Tragedy at Home – How Do We Respond?


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I am in utter shock.

This is unbelievable.

My prayers go out to the families.

To the fanatics –

You may use the word Islam,
but the religion is one of peace and love,
and denounces your heresy.
God bring justice to these foul men,
and bring warmness and comfort to those in pain.

To the people –

My request is that you look beyond the media,
and the rhetoric, and discern the politics & fear.
I will not let politicians or lone fanatics taint my religion,
nor will I allow anybody to interpret my religion so as to justify hate or violence.
I won’t allow them to strike fear into our hearts.
We are Muslims.
We are LGBT.
We are together.
Stand up now!

I am devastated. God help the victims’ families. How dare they taint this religion in this fashion. How dare they.

It is so hard to focus on this subject objectively because of the emotions but I refuse to allow fear to dictate our perception. Since my childhood I have been focused on politics of the Middle East, but never did I think it would hit home. Now, more than ever, it is time for Muslims to both speak out against fanaticism within our religion but also against the hypocritical foreign policies of countries which have practically funded these misfits for the past century.

What is the real cause of this?

Gun Control? Islamic fascism? Post-colonialism? Lone wolf? Conspiracy?

All of these are equally possible but what is certain is that certain reforms are necessary, both in domestic and foreign sectors.

The true perpetrators, are those political elites who encourage the bigotry, whether it is white supremacy or Islamic fanaticism.

The ones at the top who encourage and incite this violence, directly and indirectly.

Because even if these are lone wolf attacks, they become vulnerable and confirmed by ideologies propagated by elites.

I speak of political elites in the Middle East as much as those in America; the likes of Donald Trump and the King of Saudi Arabia who together encourage fanatical ideologies that encourage hate and provoke retaliation.

America’s history in the Middle East has provoked fanaticism against it.

That is plain and simple – something it must learn to accept – just like defeat in Vietnam – just like the USSR’s failure in Afghanistan.

There is a reason why this type of violence is becoming a norm both inside the Middle East and inside of Europe and inside of America.

The facts are there.

American and European imperialism has caused instability. The exporting of democracy abroad ignores cultural sensitivities. Furthermore, American and European countries are themselves exhibiting a democratic crisis – the forces of fascism and socialism are fighting one another relentlessly.

America struggles to balance its individualistic obsessions with moral imperatives, which is ironic because it is one of the few countries in the world that actually professes a self-righteous position of morality.

There are many historical wrongs committed by other countries too – America is not the sole blame for the rise in Islamic fundamentalism. But seeing as how it is the world-leader, it practically dictates the policies and trajectories of all its allies. Countries like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar – organizations like al Qaeda, ISIS, Muslim Brotherhood & Hamas – these are all pseudo-Islamic entities, financed by America and Europe in their mission to destabilize and divide the Middle East as well as Central Asia – a continuation of the Sykes-Picot Agreement.

I will argue that even Hitler’s fascism, and modern Jewish fascism, together, are incited by imperialism. Even communism, was a form of balancing against the imperial overreach of America and Europe.

While the world struggles between cultural relativism and imperialism, America struggles between capitalism and democracy.

These two conflicts are playing out today, but the arena has become the whole world, thanks to globalization.

The question is, who is on whose side, and who will win?

Finally, as a member of the Muslim community, while I blame pseudo-Islamic political elites for propagating extreme brands of Islam as well as foreign imperialists for enabling it – I would like to address the extreme interpretation itself and forever relinquish its attempt to certify itself as a credible voice for Islam. Extremism has no place in Islam. Neither does hate nor violence. No matter the scripture; no matter the interpretation; there is no justification for fanaticism.

While the tradition of liberal Islam is scarce it does exist. But a history of colonialism and the overall sensitivity of the Middle East culturally has made it even more of a scarcity. But even Muslims can appreciate the liberalism and democracy of the West while still enjoying their religious traditions.

The issue is not Islam. The issue is one of domestic and international policy.

Once this can be fully recognized, all veils can be lifted, and tragedy will be less commonplace.

