Saturday, August 13, 2005
Klein, Prison Account, Abramoff, Shlaim, Sardar, Zinn, Sharabi, Sheehan,
1) Naomi Klein, right on as usual:
Racism is the terrorists' greatest recruitment tool
The problem in Britain is not too much multiculturalism but too little
Naomi Klein Saturday August 13, 2005
Hussein Osman, one of the men alleged to have participated in London's failed bombings on July 21, recently told Italian investigators that they prepared for the attacks by watching "films on the war in Iraq", La Repubblica reported. "Especially those where women and children were being killed and exterminated by British and American soldiers ... of widows, mothers and daughters that cry."It has become an article of faith that Britain was vulnerable to terror because of its politically correct anti-racism. Yet the comments attributed to Osman suggest another possible motive for acts of terror against the UK: rage at perceived extreme racism. And what else can we call the belief - so prevalent that we barely notice it - that American and European lives are worth more than the lives of Arabs and Muslims, so much more that their deaths in Iraq are not even counted?
It's not the first time that this kind of raw inequality has bred extremism. Sayyid Qutb, the Egyptian writer generally viewed as the intellectual architect of radical political Islam, had his ideological epiphany while studying in the United States. The puritanical scholar was shocked by Colorado's licentious women, it's true, but more significant was Qutb's encounter with what he later described as America's "evil and fanatic racial discrimination".By coincidence, Qutb arrived in the United States in 1948, the year of the creation of the state of Israel. He witnessed an America blind to the thousands of Palestinians being made permanent refugees by the Zionist project. For Qutb, it wasn't politics, it was an assault on his core identity: clearly Americans believed that Arab lives were worth far less than those of European Jews.
According to Yvonne Haddad, a professor of history at Georgetown University, this experience "left Qutb with a bitterness he was never able to shake". When Qutb returned to Egypt he joined the Muslim Brotherhood, leading to his next life-changing event: he was arrested, severely tortured and convicted of anti-government conspiracy in a show trial.
Qutb's political theory was profoundly shaped by torture. Not only did he conclude that his torturers were subhuman infidels, he stretched that categorisation to include the entire state that ordered this brutality, including the Muslim civilians who passively lent their support to Nasser's regime.
Qutb's vast category of subhumans allowed his disciples to justify the killing of "infidels" - now practically everyone - as long as it was done in the name of Islam. A political movement for an Islamic state was transformed into a violent ideology that would lay the intellectual groundwork for al-Qaida. In other words, so-called Islamist terrorism was "home-grown" in the west long before the July 7 attacks - from its inception it was the quintessentially modern progeny of Colorado's casual racism and Cairo's concentration camps.
Why is it worth digging up this history now? Because the twin sparks that ignited Qutb's world-changing rage are currently being doused with gasoline: Arab and Muslim bodies are being debased in torture chambers around the world and their deaths are being discounted in simultaneous colonial wars, at the same time that graphic digital evidence of these losses and humiliations is available to anyone with a computer. And once again, this lethal cocktail of racism and torture is burning through the veins of angry young men. Qutb's history carries an urgent message for today: it's not tolerance for multiculturalism that fuels terrorism; it's tolerance for barbarism committed in our name.
Into this explosive environment has stepped Tony Blair, determined to pass off two of the main causes of terror as its cure. He intends to deport more people to countries where they will likely face torture. And he will keep fighting wars in which soldiers don't know the names of the towns they are levelling. (To cite just one recent example, an August 5 Knight Ridder report quotes a marine sergeant pumping up his squad by telling them, "these will be the good old days, when you brought ... death and destruction to - what the fuck is this place called?" Someone piped in helpfully, "Haqlaniyah.")
Meanwhile, in Britain, there is no shortage of the "evil and fanatic racial discrimination" that Qutb denounced. "Of course, too, there have been isolated and unacceptable acts of a racial or religious hatred," Blair said before unveiling his 12-point terror-fighting plan. "But they have been isolated." Isolated?
The Islamic Human Rights Commission received 320 complaints of racist attacks in the wake of the bombings; The Monitoring Group, a charity that provides assistance to victims of racial harassment, has received 83 emergency calls; Scotland Yard says hate crimes are up 600% from this time last year. And last year was nothing to brag about: "One in five of Britain's ethnic-minority voters say that they considered leaving Britain because of racial intolerance," according to a Guardian poll in March.
This last statistic shows that the brand of multiculturalism practised in Britain (and France, Germany, Canada ... ) has little to do with genuine equality. It is instead a Faustian bargain, struck between vote-seeking politicians and self-appointed community leaders, one that keeps ethnic minorities tucked away in state-funded peripheral ghettoes while the centres of public life remain largely unaffected by seismic shifts in the national ethnic makeup. Nothing exposes the shallowness of this alleged tolerance more than the speed with which Muslims deemed insufficiently "British" are being told to "get out" (to quote the Conservative MP Gerald Howarth).
The real problem is not too much multiculturalism but too little. If the diversity now ghettoised on the margins of western societies - geographically and psychologically - were truly allowed to migrate to the centres, it might infuse public life in the west with a powerful new humanism. If we had deeply multi-ethnic societies, rather than shallow multicultural ones, it would be much more difficult for politicians to sign deportation orders sending Algerian asylum seekers to torture, or to wage wars in which only the invaders' dead are counted. A society that truly lived its values of equality and human rights, at home and abroad, would have another benefit too. It would rob terrorists of what has always been their greatest recruitment tool: our racism.
