Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Solidarity of Civilizations

The above photographs from left to right are of protests in Bhopal, Beirut, and Tehran.

It is easy to paint a picture of Muslims as a monolith, infact Muslims have a variety of civilizations and cultures.

Islam does not exist in a vacuum; it thrives within a wide array of cultures - each giving a unique flavor to how we Muslims experience our religion. However, as a faith, Islam leads to a way that transcends narrow boundaries of nationalism, tribalism, and stateism.

Millions of Muslims have by now demonstrated across Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, and even in Venezuela. It is difficult for us to unite on much - but we have come together around our beloved Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) what better cause could there be for this expression of solidarity? Alhamdulillah! May Allah guide us through these times, and may the hearts of momineen grow closer in love towards each other, and towards Allah. A lot of work lies ahead of us, and we will need much hikmah (wisdom).

Imams, sheikhs, leaders, intellectuals, academics, and even petty bloggers like myself, have a responsibility to express beauty, hope, and an optimistic view for our collective future. There is a hadith of Imam Ali(AS) that a real religious scholar is one who does not make the people lose hope in Allah. I find way too many articles, blogs, and grand statements that seem to, instead, be fanning the flames of despair.

It is easy to fall into a pessimist dichotomic trap that views the world as clashes of "civilized" and/or "uncivilized." Such views do a grave disservice, and accomplish nothing towards reaching a space for compassion and justice. On the one hand they give credence to orientalist notions that do not recognize the multiplicity of cultures and civilizations. And, on the other hand, they are expressions of age-old classist and colonial notions of "uncivilized" primitive masses (natives) going on a rampage. Both are false notions, and only serve to harden hearts.

These notions are now being given wide display on the media, and even some Muslims appear to have fallen for these ideological fallacies.

The mainstream corporate media coverage and depictions are never "objective," they reflect ideologies of the owners, along with economic and state interests. Stories, and images are selected and spun to reflect editorial slants. This is why "peaceful" anti-war protests, even if they number in the hundreds of thousands barely get any coverage, but if a handful of protesters break a few windows of Starbucks - that will result in a media outcry - painting peace and justice activists as hooligans and vandals. For those who would like to learn more, consider (re)reading Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky's Manufacturing Consent. Another good resource that does a decent job of dissecting media bias is Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR).

Some Muslims have blamed Muslims for not being more media savvy. But the reality is that there is no such as being "media savvy" - you cannot cater to a media that has such an extensive history of covering up the truth. What Muslims should understand is that, attempting to view the world through the lens of the corporate media can only lead to Muslims becoming manipulated. Most who live outside of North America and Europe already know this very well, and have developed a very keen ability for reading between the lines. Unfortunately, some Muslims in North America assume that images created and selected to provoke specific emotions are "objective" and really do reflect what is going on. They do not - they are designed to cover up, and selectively focus on that which sends a message that protesting Muslims are crazed fanatics.

Some commentators have raised the objection that the controversy was inflamed because the rest of the world found out about the cartoons because of the efforts of one Dutch Imam. First, this incident should not be looked at in isolation - there has been a serious growing anti-Muslim/Islam sentiment in Europe (and in North America). The Danish Queen, less than a year ago stated:

We have to show our opposition to Islam and we have to, at times, run the risk of having unflattering labels placed on us because there are some things for which we should display no tolerance.

The French Interior Minister, during the heat of the "riots" last year called French youth of North African backgrounds, "vermin" and "scum." Add to this the horrendous occupations of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Palestine, and puppet regimes that do the imperial bidding - and we should begin to understand the context of these "cartoons."

If there is a misunderstanding, it is easy to resolve those issues through private dialogue. But when the situation is abusive, the abused has the right to publicize what is going on. This is elementary domestic abuse 101 - and the dynamics are the same whether it is at the micro family level, or macro societical level. An abusive relationship can never be resolved quietly - you cannot resolve things by sitting down with an abuser. The abuser thrives on secrecy and keeping things quiet --- only when the abused goes public - that the abuser is forced into a position where they might not stop, but it sure puts 'em on notice.

This is why we broadcast issues of concern worldwide, including corporate exploitation, war crimes, torture etc. Such a situation requires making it very clear on a worldwide scale - that we are not be going to take it anymore.

The worldwide mass demonstrations, and outrage have indeed succeeded in raising the issues to an international level - this calls for a celebration - not despair and talks about "spinning out of control" - out of whose control, is a question that needs to also be asked.

