Posts Tagged ‘Bassam Tibi’

Berman on the Nazi Origins of Modern Militant Islamism

January 11, 2016

Berman Flight Intellectuals

Yesterday I posted up a very informative piece by Michelle Thomasson, on the origins of modern militant Islam, based on McHugh’s book, A Short History of the Arabs. This sees the origins of modern Islamic militancy in the work of the Muslim reformer, Rashid Rida, and the alliance of Muslim religious and political leaders with the Nazis following the foundation of the state of Israel during the British Mandate in Palestine.

The left-wing American journalist and writer, Paul Berman, says much the same in his book, The Flight of the Intellectuals (New York: Melville House 2010). This is partly an investigation into the career and ideas of the contemporary French Muslim writer and philosopher, Tariq Ramadan. Ramadan’s a highly controversial figure, as while many have found him an admirable spokesman for interfaith dialogue and on social questions like poverty, others consider that far from being a liberal modernist, Ramadan instead preaches a very hard-line, intolerant Islam concealed under a veneer of liberal verbiage. He has, for example, been championed by Ian Buruma of the New York Times, who sees his philosophy, based on traditional, universal Muslim values, as offering an escape from violence. Many of Ramadan’s opponents are liberal Muslims and women, shocked at what they see as his anti-feminism. Another of his opponents is the Lebanese historian, Antoine Sfeir. In addition to stirring up intellectual controversy, Ramadan has also been investigated by the Spanish authorities for possible terrorist connections.

Ramadan’s grandfather, Hassan al-Banna, was the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, one of the leading organisations in the modern Islamic revival, and a nationalist campaigner against the French and British occupying powers. The Muslim Brotherhood taught discipline, obedience and adulation of al-Banna as their Supreme Leader. It also aimed at throwing out the British and other European colonialists, and reviving the former Islamic empire and caliphate. this would include all the nations and countries ever conquered and ruled by Islam, including modern peoples, who had also converted. Al-Banna’s ideas spread from his native Egypt to Palestine, Syria, Sudan and North Africa. They were introduced into Iran in Shi’ite form by the Ayatollah Khomeini and Ali Shariati. They were then exported from Iran to the Shi’a in Lebanon, and then into India and Pakistan by Abul Ala Mawdudi. In Palestine, the Muslim Brotherhood became Hamas, a political party which has used suicide bombers against the Israelis, although al-Banna’s supporters have always defended him from accusations of terrorism. The Muslim Brotherhood has also produced a number of splinter groups, one of which is al-Qaeda. Ramadan has written books presenting his grandfather as a democrat wanting to create a genuine national assembly free of British influence. However, some of his writings suggest he really wanted to create a theocracy, in which Egypt would be governed by Islamic scholars, though after consulting the general public. Other Muslim scholars also believe that al-Banna wanted the establishment of an authoritarian, anti-democratic state. These include Bassam Tibi, a German-Egyptian liberal Muslim, and the Iranian scholars Ladan and Roya Boroumand. Tibi sees al-Banna as the creator of a modern totalitarianism at variance with the traditional teachings of Islam.

Critical in the creation of modern Islamic anti-Semitism was Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. al-Husseini was at various times the head of the Supreme Muslim Council in Palestine, and chairman of the Arab Higher Committee. He was one of the leading figures in the resistance against the foundation of the nascent Jewish state. In the 1920s, he organised several attacks against both Zionist settlers from the West, and traditional, indigenous Jewish Palestinians, culminating in a pogrom in 1929. He was also partly responsible for Rashid Ali al-Gaylani’s pro-Axis coup in Iraq in 1941, and the launch of a Farhoud, or pogrom, against the Jews in Baghdad. He met with Mussolini and proposed the creation of an Arab Fascist state comprising Iraq, Syria, Palestine and Trans-Jordan.

