A Legacy of Liberalism in the Middle East – Between the Orient and the Occident


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Islamic liberalism is not a myth, but to assume that it seeks to mimic the West, ignores that the West itself has shortcomings in the realm of authentic liberalism.

It becomes difficult to gauge really what is the so-called problem ailing the Middle East, when one does so from a perspective shaped by Occidentalism – which has academics arguing that individual rights were born in the West.

The premise is based on the birth of individualism in the 12th century on to the 18th century. This period saw an emergence of anti-elitism.

But development and modernization, which swept the West, but drastically missed the rest of the world, to varying degrees.

But the West’s vast advantage in development is not because of its individualism. Instead it is because the West is more inclined toward a culture of subjugation and exploitation – instead of enriching itself and others. As a result, it has developed faster, often building upon the miseries of others, illegally.

Furthermore, the Middle East’s struggle with foreign intervention, or colonialism, or imperialism, or neoconservatism, or whatever you want to call it these days since words these days lose meaning, has even worsened and confused our understanding of religion.

People forget really what the Prophet Muhammad’s initial message was about. This gets confused with sensitivity and motive. In my case, the pursuit of truth is my motive, whether that upsets me or not. But my faith is strong, in Allah, and so I do not fall to doubt.

Islam, is a culture. But the culture itself has become domineering. We can blame Muslims, but that ignores history. The Middle East suffers most from this. It is underdeveloped but most importantly, it is ravaged by instability and violence.

The Middle East is vibrant. It is the home of many religions, stories and nationalities.

While Islam is a rich part of that history, it is not the only part.

More importantly, religion should be neither compulsive nor imposing.

If the Middle East embraced Abrahamic monotheism more closely, it would find that judging others is unholy. In fact, to judge is to assume the role of God – the exact sin of the devil. We forget Iblis sought to play the role of God’s spokesperson?

Dogma has engulfed the Middle East. Individualism has been made scarce. That is because religious sensitivity, political instability and envy have together, created a scenario of perpetual unrest, casting a shadow over individuals of excellence in the Middle East, and instead, bringing into the limelight, the radicals, fools and those who slander the region’s reputation.

If Western countries were not nitpicking at the Middle East’s every corner, there would be an opportunity for modernization, no matter how different. Instead, the Middle East was infiltrated by misleading pursuits of glorification.

The West juggled fascism and communism, and injected them into every corner of the world.

How then can the West be the harbinger – the origin – of liberalism?

Do you think African-Americans, or Native-Americans believe that narrative?

How about Muslim-Americans?

The world is struggling between cultures.

And the so-called “rational world” which is in reality merely a civilization built on voluntary exploitation. The spirit of domination fuels the Western cultural and political machine. This has given it the courage to exploit. It injected communism into China. It injected fascism into Europe and South America. In the Middle East, it has played into the hands of fascism.

The Middle East is home to Islam but it is also home to religions like Christianity, Judaism, or the more taboo Zoroastrianism, Yazidism, Shiism and so on. These diversities have been eclipsed by imperialism, democratic imposition and radicalization. To battle clerical radicalism, historically states in the Middle East equipped robust security apparatuses. The grievances of the Middle Eastern people include many, but the promise of democratic institutionalism is not their guaranteer of salvation. Democracy is just pretty fascism. The woes of the Middle East are economic, social, and political.

Our rich history, and our eternal future, cannot be cultivated, or secured by social systems designed by ideology and not spirituality infused. The two must respect one another, both science and religion.

Order, merit, stability, institution, and bureaucracy, are not dependent on democracy and are in fact almost threatened by the potential of democracy to lead to mob-rule. Insert Donald Trump or Adolf Hitler quote here.

Ultimately, a careful semblance of absolute rule and popular sovereignty is the best possible system we can design [parliamentarian monarch in the west; shah/majlis in the East]. Anything else almost guarantees the prevalence of dogma and tyranny. The West has arrived at fascist neoconservatism through democratic mob-rule. It has divided and exploited the Middle East, and thus we have an environment absent of liberty, peace and stability.

This is not a case against democracy, but rather, a containment of Western imperial overreach.

