Art by Nermine Hammam
Executively Produced by KRIKOS aka Danny Krikorian
Presented by Colours of the Culture
Listen to “The Terrorist” and the full album “Sufi in the West” below:
Art by Nermine Hammam
Executively Produced by KRIKOS aka Danny Krikorian
Presented by Colours of the Culture
Listen to “The Terrorist” and the full album “Sufi in the West” below:
Cultural relativism and constructivism are two theories, one sociological the other political, that help us understand international politics from a different perspective.
We challenge the idea of absolutes but we also accept the traditions which develop over time as part of human social culture, or constructs.
There are elements of all philosophy, from realism and liberalism, which are embraced. But ideas such as the universalism of capitalism and democracy are challenged. Furthermore, I seek to explain all global injustice as a result of the exploitation of human insecurities by global political elites. There are remote, isolated incidents of craziness, but the trend suggests that, most human suffering is caused by the decisions of political elites to disregard the cultural distinctions and sovereignty between states.
Imperial overreach is practiced by many states. But the argument here is that the culture of capitalism embraced in the West, particularly in America, in the post-20th century especially, enables the likelihood for international agendas of domination.
While hegemony and power are innate, domination and violations of sovereignty are not. While America struggles to establish its identity as leader of the free world, individuals within America wish to export this freedom to countries where religious sensitivities are prioritized over democratic values and individual rights.
Regions of the world with rich indigenous histories and religious sensitivities, like Latin America, Central & South Asia, and the Middle East, are not conducive to democracy.
In the twentieth century, communism and nazism were viewed as threats to democracy – but had neither the English nor the Americans been aggressively imperialistic, democracy itself would not have been threatened. Imperialism, the desire to expand beyond one’s natural borders, is the cause of ideological fanaticism and political instability, plain and simple.
The frequency of violence and radicalization cannot be viewed as a cause – but rather the effect of another cause – violation of sovereignty. The moral indignation, humiliation and socio-economic depravity resulting from foreign occupation causes political instability and violence to ensue.
The result is terrorism and vulnerability.
That is precisely why Islamic radicalism has become a “thing”. While it is mostly due to the media’s biased coverage, the main reason why Muslims are vulnerable to radicalization is the social and economic inequalities in the regions in which they live. These inequalities are assumed to be the direct cause of governmental shortcomings, but upon closer examination, the complicity of foreign powers, namely the US and Europe, in destabilizing the region, becomes far too apparent.
That is why petty, underdeveloped initiatives are toppling leaders are viewed with such skepticism and distrust, especially in the Middle East. These initiatives have ulterior motives, driven more by agendas of destabilization and maintaining control than by the moral motives of human rights. Such is evidenced by double-dealing from world powers like the US, Russia and Europe in the Middle East and Central Asia, funding radicals on one hand, and putting puppets into power on the other.
It becomes that much more difficult to believe that democracy will solve the problem of instability in the aforementioned regions of the world.
And attempts at spreading democracy in these regions are as mischievous as the USSR’s campaign for spreading communism. This neoconservatism is not very different.
Power is perhaps an innate feature of mankind, but war & instability is not, contrary to conventional theory in politics.
If countries are forced to contain their imperial potential, stability will ensue. But this entails tackling illusions of our history. This entails confronting the assumptions we have about international relations today.
We must learn to appreciate the West’s liberty – but the West must learn to appreciate the East’s cultural heritage.
Only through such self-reevaluation can stability be possible.
A more liberal strand of Islam might argue that cultural identity is tied to Islamic heritage. Furthermore, it encompasses all philosophy and knowledge into Islam, as opposed to radical Islam which excludes philosophies from the Enlightenment, Renaissance, and the mystical indigenous religions of various regions in the world, like Central Asia and Latin America.
What if identity, whether it is Chinese, or Syrian, is also tied to an Islamic consciousness?
Let us say for example that Confucius was a Muslim. But only in the philosophical sense.
