Archive for Islam

Why A Global Solidarity Movement For Secular Society?

Posted in International Affairs with tags , , , , , , on August 27, 2009 by Umer

By Nawal El Saadawi

Egypt , August 2009

We live in the Twenty First Century but we still live in a jungle , in a world governed globally and locally by the brutal power of the military , the police , the capitalist market and its media , and the power of religion .

We know from the past and the present that all those powers are connected , they work together and help each other to dominate and exploit the majority of men and women in every country .

The big economic military nuclear powers in the USA , Europe and Israel need religion to establish their control over the world . They need God to justify injustices and double standards .

The USA is a Jewish – Christian country , to gain the presidential elections you have to submit to the Jewish – Christian groups and flatter the church . The educational systems and media are dominated by these religious powers in society and in the state . 65 % of Americans are religious . Even people who stopped going to church they are still linked to their church politically or socially or both .

In Europe the church still dominates in many countries . In Norway for example they have Lutheranism as state religion , according to the law the King and the prime minister has to be Christian Lutheran , 50 % of the ministers have to be members of the state church , all children are forced to be taught about Lutheranism as the best most natural religion .

The violent political religious groups are not visible in Europe as in the Islamic countries , they are hidden under a false layer of secularism or democracy .

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All cultures are not equal

Posted in Communist Movement, International Affairs, Marxism with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 6, 2009 by Umer

by Kenan Malik

‘I denounce European colonialism’, wrote CLR James, ‘but I respect the learning and profound discoveries of Western civilisation.’ (1)

James was one of the great radicals of the twentieth century, an anti-imperialist, a superb historian of black struggles, a Marxist who remained one even when it was no longer fashionable to be so. But today, James’ defence of ‘Western civilisation’ would probably be dismissed as Eurocentric, even racist.

To be radical today is to display disenchantment with all that is ‘Western’ – by which most mean modernism and the ideas of the Enlightenment – in the name of ‘diversity’ and ‘difference’. The modernist project of pursuing a rational, scientific understanding of the natural and social world – a project that James unashamedly championed – is now widely regarded as a dangerous fantasy, even as oppressive.

‘Subjugation’, according to the philosopher David Goldberg, ‘defines the order of the Enlightenment: subjugation of nature by human intellect, colonial control through physical and cultural domination, and economic superiority through mastery of the laws of the market’ (2). The mastery of nature and the rational organisation of society, which were once seen as the basis of human emancipation, have now become the sources of human enslavement.

Enlightenment universalism, such critics argue, is racist because it seeks to impose Euro-American ideas of rationality and objectivity on other peoples. ‘The universalising discourses of modern Europe and the United States’, argues Edward Said, ‘assume the silence, willing or otherwise, of the non-European world.’ (3)

Not just for radicals, but for many mainstream liberals too, the road that began in the Enlightenment ends in savagery, even genocide. As the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman argues: ‘Every ingredient of the Holocaust… was normal… in the sense of being fully in keeping with everything we know about our civilisation, its guiding spirits, its priorities, its immanent vision of the world – and of the proper ways to pursue human happiness together with a perfect society.’ (4)

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Gulf excess and Pakistani slaves

Posted in International Affairs, Pakistan with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 2, 2009 by Umer

by Rafia Zakaria

“We need slaves to build monuments,” says an Iraqi engineer living in Abu Dhabi to a reporter from the Guardian. In the published report he goes to add that he would never use the metro if it wasn’t segregated since “we would never sit next to Pakistanis and Indians because of their smell”.

The dismal condition of Pakistani labourers in the Gulf States is well known and the above statements are merely reflections of the deep-seeded and overtly racist attitudes of Arabs in the Gulf and otherwise towards Pakistanis.

The same Guardian report also details how Pakistani slave labourers work up to eighteen hours a day and often live twenty to a room without any ventilation and with only a single bathroom for several hundred people. Several do not see their families for four to ten year periods, unable to afford the airfare home and many die on the job.

Without any insurance scheme families are often not notified of deaths for months and the only compensation available to them is through an underground system through which other workers donate thirty dirham each which is then collected and donated. The strictly segregated society means that the rich Arabs never come across the lowly Pakistani workers who build their roads, clean their floors and drive their cars.

