Thursday, July 05, 2007

Louder than bombs

Over the last few years, and especially since the American invasion of Iraq in March 2003, there have been indications across the world of a growing convergence between the forces of Islamist militancy, on the one hand, and the “anti-imperialist” left on the other. Leaving aside widespread, if usually unarticulated, sympathy for the attacks of September 11, 2001, justified on the grounds that “the Americans deserved it,” we have seen since 2003 an overt coincidence of policies, with considerable support for the Iraqi “resistance,” which includes strong Islamist elements, and, more recently and even more explicitly, support for Hezbollah in Lebanon. In the Middle East itself, and on parts of the European far left, an overt alliance with Islamists has been established, going back at least to the mass demonstrations in early 2003 that preceded the Iraq War, but also including a convergence of slogans on Palestine—supporting suicide bombings and denying the legitimacy of the Israeli state.

Fred Halliday on The Jihadism of Fools, of which a local example can be found here.

Anybody with any lingering delusions about Hamas might like to read its charter, although that might take some time. For a flavour, have a look at Article Seventeen, The Role of Muslim Women, which is to manufacture men, a task in which they are opposed by Zionist organisations like Rotary Clubs and Freemasons.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

I haven't heard particularly nice things about Hamas behaviour toward LGBT Palestinians in Gaza either. Not that Fatah is much better...

Craig

morgue said...

Well, yeah, but... Both you and Halliday take it as self-evident that alliances between Islamist groups and the left inevitably end up with the Islamist groups seizing opportunities to impose bigoted rule and then turning on the left for their sins. And I don't buy that it is a given.

Certainly, on a small scale, that's nonsense - there are countless instances of Islamic communities and leftist groups working together fruitfully at a local level, here in NZ and over in the UK and elsewhere. Despite a history that, it must be admitted, is unencouraging, I see no objection to these alliances continuing to make sense when the scale is enlarged.

I actually posted about this issue a few days ago myself, here. The left is not, by and large, blind to the troublesome aspects within Islam - the oppression of women, to take one example. However, for the left (including me), intercultural oppression trumps intracultural oppression. In fact, it seems to me self-evident that changes to Islam can only come from within, and that as long as Islam is embattled then it will only become more restrictive and internally oppressive, not less-so.

It may seem counter-intuitive - in order to stop the oppression of women we must ally with the forces that oppress women! - but it is strategically sound. And I think it is the right approach to take.

Huskynut said...

I hope your tongue is firmly in your cheek Paul, because if we were to contrast the extent of alliances, the power wielded by them, and the damage so wrought between:
a.) the left + Islam, and
b.) the right + Zionists

(just a simple tally, like, say countries invaded or WMDs produced and stockpiled)

then dear old Fred looks sadly misguided (or worse just plain gutless) in selecting his target.

Huskynut said...

apropo the earlier remark, I suddenly realised that although Christianity and Islam have had the good fundypost scrutiny, Judaism remains yet so unenlightened.
Is there a relationship, for instance, between the religious tenet of "ten eyes for an eye" and the wildly unbalanced casualty rate of the warring factions?
Please do the decent thing and unearth a scoop for us.. ;-)

Stephen said...

Dear huskynut, of which religion is "ten eyes for an eye" a tenet? Cite, please.

The wildly unbalanced casualty rate has far more to do with the means and methods available to the combatants than their religions.

I think your conflation of Zionists, Jews, Israelis etc could stand a little disentangling.

Brett D said...

Morgue,

"troublesome"?

So women are just eggs that have to be regrettably smashed to make an omelette? Their needs postponed for however long it takes?

Oh dear...

--Brett D

Paul said...

Indeed, oh dear.

For me, oppression is oppression is oppression. I do not see a distinction between intercultural and intracultural; I would like to know what is the basis for such a distinction. I do not consider myself an ally of men who treat their wives and daughters as property. I am not an ally of men who strap explosives to the bodies of their children, to kill themselves and the children of other men and women.

I do not believe I must make a choice between the left + Islam, and the right + Zionists. It amazes me that people still talk about Zionists. The people of Israel have a right to self-determination as much as do the people of Palestine. The also have a right to live in peace.