Let us say that Islam, is a philosophy too, a form of consciousness that becomes intertwined with language and custom.
If that is the case, instead of isolating extremism in Islam – what if we look at national struggles for national representation as well as national struggles for independence through the lens of a struggle for a higher level of consciousness?
In communist China, Islam is systemically suppressed. In the West, Islam is discriminated against. In the Middle East, from where it originates, it is disenfranchised from the political process. Palestine, the crux of Islamic scripture, remains occupied. Mecca, resides in a politically corrupt nation-state. The vast majority of Muslims, shiite or sunni, are living in poverty due both to foreign occupation and arbitrary authoritarian government. Russia is united with many forces, some its enemies, like the US in the fight against radicalism, of course, without looking at the initial cause.
In today’s world we see North Korea and Russia and Iran and China as US arch-rivals. But how can we be so sure? It appears premature to assume that enemies on the media aren’t cooperating behind closed doors. Does the US not benefit from the existence of a constant menace? Fanatical ideology or religion, whether it is coming from ISIS or North Korea, isn’t the concern of the great powers.
The world powers are still playing their great game, and they are doing their utmost to prevent the emergence of an autonomous Middle East (or Latin America, Central Asia, Southeast Asia) that can balance their power, out of arrogance as well as out of the desire to exploit resources and prevent any fair competition in the Middle East.
And fanaticism is working in their favor too, because it does nothing to promote national sovereignty – in fact, it is almost carrying out the neoconservative deed under the guise of a Salafi strain of Islam.
A united, moderate and tolerant Middle East would counter all of these forces – but the greatest obstacle to this includes all the puppet regimes in the Middle East which have resisted challenging Israel militarily – the crucible of Middle Eastern conflict and instability. Once the leadership in countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt is overthrown, the Arab front against imperialism can actually hold its ground.
The so-called Arab Spring was a delusional, western manufactured initiative distracting everyone from the real cause of conflict in the Middle East – Occupation.
Democracy is a concept meant for parts of the world where religious sensitivity and culture does not overwhelm the philosophical expectations of the individual. Ideologies like neoconservatism and communism all have threatened the peace and sovereignty of the Middle East. The Arab Spring was a farce attempt in this regard, as much as communism was to liberate Afghanistan, America to liberate Afghanistan afterwards, or Iraq, Libya, Yemen and so forth.
Whether political immorality is exercised by the Chinese, Russians or the Americans, does not matter – the point is that a brainwashing game is being played on the media to blur the lines between good and bad.
But all you need to do to understand who the bad guy is have a basic understanding of boundaries – and that when boundaries are crossed, war ensues.
That boundary has been, since 1948, Palestine.
Until sovereignty is respected, the brainwash will continue, and so too shall conflict.
Democracy will save nothing – unity will.
Terrorism is a tactic adopted by particular groups for a political objective. The individuals that partake in this violence often exhibit common characteristics. One of these characteristics is impoverishment (Lee 2011). In parts of the world where state capacity to serve the public is low, terrorist group participation is more likely. In other words, these individuals come from poor backgrounds. But contrarily, individuals from higher economic classes, also tend to be involved. This suggests that the middle class is least likely to join in, while the lower middle and upper class are more vulnerable (Kavanagh 2011).
On the other hand, terrorism has a different motive. In this case, terrorism is analyzed from the individual perspective, versus the structural perspective. Concepts like emotion and humiliation are considered here to be powerful motivators towards violence. The underlying belief is that, particularly in the Islamic world, a sense of humiliation drives individuals to terror. This humiliation stems from cultural factors such as shame-based traditions as much as it does from a history of subordination to outsiders such as Europe and America, through arrangements like Sykes-Picot. Humiliation can be exacerbated by internal inequalities within nation-states (Fattah & Fierke 2009). Perhaps a less romanticized perspective argues that existential factors like desire and glory motivate individuals among other factors that are political to engage in terrorism (Cottee et al 2011).
