Monday, September 16, 2013

Fundamentalists Cant’ Live Together

Religious revival and highly charged conflicts in a shrinking world make it difficult for people of competing faiths to live together.
Fundamentalists of all creeds exhibit a striking commonality; an inability to think rationally.
Menachem Begin bombed the King Edward Hotel in Jerusalem 1945 , communal riots in Jabalpur, in India in 1961, religious riots in Beirut in 1983, Babri mosque riots in India in 1992, Bombing of US Embassies in Kenya, Tanzania, US warship 1993- 1997, 9/11, Gujarat,  India religious riots in 2002, and numerous bombings of  schools, hospitals, shrines and religious processions in Pakistan-the list goes on. Then there is state sponsored terrorism- India in Kashmir, Jews in Palestine, Russia in Chechnya, Indra and Sikhs, Tamils in Sri Lanka, US in Iraq and Iran, .
There is a common economic thread camouflaged as religion or democracy and human rights. It is a war over resources (water in the West Bank and Indian Kashmir), or conflict over land (Sri Lanka and Chechnya) or control over oil resources is (US in Iraq).
Fundamentalists exploit economically deprived parents and youth with the allure of sexually charged hereafter to recruit young men to their cause.
Since the fall of Berlin wall, Neo-imperialism has replaced Marxism, anti-colonialism and fascism with Fundamentalism.
Mullahs say, and most Muslims agree that all Muslims are, by definition fundamentalist. They believe in the unmediated and inerrant word of God, so the term is meaningless to distinguish militants from moderate Muslims. Among the Christians only protestant fundamentalists believe in biblical inerrancy. Higher Criticism of the bible established that The Book of Isaiah had more than one author and Moses did not write Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament. Fundamentalist protested vehemently, but the critics remained Christian, while Muslims cannot do so by indulging in Higher Criticism of the Koran. Among the Jews, ultra orthodox Haredim do not recognize Israel while Gush Emunim (bloc of the faithful) is more attached to the land than toHalaka (Jewish law).
             Jay M Harris, “The word fundamentalism has come to imply an orientation…that is anti-intellectual, bigoted and intolerant… most particularly to those who would break down the barrier…between church and state and therefore deserve to be given ad hominem dismissal…” 
1. Liberals use it against any one who dares to challenge post enlightenment outlook. Fundamentalists repress the evolved version of religion which appeals to all aspects of human psyche. 
2 Believers attempt to use religion to preserve identity in face of modernity and secularization. They exist in all faiths and philosopher Ludwig Weinstein called it Family Resemblance. 
3. Among the renovators to challenge orthodoxy on the basis of Koran and Hadith  in Islam, Ibne Taymiyya (d 1326) is the most known and is very popular among the current militants. 
4. Most of the people do not realize that they are traditionalists and simply do not take alternative view in consideration. 
5. For most of 18 and 19th CAD, Bible was considered compatible with reason. Higher Criticism in Germany challenged understanding of the Bible. Sophisticated methods of analysis indicated the editorial changes and multiple authors of the Bible and that the concept of virgin birth was based on misinterpretation of original Greek text 
6. The fourth to ninth decade of the 20th century saw a steady encroachment of fundamentalists into schools, publishing, Radio, TV and direct mail.     