And in 1941 he met the Nazis, including Ribbentrop, Hitler, Heinrich Himmler and Goebbels. He set up the Handzar, or ‘Sabre’ division of the SS, to fight against the Serbs and the anti-Fascist partisans in the former Yugoslavia, as well as exterminate Bosnian Jews. The Nazis employed al-Husseini and Rashid Ali in their Revolutionierungspolitik, or policy of stirring up internal revolutions in order to bring down their enemies from within. The most famous example was during the First World War when Germany sent Lenin into Russia on the sealed train with large sums of money to spark the Bolshevik revolution. The Mufti was charged with translating the Nazis’ anti-Semitism from Europe to Islam. He therefore combed the Islamic scriptures to present a Muslim version of the stupid and murderous conspiracy theories about the Jews circulating in Europe. He therefore created a vast conspiratorial view of Muslim history, in which the Jews had been trying to destroy Islam and the Arabs from the very beginning of Islam to the 20th century.

The Jewish state was initially extremely small, and Berman argues that there was little support for it in the Jewish populations of the Islamic world, except here and there in small pockets. Nevertheless, in al-Husseini claimed that the Zionists were aiming to create a gigantic Jewish homeland that would stretch from British Palestine to Egypt and the Persian Gulf. He also claimed that this new Jewish state would also include the north African Arab nations of Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. Or they were going to create two homelands, one of which would be the former north African Arab states. These would be colonised by the Jews. The second Jewish homeland, in north Africa, was to be established through the efforts of America, which was already dominated by the Jews. This homeland was to be colonised by Jews and Blacks from America. Britain was also under Jewish control, and, as with Nazism, the Jews were blamed for the creation of Communism. In their propaganda broadcasts on the radio, the Mufti and his followers urged the Arabs to rise up and kill the Jews and their children. Al-Husseini was personally responsible for sending 20,000 Jews to the gas chambers when Himmler wanted to release them as a publicity stunt. The Nazis were also planning the extermination of Egypt’s Jews if Rommel had won. Mercifully, he didn’t, and Montgomery stopped him.

Berman also states that traditionally, Western Jews regarded Islam as being far more welcoming and much less oppressive than Christianity, and cites Graetz’s history of the Jews of c.1900 of such scholarship. He notes that this view has been challenged more recently by others, who have seen the Islamic world as just as hostile to Jews as the Christian West. Other scholars consider that, while there has been anti-Semitism in traditional Islamic society, it was not as severe as in Christianity. In this case, contemporary Islamism and its poisonous anti-Semitism is essentially the creation of al-Banna, al-Husseini and the Muslim Brotherhood. It’s simply a Muslim version of Nazism, with the irony that the Nazis also regarded the peoples of the Islamic world, the Arabs, Turks and Persians, as racially inferior. Hitler even referred to them in one of his speeches as ‘painted apes who long for the whip.’

If there is ever to be peace, then this poisonous, last reflection of Nazism must also be tackled and destroyed.

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Young Turks: Terrorists More Motivated by Politics than Religion, Study Finds

December 15, 2015

This is another video from The Young Turks, which is extremely relevant as it takes apart the view that terrorists and suicide bombers are motivated solely or mainly by religion. Robert Pape, a professor at the University of Chicago, and the founder of that university’s Centre for Security and Faith, studied the motives of suicide bombers and other terrorists going back to 1980. He found that in 95 per cent of cases they were far more motivated by politics, and particularly the desire to retaliation after a military intervention, often a military occupation. The attacks were an attempt to take or retake territory that was important to the terrorist. This was the dominant motivation for terror attacks, including the recent massacres in Paris.

Uygur and Iadarola point out that suicide bombing are the tactics adopted by the losing sides. America doesn’t use suicide bombers, because it has the advantage of drones, tanks and aircraft. The Japanese also turned to using suicide tactics in World War II – the Kamikaze pilots – when they were losing, not when they thought they were winning, as at Pearl Harbour. The same is true of other organisations using suicide bombers, like the Tamil Tigers.