The greatest purveyor of social justice, which includes, autonomy, sovereignty, private property, tolerance and personal freedom, has historically not been democratic in the Middle East, but unfortunately more authoritarian, given the dynamic created by foreign powers. Even if the Middle East were the world’s greatest power, it would likely not choose democracy because political representation is not a cultural priority in the Middle East or the Islamic/Arab World. The priorities include family values, religious devotion and national loyalty. Personal ambitions are considered but not wholly.

Only through this recognition can the Middle East be free of subjugation and calamity.

May there one day be peace in the Middle East. Only then will such hope be no longer a fleeting prayer but rather a perpetual reality.

To the world to come.

Let it be known though that I am a Muslim, socially liberal and devout – though I do believe in authority and order – and that both irreligion [libertine] and radicalism [conservative] are two sides of the same coin, sort of like communism and capitalism. The eradication of both, is a triumph for Muslims everywhere, of all orientations.

 

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The Terrorist [Artwork]


The Terrorist

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:

Who is responsible for Istanbul attack?


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On June 28th, a group of suicide bombers conducted an attack on Turkey’s Istanbul Ataturk Airport, killing 41 people and injuring 239. As the world mourns the tragedy, investigators seek to bring justice to the perpetrators. But who is responsible? And Why?

Is it Daesh (ISIS)?

Is it PKK?

These are both valid suggestions, based on the history of violence among both groups.

Based on the PKK’s terrorism tactic, the attack in Istanbul does not necessarily fit their profile. According to news sources, though unconfirmed, the PKK usually target Turkish nationals. The conflict between the PKK and the Turkish government surrounds the Kurdish question of identity and statehood in the Middle East. The Kurds have been without an autonomous country and do not enjoy equal rights in Turkey. Iraqi Kurdistan is the only region where Kurds enjoy a degree of nationalism but it is far from being a nation-state.

Why would Daesh or ISIS commit the attacks?

Turkey has been supporting the armed insurgency against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad since its inception. The majority of Daesh or ISIS fighters are not Syrian but foreign nationals, from Turkey, the Arabian peninsula, North Africa and Central Asia, which raises the question as to whether this a so-called civil war between state and opposition or an international conflict between states. Is Syria a proxy conflict waged between global powers? Is this the continuation of the so-called “Great Game”?

If Turkey has stood against the Syrian government, thereby granting ISIS leverage directly or indirectly, then why would such an attack take place?

Since the emergence of ISIS, and the corresponding terrorist attacks globally which have victimized France, America and Turkey to name just a few, the political dynamic of the Syrian conflict has shifted. The ouster of Assad, like that of Mubarak, Morsi, Ben Ali, Abdullah Saleh, Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi, was originally argued as the procurement of stability and justice in the Middle East. The outcomes have proven otherwise. The tyrannical leadership of these autocrats is undoubtable, but is there another force enabling this instability to begin with?

As a result of ISIS’ apparent indiscriminate violence, fundamentalism and fickleness, Turkey has, like the US, altered its position internationally. Just last week, Turkey announced reconciliation efforts with its historical arch-rivals, Israel and Russia. Russia has arguably maintained the Syrian government since its intervention.

Could this rapprochement have provoked backlash from ISIS against Turkey? Were these two gestures of international rapprochements with ISIS’ nemeses, Israel & Russia viewed as a form of betrayal by the terror group?

As investigations continue, emerging facts will likely give this blurry picture some lucidity.

But a shifting world order is evidentially not as far off as one might have expected, particularly after England’s vote to leave the EU.

As the migrant crisis continues, and Middle Eastern instability intensifies, one might ask why foreign powers have prioritized their ambitions over practical politics.

One cannot speak of justice in the Middle East while neglecting the bedrock of human security – sovereignty.

Until this is realized, fanaticism and instability will continue to overshadow justice in the Middle East.

 

 

Still Under Occupation: The Middle East & the Struggle for Dignity


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Time and time again, we hear about the causes of injustice and instability in the Middle East.

There are about four main causes offered from analyses on this region. Each of them point to internal factors, though somehow quite different from one another.

But none of them recognize the possibility that instability is not a domestic ailment.

How could democratic institutionalism evade the Middle East for so long?

Here too, an anthology of theories has been written.

Getting into all the explanations would require too much attention, a luxury that modern high speed internet cannot afford to its consumers.

The main argument echoed in the halls of western political debate rooms blames ruthless dictators and Islamic crazies.