            Europeans had fled the continents because of Church oppression and poverty. Roman Catholics arrived in the U.S  in 1830s and Jews in 19th CAD. U.S constitution enshrines separation of Church and State, but they still had a rough time.
In 1961, the Supreme Court extended protection to secularists. But the fundamentalist wing of Republican Party was successful in some states in re-institution of public prayers in schools, equal time for Creationism and Evolution and overturning of 1973 Roe vs. Wade. They worked with Jews, Roman Catholics and other groups and supported Global interest wars, suppression of HR and opposed the freedom of information laws. 7
First reference to Islamic fundamentalism was in a letter written by Sir Reader Bullard, British minister in Jeddah in May 1937. He stated that King Abd al Aziz ibn Saud “has been coming out strong as a fundamentalist” 8
The term Islamic Fundamentalism may have been coined by H.A.R. Gibbs, author of Mohammedanism later renamed Islam, with reference to Jamaluddin Afghani, a well known pan-Islamist. 9 Ibne Saud’s cohorts followed Ibne Hanbal, Ibne Taymiyya and Ibne Abdul Wahab and sought to return to 7th CAD scriptural roots. Unlike most clerics who were collaborators, Afghani tried to galvanize Muslim rulers against British imperialism.
The strongest link formed by Afghani was with Muhammad Abduh in Paris. They founded the “Salafiyya-pious ancestors movement and absorbed modernism. Among Shias of the 19th CAD, Usuli (literally followers of principles) believed in Ijtehad-reasoned innovation and Akhbaris who believed in traditions. Khomeini was Usuli and incorporated a lot of Marxism in his discourse.
           Like Arabic, Hebrew has no word for fundamentalism. Israeli papers call it Yamina-Dati “Religious Right”. Christian right regard the land grab since 1967 as a trust for the Messiah. 
            Fundamentalism is not exclusive to Abrahamic creeds. Sikhs killed Indra Gandhi in 1984 in revenge for assault on the Golden Temple. Hindus massacred Muslims after demolition of Babri mosque and Buddhist monks practiced genocide against Tamils, who pioneered suicide bombing a decade before the Lebanese and Palestinians took it up. Buddhist monks in Burma are practicing on fellow Burmese Muslims what their co-religionisst had done on Tamils. 
Milton Friedman, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair turned the IMF into an Economic Fundamentalist organization -market liberalization, free trade and finance, capital markets, deregulation and suppression of trade unions. 10
When ideals confront the reality of power immense political energy is released. Pat Robertson compares forty three million abortions to Nazi Holocaust.
Evangelists, especially Christian and Muslim, believe that they have a divine mission to convert the world to their creed. Religious pluralism, that there are multiple paths to salvation, is a modern concept.
Fundamentalism is, in a way a response to Globalization; a fear of being swamped by norms of living other than their own.
The Egyptian historian Abd al Jabarti (1754-1822) equated French irreligion with Zindiqis (Manicheans). He was impressed by their science though “these are things that the minds of people like us can not grasp”. “Their females have no modesty…perform acts of nature …in full view of people…with out washing …private parts…” Al Jabarti-Napoleon in Egypt11
            Similar bitterness was found in Syed Qutub, who was imprisoned and tortured by the Nasser regime in 1966. He concluded that Muslim society had ceased to be Islamic, had in fact relapsed to Jahiliya-Muslim term for pre-Islamic times of “ignorance”
Crisis of Islam flows from the contradiction between collective triumphal memory and recent political failures especially in post-colonial phase, when physical occupation was replaced by control of abstract space. Reformists like Sir Syed and Muhammad Abduh had to ally with Europeans and contrary to Islamic thought and practice, accept de facto separation of state and church.
Secular Muslims tried to introduce Modernity in Islam. Underlying the Islamist (A new term coined for the extremist intolerant fringe allied with the Taliban, the Jamaat e Islami of Pakistan and similar groups all over the world) vision is the golden age of the prophet and the rightly guided caliphs, which in fact lasted all of fifty three years-twenty three during the prophet’s life time and thirty under the first four caliphs-but in collective memory lasted in a diluted form till pre-colonial times. 

           In Christianity conflict raged between fundamentalism and liberalism. American fundamentalists hark back to American Revolution, to small town America. Hindu fundamentalists venerate Ram Ra,j to restore which they demolished Babri mosque in 1992. Jewish ones look back to David and Solomon, who built the first temple and want to demolish the Dome of the Rock mosque.  Some of them, the Neturei Karta (guardians of the city) wear long frock coats, hats and ringlets, of the 18th CAD ghetto culture. Haredin believe that Israel will become a Jewish state only when the Messiah arrives so they are currently in exile inside Israel.
All fundamentalists reject pluralism of modern society.
Dr. S. Akhtar Ehtisham

Right Wing Islamic Activism in Service of Imperialism:
The U.S, other Western countries and Israel have overtly and at times openly,supported and funded Islamic activism conducted over six decades. They, after cynicallyusing the Mujahideen against the U.S.S.R, ditched them unceremoniously. A U.S. officialdisdainfully declared that there was no ‘social security’ in the job of an agent.They must accept the major share of responsibility for the emergence of Islamist terrorism.