· Research assistance was provided by Andréa Schmidt; a version of this column was first published in The Nation
2) Follow this link to the harrowing account of an Iraqi blogger arrested by the Iraqi government a couple of weeks ago for basically reading the news at his University's computer lab:
3) The same guy -- Abramoff -- who buys a boat/casino from a man who ends up mysteriously murdered is the same guy supporting a "sniper school" in the occupied West Bank? Oh yeah, and he's a known Republican lobbyist with ties to Tom Delay. Doesn't supporting a sniper school in the occupied West Bank constitute material support for terrorists? One presumes that the school is not part of the Israeli military. Would an Arab-American supporting a sniper school in the occupied West Bank be charged under the Patriot Act?:
4) This is an extensive biography of Avi Shlaim, an Israeli historian of Iraqi Jewish origins who argues that the Israeli governments were always those who rejected peace overtures back in the 50's and 60's:
No peaceful solution By Meron Rapoport And apparently, despite his very innocent appearance,with his curls and his slow speech, Avi Shlaim - thethird and least familiar member of the group of newhistorians - knows that he is a sort of enemy of thepeople, and even enjoys it with refined Britishenjoyment. And now he has come to Israel, armed withhis book, "The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World."
After reading the 573 pages of the book, one canunderstand why Sharon and Livnat do not want Shlaim tobe taught here: in very readable prose, based onfacts, he surveys the history of Israel's contactswith the Arab world from 1948 to 2000, and statesdecisively ("The job of the historian is to judge," hesays) that the Israeli story that Israel has alwaysstretched out its hand to peace, but there was nobodyto talk to - is groundless. The Arabs have repeatedlyoutstretched a hand to peace - says Shlaim - andIsrael has always rejected it. Each time with adifferent excuse.
Among the new historians, Avi Shlaim is the most"classical." Benny Morris began as a journalist with aconscience, served time in a military prison forrefusal to serve in Lebanon, and from thisstarting-point, came to write the "new history" aboutthe creation of the refugee problem. Ilan Pappe was anactivist in the non-Zionist left even before he wentto complete his doctoral studies at Oxford...
5) This aim of this article is a bit ambitious in its scope -- I've seen people point out precise opposite conclusions whenever trying to measure something so enormous as political trends within 20 % of the world's population. Still, some of it's compelling:
Islam: the tide of change
Monday 8th August 2005
The Muslim world is not the medieval monolith we inthe west often imagine. Ziauddin Sardar toured some ofits most populous and important countries, meetingsenior leaders and thinkers, and he returned hopeful
May Allah forgive the BBC. The particular enormity? Adecision to send me, in the BBC's words, "on an epicjourney through the Muslim world". My mission: to talkto heads of government, intellectuals and opinionleaders and discover what has changed, what ischanging and what could change.
We in the west suffer from a sort of tunnel visionabout the Muslim world. For a start, we often speakand think of it as primarily Arab, where in fact onlyone Muslim in six is an Arab. We also tend to see itas static and rigid - it can appear, if there is anymovement going on, that it is all in one direction,towards extremism and fundamentalism. This, too, is afalse picture.
My voyages for the BBC took me to Pakistan, Indonesia,Malaysia, Morocco and Turkey, an itinerary thatincluded some of the most populous and importantMuslim nations. Everywhere I went I found courageousprogressives engaged in a battle of ideas withconservatives. Each country had a different Islam, adifferent dynamic and a different way of addressingthe issue of change, but that change is taking placeis beyond dispute. And yet all this is largelyinvisible to us in the west.
Take Pakistan, where the 7 July bombers allegedlyacquired their conservative ideological stiffening. Ithas been identified as a hotbed of militancy, a globalcentre for anti-progressive indoctrination. Thatmilitancy is a creation of the west, encouraged by theUnited States and Britain during the war against theSoviet Union in Afghanistan. Now that those fightershave turned on Pakistan as well as the west, theburden of containing them falls on President PervezMusharraf, the military ruler who likewise came topower with the tacit approval of the US and Britain.Can he deliver what we expect him to deliver?
We met at the Army House in Rawalpindi, abode of allmilitary dictators of Pakistan. Before the interviewthe BBC crew and I were searched, our mobile phoneswere confiscated, our filming equipment wasscrutinised. Eventually we were taken to the Sun Room,a large conservatory where we found samurai swords,state-of the-art music and cinema equipment and fineHavana cigars. "This is where the president comes torelax," we were told.
General Sultan, chief press officer to the president,arrived to instruct us how we should film, and momentslater another crew arrived. "They are going to filmyou filming the president," we were told, "for our ownrecord." Other aides drifted in, and by the timeGeneral Musharraf sat down to talk the room was socrowded we could hardly move.
The extremists are being fought with "enlightenedmoderation", he declared. "It's a two-prongedstrategy." Pakistan had to reject extremism andterrorism and opt for religious moderation andsocio-economic development. The west, particularlyAmerica, has to change its foreign policy. Musharrafis genuinely concerned about the extremist threat -"If this country goes on the path to extremism,Pakistan's future will be very dark," he said - but Ithink his power to change his country is more limitedthan many in the west imagine.
Those words "enlightened moderation" are a carefullychosen weapon Musharraf is using against the Islamicparties, which are widely seen these days as groups ofignorant fanatics. His main foe on that front is QaziHussain Ahmad, leader of Jamaat-e-Islami and head ofthe coalition of right-wing religious parties. I methim, too, in rather different circumstances. At hisbungalow in Islamabad the only security was a solitarybodyguard, yet the deputy leader of his party had justbeen murdered and his own car had been firebombed theprevious day. It is not clear who was responsible. Helooked shaken but spoke with defiance. "Pakistan wasfounded on Islamic ideology," he said. "We want thesharia as the foundation of this country." Qazi findsnothing unjust in the sharia law, which has hadofficial authority in Pakistan for 25 years. "It isall about protecting human dignity," he told me.
Clinging blindly to ideas that are losing credibilityall around him, Qazi cut a sad, beleaguered figure. Ifhe is anything to go by, the Islamic parties have nofuture, for most people I spoke to in Pakistan told avery different story, and one of which we hear littlein the west. They repeatedly expressed openresentment, both towards the military and the Islamicparties, and a great deal of their anger is focused onthe sharia law, which they see as unjust andoppressive. Not only are they rejecting the sharia butthey are also questioning the central ideology ofPakistan - the ideology used to legitimise militaryrule. The very things the conservatives want to ban -music, art, fashion - are being employed by thesepeople to create a modern, confident Pakistan. And,much to the horror of the conservatives, women are inthe driving seat.