Call me old-fashioned, but I believe that fundamental human rights trump allegiances.

morgue said...

Brett - I used the word 'troublesome' not to obscure things that are appalling and offensive, but to cast a net widely enough to include many moderate versions of Islam that still have issues with women. (Much like many many other religions.)

As to the substance of your objection, and Paul's, you're both talking right past me. I claimed that "changes to Islam can only come from within" and reducing oppression of Islam is the only way to make those changes possible.

This is the basis of my entire comment, but you don't address it. I have lots of sympathy with the principled stance you both advocate, but ultimately I think it's a stance that harms far more than it helps. Such a stance would just increase the pressure on Islam, and the plight of women would grow worse, not better.

You could challenge that - there's a whole conversation in whether that's right or not - but you don't engage with it at all, as far as I can tell. Communication has not been achieved - either you didn't get what I meant, or I'm not seeing how you responded to what I meant.

(For the record I accept that arguments might be out there that would change my mind.)

Also, suicide bombers and "Ten eyes for an eye" - do we have to?

Stephen said...

Re the ten eyes: don't blame me, huskynut started it. If we're going to attack religious tenets (and I'm all for that), we shouldn't just make them up.

Re suicide bombings: doesn't that flow fairly naturally from Hamas as the case in point?

To me it boils down to this: the enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend at all.

"for the left (including me), intercultural oppression trumps intracultural oppression."

Really? When did you get made officially in charge of prioritising kinds of oppression for lefties?

Finally, the "talking past" goes both ways. If I read the original post's intent correctly, the references were to groups with that unfortunate label "Islamist", which we should distinguish from Islamic. In the same way that I am quite happy for Christians to do their Christian thing, but very opposed to coercive attempts by wanna-be theocrats to impose Christian standards on me, I can be indifferent to Islam, but opposed to people who want me inside the Caliphate - can't I?

"changes to Islam can only come from within" is surely a statement of faith. I reckon we could show that changes to Christianity in the west have been reactions to outside forces. Would the present tolerance in many churches of women, gays, and infidels have occurred without secularists agitating for their rights?

From your own post "all we can do is support Islamic women and let them do the job." Isn't that interference in another culture, unless the "support" is meaningless?

Brett D said...

Morgue, I suspect that it would be impossible to communicate with someone who thinks only in ideological and "strategic" abstractions. I did find your litotes and euphemisms especially offensive.

I was wrong to impy that the opression of women was a means to an end for groups like Hamas - it is an end in itself.

It is you who is sidestepping the issue - you talk of strategic alliances, of neat little clockwork ideological structures, but the reality is that you are prepared to countenance the vicious opression of women with a little bit of handwringing. The means does not justify the end - the means determines the nature of the end.

Maybe change to "Islam", which you treat as a monolith, can only come from within - but if the object of certain groups is opression and totalitarian theocracy - which is NOT the goal of the majority of Muslims, why support them? I am reminded of US support for the Taleban during the Soviet occupation of Afganistan on the principle that my enemy's enemy is my friend. We all know where that led and I would have hoped that you knew better.

There have in fact been relatively secular liberal Muslim societies.

Superpower involvement has certainly provoked the theocrats... or given them an excuse.

I do not disagree that Islam should not be oppressed, but your glibly stated willingness to tolerate oppression - as long as it happens to someone else, far away - does not put you on a very high moral pedestal.

From a feminist friend who is far more eloquent on the issue than me (I may disagree on a point or two, but on the whole I agree):


This is one of the best tautologies I've read for a while; I suspect that
someone's got their wires crossed
between the concepts of the arabic/islamic nations regaining control over their
own nations (eg: Iraq,
Palestine) and the social and cultural changes that fundamentalism has wrought
during the period of
the Afghani wars, and the current gulf wars. (say, 25 years of history...)

