point? Our international diplomacy efforts and foreign policy stances have absolutely nothing to do with human rights and freedom. Unless you mean freedom for corporate interests, weapons dealers and apartheid governments, then sure, we’re all about freedom. If this wasn’t the case, there would be resolutions and action taken in Bahrain, but instead we sell them more weapons to crush their pro-democracy uprising - and even send our best corrupt cop to head their police force. When the revolutions started in Egypt and Libya, we talked the talk of freedom and solidarity with the protesters, while continually facilitating their brutalisation. [Charlie Brooker articulated this infinitely better than I ever could here]. Do you really honestly care about the state of democracy abroad? Then take it up with your government who gleefully suppress it, instead of chasing cheap Facebook likes and Twitter retweets with your purposeless “outrage”.

The resolution and rhetoric on Syria is utterly meaningless because there already is foreign military intervention, and the events of the last week has just served to reiterate that our participation in the UNSC is simply to protect those tyrants who are kind enough buy our weapons and provide a market place for our corporations, and to punish those who don’t.