If Pakistan poses a threat to the rest of the world itdoes not come from these people, or from Qazi and hisconservatives. It lies elsewhere, and the west justcannot see it. The most obnoxious religious zealots inthe country wear the uniform of the military, and whathappened after my interview with Musharraf was aperfect illustration of the army's mentality. GeneralSultan, who had been sitting behind the presidenttaking notes throughout, called us over and proceededto review the interview line by line. "Can you cutthis sentence out?" he asked. "And that sentence; andthis word in the sentence after that?" The producerand I looked at each other in amazement.
The army has the habit of controlling everything. Therichest, most politically active and mostzealot-ridden institution in Pakistan, it helpedcreate the Taliban and the jihadi madrasas, and itpropped up the religious opposition. It was the formermilitary ruler, General Zia ul-Haq, who enshrined thesharia in law. Those who think Pakistan's militaryrulers will rescue them from extremism are barking upthe wrong tree.
What is most surprising to a visitor from the west isthat, despite the military, an alternative,progressive interpretation of Islam is gainingstrength. This is the force that can lead Pakistan outof its darkness; these are the people - not Musharrafand his supporters - who need our backing in the fightagainst extremism.
While Pakistan still struggles with its militaryrulers, Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslimnation, has emerged from a long military dictatorship.Here, the impact of democracy is evident. In Jakarta Imet Ulil Abshar Abdalla, founder of the Liberal IslamNetwork (JIL). In his mid-thirties, Ulil was educatedat local seminaries and is a highly qualifiedreligious scholar. What is needed, he says, is"freedom to think, to question". Indonesia has a greattradition of intellectual debate and politicaldissent, and democracy has given that tradition itshead.
The outcome is a radically transformed relationshipbetween Islam and the state. Conventionally, Muslimshave shaped the debate in terms of the "Islamic state"- that is, a state ruled by Islam with sharia as thestate law. The progressive and liberal groups inIndonesia now seek to redirect political Islam towardsshaping a civic society. And in the words of AbdulMukti, the youth leader of Muhammadiyah, anorganisation with more than 40 million followers: "Itis time to rethink Islam without the sharia."
I have not seen that kind of boldness anywhere else,and yet it comes from within Muslim history: itrepresents a revival of the rationalist tradition ofIslam. Liberal scholars and thinkers are using arational, as opposed to literal, interpretation ofIslamic texts. They view religious faith as a relativeconcept and believe in the separation of religion andstate. This approach is the talk of the town inJakarta. We even filmed the broadcast of the country'sfirst mainstream television programme devoted toexploring rationalist and pluralistic interpretationsof Islam. This is not the medieval Islam of westerncaricature, but something open and dynamic.
I believe the changes ushered in by democratic liberalthought in Indonesia are irreversible. Conservativeforces are in retreat, even if they are not goingquietly. Several fatwas have been issued against Ulil."Are you worried?" I asked. He laughed. "I think a lotof people are upset at what we have to say, but manyother people are happy." In July the conservativereligious scholars of the Indonesian Ulama Councilissued another fatwa. Liberalism, secularism andpluralism "contradict Islamic teachings", it said,while the JIL and Muhammadiyah Youth IntellectualsNetwork were "deviant". The last hurrah of a dyingtradition.
While Indonesia is being transformed from the grassroots, its neighbour Malaysia is being changed fromthe top. For a quarter of a century it was ruled bythe fiercely independent and authoritarian MahathirMohamad, who shaped it as a developed and wealthycountry, a shoppers' paradise. In 2003, Mahathir'smantle passed to Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who took overas prime minister. He is a man with ideas about thefuture of Islam.
I interviewed him in Putrajaya, the new administrativecentre, which looks like a 1950s Hollywood set for anArabian Nights epic. Apart from a lonely guard at thegate of his residence, there was no security. Badawistruck me as deeply religious and passionate. "My ideaof progressive Islam," he insisted, "is nothing new."The prime minister calls his interpretation "IslamHadhari", deliberately using the classic Islamic termfor urban culture and civilisation. He wants theMuslims of Malaysia to focus on cultural and economicdevelopment and embrace modernity wholeheartedly."There is nothing in Islam that is against modernityor against progress," he says. The emphasis on urbanculture is deliberate - the conservative Islam of theIslamic party Pas is largely confined to rural areas.So by focusing on urban development and urban civicculture, Badawi is pitting his interpretation againstconventional, traditionalist notions of Islam.Moreover, while the traditionalists emphasise thepast, Islam Hadhari emphasises the present and thefuture. While the conservatives focus on piety, IslamHadhari focuses on practicality.
Malaysia is a deeply conformist society. UnlikeIndo-nesia, it does not have a strong intellectualtradition. Everything revolves around the personalityand authority of the prime minister. If Badawi tellshis citizens to be tolerant and modern, the likelihoodis that they will be tolerant and modern.
During a break in our interview I asked: "What do youdo besides running the country? Do you collect stamps,or play chess?" His face lit up. "I collect walkingsticks," he replied. Soon he was showing off hiscollection, drawn from all over the world, in varioustypes of wood, simple and ornate. Badawi does not looklike a man who would beat his citizens with sticks andyet under his leadership Malaysia has descended intocorruption and censorship - and Islam Hadhari itselfhas been tainted with those authoritarian colours. Forall that, Islam Hadhari is not itself the problem andI am convinced it can have a wide appeal for Muslims.Again, it does not conform to the west's ideas aboutmodern Islam, but we in Britain should be payingattention.
In a closed society, too, profound changes can comefrom the top. This is what is happening in Morocco.King Mohammed VI, under pressure from women andprogressive groups, has been respon-sible forreshaping the sharia. The 41-year-old monarch hasreligious authority as well as political power, andwhen he said "change" even the religious scholarschanged. A new Islamic family law, known locally asthe Moudawana and based on original Islamic sources,overturns 1,200 years of Islamic legalism and legalhistory, giving equal rights to women, children andminorities.