When we realize that the media’s biased coverage entertains illusions – once we see that political agendas are fulfilled by un-democratic tendencies here in the US – we can begin to see through the lies.

I pray for my city of Orlando. I pray that we all recover. I pray for the LGBT community.

Will we learn to overcome these barriers to human decency?

 

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Book Review – Postmodern Imperialism: Geopolitics & The Great Games by Eric Walberg


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Walberg, Eric. Postmodern imperialism: geopolitics and the great games. SCB Distributors, 2011.

Recent history has introduced a period of heightened military conflicts, uprisings and contentions. This has resulted in many shifts in global patterns. Competitiveness between empires has intensified and further complicated the quest for understanding the global political dynamic. In his book, Postmodern Imperialism: Geopolitics & the Great Games, author Eric Wahlberg seeks to clear the air. The author’s main premise is to illustrate the shift from a bi-polar global dynamic, once dominated by the US on one end and the Soviet Union on the other, to a unipolar world, where the US is largely uncontested in its position as the global hegemony. Proxy wars, insurgent movements and radical militants have filled this void, which, as the author argues, has pinned the US and its main ally against anti colonial movements, Israel, against a loosely defined cooperative of movements and states, as well as a ambiguous enemy – the terrorist.

The author presents a historical backdrop from which he draws his assertions. This stretches from the earliest expression of the Great Games to their modern manifestations, as the Wars on Terror, and the neoconservative crusade for democracy. The consequence is increased exploitation of resources and the rise of untraceable insurgent networks that target their national governments as much as western societies. The double-dealings and inconsistencies of the West are evident here, which taints the reputation of western civilization. This is underscored by the author’s sympathies with the anti-capitalistic Soviet philosophical foundation.

The book is divided into five segments, organized chronologically, in which the author elaborates on the historical backdrop of the Great Game dynamic which has led to the current landscape. Wahlberg begins with the 19th century onset of the great games as played out between the British and Russian empires, followed by the communist revolution, WWII, the Cold War and the post 9/11 era. The author focuses on the British tactic of pinning forces against each other, a strategy which has been arguably adopted by the US in modern times, evidenced by its double-dealings with authoritarians and the radical insurgent movements threatening to depose them.

The three major sections in the book are categorized as GG I, II and III. GG stands for Great Games, and each numeric represents a period in time, in respective chronological order, beginning with the games as they panned out in the early 19th century, onto the WWII period, and finally, to GGIII, the post-cold war era. GGI refers to imperialism that took place during the nineteenth century until WWII. GGII covers the Cold War in which the two global superpowers, the USA and the USSR, competed for global influence.  GGIII is focused on the post-Cold War era beginning in 1989 to the present. Imperialism cannot be discussed without dissecting the role of the British Empire, a main focus of the author throughout the book. The British assumed hegemonic power by constructing a global economic network which would serve the interests of the core to the misfortune of the periphery, and where diplomacy failed, the use of military power was utilized.  The key focus of the book is the Middle East and Central Asia, “the heart of Eurasia”. It has been argued that the Eurasian heartland is a key geographic location; in other words, he who that controls the heartland controls the world.

The author suggests that in modern times, Islamic movements have replaced communism as the new anti-imperial force. The two primary agents of imperialism, argues Wahlberg, is an alliance between the US and Israel. The war on Iraq, and subsequent interventions in Libya and Egypt, are expressions of this new imperialism, and perhaps fall right into the hands of the main players in the global Great Games. The author suggests increasing tensions and growing insurgencies as a direct result of a stubborn imperial alliance between the US & Israel. Rising tensions in the Middle East and the growth of radical Islam in Central Asia are indicators of this reality. The US’ inconsistent foreign policy will only further retaliatory measures. The players of the great game must decide once and for all what is of greater priority; playing a fair game, or winning.

An Open Letter to Liberal American Jews


Dear brothers and sisters of the Jewish faith, my name is Danny Krikorian and I am a Syrian-Armenian American.