Far too many wooly leftists, including the marxists, are willing to allow
fundamentalists to be described
as the cultural norm for Islam, when there are many recently graduated women who
now throw up their
hands in Paris, Geneva, Vienna, or wherever they are living in exile, who were
educated before the
current rules against women being allowed to do anything without chaperons or
such.
5- 10 years ago, women were still studying to practice medicine in Beiruit,
Haifa, etc.. This has stopped
since the US went into Iraq, because the counter measures to increase the Iraqi
armed forces have
stunted the education of a generation (Just as war did so in Yugoslavia, in the
90's). US involvement,
rather than Islamic fundamentalism, can be blamed for practically every loss of
social service Iraqi
people have sustained, not to mention the sheer civilian death toll.


--Brett D

Brett D said...

Morgue, I suspect that it would be impossible to communicate with someone who thinks only in ideological and "strategic" abstractions. I did find your litotes and euphemisms especially offensive.

I was wrong to impy that the opression of women was a means to an end for groups like Hamas - it is an end in itself.

It is you who is sidestepping the issue - you talk of strategic alliances, of neat little clockwork ideological structures, but the reality is that you are prepared to countenance the vicious opression of women with a little bit of handwringing. The means does not justify the end - the means determines the nature of the end.

Maybe change to "Islam", which you treat as a monolith, can only come from within - but if the object of certain groups is opression and totalitarian theocracy - which is NOT the goal of the majority of Muslims, why support them? I am reminded of US support for the Taleban during the Soviet occupation of Afganistan on the principle that my enemy's enemy is my friend. We all know where that led and I would have hoped that you knew better.

There have in fact been relatively secular liberal Muslim societies.

Superpower involvement has certainly provoked the theocrats... or given them an excuse.

I do not disagree that Islam should not be oppressed, but your glibly stated willingness to tolerate oppression - as long as it happens to someone else, far away - does not put you on a very high moral pedestal.

From a feminist friend who is far more eloquent on the issue than me (I may disagree on a point or two, but on the whole I agree):


This is one of the best tautologies I've read for a while; I suspect that
someone's got their wires crossed
between the concepts of the arabic/islamic nations regaining control over their
own nations (eg: Iraq,
Palestine) and the social and cultural changes that fundamentalism has wrought
during the period of
the Afghani wars, and the current gulf wars. (say, 25 years of history...)

Far too many wooly leftists, including the marxists, are willing to allow
fundamentalists to be described
as the cultural norm for Islam, when there are many recently graduated women who
now throw up their
hands in Paris, Geneva, Vienna, or wherever they are living in exile, who were
educated before the
current rules against women being allowed to do anything without chaperons or
such.
5- 10 years ago, women were still studying to practice medicine in Beiruit,
Haifa, etc.. This has stopped
since the US went into Iraq, because the counter measures to increase the Iraqi
armed forces have
stunted the education of a generation (Just as war did so in Yugoslavia, in the
90's). US involvement,
rather than Islamic fundamentalism, can be blamed for practically every loss of
social service Iraqi
people have sustained, not to mention the sheer civilian death toll.


--Brett D

Brett D said...

Apologies for the double post - a glitch it seems.

--Brett D

Neil Morrison said...

"a growing convergence between the forces of Islamist militancy, on the one hand, and the “anti-imperialist” left on the other."

It's not that new. The same thing happened with the Iranian revolution. The Nation has a bit of backgound on that -

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20070716/afary

"Although some Iranian leftists briefly defended women's rights during the March 1979 demonstrations against the new regime's policy of compulsory veiling, their myopia on gender, human rights and democracy left them ideologically defenseless against Iran's Islamist rulers once the latter adopted a strongly anti-imperialist program. In books like Haideh Moghissi's Populism and Feminism in Iran, feminists who participated in the revolution have grappled with the left's failure to confront Islamism's repressive features. The new generation of Iranian intellectuals, for whom Islamism's authoritarian face is only too familiar, has been equally critical."

Anonymous said...

It's hard to tread a centre line here. I think the best thing to do is to support progressive movements in Islamic societies, as well as progressive Islamic elements themselves. The problem with the Old Left blanket approval was that it tended to give carte
brune to social elements that they would have rightly labelled fascistic in other societies.

I had that problem myself. I supported Nicaragua in the eighties due to its inclusiveness, not Cuba, which has, however, cleaned up its act re lesbians and gays since.

Craig Y

Paul said...