I was hoping to interview the king, but the nearest Icould get was Andre Azoulay, one of the king's fivemain advisers. A tall, elegant Jew, he has an officein the royal palace, a city within a city screened bymany layers of security. Azoulay spokeenthusiastically about his Jewish heritage, the king'sreforms and his love of music, though when I suggestedMorocco was not so much a democracy as an absolutistmonarchy, his charm evaporated.
However, others I met in Morocco - women's rightsadvocates, family law judges and religious scholars -all emphasised one thing: the new law is proof againstconservative Muslims who argue that the sharia, beingdivine, cannot change. It shows that there areresources in Islam that can be used to usher inmodernity. Copies of the new law are being widely soldon the streets of Rabat and Casablanca. Even inconservative Fez, I discovered, it is the talkingpoint of women young and old.
So, at the geographic extremes of the Muslim world, Imet a paradox. The most profound change was occurringin an authoritarian state, Morocco, and there debatecame as a consequence. In more democratic Indonesia,change is openly debated and urged, but its progresswill be messy and will require time.
I had one more country to visit: Turkey. UnlikeMorocco's king, the Turk-ish prime minister, RecepTayyip Erdogan, was accessible, even if his securitywas overbearing. I interviewed him as we walked in thegarden of Dolmabahce Palace and so attentive were hismany bodyguards that it was difficult to keep them atarm's length.
Despite his background in conservative Islam, Erdoganis a democrat with no time for Islamic obscurantism.Far from rejecting Europe and its values, the Turkishleader believes European values emanate from Islamichumanistic traditions. He sees Europe as a naturalally, one that can protect the democratic forces inTurkey against the excesses of Ataturk's militarylegacy. More than anything else, he said, we arepragmatic.
That pragmatism is transforming Turkey. The economy isbooming; the currency is newly reissued, dispensingwith its multiple noughts; the air in Istanbul isbreathable again, a change begun in his years as thecity's mayor. Legislation has been introducedrestricting the involvement of the army in politics.Erdogan is living proof that not only can Muslimschange but that they can change their politics. Thisis an essential point and one that we ignore at ourperil. Our foreign policy, politics and outlooktowards the Muslim world should be based on thisrealisation.
From Morocco to Indonesia, desire for change spans theMuslim world, and progressive change is happening. Ittakes different forms in all the countries I visited,but there are also common threads. Having made myjourney, I returned with a cautious optimism. Sweetreason may yet win the day.
Battling for the Soul of Islam will be broadcast onBBC2, 12 September, 9pm-10.30pm
6) This writer's definitely got a point -- but I think neo-colonial wars and devaluation ofsubalterns' lives has a lot more to do with Londonbombings than whether Muslims drink or not. In other words, I don't think there's primarily a moral war afoot, but rather an anti-imperial war. Still, he's got a point about the ideological origins:
The struggle for Islam's soul
Monday 18th July 2005
Terror in the UK - Most Muslims abhor violence, yetthe terrorists are a product of a specific mindsetthat has deep roots in Islamic history. If Muslimsrefuse to confront this, we will all be prey to moreterror, writes Ziauddin Sardar
At about the time the bombs were going off in London,bulldozers were demolishing sacred historic sites inMecca and, in Delhi, a group of women wasdemonstrating against an "inhuman" fatwa ordering arape victim to renounce her husband. Three seeminglyunconnected violent acts. But they weave a threadhighlighting a question we Muslims just cannot ignore:why have we made Islam so violent?
Within hours of the London atrocity, Muslim groupsthroughout Britain condemned the bombing, declaring inunequivocal terms that such acts had nothing to dowith Islam. "Religious precepts," declared the MuslimCouncil of Britain, "cannot be used to justify suchcrimes, which are completely contrary to our teachingand practice." The eminently sensible Imam Abdul JalilSajid, chairman of the Muslim Council for Religiousand Racial Harmony UK, announced: "No school of Islamallows the targeting of civilians or the killing ofinnocents. Indiscriminate, senseless and targetedkilling has no justification in Islam." The tenor ofthese statements is: these are the acts ofpathologically mad people; Islam has nothing to dowith it.
But Islam has everything to do with it. As DrGhayasuddin Siddiqui, director of the MuslimInstitute, points out: "The terrorists are usingIslamic sources to justify their actions. How can onethen say it has nothing to do with Islam?"
It is true that the vast majority of Muslims abhorviolence and terrorism, and that the Koran and variousschools of Islamic law forbid the killing of innocentcivilians. It is true, as the vast majority of Muslimsbelieve, that the main message of Islam is peace.Nevertheless, it is false to assume that the Koran orIslamic law cannot be used to justify barbaric acts.The terrorists are a product of a specific mindsetthat has deep roots in Islamic history. They arenourished by an Islamic tradition that isintrinsically inhuman and violent in its rhetoric,thought and practice. They are provided solace andspiritual comfort by scholars, who use the Koran andIslamic law to justify their actions and fan thehatred.
As a Muslim, I am deeply upset by the attacks, themore so now I know they were the work of BritishMuslims. But, as a Muslim, I also have a duty torecognise the Islamic nature of the problem that theterrorists have thrown up. They are acting in the nameof my religion; it thus becomes my responsibilitycritically to examine the tradition that sustainsthem. The question of violence per se is not unique toIslam. All those who define themselves as the totalityof a religion or an ideology have an innate tolerancefor and tendency towards violence. It is the case inall religions and all ideologies down through everyage. But this does not lessen the responsibility onMuslims in Britain, or around the world, to bejudicious, to examine themselves, their history andall it contains to redeem Islam from the pathology ofthis tradition. The terrorists place a unique burdenon Muslims. To deny that they are a product of Islamichistory and tradition is more than complacency. It isa denial of responsibility, a denial of what is reallyhappening in our communities. It is a refusal to livein the real world.
