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.

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PSA: Danny K!


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Dear world: I’ve decided to rebrand as Danny K, my original title. I do this for my Creator, for my family, and for my home countries, Syria & Armenia [The Middle East at large – Falastin], for my grandfather’s legacy of ingenious, and finally, perhaps selfishly, for myself.

From now on you can follow me on all social media outlets [Twitter, Instagram & Facebook] via @dannyk1988/@dannykrikorian.

New album coming SOON.

It will be available via Spotify, TIDAL & Apple Music/iTunes – this September.

Stay tuned for more updates. Show dates TBA. Visit the store to purchase new shirts for the upcoming album & to preorder a physical copy of the album itself.

One love,

Danny K.

 

The Rebalancing of Powers: From ‘Brexit’ to Babel?


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There is a disconnect between national policy and international relations.

The decision to leave the EU by the UK, or “Brexit”, is a symbol of that disconnect.

But in order to understand the origins of this decision, it is important to highlight the UK’s tradition of reluctance and hesitation towards the EU since its inception.

By nature, the UK, like America, prefers to play a conservative role in international affairs, dabbling in just enough to get the benefit, but not enough to bear the burden.

But the armed crises in the Middle East have created a storm in UK & EU politics, with the migration crisis being the crux of the problem.

Evidently, the UK prefers to leave such matters in the hands of its European counterparts, which is ironic because the UK is America’s closest ally in Europe – both countries are directly responsible for destabilizing the Middle East in the first place, under the premise of liberalization. This is where the disconnect begins.

At least half of the UK truly feels undermined by the concentration of power, underrepresented and almost collectivized by being part of the EU.

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But is the decision to leave the EU a right-wing populist scheme exploiting frustrations of the ordinary Brit? In South America, both right and left wing populism have failed to their more centered opponents. The US is still determining its fate.

Has this decision created a more or less secure world? Is this decision likely to produce positive or negative results in the UK’s social, economic and political fabric? How will this impact the rest of Europe? What will happen to the migrants?

It is in fact the people who have decided, through referendum, to leave the EU. Despite a targeted and well-developed “leave” campaign, the decision is also inspired by  general discontent towards the EU in Britain. But the facts and rhetoric surrounding the campaign reveals “Brexit” is more about xenophobia & Islamophobia than it is about sovereignty.

The majority of those who voted to leave the EU were above the age of 40. The vast majority of those who voted against were in their 20s ad 30s.

Given that London just elected its first Muslim mayor, there is reason to believe that unfounded, prejudiced paranoias about migrants and Muslims have stoked fears and insecurities in society, just enough to feed into the allure of right-wing populism and fear.

UK MP Nigel Farage proclaimed victory, ushering the 23rd as the UK’s modern independence day. He went on to claim that such a victory was achieved without any blood spilled. But only last week, British MP Jo Cox was violently murdered by a right-wing extremist who shouted “Britain First” as he committed the murder. Has this been understated by the media? Compared to reporting on terrorism linked to one or more Muslims, it is difficult to say that the media is not biased.

Notable international relations theorist John Mearsheimer predicted the disintegration of the EU as a result of the current international political dynamic which has seen America as the world’s sole superpower since the dissolution of the USSR. That dissolution has almost removed the security incentive for unity, or balancing that brought the EU together in the first place. There appears to be a growing rift among NATO members, particularly between European states and the US on how to manage international affairs. The differences stem from foreign policy on the Middle East primarily. Is the UK’s decision to leave the EU an inching towards or away from subservience to US leadership? That depends on the direction US democracy goes. If the American people also give in to fear, Donald Trump might be the next US president. This suggests that the two of the world’s most influential powers, the UK and America, are juggling between the past and the future – traditions of colonialism, racism & global mischief – and the equally traditional struggle against those forces, political enfranchisement, and socio-economic equality.

Europe is drifting towards a center-left progressive “utopia” – something despised by the British traditional-mentality. The same could be said of the US. This is vindicated by the statistics surrounding the ‘Brexit’ vote which saw the majority of the “leave” supporters being over the age of 40.