My ancestors are originally from Palestine and Armenia. My roots are deep in Jerusalem.

I am writing you because we have reached a peak in levels of hatred in the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict, and I believe the most crucial force in combatting this hate could be you. Why?

First and foremost, I must add that I have a Christian father and a Muslim mother. As a Syrian with this religious diversity, I was given freedom as a thinker to discover the world on my own. For this I am ever so grateful.

Eventually I came across Jewish literature. I was blown away.

To me, Judaism is genius and has produced geniuses.

From Einstein to Freud, Arendt to Woody Allen, Larry David to Seinfeld; the list is endless.

But what I have been encountering is startling. The “liberal” tradition of Judaism has been challenged, especially in the twentieth century, by this paranoid sense, spurned by WWII & the Holocaust. Ever since Israel was created, in the words of prominent Jewish scholar Avi Schleim, the Jews have experienced the greatest threats to their existence; an unprecedented instability. The irony – Israel was created as a form of refuge, but has essentially intensified conflict. Fanatical right-wing ideology has almost replaced the Jewish left. I think this is partly due to one major reality…liberalism and Israel are incompatible.

You see at one point a Kingdom of Israel was fathomable, at a time where all civilizations were dominated by kings, emperors, gods and pharaohs. But in today’s world, where principles of human rights, democracy and self-determination have become the bedrock of modern society, these Israeli-ideals seem out of place.

Not to mention, they are also inconsistent with the Jewish creed. What do I mean? Well, according to Jewish theology the three oaths commanded by God that the Jews remain loyal to their nation-states after the destruction of the second temple. God also forbade the recreation of Israel.

So while in ancient time the menace against God was polytheism; in the modern world, the are now two menaces against God (socially-liberal monotheism) which are: “disbelief” (polytheism, paganism, atheism, fanaticism) & “Zionism”. In fact, the two are inseparable. Zionism has replaced liberal Judaism, and has essentially made Jews feel like they do not belong to the religion without loyalty to the modern Israeli state. This has politicized Judaism, and been the premise for all military measures taken against the Arab people. Arab independence movements that followed the Ottoman collapse brought hopes of a new opportunity for prosperity in the Arab world. This would be interrupted by the colonial establishment of Israel in the heart of the Middle East.

This is an especially useful tactic, but now you’ve got the modern Israeli state echoing what it believes to be the voice of God; the God of the Israelites.

As a liberal monotheist, I am in favor of modernized political systems that respect all religions. In my home country, Syria, this tradition is known as “secularism”. The word has a different meaning here in the West, where it is perceived as the force against religion.

I believe that ideologies like Zionism, Christian Evangelism, and Islamic Wahhabism, to be frank, are all similar in orientation. They all share the common thread of hate and violence, and all have transformed their positions of believing in God into being the voices of God on earth. This is dangerous and threatening, to the Middle East, as much as it is to the liberal traditions of the West. This is because the West, namely America, has entangled itself in this conflict between Zionism and Judaism, Israelis and Palestinians.

The important thing to keep note of is the difference between portrayals of reality, and what could be reality.

I hope that be expressing my sentiments here, that the Jewish people can begin to understand, and spread the message that Judaism and Israel are not mutually exclusive, and that the human rights of Palestinians must be spoken of before any mention of a religious state.

Social liberalism, economic prosperity and freedom of expression are not compatible with the principle of zionism. Let us stop exporting our ideologies abroad. The Middle East was safer for Jews before the establishment of Israel. All Middle Eastern tyrants were born after this event. The Middle East is a religious holy land. Exporting democracy to that region is ignorant of its culture. Furthermore, exporting zionism is ignorant of its religious diversity and of religious history, be it Jewish, Christian or Islamic.

We can however preserve American democracy and western liberalism by rejecting the fascist ideals of Christian Evangelism and Zionism which are so intertwined, and have dominated the conservative Republican Party.

Furthermore, we can begin to address our own problems here in America, such as Islamophobia, police brutality, racism and the vast disparity in income between rich-and-poor.