Ether – Maajid Nawaz


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I find it sad that a self-proclaimed Muslim would exhibit such a level of self-loathing.

Over the past few days, I was introduced in a rather, brusque manner, to put it mildly, via Twitter, to Maajid Nawaz, former Islamist turned secularist neoliberal – whatever the hell that means!

He tweeted at Talib Kweli, the infamous Brooklyn MC and social justice activist, critical of his perspective on Islam and radicalism.

This is my response to what I saw as a critical conversation engaging a controversial topic – radicalism in Islam.

This is where things get murky.

To put it simply, I stand against Maajid Nawaz.

Here is why:

There is far too much that Maajid ignores in his perspective. The list is perpetual.

Maajid completely neglects the complicity of the West in basically manufacturing every modern Islamic terror organization, whether directly or indirectly, through funding, indoctrination or occupation – i.e. neocolonialism.

The West has created conditions ripe for Islamism in Central Asia and the Middle East by invading countries, propping up maniacal authoritarians, and overthrowing democratically elected leaders. They’ve isolated the most tolerant, moderate forces of Islamic society. How is this, not radical in itself?

Maajid makes many mistakes by singling out radical Islam, as though it is a pandemic.

It is not.

Ironically, the real problem is the underlying ideology ‘logic’ – or lack thereof – which he is supporting.  ideology of neoconservatism – which justifies self-righteous behaviors by states. Today that state is the US.

In fact, Maajid Nawaz’ past says a lot about him. The guy was formerly part of Hizb-uh-Tahrir. Seeing as how I wrote a published piece on Kazakhstan, a Central Asia country, where HUT operates, I feel I have some authority on this issue. Nawaz is the type of erratic individual who goes back and forth between extreme intolerance – whether it was his once ‘Islamist’ intolerance of secularism – or his more recent intolerance of Islamic relativism.

I myself am a liberal secular Muslim, the son of a Syrian mother and Armenian father. My mother wears no hijab but I’ve always respected it. I find the new laws in France, though perhaps consistent with French secularism, inconsistent with Western liberalism, which gives liberals and conservatives the freedom to express themselves.

In my view, Nawaz is no liberal. He is not secular. He is a neoconservative who believes in generalizing the political culture of the prevailing global power, instead of respecting differences and sovereignty, whether political or cultural.

As mentioned before, Nawaz leaves out a lot from his arguments. He is quick to denounce ‘Hamas’ as a terror organization, but says nothing of the fact that terrorism was in fact how the state of Israel, Hamas’ main target, was fashioned into existence, via Irgun. Do you know your history, Nawaz?

That is just the beginning. Have you done your research?

Radical Islamic terrorism spiked in the 21st century. Before then, it occurred spontaneously; and before the twentieth century; it was all but inexistent.

I guess there is no correlation then between the increased presence of the West in the twentieth century onward inside the Middle East and Central Asia, the havens of Islam, and the complete shift in the trend of Islamic violence? Can you not see how foreign interventionism coupled with direct financing for terrorist groups has bred ISIS, al Qaeda, Nusra, HUT and the never-ending saga of Islamist terror groups?

How could you, a Muslim, exhibit so much pride in defending a simplistic approach to reducing terrorism? How could you feed into the Islamophobia?

How could you, a Muslim, retweet a ‘diss track’ written by an individual whose name does not even deserve to be mentioned, authored by an Islamophobic, Trump-supporting racist, who actually supports the occupation of Palestine? Not to mention, this guy who you believed to be a Wu-Tang affiliate has absolutely no affiliation?

Instead, you prefer to pander to those who prop up your ego, because you can’t admit defeat? Why? Is this the same motive that drove you to HUT in the first place?

How dare you show support for Tarek Fattah after he spouted disgusting racism at Talib Kweli; and you have the audacity to label Kweli an anti-Muslim racist? Do you know who you are talking to? This is Hip-Hop. Get it together Maajid! Remember the Jay – Nas beef? Its far long and gone. And even though Jay is my favorite emcee, I’ll have to say…

Consider this my Ether, to you.

All bullshit aside – I’d hope you would reconsider your perspective. That isn’t to diminish individualism. It is to encourage peace.