The tradition that nourishes the mentality of theextremists has three inherent characteristics. First,it is ahistoric. It abhors history and drains it ofall humanity and human content. Islam, as a religioninterpreted in the lives and thoughts of people calledMuslims, is not something that unfolded in historywith all its human strengths and weaknesses, but is autopia that exists outside time. Hence it has nonotion of progress, moral development or humanevolution. What happened in Mecca earlier this monthillustrates this point well.
During the past 50 years the holy cities of Mecca andMedina have suffered incalculable violence. More than300 historical sites have been levelledsystematically. Only a few historic buildings remainin Mecca - and these are about to be demolished. "Weare witnessing now the last few moments of the historyof Mecca," says Sami Angawi, a Saudi expert on theIslamic architecture of the Holy City. "Its layers ofhistory are being bulldozed for a parking lot."Angawi, who has fought to conserve the historic sitesof the Holy City for more than 25 years, has no doubtwhat is largely to blame: Wahhabism, the dominantreligious tradition of Saudi Arabia. The Wahhabis, hesays, "have not allowed preser-vation of oldbuildings, especially those related to the Prophet".Why? Because other Muslims will relate to the historyof the Prophet, and they will then see him as a manliving in a particular time and space that placedparticular demands on him and forced him to act inparticular ways. The Wahhabis want to universalise andeternalise every act of the Prophet. For them, thecontext is not only irrelevant but dangerous. It hasto be expunged.
What this means is that the time of the Prophet has tobe constantly recreated, both in thought and action.It is perfect time, frozen and eternalised. Because itis perfect, it cannot be im-proved: it is the epitomeof morality, incapable of growth.
Second, this ideal tradition is monolithic. It doesnot recognise, understand or appreciate a contraryview. Those who express an alternative opinion areseen as apostates, collaborators or worse. The latestcause celebre of Islamic law in India demonstrateswhat I mean.
Imrana Bibi, the 28-year-old wife of a poor rickshawpuller in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, was raped byher father-in-law. The religious scholars of Deoband,an influential seminary with Wahhabi tendencies,issued a fatwa: her marriage is nullified, her husbandis forbidden to her for ever, she will have toseparate for life from him and her five children. TheAll India Muslim Personal Law Board endorsed the"punishment". When Imrana Bibi herself, along withwomen's rights groups, complained about the doubleinjustice, the clerics at Deoband declared: "She had aphysical relationship with her father-in-law. It doesnot matter whether it was consensual or forced. Shecannot live with her husband. Any Muslim who opposesour fatwa is not a true Muslim and is betrayingIslam."
So no complaint or opposition is allowed. A perfecttradition can only produce perfect fatwas. And thosewho are seen as betraying Islam can themselves becomesubjects of other perfect fatwas. As a traditionoutside history, it does not recognise the diversityof Islam. The humanist or rationalist tradition ofIslam, or the great mystical tradition, thus appear asa dangerous deviations. In Bangladesh the Wahhabis andDeobandis are terrorising and burning the mosques ofthe Ahmadiyya sect, which does not see the ProphetMuhammad as the last Prophet, and insist that Ahmadisshould be declared "non-Muslims". In Pakistan theSunnis are killing Shias because they do not see themas legitimate Muslims. Ditto in Iraq. In Algeria theArmed Islamic Group (GIA) openly declared that theentire "Algerian nation" was deviant and should bekilled. As for Saudi Arabia, you cannot even take acommentary or translation of the Koran into thecountry that does not follow the prescribed line.
Notice also that this tradition has a very specificview of sin. A perfect tradition must lead to perfectMuslims, who do not and cannot commit sin. Those whocommit sin _ that is, disagree or deviate _ cannot beMuslims. Those outside this tradition are sinners andhave to be brought to the Straight Path. The victimsof sin themselves become sinners who have to bepunished.
Third, this tradition is aggressively self-righteous;and insists on imposing its notion of righteousness onothers. It legitimises intolerance and violence byendlessly quoting the famous verse from the Koran thatasks the believers "to do good and prevent evildeeds". The Bali bombers justified their actions withthis verse. The Islamic Defenders Front, based inIndonesia, frequently burns and destroys cafes,cinemas and discos - places it considers to be sitesof immoral or immodest behaviour. The hated religiouspolice in Saudi Arabia are on the streets every dayimposing a "moral code" (mainly on women). InPakistan, the religious scholars succeeded in banningmixed (male and female) marathons.
Just where does this tradition come from? Much hasbeen said about the "modern" nature of this tendency.It has been argued, for example, that it is a recentphenomenon, a product of "instrumental modernity".This is plain nonsense. It can be traced right back tothe formative phase of Islam.
The Prophet Muhammad was succeeded by four caliphs whoare known as the "Rightly Guided" because of theirclose friendship and relationship with the Prophet.Muslims regard the period of their rule in idealisedterms - as the best that human endeavour can achieve.However, this was also a period of dissent, wars andrebellions. Three of the four Rightly Guided caliphswere murdered. One particular set of rebels,responsible for the murder of Ali, the fourth caliph,was known as the Kharjites. The Kharjites were apuritan sect which believed that history had come toan end after the revelation made to the Last Prophet.From now on, there could not be any debate orcompromise on any question: "The decision is God'salone." They were prone to extremist proclamations,denouncing Ali as well as Othman, the third caliph,and pronouncing everyone who did not agree with theirpoint of view as infidel and outside the law.
The Kharjites developed a radically differentinterpretation of what it means to be a Muslim. To bea Muslim, they argued, is to be in a perfect state ofsoul. Someone in that state cannot commit a sin andengage in wrongdoing. Sin, therefore was acontradiction for a true Muslim - it nullified thebeliever and demonstrated that inwardly he was anapostate who had turned against Islam. Thus anyone whodid any wrong was not really a Muslim. He could be putto death. Indeed, the Kharjites believed that allnon-Kharjite Muslims were really apostates who werelegitimate targets for violence.