They also make the case that while religion is part of it, like Christian fundamentalists, who hate gay people, this is more of a case of someone looking for and adopting a worldview, that confirms their existing beliefs. They also cite Lydia Wilson, a journalist for The Nation, who also interviewed ISIS terrorists. She found that they had a ‘woeful knowledge’ of even the basic tenets of Islam, and had difficulty answering questions about sharia law, jihad, or even the caliphate. But such knowledge wasn’t necessary to support the ideal of fighting for the caliphate. As could be seen from the actions of one British ISIS fighter, who ordered ‘Islam for Dummies’ on Amazon.

The Turks compare their ignorance of Islam with that of Dear, the right-wing fundamentalist Christian, who shot staff and patients in an attack on Planned Parenthood. They also point out that terrorist attacks and suicide bombings have been carried out by secular organisations and individuals. The Turks also point out that military intervention is not necessarily a bad thing. The Korean War succeeded in keeping South Korea free of Stalinism, and World War II was, obviously, a military intervention, that was exactly the right thing to do. Suicide and terrorist attacks do not necessarily make the original military action wrong. They’re just something to be expected as a consequence.

This report sounds pretty much spot on, from what I understand about terrorism. Bassam Tibi, the German-Egyptian writer on Islam and the problems it is experiencing through modernisation, states in his book Islam and the Cultural Accommodation of Social Change states that the Egyptian Islamist terrorist he personally interviewed in Egypt had only a superficial understanding of Islam. A few years ago, the anthropologist Scott Atran also pointed out that violence and terrorism were not solely the product of religion. He pointed out that the organisation that had made the most use of suicide bombings was the Tamil Tigers, who were secular organisation. Atran himself is an atheist, and he made this point as a rebuttal to the claims that religion was mainly responsible for such violence by members of the New Atheism, like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins.

A~s for reading one’s own political views into a particular religion or holy book, that’s always been a problem. It’s called ‘elective affinity’, and sociologists of religion have acknowledged and studied its importance. One example I was taught at College was the declaration by a 19th century British Tory that ‘the Bible is Conservative through and through’. It’s a classic example of the way a person with strong political opinions believed he had found them in his holy book through projecting his own prejudices and opinions onto the text.

As for the political motivations of many terrorists, there’s an interesting review of a book on the Lobster site by Carol Shaye, one of the officials involved in the reconstruction of Afghanistan. Shaye has since become extremely cynical about the whole process because of the massive corruption at all levels of Hamid Karzai’s regime. She found that the Taliban fighters she interviewed almost exclusively joined because they felt it was a solution to this problem.
Of course, the Taliban isn’t. It is, however, a brutal and murderous collection of genocidal maniacs and mass-murderers. But the point remains.

Donald Trump Wants Muslims Registered and Tagged

November 22, 2015

This is how the Nazi persecution of the Jews started.

Donald Trump, the multi-millionaire (at least) running for the American presidency, has said that he wants Muslims to be registered and have to carry some form of identification. The Young Turks report and discuss this appalling policy in the video below:

They point out that this is part of a series of deeply intolerant measures proposed or supported by members of the Republican party, including closing down all the mosques and barring Muslims from political office.

This is literally how the Nazis started the persecution and extermination of the Jews. The Turk’s anchors, Cenk Uygur and John Iadarola, draw the extremely explicit parallels with Nazi Germany in this other video below.

They point out that when Hitler sent the Jews and other political and racial prisoners to the concentration camps, they were made to wear badges identifying them by their race, religion or supposed offence, like being a Communist, homosexual or whatever. They also make the point that the Nazis actually made the possession of firearms easier, contrary to Republican propaganda about how the Third Reich disarmed the German people. The exception to this was the Jews, who were banned from owning guns, just as many gun stores and firing ranges in the US now ban Muslims.

They point out that America is not yet, mercifully, at the point where Muslims are being taken to concentration camps and gassed, but he does want Muslim refugees, such as those from Syria, segregated. This is the very beginning of how it all started.

And as the first video shows, Trump doesn’t have an answer to the question of how his policies towards Muslims differs from that of the Nazis to the Jews. a journalist from NBC asks him that, and all Trump says in reply is to mutter, ‘You tell me. You tell me.’