Morgue, you are right in saying I failed to address your point that "changes to Islam can only come from within and reducing oppression of Islam is the only way to make those changes possible."

I do not believe Islam is oppressed. Muslims certainly are oppressed in some countries, but not their religion. The issue in Palestine is one of a people, who are by no means entirely Muslim, being denied rights. Unfortunately, the Palestinians have democratically decided to choose an extreme Islamist group to lead them. Things could have been, and were, different: much of the work on establishing Palestinian self-rule was done by Hanan Ashwari - a woman and a Christian. The PLO was once a secular organisation.

Likewise, in Iraq, the issue is not one of oppression of Islam but a civil war between the two main factions of Islam for control of the country. I objected to the war and foreign occupation which brought about these circumstances but I cannot see how supporting Islamist groups will make matters any better.

I also cannot see how such support will make life any better for Muslim women; or any other women for that matter: I think it is noticeable that the group in Britain planted their car bomb outside the Tiger Tiger night club in Haymarket on its Ladies' Night. The other group which planned to bomb the Ministry of Sound night club spoke of the "sluts" and "slags" who patronised the club.

Huskynut said...

Firstly, a small apology for the provocation, but must say I’m not sad to see the end of the slightly supercilious moralizing on this topic/thread.
Secondly I totally agree that the left/Islam have on common cause and that it’s foolish to make one in the name of fighting common enemies. I also think it’s remarkably irrelevant and a mark of fiddling while Rome burns to waste effort analyzing or discussing it.
As to Hamas – haven’t got much time for them, fully expect them to behave like autocratic theologists etc, etc, etc. Thing is: what were you freakin’ expecting – an outbreak of enlightenment?! Just to recap, the situation is so bad in Palestine that the UN special rapporteur says it’s a humanitarian disaster and that it’s worse than South Africa ever was. Now the ANC was a terrorist organization and committed terrorist acts, but the left managed to understand that as the inevitable/logical product of a nationalist movement and the pressure they were under from an oppressive regime. Only in Palestine’s case, when they freely elect Hamas, the west cuts off the aid they survive on and then acts surprised when society disintegrates even further. For my money, it’s utterly disgraceful for anyone on the left, ostensibly championing freedom and democracy to sit on the sidelines and take cheap potshots. Anyhow.

As to Zionism, although it was a provocation, I’m astonished that anyone denies Zionism still exists (perhaps someone should edit Wiki and change all references to past tense), or that it has no voice or place in today’s politics. It is a political movement with faces both legitimate (self-determination, self protection) and illegitimate (expansionism, conquest and resource-grabbing).
Zionism is not the same as Israel is not the same as Judaism, but there are clearly significant overlaps and to pretend they don’t exist is simple willful blindness, and it results in these ridiculously one-sided analyses of Islam.
Similarly, it’s crazy to deny that the orthodox Judaism prevalent amongst many of the Israeli settlers is in any way less extreme than anything militant Islam can conjure up. Perhaps you might read this:
http://www.alternet.org/blogs/peek/47110/

Or, for matters less straight, you might be interested in these:
http://web.israelinsider.com/Articles/Culture/11556.htm
http://gaycitynews.com/site/index.cfm?newsid=18474246&BRD=2729&PAG=461&dept_id=568864&rfi=8

I have no idea whether the “ten eye” expression is literal or a myth, but google it an you’ll find it is being used by angry people to justify their thoughts and actions, therefore at the level of Realpolitik it has existence. At least one Israeli peacnik alludes to it:
http://www.shalomctr.org/node/608

Shalom ;-)

morgue said...

Stephen is right when he says I've missed some crucial stuff (and Brett alludes to this too). The original article, and Paul's post quoting it, were specifically talking about Islamist groups, which =! Islamic groups. I went and assumed it did (due to my lack of close reading more or less), which meant much of what I said was in answer to claims that were never made, and much of what was said back to me was unintelligible as a result. All of this is from my misreading, so apologies are due.

morgue said...

That said, there is still some disagreement going on. Let me try and clarify what I'm saying, hopefully without any embarrassing mistakes this time.