Regarding the role American Muslims and "leaders" ... if they want to have any credibility, then they need to stop going to iftar dinners with Bush and Co. chumming up to the State Departments, and obligingly coming up with lop sided condemnation statements that ignores the horrid havoc being wrecked by Mr. Danger and Co. Such actions reflect on American Muslims as a whole, and totally destroy any influence on events that we might hope to have. Instead, we need to take a serious active role in anti-war and anti-imperialist struggles both here, and elsewhere in the South. Undoubtedly, this will lead to difficult situations for our children, families, and at the airport. But, so what - inaction at this time will lead to far worse consequences - as someone said Silence = Death.

Farid Esack has noted:

Muslims in the West struggling to articulate and actualize progressive values in our communities need to be keenly aware of our own location vis-à-vis the global Muslim community. We are but one small segment, albeit a highly privileged one, of the world’s Muslim population. We must not replicate the habits of an Empire that arrogates to itself the right to re-write Islamic education of Muslim countries, stage-manage their elections, and formulate their laws and economic policy without ever interrogating the appetite and greed of the monster whose appeasement determines our survival or destruction.

Muslim activists concerned about social justice should be totally optimistic about these events, - they have shown that Muslims can indeed galvanize at an international level. We should now work towards harnessing this beautiful energy towards both ending imperial occupations, and creatively working towards implementing solutions that will, in all likelihood, not be the farcecracy, and useless neo-liberal-capitalism of the United States. There are millions in the "west" who recognize and appreciate our struggles - we can and should make common cause with them. There is no need to make common cause with those who refuse to make any effort towards understanding our sentiments, nor with Uncle Toms who want to appease oppressors. We have already laid the foundation for a solidarity of civilizations, lets now expand the circle:
Surely, they that believe, and the Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabaeans, whoso believes in Allah, and Last Day, and works righteousness (waAAamila salihan) ---- their wage awaits them with their Lord, and no fear shall be on them, neither shall they sorrow. (Qur'an 2:62)

Another article worth reading is by Rami G. Khouri

It is too simplistic and easy to categorize this as a clash of civilizations, a very Western perspective that explains political tensions primarily through the lens of cultural and values differences. Nor is this an argument about freedom of the press in Europe, much as our European friends would like to believe it is. It is about Arab-Islamic societies’ desire to enjoy freedom from Western and Israeli subjugation, diplomatic double standards and neocolonial policies.

This is a new form of the colonial struggle that defined European-Arab/Asian relations in the 19th century. The difference this time is that the natives in the south are not helpless and quiescent in the face of the West’s large guns. They disdain rhetoric or insulting cartoons.

Muslims, Arabs, Asians and others today are much more aware of the policies of Western states, concerned about their goals, angry about Western double standards, able to resist through the use of mass media, political and other channels. They are willing to stand up, fight back and assert their right to live in freedom and dignity. The message is that the 19th century has officially ended.

6 comment(s):

  • only the hearts of the dead cannot be moved.
    only the minds of the dead cannot be changed.

    no further illumination can come from a vision
    once light leaves those eyes.

    the inhuman machinery
    and common human treachery
    that feed on hope of immortality
    rest easy long night certain
    that dead bodies burn
    brighter, brighter,

    very much blinding the travelers
    to the many single paths
    the very difficult paths
    of independent thought
    and true need

    you bring me money
    and i am not poor
    you bring me food
    and hunger is gone
    water quenches thirst
    but the peace you bring
    is never satisfying

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2/12/2006 10:19:00 PM  

  • Independent thought? There is no such thing as that - all thought is contextualized, and very much dependent on your conditioning.

    There is, however, something deeper more profound, and universal than mere "independent thought." Try to find that within yourself - then, the peace you find may indeed be satisfying for a moment or two, inshallah!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2/12/2006 10:49:00 PM  

  • you spun a poem

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2/13/2006 08:21:00 AM  

  • hello Salaam friends,
    this is surely a touchy & emotional issue,
    but I think you're missing the point.

    The point is not Danish free speech, nor is it politics in East vs. West, North vs. South, European vs. Muslim culture.

    The real issue is this:

    Muslims & Islamic people do NOT have to adopt western ways...
    nor do you have to pander to Bu$h or Britain or the Danes.

    there is ONE thing you have to do in all honesty::

    You must stop allowing your authoritarian leaders
    from pushing you around
    as well as pushing the emotional buttons
    of Muslims who then committ violence
    just because your leader whipped them into an emotional frenzy.

    In the case of the cartoons, how many Muslims burned & killed & otherwise did the violence that their authoritarian leaders pushed them into?

    Or do you believe that political newspapers require violence instead of simply responding in kind, such as your own rebuttals & cartoons to answer the Danish cartoons??