Although the Kharjites were eventually suppressed,their thought has recurred in Islamic history withcyclic regularity. They led several rebellions duringthe Abbasid period (749-1258), which is conventionallyseen as the Golden Age of Islam. The influence oftheir thought can clearly be seen on Ibn Taymiyyah(1263-1328), the great-grandfather of Wahhabism, andone of the most influential political scientists ofIslamic history. Kharjite thought is also evident inthe ideas of Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab (1703-87), thefounder of the Wahhabi sect. It shaped the outlook ofSayyid Qutb (1906-66), chief ideologue of the MuslimBrotherhood. Today we can see their clear influencenot just on those who subscribe to the Bin Ladendoctrine, groups such as Hizb ut-Tahrir andal-Muhajiroun, but also on certain mainstreamorganisations.
Like their predecessors, the neo-Kharjites have nodoubt that their identity is shaped by the bestreligion with the finest arrangements and precepts forall aspects of human existence; and there can be nodeviation from the path. Those who do not agree are atbest lesser Muslims and at worst legitimate targetsfor violence. In their rhetoric all is sacred, nothingsecular and retribution is the paramount duty. "Sincethey have left humanity and history out of theequation," says Dr Najah Kadhim, director of Islam21,a global network of Muslim intellectuals, "they haveno conscience. No notion of guilt or remorse. Sincethe idea that they are perfect is part of theirpsychological make-up, they can do anything withimpunity." Injustice and violence are inbuilt in theirthought and tradition, which, under certaincircumstances, is transformed into undiluted fascism.We saw this most clearly in the case of the Taliban.
So it just won't do to say that these people are "notMuslims", as the Muslim Council of Britain seems tosuggest. We must acknowledge that the terrorists, andtheir neo-Kharjite tradition, are products of Islamichistory. Only by recognising this brutal fact would werealise that the fight against terrorism is also aninternal Muslim struggle within Islam. Indeed, it is astruggle for the very soul of Islam.
In that struggle, all Muslims have to examine theirwords, deeds, motivations and interpretations ofIslam. The traditional exegesis of the Koran - thetraditional rhetoric used by gentle, bushy-bearded,kind old mullahs who wouldn't hurt a fly -nevertheless is formed from the same building blocksas that slippery slope on which pathological mindsetsare created, where Islam is used to justify theunjustifiable. And it leads to equivocal arguments bywhich many defend or seek to explain the indefensible.
Yet this struggle, as Dr Siddiqui points out, "cannotbe shaped on the lines of 'the war on terror'". The"war on terror" feeds the monster what it mostdesires: violent reaction to sustain the cycle ofviolence. "This is why Iraq has now become a breedingground for the neo-Kharjite philosophy," he argues.
The war on terror, in fact, cannot be a war at all. Ithas to be a reasoned engagement with the politics oftradition. If Islam has been construed as the problem,then Islam is also the essential ingredient in thesolution.
"The best way to fight the Kharjite tradition is withthe humanistic and rationalist traditions of Islam,"says Dr Kadhim. "This is how they were defeated inIslamic history. This is how we will defeat them now."If Muslims do not take on the challenge, they cede theinitiative to those who have misconceived the problemand accepted a military strategy that is no solution.And that will make us all prey to more violence.
Ziauddin Sardar's Desperately Seeking Paradise:journeys of a sceptical Muslim is published by Granta(£8.99, paperback)
7) Howard Zinn Op-Ed:
It is not only Iraq that is occupied. America is too
My country is in the grip of a president surrounded bythugs in suits
Friday August 12, 2005
It has quickly become clear that Iraq is not aliberated country, but an occupied country. We becamefamiliar with that term during the second world war.We talked of German-occupied France, German-occupiedEurope. And after the war we spoke of Soviet-occupiedHungary, Czechoslovakia, eastern Europe. It was theNazis, the Soviets, who occupied countries. The UnitedStates liberated them from occupation.Now we are the occupiers. True, we liberated Iraq fromSaddam Hussein, but not from us. Just as in 1898 weliberated Cuba from Spain, but not from us. Spanishtyranny was overthrown, but the US established amilitary base in Cuba, as we are doing in Iraq. UScorporations moved into Cuba, just as Bechtel andHalliburton and the oil corporations are moving intoIraq. The US framed and imposed, with support fromlocal accomplices, the constitution that would governCuba, just as it has drawn up, with help from localpolitical groups, a constitution for Iraq. Not aliberation. An occupation.
And it is an ugly occupation. On August 7 2003 the NewYork Times reported that General Sanchez in Baghdadwas worried about the Iraqi reaction to occupation.Pro-US Iraqi leaders were giving him a message, as heput it: "When you take a father in front of his familyand put a bag over his head and put him on the ground,you have had a significant adverse effect on hisdignity and respect in the eyes of his family."(That's very perceptive.)
We know that fighting during the US offensive inNovember 2004 destroyed three-quarters of the town ofFalluja (population 360,000), killing hundreds of itsinhabitants. The objective of the operation was tocleanse the town of the terrorist bands acting as partof a "Ba'athist conspiracy".
But we should recall that on June 16 2003, barely sixweeks after President Bush had claimed victory inIraq, two reporters for the Knight Ridder newspapergroup wrote this about the Falluja area: "In dozens ofinterviews during the past five days, most residentsacross the area said there was no Ba'athist or Sunniconspiracy against US soldiers, there were only peopleready to fight because their relatives had been hurtor killed, or they themselves had been humiliated byhome searches and road stops ... One woman said, afterher husband was taken from their home because of emptywooden crates which they had bought for firewood, thatthe US is guilty of terrorism."
Soldiers who are set down in a country where they weretold they would be welcomed as liberators and findthey are surrounded by a hostile population becomefearful and trigger-happy. On March 4 nervous,frightened GIs manning a roadblock fired on theItalian journalist Giuliana Sgrena, just released bykidnappers, and an intelligence service officer,Nicola Calipari, whom they killed.