The most compelling argument seems to focus on the political orientation of terrorism through the individual lens. This is because it considers the cultural dimension of politics which drives individuals to retaliation or aggression. Social factors like poverty and authoritarianism cannot be separated from the external powers at play, and their influence historically and in today’s world on regions where terrorism is most prevalent. Equally, we cannot ignore the complicity of national governments in worsening conditions and enabling terrorism.
Cottee, Simon and Keith Hayward. 2011. “Terrorist (E)motives: The Existential Attractions of Terrorism.” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 34: 963-986
Fattah, Khaled and Fierke, K.M. 2009. “A Clash of Emotions: The Politics of Humiliation and Political Violence in The Middle East.” European Journal of International Relations 15(1): 67-93
Kavanagh, J. (2011). Selection, Availability, and Opportunity: The Conditional Effect of Poverty on Terrorist Group Participation. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 55(1), 106-132.
Lee, A. (2011). Who Becomes a Terrorist? Poverty, Education, and the Origins of Political Violence . World Politics , 203-245.
The Gulf countries, to some extent, initiated quick reforms to avoid the domino effect of the Arab Spring.
Reminiscent of the Age of Metternich in Europe, when serious efforts to revolutionize the continent were being suppressed.
Revolution often has little idea of the future, but this weakness is exploited by existing orders to maintain the “status quo”. The divisions between revolutionaries, usually ideologically, lead to fragmentation. Sometimes, revolutions become themselves suppressive, as with far left or far right ideologies in Europe, the Far East and Latin America.
Ironically, the Arab Spring affected only the nations with little economic influence in the region. If the Arab World has a list of grievances, it would be safe to assume that economic misery is atop the list, along with cultural and political factors. Involvement by foreign countries further complicates the dynamic.
How could the Arab Spring miss the Gulf countries? Why did it not sweep Lebanon? Why were the results overturned quickly in Egypt?
All of these are important questions. Many of the leaders that were overthrown in the Arab World over the last two decades, including Saddam, Gaddafi, Mubarak and Morsi deserved their fate, perhaps. But two forces plague the Middle East – robust capitalism in the Gulf and authoritarianism and sectarianism in the Levant and North Africa. This dynamic of persistent monarchism and militarized statism have together, produced disaster. But how can such polarized forces, like the two aforementioned, which are ideologically diametrically opposed, share the feature of tyranny? This forces analysis to focus on external factors.
The most crucial piece of the Arab political puzzle is the Gulf region, because economically, it preserves the economic capacity necessary for sustaining and developing the entire Middle East. Patronage and nepotism have disenfranchised the average person from the political and thus, economic processes. Religious and family bonds infiltrate policy, and result in corruption and economic misery.
The Gulf is aptly supported by America. Israel too.
Is it possible that both economic, social and political development are lagging then not only as a result of Arab tyranny, but the American involvement which secures it?
Placing the blame on external forces is an easy and common trend, particularly in the Middle East where a factual history of foreign conspiracies confirmed societal paranoias towards the US and Europe.
Both the conflicts in Iraq and Syria were US-led initiatives, really. But genuine reform in the Middle East cannot take place without reform in the crux of the puzzle – the Gulf. If violent insurgencies persist, will they eventually realize their greatest obstacle is not the enemy of the US, Assad and Iran, but rather, the enemy of the Arab World, which is the greediness which permeates the Gulf?
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.
Four years later, in 2014, with the country now under military rule, Youssef announced his show “Al-Bernameg” had become too dangerous to produce. He was repeatedly harassed by lawsuits and arrested, and he feared for his family’s safety.
On 1 January 2013, the daily Al-masry Al-youm reported that an Egyptian prosecutor was investigating Bassem Youssef on charges of maligningPresident Mohammed Morsi, whose office claimed that Youssef’s show was “circulating false news likely to disturb public peace and public security and affect the administration.”
On 30 March 2013, an arrest warrant was issued for Youssef for allegedly insulting Islam and Morsi. The move was seen by opponents as part of an effort to silence dissent against Morsi’s government.
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.