WMDs, The War on Terror & Unicorns: What Deludes Us?


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The risk posed by nuclear weapons is valid. But does this threat increase with the use of terrorism?

Terrorism is not a new phenomenon, but new technological innovations have changed the way it is conducted [Chaliand & Blin 2007]. Furthermore, terrorism is currently used to describe attacks on civilians, usually by non-state actors whereas historically it was used more to describe state-terror . This could imply that terror was more commonly practiced by states in the past. Perhaps the reason for this is the emergence of government by the people, in the form of democracy, therefore changing the relationship between civilian and state. Has democracy made civilians more vulnerable targets of warfare?

This leads to the main question being addressed – should politicians be concerned about nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists. The answer would be yes in a logical sense. American politicians are however in an odd position given that the majority of nuclear weapons in today’s world are in the hands of its allies, some of whom, like Pakistan and Israel for example, reside in the most volatile regions in the world. What would happen if this instability led to nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists?

But US policy in the regions where such a scenario is possible is arguably counterproductive in this regard. The US strategy consists of military initiatives and interventionism. For this reason, weaponry and ideology have trickled down from the US’ closest allies to fanatical groups.

Perhaps a more policy oriented approach is necessary. While President Obama has not necessarily avoided military deployment – comparatively, he has shown reluctance [Indyk et al 2012].

This approach is arguably more effective. The fear of the threat of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorism wouldn’t really exist had it not been for bad US foreign policy, but more importantly, the threat itself doesn’t exist anymore than any other threat. Tackling it should be about preventing its likelihood in the long-run. This means reconsidering policies and allies in regions like the Middle East, and South Asia [Obama 2007].

 

Chaliand, Gérard, and Arnaud Blin. The history of terrorism: from antiquity to al Qaeda. Univ of California Press, 2007.

Indyk, Martin S., Kenneth G. Lieberthal, and Michael E. O’Hanlon. “Scoring Obama’s Foreign Policy.” Foreign Affairs 91.3 (2012): 29-43.

Obama, Barack. “Renewing american leadership.” Foreign Affairs 86.4 (2007): 2-16.

What Is Terrorism?


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It has been difficult to form a concise definition of terrorism due to the emotions and political weight carried by the term. But since September 11th, 2001, the term has been used more frequently than before, both inside and outside political science, though sometimes perhaps incorrectly. Lumping tactics, attackers and fear together to define terrorism has been a disservice to the field of political science (Tilly 2004).

It is precisely this which causes bias in the literature and in society when assessing terrorism. Defining terrorism as a tactic reveals that it can and often is practiced by states and insurgents equally.

The more descriptive features, its psychological effect, organizational structure and ideological motive are not as distinct because other military tactics are arguably similar in this regard. The most distinct feature appears to be thetarget of terrorism. That civilian, or non-military (often political figures) populations are targeted, and not military units, is what makes this distinct in nature (Kydd & Walter 2006). This challenges the common perception of terrorism as a new phenomenon as well as one that is practiced only by random and scattered networks with unachievable objectives (Chaliand & Blin 2007). Furthermore, it allows analysts to place terror incidents within the contexts of international politics, instead of isolating them. More recently, the literature has focused heavily on the connection between Islamic radicalism and terrorism, but this ignores the vast instances of terrorism conducted by non-state actors as well as attacks motivated by irreligious purposes, in history and today.

States themselves against their own people or foreign civilians. Focusing on Islamic radicalism ignores the white supremacist network of terrorism, the nationalist spectrum of terrorism, and so forth. It also ignores the countless times in history that the Islamic World has suffered from the specter of terrorism. It could be argued that the US bomb on Japan in 1945 was a form of state terrorism, or that Israel’s disproportionate attack on Gaza in 2014 was a form of state terrorism. Furthermore, early attacks on Palestinians by Jewish militias were forms of terror, such as the Deir Yassin Massacre. This bias normalizes the perspective that Islam is inherently barbaric; and furthermore distracts from the more significant variables that cause violence in the Islamic world; foreign interventionism – which often manifests as state terror.

References:

Andrew Kydd and Barbara F. Walter, “The Strategies of Terrorism,” International Security, Summer 2006.