We have all read reports of US soldiers angry at beingkept in Iraq. Such sentiments are becoming known tothe US public, as are the feelings of many deserterswho are refusing to return to Iraq after home leave.In May 2003 a Gallup poll reported that only 13% ofthe US public thought the war was going badly.According to a poll published by the New York Timesand CBS News on June 17, 51% now think the US shouldnot have invaded Iraq or become involved in the war.Some 59% disapprove of Bush's handling of thesituation.
But more ominous, perhaps, than the occupation of Iraqis the occupation of the US. I wake up in the morning,read the newspaper, and feel that we are an occupiedcountry, that some alien group has taken over. I wakeup thinking: the US is in the grip of a presidentsurrounded by thugs in suits who care nothing abouthuman life abroad or here, who care nothing aboutfreedom abroad or here, who care nothing about whathappens to the earth, the water or the air, or whatkind of world will be inherited by our children andgrandchildren.
More Americans are beginning to feel, like thesoldiers in Iraq, that something is terribly wrong.More and more every day the lies are being exposed.And then there is the largest lie, that everything theUS does is to be pardoned because we are engaged in a"war on terrorism", ignoring the fact that war isitself terrorism, that barging into homes and takingaway people and subjecting them to torture isterrorism, that invading and bombing other countriesdoes not give us more security but less.
The Bush administration, unable to capture theperpetrators of the September 11 attacks, invadedAfghanistan, killing thousands of people and drivinghundreds of thousands from their homes. Yet it stilldoes not know where the criminals are. Not knowingwhat weapons Saddam Hussein was hiding, it invaded andbombed Iraq in March 2003, disregarding the UN,killing thousands of civilians and soldiers andterrorising the population; and not knowing who wasand was not a terrorist, the US government confinedhundreds of people in Guantánamo under such conditionsthat 18 have tried to commit suicide.
The Amnesty International Report 2005 notes:"Guantánamo Bay has become the gulag of our times ...When the most powerful country in the world thumbs itsnose at the rule of law and human rights, it grants alicence to others to commit abuse with impunity".
The "war on terrorism" is not only a war on innocentpeople in other countries; it is a war on the peopleof the US: on our liberties, on our standard ofliving. The country's wealth is being stolen from thepeople and handed over to the super-rich. The lives ofthe young are being stolen.
The Iraq war will undoubtedly claim many more victims,not only abroad but also on US territory. The Bushadministration maintains that, unlike the Vietnam war,this conflict is not causing many casualties. Trueenough, fewer than 2,000 service men and women havelost their lives in the fighting. But when the warfinally ends, the number of its indirect victims,through disease or mental disorders, will increasesteadily. After the Vietnam war, veterans reportedcongenital malformations in their children, caused byAgent Orange.
Officially there were only a few hundred losses in theGulf war of 1991, but the US Gulf War VeteransAssociation has reported 8,000 deaths in the past 10years. Some 200,000 veterans, out of 600,000 who tookpart, have registered a range of complaints due to theweapons and munitions used in combat. We have yet tosee the long-term effects of depleted uranium on thosecurrently stationed in Iraq.
Our faith is that human beings only support violenceand terror when they have been lied to. And when theylearn the truth, as happened in the course of theVietnam war, they will turn against the government. Wehave the support of the rest of the world. The UScannot indefinitely ignore the 10 million people whoprotested around the world on February 15 2003.
There is no act too small, no act too bold. Thehistory of social change is the history of millions ofactions, small and large, coming together at points inhistory and creating a power that governments cannotsuppress.
· Howard Zinn is professor emeritus of politicalscience at Boston University; his books include APeople's History of the United States
© Le Monde diplomatique
A version of this article appears in the August issueof Le Monde diplomatique's English language editionMondediplo.com
8) This is a biographical article about Dr. Hisham Sharabi, who died earlier this year:
"Remembering Hisham Sharabi (1927–2005)"
By Dr. Lawrence Davidson
Re-printed with permission from The Journal of Palestine Studies
Hisham Sharabi was one of the twentieth century’s most renowned Arab American intellectuals. He was the peer of men such as Philip Hitti, Amin Rihani, and Edward Said. Like them, Sharabi was a teacher and a scholar; like Rihani and Said, he was also an activist. He was a public intellectual who fought for a cause. That cause was Palestinian rights. Because that cause was misunderstood and maligned in the United States, his achievements are at once less publicly appreciated and more impressive, for those who fight earnestly and consistently against the odds created by stereotyping and propaganda are among the greatest assets of their community.
I knew Hisham in all these roles. He was my instructor and academic mentor at Georgetown University from 1967 to 1970. He was also an ally in the struggle to change an exploitative and destructive American foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East. When we met in the fall of 1967, my own struggle was focused against the U.S. war in Vietnam. In June of that year, Hisham had been summoned by the Arab-Israeli war from his “silence in exile” to renew his struggle for Palestinian justice. For both of us, the student movement of the 1960s was an inspiration. For the next thirty-seven years we corresponded and saw each other at the very least once a year, often more. We constantly exchanged analyses as well as ideas on strategy and tactics. In the process, we became very close. Apart from family members, I feel I knew him as well as any American could.
Hisham Sharabi was born in 1927 in Jaffa, Palestine, then under the British Mandate. As a consequence, his formative years were shaped by the reality of imperialism and colonialism. He was old enough to remember, and to be unsettled by, the violent Palestinian rebellion of 1936–39. By the time he was twenty-one, his family had been made refugees by the war that transformed the Zionist colonial movement into the State of Israel. The anger created by such events can find _expression in depression and hopelessness, or it can be sublimated into activism. Hisham’s inclination was always for the latter. He once told me that even as a child it never occurred to him to “do nothing” about the world falling apart around him. Thus, as an impressionable youth he became involved with the pan-Syrian and militantly secular Syrian Social Nationalist Party, better known as the PPS (Parti Populaire Syrien), whose charismatic but authoritarian and patriarchal leader, Anton Saadeh, mesmerized him. The PPS aimed at transforming the social and political structure of the Middle East. The movement’s failure sent Sharabi looking for other approaches to action compatible with his studious and intellectual nature. What he did retain from his PPS experience was the conviction of the need for radical change in the region.