But in recent years, the oil-rich barons of the Gulf have found a new use for slave labour that goes beyond cleaning bathrooms and picking trash off the streets of Dubai. A recent statement issued by Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke in Brussels revealed that the Taliban are being funded by individuals from the Gulf States. Secretary Holbrooke said: “The Taliban receive more funding from the Gulf States than they do from the narcotics trade”.

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Book Review: Islamisation of Pakistani Social Studies Textbooks

Posted in Books & Authors, International Affairs, Pakistan with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 27, 2009 by Umer

by Yoginder Sikand

Name of the Book: Islamisation of Pakistani Social Studies Textbooks

Author: Yvette Claire Roser

Publisher: Rupa & Co

Price Rs. 195

Pages: 109

ISBN: 81-291-0221-8

Reviewed by: Yoginder Sikand

Contrary to what professional historians might claim, there is really nothing as an objective, unbiased and completely accurate writing of history. After all, not everything, even of significance, of what happened in the past can possibly be included in a text, and history book writers have to pick and choose from past events that they deem fit be recorded. The very process of picking and choosing from the past is determined, among other factors, by the subjective biases of the history writer as well as his or her own social and institutional location. Then, history writing is not simply about narrating the past but also involves a certain element of evaluating it. Here, again, this is strongly determined by the personal biases and preference of the individual historian.

The element of bias is greatly exacerbated when history textbooks are—as they are in almost every country today—commissioned by the state. The state wishes to mould its citizens in a particular way, to make them what it considers as ‘good’ and ‘law-abiding’ citizens, who have completely internalized the underlying logic and ideology of the state. The state, in its capacity of representative of a country’s ruling class, seeks to impose through state-sponsored history texts the hegemonic ideas of this class upon its citizenry. It is thus not surprising that such texts generally parrot the state-centric view of history that seeks to bestow legitimacy on the state and the country’s ruling class and ‘normalise’ their logic and world-view.

This incisive critique of state-sponsored social science textbooks in Pakistan highlights the convoluted politics of historiography and what this means for the production of a ‘social commonsense’ for a state’s citizenry. Although Roser does not say it in so many words, the current turbulent political scenario in Pakistan, in particular the rise of radical Islamist forces in the country, cannot be seen as inseparable from the narrow political agenda that the Pakistani state, ever since its formation, has consistently sought to pursue as is reflected in the social science textbooks that it has commissioned, and through which it has sought to impose its own ideology on its people.

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Towards theocracy

Posted in Pakistan with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 12, 2009 by Umer

Pervez Amirali Hoodbhoy

Frontline on net

Note: This article appeared in the Frontline magazine of India. Therefore, the contents of the article and the message is addressed to the Indian audience. The article, nevertheless, is highly essential for us living in Pakistan.

Towards Theocracy: State and Society in Pakisan Today 

EMILIO MORENATTI/AP

Women in burqas and children from the Bajaur and Mohmand agency areas wait to be registered at a refugee camp near Peshawar in January. Today a full-scale war is being fought in FATA, Swat and other “wild” areas of Pakistan, with thousands dying and hundreds of thousands of displaced people streaming into cities and towns.  

FOR 20 years or more, a few of us in Pakistan have been desperately sending out SOS messages, warning of terrible times to come. Nevertheless, none anticipated how quickly and accurately our dire predictions would come true. It is a small matter that the flames of terrorism set Mumbai on fire and, more recently, destroyed Pakistan’s cricketing future. A much more important and brutal fight lies ahead as Pakistan, a nation of 175 million, struggles for its very survival. The implications for the future of South Asia are enormous.

Today a full-scale war is being fought in FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas), Swat and other “wild” areas of Pakistan, with thousands dying and hundreds of thousands of IDPs (internally displaced people) streaming into cities and towns. In February 2009, with the writ of the Pakistani state in tatters, the government gave in to the demand of the TTP (Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, the Pakistani Taliban Movement) to implement the Islamic Sharia in Malakand, a region of FATA. It also announced the suspension of a military offensive in Swat, which has been almost totally taken over by the TTP. But the respite that it brought was short-lived and started breaking down only hours later.