I'm definitely claiming that:
(a) Islam is currently the subject of significant pressure in the form of intercultural oppression (where "Islam" is code for "cultures that identify strongly as Islamic", which may not be a helpful coding but it'll do for now)
(b) Leftist groups are motivated to reduce this pressure and so support groups within Islam
(c) The pressure on Islam gives power to its most fundamentalist and oppressive aspects (e.g. strengthens oppression of women)

It follows inevitably that there is a dilemma for leftist groups - how to balance supporting pressured Islam against condemning the anti-progressive values that can manifest within Islamic groups.

Some groups within Islam aren't oppressive - no problems here. Other groups are out of the question. But there's a whole range of groups in between, and that's where it gets difficult.

All of the above is premise. That's where I came in - seeing Paul and the article argue that if a group within Islam appears anywhere on the "oppression" continuum, then no alliance can be morally acceptable.

(Is that all fair so far? I'm trying to represent myself better and others accurately here, hence the longwindedness of this.)

Islamist groups (politically reactionary, fundamentalist, activist) are mostly toward the bad end of the oppression scale. Still, I believe that the sins of such groups should not automatically disqualify them from receiving the support of a Leftist group. However, nor should such support be given without a bloody good rationale for the moral compromise involved.

Which takes us to the specific example used: Hamas. Hamas supports the oppression of women. Hamas sends suicide bombers to target civilians in Israel. How, then, can Leftist groups cheer for the successes of Hamas?

My answer is, because 'Hamas' is a large and complex and often self-contradictory entity, and also the best chance for leading the Palestinians into some kind of peace. The democratic election of Hamas cannot be interpreted as electoral support for suicide bombing and the oppression of women; there are too many other good reasons to vote Hamas. (Example voter reasons: the alternative Fatah is hopelessly corrupt and useless; Hamas is heavily involved in supporting local communities; my local Hamas representative isn't like that; etc.)

Now, we can argue about what Hamas is and isn't, and if my faith in it is misplaced, and what hope it really does offer, and so forth. But that wouldn't change my views about whether compromise was acceptable - it would change my understanding of what that compromise in fact was.

*Given my evaluation* of what Hamas is and what it offers, I am prepared to support it, even though it includes aspects I find deeply upsetting.

There, in a sentence, is where I disagree with Paul and with the article he linked to.

(Paul, I note, challenges my premise by saying that he doesn't see that "Islam" is oppressed, using as examples Iraq and Palestine. I disagree - I think Iraq and Palestine form part of the experience of cultural oppression had by the majority of Muslims worldwide. But that's leaving this argument for one about how you define culture, about perceptions of causality, about group psychology, and other things.)

morgue said...

All of which may not get us anywhere.

For what its worth, I'm not trying to engage in internet dickery here. I mostly find myself nodding along with FundyPost stuff, and this exception was notable and related to something I'd blogged recently, hence my reply.

I hope this makes some sense, anyway.

Stephen said...

Yo, Huskynut: that "ten eyes" thing was coined during the last war with Hezbollah in Lebanon.

You said it was a religious tenet, as though it were something that Jews believe as part of their religion. It is not. The only examples I have been able to google up are from critics of Israeli policy, many of them Jewish, intending precisely to offer a contrast with what the religion prescribes.

I need no instruction on the craziness of certain kinds of Orthodox Judaism, which shames me every day. You need to be careful about spreading slander.

"For my money, it’s utterly disgraceful for anyone on the left, ostensibly championing freedom and democracy to sit on the sidelines and take cheap potshots." Take your own medicine, pal.

Huskynut said...

Stephen - fair comment, I withdraw the 10 eyes thing and apologise if it offended. As I said, it was intended as provocation. In my defense I'd add that over the past months I have seen a number of comments on discussion threads from rabid Israelis stating it should be (or is) policy, and attributing it to some sort of divine creed (all of which seem to've gone down the memory hole). Such is the way of religious fundamentalism of all stripes.

Morgue hits the nail on the head with his summary, though in Maslowian fashion I'd add I believe the shortest path to freedom and self determination is via a full belly, reliable employment, safe housing etc, and it's to these ends we best direct out attention.

Stephen said...

Has anyone seen my guitar?