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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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.

Sufi in the West


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Album #2 coming this January. The legend of the eastern son continues. 📷 by Hana Maatouk. Salute to “Kustom Sounds” studio.

Stream “Rise of the Eastern Son” the full album by clicking here.

DAWUD


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Had an interesting conversation with a dear friend of mine on the issue of the debate between religion and science, atheism and theism. 

While I sought to avoid all the useless rhetoric which leads to no answers – I sought to reconcile what I believe to be two perceptions that are not all quite that different. What I have noticed as a common denominator amongst so-called atheists is a disdain more-so for the morose attributes of religion rather than the philosophy and intellectualism behind it. In reality, even in today’s modern world, religion is a tool for control, power and crime (as expressed through politics), which does nothing to improve the image of the philosophy behind theology in the first place. 

Social liberalism grew largely out of the resistance movements against monarchism, despotism, authoritarianism, and socio-economic control. Since most of these ‘tyrants’ in history were in fact justifying their actions through religious dogma, it only makes sense that individuals would be repulsed by the idea altogether. But just as there have been religiously dogmatic tyrants, there have also been irreligiously dogmatic tyrants. And in the midst of it all, we’ve even had tyrants who could not make the decision for themselves, such as Hitler, who in one angle portrays himself as a God-fearing messiah, and in other, an anti-judaic anti-christ. Stalin and Lenin worked to disenfranchise religion entirely from the socio-political scene. 

Ultimately, each individual ought to be free – atheist or not. In the end it seems to me what matters are the virtues of life that are carried in philosophy altogether. Religious fanatics will claim you cannot be good without obedience to organized religion; atheists claim you can be ABSOLUTELY moral without the help of God. Both seem quite extreme. I sympathize with the atheist however, because religious dogma is terrifying. Yet, I do believe that without God, man falls prey to hubris, which eventually leads to power-grabbing, and an obstruction of human liberty and dignity. 

Ultimately, I must say I am devoted to the Abrahamic God – and I believe all truth and beauty resonates from Him. The wonders of philosophy, morality, existentialism, and secularism as well – all of these resonate from that wonderful truth which is perfection – the Lord of the worlds. No, I do not traditionally welcome the Christian anthropomorphic version of God, and I do reject the evangelical and fundamentalistic zionist interpretation of God – seeing both of these as equally dogmatic and detrimental to individual liberty, dignity, and truth. 

I am a muslim and a jew. I believe in the message of Allah. I do so philosophically, however not ‘religiously’. I submit to God – not to one man’s devious understanding of God. 

 

References:

http://www.salon.com/2013/02/23/10_celebs_you_didnt_know_were_atheists_partner/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=socialflow

THE WORLD TO COME


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A Struggling Syrian


Just ran into some fellow syrians at the Austin airport in Texas. They work for BEATS – RHYMES – RELIEF – a nonprofit organization that fundraises and raises awareness about the ongoing tumult in Syria. Almost a million refugees have been forced to relocate, and thousands of lives have been lost. The cause of the conflict is up to debate still – to the misfortune of many Syrians, especially the innocent victims. The ideological, religious, and ethnic divide in Syria has become more clear than ever – but there is no telling if these tensions preceded the crisis – or if they merely formed out of it. Fundamentalism is rampant in today’s world, from the pews of Utah – where evangelism and mormonism are the norm – to the Wahhabi districts of Saudi Arabia. This type of fundamentalism is pouring into Syria; whether it is in resistance to the Syrian government or merely a foreign plot. This is where the tale is at this moment – who is to blame? Well, I must say, it is extremely awkward to run into Syrians nowadays because I can feel the religious undertones gripping the consciences of every one of them even in the lightest of conversations. It is a really sad epidemic – this religious dogmatic fear-mongering-inspired prejudice. This phenomenon grips the whole world though – and has since the dawn of time – evident in conservative traditions and laws. The West struggles to break free from Judaic-Christian dogmatism in search for a lighter, more loving, peaceful (liberal) version; The East struggles to break free from an equally dogmatic militant-buddhist-ascetic and authoritatively indoctrinated atheism (from China to Malaysia to Myanmar); and in the Middle East; it is a struggle against the dogmas of Wahhabism, salafism, zionism, christian zealotry, self-righteous authoritarian theocratic Islamism (versus moderate Islam). Everywhere in the world, this struggle ensues; in all levels and scales; from minor conversations over coffee between friends and neighbors to the battlefields in Kashmir; philosophy collides. When all groups collide and there is no longer room for debate – when minds are freed and hate eradicated – it’ll give us purpose to live eternally basking in the struggle to maintain philosophical truth. The struggle is equally economic as much as it is social and religious – it is all in one. I guess that makes it beautiful – despite all the ugliness we see. But then again – there is a little beauty in ugliness – is there not?