A list of more intricate explanations exist too.

None of them point to external factors.

But none of them can truly explain the distinctive features of the Middle East that make it lag significantly behind other regions in terms of democratic reform and political stability, like for example Latin America, where similar conditions exist: colonial history & resource abundance.

Why has America, and before it Europe, exercised endless security initiatives in the Middle East since the end of World War II? The US and Israel remain the only two occupying forces in the Middle East.

Research supports the logic that suicide terrorism is linked to foreign occupation.

US interventionism is not beneficial to the US nor to the international community. Violations of sovereignty are the primary cause of global instability. Whether or not democracy should evolve in a particular country is a domestic issue. Furthermore, cultural values must be considered to determine whether democratic political institutions can endure. Albeit, by injecting itself in the affairs of other countries, a US foreign policy of interventionism incites radicalism, paralyzes political development, and violates universal principles of self-determination and sovereignty. It was a the democratically elected leader of Iran, President Mossadegh, who was ousted in a CIA-led coup d’etat, which produced the mess that is radicalism and sectarianism today in the Middle East. World powers have played a hypocritical role in the region, loaning aid to authoritarian dictatorships and Islamic radicals simultaneously (Saddam & al Qaeda, for example), pinning two counterintuitive initiatives against one another – neocolonialism in plain-sight.

If democracy is in fact possible in the Middle East, its chances of seeing the light of day are being dimmed by the political hubris of world powers, namely the US.

 

Reading the Trump Card


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Donald Trump has amassed quite the voter base.

This doesn’t come as a surprise to those of us who understand the historical roots of racism in America.

For those who are in denial about it, it appears more difficult to grasp.

Let us remember that today, minorities suffer the worst economic hardships in America.

Public services are more than limited; and representation in politics is scarce.

Even then, the American people have resisted drastic political changes that might address our domestic inequalities. Furthermore, Americans are blindly obedient to media-disbursed narratives about our national security, which also ignore the complicity of America’s past century of foreign policy decisions that have made us the target of terrorists and provoked the rise of radicalism to begin with.

Donald Trump is exploiting the cultural paranoias afflicting the ordinary white man in America today who is too disillusioned with America’s apparent stagnation.

But the struggles of the white man are incomparable to those endured by the disenfranchised communities of minorities.

Progressivism itself has taken a halt due to the resilience of right-wing nationalism, which has crept into the left-wing too, via the likes of Hillary Clinton and that camp of centrist democrats.

But as previously mentioned this comes as no surprise.

The cultural revolution and awakening in America must address the grievances of immigrants and minorities as it does those of the average white American in order for change to be possible.

Bernie Sanders was unable to rally much of the minority communities, though his run remains impressive. His unconventional policies are ideal, but far from complete.

He hasn’t fully conceded yet, but the likely battle will be fought between Trump and Clinton.

Regardless, Clinton is better for the world than Trump, but she is worse than Bernie.

Our choices are not diverse; and our powers are limited.

Change must happen; but depending on political outcomes; it might get ugly before it gets pretty.

Evaluating the ‘Party of God’: Hezbollah, Conflict & Justice


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To determine Hezbollah’s overall success, the rather limited literature on the subject focuses on the organizations political achievements as well as their military achievements in the region (Norton 2007).

This is primarily because Hezbollah functions both as a political party in the Lebanese government, as well as an armed militia, a status that has not only complicated its position in Lebanese society, but has likely ostracized them from full representation in Lebanese politics (Norton 2007). Nevertheless, Hezbollah has utilized both tactics, political participation and competitiveness, as well as militaristic strategies, which have historically included terrorist attacks, particularly against Israeli society.

The premise for much of Hezbollah’s motives rests on political disenfranchisement, which they see as an extension of Western imperialism as well as a violation of popular consent (Norton 2007). Sectarianism, in this perspective, is a product of foreign interventionism. But over the years, Hezbollah has shifted from utilizing violent tactics, to political mobilization, particularly since the 80s, but especially in the last decade. This is a result of the aftermath of the civil war, which finally gave Hezbollah seats in parliament (Zein & Abusalem 2016).