The fighting is now inexorably migrating towards Peshawar where, fearing the Taliban, video shop owners have shut shop, banners have been placed in bazaars declaring them closed for women, musicians are out of business, and kidnapping for ransom is the best business in town. Islamabad has already seen Lal Masjid and the Marriot bombing, and has had its police personnel repeatedly blown up by suicide bombers. Today, its barricaded streets give a picture of a city under siege. In Karachi, the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM), an ethnic but secular party well known for strong-arm tactics, has issued a call for arms to prevent the Taliban from making further inroads into the city. Lahore once appeared relatively safe and different but, after the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team, has rejoined Pakistan.

The suicide bomber and the masked abductor have crippled Pakistan’s urban life and shattered its national economy. Soldiers, policemen, factory and hospital workers, mourners at funerals, and ordinary people praying in mosques have been reduced to hideous masses of flesh and fragments of bones. The bearded ones, many operating out of madrassas, are hitting targets across the country. Although a substantial part of the Pakistani public insists upon lionising them as “standing up to the Americans”, they are neither seeking to evict a foreign occupier nor fighting for a homeland. They want nothing less than to seize power and to turn Pakistan into their version of the ideal Islamic state. In their incoherent, ill-formed vision, this would include restoring the caliphate as well as doing away with all forms of western influence and elements of modernity. The AK-47 and the Internet, of course, would stay.

But, perhaps paradoxically, in spite of the fact that the dead bodies and shattered lives are almost all Muslim ones, few Pakistanis speak out against these atrocities. Nor do they approve of military action against the cruel perpetrators, choosing to believe that they are fighting for Islam and against an imagined American occupation. Political leaders like Qazi Husain Ahmed and Imran Khan have no words of kindness for those who have suffered from Islamic extremists. Their tears are reserved for the victims of predator drones, whether innocent or otherwise. By definition, for them terrorism is an act that only Americans can commit.

Why the Denial?

 

To understand Pakistan’s collective masochism, one needs to study the drastic social and cultural transformations that have made this country so utterly different from what it was in earlier times. For three decades, deep tectonic forces have been silently tearing Pakistan away from the Indian subcontinent and driving it towards the Arabian peninsula.

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Revisiting Religious Fundamentalism

Posted in Communist Movement, Marxism with tags , , , , , on December 3, 2007 by Umer

As long as they have no real competitor for the embodiment of the aspirations of the downtrodden masses, and as long as the social effects of globalization are with us, the fundamentalists will also be part of the picture, with ups and downs naturally. (Gilbert Achcar, Eastern Couldron: Islam, Afghanistan, Palestine and Iraq in a Marxist Mirror, 2006, p. 227)

Imperialism succeeded in pushing back the Left through an expensive smear campaign against the Leftist forces trough out the world – a campaign that was not limited to mere words, but involved systematic suppression of Communist Parties. However, it could not eliminate the roots of the Left, which lie in the misery and poverty that Imperialism inflicts due to its inherent nature. Thus, in the absence of Left, it was all the more expected from the people to be attracted to any force that gives voice to their grievances, even if they do not provide a coherent program as an alternative to capitalism and Imperialism. This phenonmenon may not be the reason behind the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, for no one denies the working of Imperialism behind their birth, but it surely constitutes as a major cause in their continued existence (even without the enormous U.S. and Saudi funding that they received during the Cold War).

Hence, Imperialism is thoroughly incapable of defeating fundamentalism – fundamentalism breeds on the grounds of the New World Order. This is a job for the Left – a job that will fall naturally on their shoulders as they sincerely challenge the modern system of exploitation.

Gilbert Achcar is a very interesting author to read on the history and politics of Islamic fundamentalism. I will recommend all those who are interested in the subject to have a look at his works (Google him, there are a number of articles available online).

Here is an interested article about Achcar: Eleven Theses on the Resurgence of Islamic Fundamentalism

Left-wing sloganeering by the Right

Posted in Communist Movement, Marxism, Pakistan with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 23, 2007 by Umer

“This conflict is about class” — strange as it may sound, this quotation is neither taken from any writing of Karl Marx nor from the works of any subsequent Marxist. On the other hand, these words came from the most arduous foes of Marxists. The message of class-conflict, this time around, was highlighted by Umm Kusloom, the principal of the controversy-centered Jamia Hafsa, to Dr. Fauzia Afzal Khan, while the latter was visiting Lal Masjid to interview Ghazi Abdul Rashid at the beginning of the eventful week that concluded with the military operation. What led the former principal of Jamia Hafsa, the austere and militant teacher of Islam, to repeat good old Marx? This is not an oversight on the part of Umm Kulsoom, as the rest of the interview present at CounterPunch.org informs, but let’s look at another incident.