Without delving deeply into history books, the average person might not know that much of the US’ post-WWI behavior was determined by the British, by prompting fear and insecurity about illusory global threats. In 1952, it was the British who convinced the US that movements for sovereignty in the Middle East were a threat. Initially the US had actually empathized with the struggles for independence in the Middle East. The UK convinced the US to overthrow a democratically elected leader in Iran, and the US agreed because of the paranoias injected by the UK about the so-called “communist menace”.

To some it may be surprising that racism, Islamophobia and fascism are creeping into US and UK politics. To others, perhaps more victimized by these forces, it is more dangerous than surprising. If the US decides to follow suit and elects Donald Trump, there is reason to believe that global tensions might intensify. Remember that European history is bloody. Wars between France, England, Germany were commonplace. The UK’s exit from the EU might disturb this legacy of peace and harmony in Europe which has endured since WWII. Furthermore, it might reintroduce fascism into the West – long thought gone and dead.

It isn’t hard to imagine what would happen if the US did in fact follow suit. Two blocs would eventually form in the global order – a rebalancing of powers if you will. The UK and the US would be together on one side; Russia, China & Iran on the other. India would likely play an indirect role, but ultimately throwing most of its support behind the latter bloc. The contrary would apply to the Gulf states in the Middle East, Israel and Pakistan, who would likely remain under the auspices of the UK & the US. Altogether this can be described as the modern world order. In this scenario, the EU disintegrates completely. The fault line will likely split between France & Germany – to no surprise, with much of eastern Europe balancing against the UK & the US. The war between fascism and collectivism ensues. The ideologies of capitalism and culture are at war – they are mutually exclusive. In reality, capitalism fully realized is fascist, and collectivism fully realized is communist – both authoritarian to some extent. But the latter is conditional and retaliatory. In a perfect world, neither would exist, and universal democracy could flourish without capitalism and communism. Till then, we must pick sides and lesser evils or resort to anarchism.

There is still hope for the world and America. Clinton is not our salvation – but in politics there are no angels; only lesser devils – or so it seems.

The End of Populism? Fate of the Americas


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Appeals to alleviate the suffering of the poor and disenfranchised – that is the crux of leftism. Class conflict, civil liberties but also post-colonialism and critical race theory come into play here.

The rise of Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed socialist, marked the first time in US history that a candidate with such an ideology gathered immense support. The populism resonated mainly with Americans who are critical of unfettered capitalism.

On the other hand, a different type of populism spawned – right-wing ultranationalism. Candidates like Ted Cruz and Donald Trump ring a bell. In Latin America, these two bipolar forces have been rejected after almost a century long struggle with them. In Argentina, citizens elected Mauricio Macri over his Peronist opponent, Daniel Scioli. Since Peronism embodies populist nationalism in Argentina, drawing criticism from the right and the left, a decline of populism in the country of Argentina may be evident. Perhaps it is too early to tell. But seeing that this challenge to populism has spilled over also into Brazil with the impeachment of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, which has seen a back-lash against socialism; and in Peru, where citizens rejected the right-wing populism of Keiko Fujimori in favor of her center-right opponent, there is reason to believe that anti-populist trend may be developing.

The economic crises affecting Venezuela have made left-wing populism less appealing for the rest of Central and South America. Not to mention, there are no executive term limits in Venezuela. This association between socialism and authoritarianism has made left-wing populism less appealing.

In the United States, Bernie Sanders successfully rallied the nation behind a socialist agenda, an unprecedented feat. Still such populism was all in all rejected as it becomes more and more apparent that Hillary Clinton, his more centrist Democratic opponent will take the nomination.

The triumph of centrism in the Americas has seen both leftists and rightists working to ostracize radical populism, a somewhat unsurprising continual of bureaucratic politics in the Western hemisphere; that is if Hillary Clinton defeats Donald Trump. Leftists of all persuasions, and even some on the center-right, are hoping that Trump’s extreme right-wing campaign run will come to an end. If collective consciousness in the US is echoing the conscience of the Americas, then perhaps Trump will suffer the same fate as his right-wing counterpart in Peru.

Ideologically, Hillary Clinton is more inclined towards moral positions than any GOP candidate. That does not dismiss her drawbacks – a shady past; corporate cronyism; silence on minority rights; and hawkish neoconservatism in foreign policy.