Even 9/11 did not wake up the U.S.A to the realization that if you sow the wind,you reap the whirlwind. Post 9/11 and attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq, have resulted in several fold increase in extremism, fundamentalism and fanaticism in the Indian sub-continent and Muslim countries.
For the West during the cold war, nationalism, humanism, secularism, and socialism were enemies. The USSR was only an emblem of the enemy of the capitalist society. Muslim fundamentalists collaborated with the West becausethey too were scared of progressive ideas.
The U.S believed that Muslims between Greece and China, ‘The Arc of Islam’would function as fire wall against the USSR and might even incite the restive Muslims inside the USSR to open rebellion. In Islam, religion and state are not separate. But the initial state followed an egalitarian policy. ‘Neoliberal’ Islamism is a more recent political creed and is in fact a perversion of the religious faith. The Muslim Brotherhood, Ayatollahs, Saudi Wahabis, Hamas, Hezbollah, Jihadibbs and Osama represent it.
In the 1950s the prime nationalist enemies were Nasser of Egypt and Mossadegh of Iran. The US and Britain used Muslim Brotherhood against Nasser, and funded Ayatollahs during the U.S. sponsored coup in Iran in 1953.
-2 In spite of all the effort of the imperialists and their satraps, Arab socialism and left wing nationalism grew during the 1960s. The U.S. forged an alliance with Saudi Arabia and with Wahabism, and joined
hands with the former in promotion of an Islamic bloc. Saudis founded The Islamic Center of Geneva (1961), The Muslim World League (1962) and The Organization of the Islamic congress (1969). At one time Saudis were funding 22,000 Madressahs in Pakistan alone.After the death of Nasser whose image had been tarnished by the 1967 war with Israel, the U.S. actively supported the ascension of Anwar Sadat to unchallenged authority in Egypt. The U.S. funded religious opposition of Bhutto in Pakistan. 

General Zia of Pakistan could not have gotten away with killing Bhutto with out U.S. connivance. Hasan Turabi of Sudan could not have risen to power with out the help of the U.S. ally, the Islamic Brotherhood.
The 1979 Iran revolution should have taught the U.S. and its allies that fighting against a nationalist tide was counter productive. But they went on to spend billions on Afghan jihad. The U.S. looked on, as Jordan and Israel aided terrorists in Syria, and Israel helped found HAMAS. The West connived in overthrow of Ghadafi and revolt against Asad spearheaded by Islamists.

The neo-cons even made a deal with Iran not to let the hostages go to undermine Carter’s bid for reelection. They again made secret deals with Iran in 1980s. 

3 With the U.S.S.R out of the way, the U.S. and its allies felt that they could sit on their
laurels. Political Islam was not regarded as an existential threat. But to keep their hand
in they favored the army crackdown in Algeria, instead of supporting democracy. Mubarak became very unpopular and unsustainable. . After Mubarak was ousted as a consequence of Arab spring, Islamists won the election. The US funded the demonstration against them, and once the regime started losing its grip, told the Egyptian army to stage a coup against them. 

3 a. In Afghanistan they watched unconcerned as the relatively liberal factions were wiped out by the Taliban supported by Pakistan..Post 9/11 Bush panicked. His handlers held his hand and told him that Al-Qaida, which the U.S. had nurtured, could be taken care of easily. World public opinion was with the U.S.
The window of opportunity thus opened up had potential.The US had implicitly given Saddam the go ahead to capture Kuwait. His Arab allies had gone back on their word to fund the aftermath of the disastrous war with Iran 