    Why violent frenzy & why the authoritarian dominance?
    There a tons of examples in recent decades of Christian & Jewish leaders & religion getting blasted in cartoons...
    but we don't go & threaten to kill because of it...and indeed, we don't kill & burn & go on rampages over it...

    we respond by making dialogue & debate & telling our opinion, that's how free speech is supposed to work... not by authoritarian control over response.

    Sure, here in the US we have our own problems
    with Bu$hCo's dominance...

    but we have the freedom & ability to STAND up to him & complain thru media, thru the web,
    through protests.... rather than burning & killing people...

    Those who use Orwellian, old-school authoritarian control seem to rule throughout the Muslim world & whip up violence anytime they say
    "do this or do that because I'm telling you that it's your only honorable response as a good follower of Islam".

    That's the same manipulation game...

    if Bu$h said every Christian or Jew had to vote for him because that's their "proper way to be a follower of authority & religion" we would not only LAUGH,
    but he'd be blasted in our media...
    EVEN in our corporate dominated media!

    My point is that ALL cultures have their issues...
    in America,
    we are fighting corporations & big businesses
    that dictate
    which politicians have the most money & power in cheating the rules,
    and these same guys control our mainstream media,
    but even so,
    there is argument & dissent to at least SOME degree.

    Yet in Muslim nations, there seems to be NO dissent once the Imam or authority tells you what to do.


    Just as westerners complain, as much as possible about our leaders,
    why can't Muslims reject their leaders
    when being bossed around by them??

    THAT is the issue here...

    but instead, everyone is trying to focus on free speech vs. this or that culture.


    Violence & intolerance is wrong...

    if you have to protest, why let the Imam or president or local leaders push your culture into THEIR authoritarian, hateful violent protests with killings & burnings??

    The west has it's problems, and sure, our leaders try hard to
    manipulate our media & our issues,
    but at least we have freedom to respond OUR way rather than their pushing us to burn or bomb someone....

    when will Muslim culture begin taking back control from it's auhoritarian, old-school dominating leaders???

    If you do not want to be seen as a monolithic, violent culture,
    then stop killing & burning just becasue
    some angry authority
    tells you that your "honor is at stake" or that "HE" says you SHOULD go burn or kill.

    STAND up to your leaders...

    THAT is the issue.

    as you said:
    " Some Muslims have blamed Muslims for not being more media savvy. But the reality is that there is no such as being "media savvy" -
    you cannot cater to a media that has such an extensive history
    of covering up the truth. What Muslims should understand is that,
    attempting to view the world through the lens of the corporate media can only lead to Muslims becoming manipulated."

    My response to you is that YOU are STILL being manipulated.

    Why blame the manipulation on western media when you are on the other side of the world with your OWN media such as
    Al Jazeera???

    WE have our battle with corporate media, but we fight it--
    thru blogs, web-activism, etc....

    not through violent burnings & killings.

    But if u can't discern WHO is manipulating you, well, how can u tell which way is up or down???

    Muslim authoritarian dominating leaders call for killings & violence against
    ALL Danish people...
    do think that's moral or ethical or what the Koran wants??
    Will you go and kill a Danish child now??

    Sounds like your leaders have more power to manipulate
    you into direct violence that suits their power.

    Even tho western corporate media is manipulative, it is a HUGE degree of difference.

    Again, if you can't see the difference,

    then the mean-spirited, violence will continue to regin down
    from your ALL powerful Leaders.
    Muslims will continue to appear as monolithic to the world.

    The slightest deviation from Muslim leaders puts your people in danger of crackdowns that resemble Stalinist Russia or other repressive regimes.

    Will you continue to let the Muslim authorities steer you whenever you disagree with them, will intolerance always be the rule?

    How many Muslims are free to REALLY disagree publicly with their leaders????

    American protests might not have the power of our corporations or politicians...

    but at least we have the right to voice our opinions & protest.

    In most Muslim countries, similar protests would have you beaten & thrown into a gulag...
    when will that end??

    when will ALL Muslims be able to dissent without fear of death &
    violent reprisals by authoritarian "kings"??


    By Blogger Unknown, at 2/13/2006 01:18:00 PM  

  • money where mouth is in the west means refusing to pay taxes into the military pockets and refusing to pay into energy conglomerate bank accounts. "taking back control from it's authoritarian, old-school dominating leaders" - yes that would be something to see in these parts.

    nervous gath'ring winds
    fear the words of rotting trees:
    "do not call me storm."

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2/13/2006 01:53:00 PM  

  • "taking back control from it's authoritarian, old-school dominating leaders..."

    Whenever people have tried that anywhere in the world - Uncle Sam comes and re-imposes dictatorial rule. Now, it seems people are beginning to understand the democracy game much better, and are beating Uncle in his own game. I say good for 'em!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2/13/2006 03:21:00 PM  

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