Bernie Sanders would have likely been the best option for America – but one of the greatest ailments of America is the lack of ethnic and minority representation. Bernie Sanders, nor any contender, addresses this reality. Perhaps that is why Bernie Lost. But another explanation for Bernie’s loss could be America revulsion towards left-wing populism.

What the U.S. really needs is a center-leftist candidate like President Obama. This isn’t to suggest that he is flawless. Nobody is. Furthermore, there remains much work to be done domestically and internationally. The point here is that the democratic track is morally superior to the republican track, not indefinitely, but based on practice, policy & foundation.

Should We Police the World? America & Security in the 21st Century


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Throughout history, various states have requested the assistance of the US to help suppress insurgency. Often these insurgencies are supported and funded by external powers. A prime modern example of this is the current conflict in Syria. Initially perceived as a part of the Arab Spring, the US stood with so-called “rebel forces” in their struggle to liberate Syria from the dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad. This quickly changed, with a shift in the US administration’s Syrian policy focusing more on mitigating the influence of radicalism, which seems to have overshadowed the rebel forces and the original political objective with a new, radicalized ideological objective.

Originally it was expected that radicalism was a response to the authoritarian tendencies of dictators like Assad, but once it became clear that the movement to topple the leader was actually dangerous to international security itself, the US administration became more skeptical.

However many of the US’ closest allies, like Saudi Arabia, have been arguably complicit in enabling and funding the rise of these radical groups. The American people and the international community made it clear that it was not anxious to see another US military invasion, particularly after the disasters in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. The same is true is Bahrain and Yemen.

Should the US intervene to help the state? Should the US help the insurgency? Should the US be involved?

Historically the Middle East was viewed as the backyard of Europe. For this reason, it fell under Europe’s sphere of influence. Perhaps this is precisely why Russia felt more than obligated to intervene in Syria’s conflict on the side of the regime to counter the Islamist initiative. Now it seems, the US has warmed up to this position and is even considering coordinated initiatives against Daesh, or ISIS.

The US has been heavily involved in the ME since WWII. The nature of this involvement has taken a new form, particularly during the Obama Administration.

The recent military escapades of the US in the Middle East have been consequential. Since 2003, there has been an unprecedented rise in terror in the Middle East (START). Some scholar argue that the US’ involvement in the region has only exacerbated the conflicts between state and citizen. Since the US and most major powers have often flip-flopped between supporting radical revolutionaries and their authoritarian nemeses, and considering the dire political consequences of these inconsistent policies, standing on either side of the conflict in Syria will be detrimental to both US and international security.

This is likely because the US is perceived to support authoritarian governments in the Middle East. But in other cases, like for example Iraq, the US was prepared to overthrow an authoritarian figure – whereas in Syria, the US sees greater benefit from supporting president Bashar al-Assad. In this scenario, it might actually be beneficial for the US to go after those funding groups like Daesh/ISIS, but this means going after some of the US’ closest allies, like Saudi Arabia. It is often presumed that cultures in all parts of the world are fighting for democratic rights, when in reality most of these societies are resisting violations of their sovereignty, be it democratic or not.

Perhaps then it is in some cases in the US’ interest to support states in their fight against violent insurgencies, such as in Syria, where a legacy of religious tolerance and national secularism are prevalent, while in other cases, such as Libya, it may seem more prudent to get involved because the socio-political fabric is completely underdeveloped and almost primitive.

It is unclear ultimately whether democratic principles are applicable in the Middle East. But the premise of this article is to point at US interventionism as the destabilizing and paralyzing force in the Middle East. This policy has also prompted a re-balancing of powers in Europe and China. If the US stops interfering in the sovereign affairs of other nation-states, the world will be more secure, and the conditions for even the most basic democratic principles will be more ripe than ever. It is the orientalist and post-colonial perceptions of regions like the Middle East which perpetuate US and Western imperialism in the region; resulting in political instability, a decrease in human security and stagnation in political developmental process.

The World to Come – Volume I: An International Theory of Politics


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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.

Who Partakes in Political Violence?


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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.