Few weeks ago, a writer through an eminent weekly magazine pointed towards the hypocrisy of the comments made by a religious maderassah student in the midst of the students’ convention while facing General Pervez Musharraf. The students became well-known as the video of his remarks was widely distributed on the internet. During his short speech, the seminary student primarily focused on the class inequality prevalent in the present-day Pakistani society, repeating what the leftist parties and groups have been saying for well over a century. What separated the seminary student from the Left was his proposed solution of returning back to the Islamic system. Karl Marx must be rolling around in his grave.

These fragments of events point towards something very important. To begin, the observations of Karl Marx about the economic and social structure of the society can’t be thrown away in the dustbin, as has been common in many liberal academic circles for quite a while. People, no matter what religion they follow, still associate themselves with their class. They still – to the utter disappointment of Samuel P. Huntington and his political thesis of “clash of civilizations” – tend to recognize class conflict as the primary contradiction in the modern capitalist society. At many occasions, they opt to organize on the basis of class rather than on the grounds of their religious identity. Had that not been the case, the religious preachers would not have been such a zealous enemy of the left-wing through out history; the former were becoming more or less irrelevant due to latter’s political and social program. After all, one is led to think, this word ‘class’ must have something to it. And, therefore, those who want to gain support from the people are bound to bring class-issues in their political equation. For these very reasons, the religious parties from the far-right come to take up the left-wing vocabulary.

Nevertheless, what do the religious parties and groups find more attracting in the left-wing slogans than the promises of the final abode in the heavens, with milk, honey, and, the most magnetic aspect of it, the virgins? The reasons are the same as those cited above. The evils of the capitalist system are glaringly clear to any normal person, and they are becoming more and more blatant with the passage of time. The common man can’t help but notice the vicious circle that he, along with his other fellows, has to go through in order to ensure mere survival. No ideas of eventual comfort can take his eyes away from the humiliation that defines his life.

Recognizing the sense of suffering faced by the common man, the religious parties try to rationalize it. They preach that it is divergence from “the true Islamic path” that is primarily responsible for horrible state of the current world. Satisfactory as the religious answer usually is for the innocent poor men in the absence of any alternative explanation, their movement towards Islam is not just to seek eternal solace, but is also embedded with the wish to better this world. Nevertheless, there are always others, usually from the middle class or tribal background, who usually realize religion only as an appropriate tool to reinforce familial patriarchal notions.

Magnanimous as the wish of the poor is, the right-wing alternative of the present day world capitalism is lacking in countless aspects. At the fundamental level, this analysis is not based on the material realities of the world we live, but on the notion of a priori ideal world. In other words, their solution to the worldly woes does not emerge from an understanding of this very world. How the implementation of some theocratic principles can cure the afflictions of poverty, gender oppression, and education can only be elucidated by the religious politicians through the notion of divine help. The Marxist interpretation of world capitalism as a specific stage in the historical development of mankind and its relationship with private property remain absent from the sermons of the religious men. While we can term the desires of the poor to be pious, how should the intent of the preachers be defined? Isn’t it intellectual sophistry of political and social reactionaries?

Due to the dilution of the Left – primarily because of the domination of the right-wing forces at the state level, generous foreign funding and subsequent suppression of progressive elements – religious politicians and preachers, while sensing the pulse of the people, found it convenient to take up progressive slogans. However, in the wake of a genuine pro-democracy movement, the historical gulf between the progressive and retrogressive trends is bound to reappear and reassert. The right-wing challenge to the Left can only be met through proper description of the actual material causes behind the vicious cycle in which the large majority of mankind is bound today. Once the Left returns to the scene equipped with their traditional slogans, the religious Right will not loose a moment to take up their trademark anti-communist and anti-progressive propaganda.