The standard reply by Republicans when you point out the similarity between their policies towards Muslims and those of the Jews in Nazi Germany is to deny that there’s any real similarity between the two. The Jews weren’t a danger to Germany, and there never was a ‘Judeo-Bolshevik world banking conspiracy’ to enslave Aryans and gentiles around the world. Islam, on the other hand, is a threat because of groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda, which have their basis in that religion and claim to be obeying its dictates.

This is correct, but it ignores the fact that ISIS, al-Qaeda and the other radical Islamist organisations are based in a very particular interpretation of Islam, one that in many countries runs counter to and is opposed to the officially sanctioned and promoted interpretation of Islam. The Egyptian-German scholar of Islam, Bassam Tibi, makes this point in his book, Islam and the Cultural Accommodation of Social Change. He points out that Islamic modernism in Egypt was introduced by the ulema, the Muslim clergy, who were impressed by the industrial, economic and scientific progress of Europe, and wished their country to share these advances. He also states that in his own, personal examination of Islamist suspects in prison, he found their religious views naïve and unsophisticated.

In other words, Islamic extremism is an underground movement.

The Republican’s rejection of the parallels between Nazi Germany and their intended treatment of Muslims also neglects other facts, which made the idea of a global Jewish conspiracy to enslave the world much more plausible to the average German or Austrian of the time. The Communist parties in Russia had a disproportionately high number of Jews, as well as other national minorities. In Austria, the leaders of many of the Communist brigades in the 1919 November revolutions were Jewish. During the Revolution, the Communists began a campaign of church burnings, which resulted in a massive increase in anti-Semitism. Given the prominence of Jews amongst the brigade’s leadership, it was all too easy for Austrians to believe that there really was a Jewish conspiracy against them.

America was partly founded on the principle of religious freedom. It’s been there ever since it was articulated by 17th century Puritan preachers like Richard Baxter. Trump wishes to overturn centuries of religious tolerance, and set up a truly Fascistic social order.

He’s a Nazi and should not be allowed anywhere near the US presidency.

And if he gets away with targeting Muslims, it’ll be Mexicans, the unemployed, Socialists, trade unionists, and the disabled next. Just like in Nazi Germany.

Islamic Literature against Militant Islamic Fundamentalism

July 6, 2014

Earlier this morning I reblogged Tom Pride’s piece exposing the Daily Mail’s latest dirty trick in stirring up trouble between Muslims and non-Muslims. A journo for the Heil had turned up on an Islamic internet forum as a Muslim, and posted comments trying to provoke them into attacking and vilifying their country and its non-Muslim peoples. They smelled a rat, however, and didn’t fall for it. Looking at the disguised poster’s account, they traced it back to the Evening Standard, which used to be part of the Mail group.

It’s a nasty, dangerous piece of deception. Apart from the increased threat of terrorism, and the danger of young Muslim men turning to militant fundamentalism as a release for their social frustrations, Muslims themselves are also very much the victims of racist and sectarian attacks. A Saudi woman studying over here was murdered last week for wearing the niqub, or full face veil in the street. If the Heil journalist had succeeded, his deception could very well have cost an innocent person their life.

It is also illegal. As I blogged in my comment to the piece, there are laws against the state using similar tactics to entrap people. Although Sir Robert Peel, the Prime Minister, who created the London police force in the 1820s abolished agents provocateurs in the 1820, the cops seem still set on using them, and then being prosecuted in turn when they’re exposed. It is also an offence in British law to stir up racial hatred, as the BNP and National Front know full well and for which they and their members have been arrested and prosecuted over the years. It’d be very interesting to see Paul Dacre standing in the dock with Nick Griffin, Andrew Brons and the other storm troopers.

I have, however, also come across over the years a number of books written in support of human rights and democracy from an Islamic perspective. I’m writing about them as a corrective to the manipulative and dangerous rubbish written and done by the Standard, the Heil and the like.