Charles Tilly. Terror, Terrorism, Terrorists. Sociological Theory, 2004. 22(1), 5-13.

Gerrard Chaliand & Arnaud Blin. The History of Terrorism: From Antiquity to al Qaeda. University of California Press. 2007.

The Arab Spring: Legit or Not?


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The question of whether or not the Arab Spring is a legitimate movement against corruption and tyranny requires addressing the following assumptions regarding the culture of the Middle East as well as the nature of democracy as a political philosophy; and the credibility of global power like the US, Europe, Russia & China in policing the world and/or crusading for democracy.

Obviously we cannot throw all uprisings in the Middle East into one category because each country is different culturally and circumstantially. The main scene of protest in the Middle East in what would be called the Arab Spring includes Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria & Bahrain. It wasn’t much before the Arab Spring when the Lebanese people orchestrated a one-million man protest in Beirut which would eventually force the Syrian government to withdraw completely.

Protests also erupted in neighboring countries of influence and significance, namely Iran & Turkey.

Some might argue the Arab spring inspired movements in Brazil, Venezuela, Cuba & Ukraine where extreme forces are already threatening to take grip — amidst uncertainty and the vulnerable state of a country during a transitional phase of government.

As I stated before each of these countries is different. The type of reforms necessary, the culture of the people, the grievances of the people. They are not all the same. What was common among all participants of the Arab Spring was a sense of discontent with the social, political and economic conditions of the Arab people. But what exactly is the cause of the misery of the Arab people? Is it the tyranny of their own governments, or the tyranny of global powers?

Take a look at Syria for example, where the government has been ruled by a close-knit group of Assad-sympathizers. 75% of the Syrian population is Sunni, which has remained largely unrepresented in the political and economic aspects of Syrian life. The Alawites, a minority religious sect of Shiite Islam, have been largely in control of the political process in Syria, operating from the stronghold of Damascus. Despite disparaties between the elite rich and the impoverished lower classes, largely Sunni, the majority of Syrians were content with their state of affairs. The irony is that it was the Alawites who were disenfranchised from Syrian society before the coup which ushered in the presidency of Hafez al-Assad in 1970. The Alawites were regarded as heretics and second class citizens. It was Assad’s rise to prominence which elevated their social status, seen by many Syrians as their way of avenging their history of oppression. The Correction Movement, initiated by the Assad government, aimed to socialize the Syrian economy and redistribute wealth more fairly so as to guarantee universal prosperity. The outcome? While major advancements were made on a national level in terms of infrastructure and self-sustenance, the economy was largely controlled by the Assad government. How was this different from the Sultan-esque elitist economic model that ruled Syria prior to Assad’s Corrective Movement? Similar efforts were attempted in the realm of Socialism in Egypt and Libya for example, by Gamal Abd Nasser & Muammar al-Gaddafi, respectively. All three of this historic figures were regarded as threats to global hegemonies and the tradition of capitalism which had been the foundation of the international political system for centuries. None of their socialist policies brought openness and prosperity to the economy except for those in power, essentially just fortifying the system of stagnation in place before.

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Assumption: democracy is the universal road to justice; democracy is compatible with Arab & Muslim society; democracy is a guaranteer of social equality; that the global police actually exhibit democracy.

Has there ever been a democracy? Is the US a real democracy? The French Revolution was hijacked too. Instead of ushering in what was supposed to be individual rights we went from tyranny of the pride to tyranny of the revenge. The American Revolution ushered in the first real modern attempt at democracy to ensure the rights of individuals socially, economically and politically. But how could the US be a democracy if it for 200 years deprived all African-Americans of basic, necessary human rights? Today immigrants, gays, muslims, arabs, atheists, jews and still African-Americans, are the subject of unequal treatment.

Even in the far east, in Russia for example, the public attempt to collective reform Russian society was another revolution hijacked by yet another pseudo-science: Communism. Communism merely strengthened the hold of elitism by placing control in the hands of a political party and cult of personality versus a family or royal name as had been before.