Hezbollah has positioned itself as an authentic political force in Lebanese society, fighting against foreign aggression. For this reason, in times of conflict such as the war with Israel in 2006, disproportionate reprisals by Israeli governments enabled Hezbollah to not only garner support from the Shia community, but also from Palestinians, pro-Syrians and Christian-Lebanese (Kattan 2006). It has managed to increase its influence, despite its limited integration into Lebanese society. An established economic and public sector as well as a sophisticated media presence is a sign of the organization’s successes overtime in achieving its objectives (Zein & Abusalem 2016). The organization’s primary objectives are political in orientation, emphasizing the need for sovereignty, social justice and representation, which contrasts other groups like al Qaeda, whose motives are more ideological, and religiously driven (Zein & Abusalem 2016). Hezbollah’s leader has suggested himself that an Islamic Lebanon is likely impossible due to popular consent, which is against this (Norton 2007).

Hezbollah’s emphasis on unity and solidarity with all Lebanese challenges the conventional grouping, usually by western scholars, of this organization with other terrorist organizations (Norton 2007). The political dynamics of Lebanon complicate the matter, making it difficult to discern Hezbollah as a state or non-state actor. The complications surrounding the definition of terrorism also does not make it easy to analyze these groups and their successes (Sirriyeh 2012). Furthermore, its activity in electoral politics distinguishes it from terror groups that reject all pluralistic, un-Islamic forms of government, such as Fatah-al-Islam, al Qaeda & Daesh.

From a political angle, the literature reveals that Hezbollah has made steady gains, though it faces a steep, upward climb. This is due both to its military, social and electoral initiatives. In 1983, Hezbollah’s “alleged” attack against a US marine barracks, prompting an immediate US withdrawal from Lebanon (Sirriyeh 2012). Till today, Hezbollah denies involvement in the attack that killed Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hairiri. Nonetheless, a history of involvement in terror attacks & hostage crises has tarnished the organization’s image and credibility as a viable political party. This however has not halted its increased integration into the Lebanese political atmosphere. Its resilience against Israeli forces in 2006 as well as its continued activity in the Lebanese government are reasons to believe that, while controversial, its determination and diligence has proved to be politically rewarding. While proportional representation, sovereignty and the cause of the Palestinians are three objectives, which are far from achieved, Hezbollah’s political position over the past few decades has undoubtedly improved (Norton 2007).

Since the 80s, Hezbollah has distanced itself from suicide attacks and international bombing campaigns, which underscores its focus on national politics and its armed conflict with Israel. Perhaps it might be argued that Hezbollah’s deeper integration into Lebanese politics has reduced the incentive for terrorism, particularly within Lebanon. Now more than ever, the focus seems to be on reducing foreign influence and occupation. In this regard, they have proven to be successful, by defending Lebanon against Israeli forces in 2006 (Erlanger et al 2006). It is still to early to deem their overall objectives successful, but they surely have improved their position ultimately in the Middle East.

Hezbollah would not be a militant organization and Lebanon would not be politically sectarian or unstable if the conditions of the Middle East was sovereign.

Let us say that Hezbollah is in fact guilty of terrorism. Still, it cannot be compared to other groups like al Qaeda because it is nationalist in ideology, and respects Lebanese pluralism and diversity. If the West was not directly involved in the political structure of Lebanese society, by engraining a system of confessionalism along sectarian lines and disenfranchising a majority of Lebanese society, there would be no incentive for instability or radicalism. Sovereignty and pluralism are necessary – but neither is possible with foreign meddling. Foreign nations cannot dictate the sovereign and domestic affairs of another country. Political development and social justice are impossible therein.

 

El Zein, H, & Abusalem, A. 2016. “Mobilization in Hezbollah’s Military Arm Media Discourse: Creating and maintaining a Public Sphere in Lebanon.” Professional Communication & Transition Studies. 997-104.

Erlanger, S., & Oppel, R. 2006. “A Disciplined Hezbollah Surprises Israel with its Training, Tactics and Weapons”. The New York Times.

Kattan, V. 2006. “Israel, Hezbollah and the Conflict in Lebanon: An Act of Aggression or Self-Defense?” Human Rights Brief.

Norton, Augustus Richard. 2007. “The Role of Hezbollah in Lebanese Domestic Politics.” The International Spectator. 42. 475-491.

Sirriyeh, H. (2012). The US, Hezbollah and the Idea of Sub-state Terrorism. Israel Affairs. 18. 652-662.

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.