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.