4. That gave the U.S. an excuse to bloody Iraq’s nose.Iraq was sitting on vast oil reserves... If only an excuse to invade the country could be found. It had a secular government so an Al-Qaida link would not be credible. WMDs had to be invented and the support of the Islamic right and Iraqi Shias, who were supported by Iran, had to be garnered. Iraq would be an easy victory (Bush’s mission accomplished). Iran would be made more vulnerable and an easy nest prey. The USA had actually started casting covetous glances on the Mid-East Post WW I, when the Ottoman Empire had finally crumbled. In 1945, FDR went east in search of oil, and met with the king of Saudi Arabia, Ibne Saud on board his ship which was denuded
of all females for the encounter. That started a long lasting relationship. The US academia started launching departments and centers for Middle Eastern studies. Americans believed that the religious fanaticism of Arabs would make them natural enemies of atheistic communism. Islam seemed a better bet than secularism. But it never dawned on them that the Islamists were qualitatively different from the comprador clerical establishment. The advent of the cold war and founding of the state of Israel empowered the Zionists in the U.S. establishment and Middle East scholars found themselves  stranded. The US was deprived of the insight the scholars could offer. In the late 1970s, Timothy LaHaye formed California Alliance of Churches and with Jerry Falwell launched ‘Moral Majority’, the two dominated the discourse in the Council on National Policy, the Christian Coalition. Pat Robertson’s broadcast empire and James Dobson’s Focus on Family reinforced the emergence of the religious right as a potent force. Texas and Midwest oil barons lavished funds on the Christian Right. Islam had been a dominant force for a thousand years. Though there were dissenting voices like Ibne Tammayya, the religious establishment collaborated with the ruling class. Wahhab was a voice in wilderness, accepted only by a tribe on the fringe. Wahhabists joined hands with the British and French agents sent out to undermine the Ottoman Empire. Looking for ways to revive the fortune of Islam, Jamal al-Afghani had created the Pan-Islamic movement in the late 1880s. Hassan al-Banna in 1928 and Maududi in 1940 respectively founded the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Jamat e Islami
in India. The Nasserist wind of change was blowing hard across the whole Arab world. It was an existential threat to the Arab rulers. Oil satrapies of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf opened their coffers to the Muslim Right. They were deemed natural partners by the Right Wing in the USA. The partnership matured in Reagan years. Blinded to irrationality by their hate of secular nationalism, the fundamentalist Christian Right and fanatic Zionists happily threw their wholehearted support behind the fanatic Taliban in Afghanistan. All religious zealots share an absolute certainty about their beliefs. They hate separation of religion and politics and can not abide a difference of opinion. They believe that apostates, unbelievers and freethinkers should be killed. They have blind faith.The threat to the security of main land America is highly overblown. The threat to
U.S. bases the world over is, however, real. But the biggest hazard is the regression of Muslims, especially the younger individuals, not only in all Muslim countries but also among the Muslim population all over the world. They are highly vulnerable to the lure of the fantasy land of an after life surrounded by blooming gardens, with springs of wine, masses of delectable food and seventy two nubile virgins. Women are not offered an equivalent deal. But the scarcity of suicide bombers in the gender is not just due to their pleasure being restricted to husbands. They are treated as little more than serfs in the tribal-feudal mode prevalent in Muslimcountries.
The reaction of the US to 9/11 in Afghanistan was fast, effective and widely applauded. But it morphed into an agenda of colonization of abstract space, encirclement of Iran, control over the oil in the Mid-East and the former Asian Soviet Republics and keeping a close eye on China. Ideas can be combated only with ideas. The term war on terror is a misnomer.
It is akin to the British conquering all of India because a few of its soldiers had been killed in an ambush. War in Iraq was akin to FDR attacking Mexico in response to Pearl Harbor. Terror is a product of conflict of ideology and a profound feeling of victimization. Continued War (in the twelfth year end of 2013) in Afghanistan did not destroy Al-Qaida or the Taliban. It only weakened the government, left the general
populace at the mercy of marauders of all kinds. They have little choice but to support the resurgent Taliban.
The adventures have dealt a severe blow to the US economy. The Afghan and Iraq wars were tailor made for the Bush policy of empire building and pre-emptive war, and allowed the administration to construct a huge political-military enterprise from East Africa to Pakistan.
Unless the Islamic right is stopped, Al-Qaida, HAMAS, Hezbollah and other extremist groups will continue to grow. They draw financial, theological and legions of recruits from the fundamentalist groups.
The US must deal with grievances that push angry Muslims to such organizations as the Muslim Brotherhood. US must join the U.N.O, EU and Russia to help settle the Palestinian-Israeli conflict with a two state solution and by withdrawal of Israelis from illegally held lands to pre-1967 borders. That would pull the rug from
underneath the feet of the Islamic right.
The US must abandon its imperial pretensions, withdraw from Iraq and 

Afghanistan, dismantle its bases in mid-East and else where (at the last count some 9,000) sharply cut training mission and visibility of its navy and arms sales. The US must refrain from imposing its preferences on the region. Its call for democracy is taken as (and is) a pretext for greater US involvement in the region.
The countries have to find a political system they can live with. The US must stop propping up satrapies in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states.The US must give up its tendency to make bellicose threats to nations such asIran and Sudan. The true emancipation of the Mid-East will only come from secular and liberal forces, which will offer education, freedom of expression and religion and modernization.
Fundamentalism of whatever variety-Islamic, Christian evangelists or Jewish fanatical settlers is always a reactionary force.
Dr. S. Akhtar Ehtisham

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