Thanks to movements by honorable leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. the US has made great strides towards a more democratic society; however the 21st century has revealed that 200 years of human rights abuses have consequences that are still to be seen. I am referring to the corruption of the justice and prison systems as well as police brutality and disparaging inequalities in income. The 21st century also ushered in the Arab Spring. In the case of Tunisia, I would say the movement succeeded. In the case of Egypt, Libya & Syria, it is not the same. Syria has become the battleground for the war against fundamentalism as well as a proxy war against Israeli expansionism. The rise of Islamic fundamentalism as well as failure on the international community to realize the human rights of the Arab World, most importantly Palestine, contributed to the hijacking of what was supposed to be an Arab Spring towards democracy.

But who is to blame? Assad of Syria? Sisi of Egypt? Gaddafi of Libya? The US? The West? Russia & China? Religious fanaticism? Israeli expansionism? Colonialism?

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I am sure all of these forces contributed. But as stated before each country is different. In Syria, the people are not as upset with their government as they are with the international community’s silence of the crimes of colonial entities such as Israel. Perhaps this is why Assad has yet to dissolve his government; perhaps his claim that the Syrian people remain united has some validity. It is true, that neither Syria, Libya nor Egypt have progressed towards democracy economically, politically or socially…but to place the blame entirely on Arab leaders is misguided. Furthermore, it is a way of stereotyping…typecasting all Arab national grievances as similar in motive. The West was keen on insisting that Assad leave early on in the conflict. The tone has changed.

Perhaps the Arab Spring did not die. Perhaps the Arab Spring is still alive; but, despite what the media might suggest; that the revolution has in fact another target — not our own Arab leaders — but the dismantling of the expansionist, colonialist apartheid regime of Israel, which has occupied Palestine and destabilized the Middle East for a half-century now, spurring the rise of terrorism and instability in the region.

As pro-Western Arab allies like the King of Jordan and the new Saudi King Salman scurry to improve their reputations; other Arab nations are more keen are continuing the initiative that was begun by the earliest of Arab independence movements that unfolded in the mid-twentieth century against the colonial powers of France and the UK.

Democracy is certainly the end goal of all nations. But the irony which surrounded America’s non democratic history forces us to realize the possibility (and likely reality) that the Arabs are victims of non-democratic tyranny, largely supported and facilitated by Western governments, in the interests of none other than the apartheid regime of Israel, the supposed only ‘democracy in the Middle East’. How can an apartheid government, a theocracy, serve as a role model for democracy? How can a country which tortures men women and children, razes homes, propagates religious extremism and exclusivity, encourages conformity, suppress individuality and human rights, be considered a beacon of democracy?

The real Arab Spring is a continuation of the more genuine revolutionary initiative of the earlier Arab independence movements of the twentieth century. We cannot allow our dignity and revolutionary spirit to be easily hijacked by extremists and elitists. Let us remember who the occupying and oppressive power really is, and the techniques of mainstream media outlets in distorting reality and history.

The miserable conditions of Arab States cannot be addressed or solved until the cause is exposed and removed. Let us not compromise our dignity, loyalty, community and humility for the sake of the instant gratification of temporary and illusory solutions.

Paranoid Androids


The existence of #Hamas and other militant organizations with a more radical message does not legitimize the existence nor the expansion of the state of Israel, partly because it is precisely due to the existence of this unnatural ‘zionist’ nation-state that has caused groups like this to prop up again and again and gain popularity among the impoverished, deprived and uneducated peoples of the Middle East. Israel has created an environment that breeds hatred, terrorism and extremism, yet blames the arab people. Furthermore, I would like to point out that no ‘extremist’ Islamist organization represents Islam or the Middle Eastern culture – they are hired agents of the West. If that is too hard to believe – if you dismiss that as some sort of conspiracy theory – then perhaps that implies that the political science degree awarded to me from a U.S. public university which provided the textbooks that taught me these historical realities is just part of this one big giant conspiracy theory too. There is political reality and then there are crazed conspiracy theorists…big difference. It seems to me like the biggest conspiracy theorists are zionists themselves – diseased with a constant paranoia that they are being undermined; thereby needing to create their own state and constantly justify security measures that undermine the liberties of other nations. 

Ukraine, McCain and the Game


Ukraine, McCain and the Game