Islam and Human Rights, by Muhammad Zafrullah Khan, 4th Edition (Tilford: Islam International Publications Ltd 1989)

Islam Human Rights Book

I bought this back in the 1990s when I was studying Islam at Uni. It’s written by a very senior Pakistani judge, religious scholar and human rights politician and advocate. The blurb on the back states that the author, Muhammad Zafrullah Khan, served as the Pakistani foreign minister in 1947, led the Pakistani delegation to the UN General Assembly, where he was president at its seventeenth session. He has also been at various times a judge and president of the International Court of Justice at the Hague.

The book is an attempt to show that the UN Declaration of Human Rights is in accordance with Muslim belief, and showing how the Qu’ran and religious literature support its provisions. The book begins with the Declaration, and then proceeds with chapters on man and the universe, and social and economic values. Chapter five then goes through the Declaration of Human Rights article by article, citing Islamic texts to support them. Chapter 6 is on ‘Prevalent Attitudes towards Human Rights among Muslims’, while the last chapter, seven, is on the ‘Future Relationship between Islam and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’.

‘The Muslim Search for Democracy, Pluralism and Minority Rights’

Looking through the religious section of one of the charity bookshops on Friday, I came across this book, published by the University of Florida Press. This was another book, which examined the Islamic texts used by the militant fundamentalists in their attacks on democracy and other western conceptions of liberalism and human rights. It showed that, contrary to the assertions of the militant Islamists, the texts didn’t quite say what they thought they say, and can be used instead to promote democracy, pluralism and tolerance. It’s a useful approach, and more like this is needed to combat the claims made by the militants.

Secular Factors in the Growth of Militant Islam

There are a number of reasons for the growth in militant Islam throughout the world. Some of it is the result of globalisation displacing and impoverishing peoples, tribes and social groups, who are already struggling to make ends meet in the Developing World. See, for example, Alex Perry’s Falling Off the Edge: Globalization, World Peace and Other Lies (London: Macmillan 2008). Other factors are the failure of secular politicians in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East and Arab world, whether capitalist or Communist, to provide jobs, opportunities and economic development. See Bassam Tibi’s Islam and the Cultural Accommodation of Social Change (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press 1990). Other factors are the continuous Western political intervention and imperialism in the Middle East, and its support of a series of unpopular and bloody tyrants in the region. See Said K. Aburish, A Brutal Friendship: The West and the Arab Elite (London: Gollancz 1991).

The Invasion of Iraq and Western Economic Imperialism

On that latter point, I’m really not surprised about the sectarian violence in Iraq. Apart from the deep tribal and sectarian divisions between its peoples, the western occupation has comprehensively wrecked the country’s economy. Western corporations scramble and lobby for the sale of the country’s state industries, which they duly purchased, they have also attempted to lock the private ownership of the nation’s oil industry in Western hands into the country’s constitution. The Neo-Cons also tried to turn it into a free trade utopia following the ideas of Von Hayek and co. They removed all the tariff restrictions against foreign imports, with a result that everyone in the world dumped their cheap goods on the nation. Unable to compete, the much of their own manufacturing industries went bankrupt and unemployment shot up to 60 per cent. When you have that many people poor, hopeless and angry, you can expect it all to explode into violence.

Psychological Factors in Domestic Terrorists

As for domestic fundamentalists and Islamic terrorists, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown writing in the Independent this week pointed to psychological causes within the minds of some of the young men, who get caught up in it. By and large the fundamentalist terrorists are not the poor and uneducated, but often highly educated people, often from a very westernised background, who are torn by internal conflicts about their identities as western citizens and Muslims. And lack of job opportunities is also very frequently a factor. This all needs tackling. Alibhai-Brown stated that the attempt to tackle the psychological causes of Muslim domestic terrorism and militancy was abandoned in Britain, as Blair and successive administrations sought solutions in interfaith dialogue and foreign policy. In my opinion, that’s needed too, but not to the exclusion of other, psychological approaches.

My point here is that it’s not simply a straightforward, simple case of religion alone causing violence and conflict. And the above books are here trying to make a positive improvement to the situation by showing that a reconciliation between Islam and democracy, human rights and religious and ethnic pluralism is possible.

Unlike the Evening Standard and the Mail, which just wants to stir up even more hatred to sell a few more copies of their wretched rags.