In 1947 Sharabi arrived in the United States as a young graduate student at the University of Chicago. His choice of study in the United States reflected his intellectual affinity for Western thought. Despite a religious family background and the persistent efforts of his grandmother to assure his exposure to traditional Muslim learning, he had developed a secular outlook. This was probably the result of his early schooling in Western institutions. He had attended the Quaker Friends School in Ramallah and later matriculated at the American University of Beirut. This exposure to Western ideas coincided with a growing anxiety among politically aware young Arabs about the fate of a Middle East still directly or indirectly controlled by colonial forces. The resulting tension turned Sharabi away from Islam, brought him into the folds of the PPS, and triggered an exploration of the intellectual ideas that constituted the humanistic side of Western thought.
Thus, at the age of twenty, he found himself transported away from the familiar surroundings of his youth, particularly the Lebanese seaside where he and his college friends liked to fish and swim, to the wintry shores of an alien Chicago. It was not only the physical environment that was alien, but also, as he tells us in his 1978 autobiography,[i] much about the University of Chicago as well. Despite Sharabi’s prior education in Western run schools in the Middle East, the fluid and debate-oriented learning environment of his new university came on him as a form of intellectual culture shock. His classroom experience in Lebanon, albeit at an American university, was culturally Arab—that is, a top-down affair. He reports that the undergraduate classrooms of his youth were patriarchal in nature and that the position taken by the professor was almost never questioned.[ii] In Chicago, only slowly did he overcome his reticence about entering into the daily dialogue of his classes. As he did adapt, he became convinced of the methodological superiority of this approach to learning and began to travel down a road of intellectual exploration.
That road had its obstacles. His new experiences called into doubt many of the values and ways of his homeland. On the intellectual level, the ideals of democracy, gender and religious equality, and the open competition of ideas created an enduring dissatisfaction with the contemporary state of Arab intellectual, political, and social affairs. On the emotional level, however, the culture of his Arab upbringing was more deeply ingrained than he liked to admit. The resulting internal contradictions might help explain certain aspects of his behavior. As a professor, he often said little during classroom discussions. He loved to have students over for dinner and to sit with them on his back porch for long and engrossing intellectual and political talks, but even then, he generally said little. This was not a congenital personality trait. In fact, he once told me that he had trained himself to be like this over many years. It was never clear to me why he had undertaken this transformation. Perhaps he was guarding himself against slipping into the authoritarian ways of his old Arab professors or, alternatively, the posture of his former mentor Saadeh. On the other hand, the effect of this demeanor could be quite patriarchal and even intimidating. Was this imposing quiet the result of an unconscious compromise, an effort at once to be, and yet not to be, the Arab patriarch?
Much of his intellectual production over a fifty-year period reflected his dissatisfaction with the social and political state of the Middle East, as well as the plight of the Palestinian people. He read Arab newspapers regularly and listened almost obsessively to news broadcasts in both English and Arabic. He was always up-to-date on the politics of the Arab world and knew personally many of the important political figures of the region. He saw the history of the Middle East as being in constant motion and mostly changing for the worse. This meant that, though he was hired by Georgetown University in 1953 as a professor of modern European intellectual history and spent his entire academic career as such, almost everything he wrote had something to do with the Arab world.
Hisham had mixed feelings about this, as if the events of his time had forced him away from subjects of study that he found more congenial. I once asked him what topics he would have pursued had he not felt compelled to concentrate on the problems of his homeland. He immediately replied that he had once hoped to write a book on Nietzsche. In his house in Bethesda, Maryland, the dining table off the kitchen would be piled high with the books he was currently studying. I use the word “studying” advisedly, for other than the occasional work of fiction, he rarely indulged in casual reading. In contrast to the Arabic newspapers that were also on hand in the dining area, the books were mostly Western philosophical, political, and historical works. In the last ten years or so of his life, the pile of books reflected his growing fascination with postmodernist writers. Thus the dining room was where Hisham’s two worlds met.
Sharabi the activist, however, was always facing East. Like so many Arab intellectuals, he had been shocked and energized by the June 1967 war. Israel’s swift and conclusive defeat of the Arabs only reinforced his long held conviction that the Middle East was in need of thorough reform. At first he appeared to believe that the inspiration for reform was to be found in the Arab intellectual past. His 1970 work Arab Intellectuals and the West: The Formative Years, 1875–1914[iii] was an effort to reinterpret the experiences and thinking of the sometimes religiously motivated Arab intellectuals of the late nineteenth century in ways that could be helpful to secular Arab reformers in the present. “All the problems that are being confronted today were confronted then,” he noted.[iv] Just as Western intellectuals interested in enhancing political and human rights return, again and again, to thinkers such as Locke and Voltaire, he wrote, so should Arab reformers study their predecessors. “The task of Arab scholars is to go back to this period, and reinterpret it, as the classical Enlightenment has been reexamined by each generation in Europe and the United States.”[v] What is certain is that for Sharabi, the study of the past ceased to be an end in itself following the 1967 war and instead became a search for solid ground in the formulation of contemporary tactics.
Yet as time went on, I am convinced that he looked for inspiration less to the Arab past and more to Western oriented intellectual movements and ideas. During our thirty-seven-year friendship, I cannot recall him making a single conversational reference to a pre-twentieth century Arab thinker. As far as I can tell, the Palestinian leader he most admired was George Habash, leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and a Marxist internationalist. He did not think very highly of the bulk of contemporary Arab intellectuals who manned the region’s universities and institutes. More than once he complained to me of their “mediocrity.” That is not to say that he did not have close intellectual friends in the Middle East whom he deeply admired. He also yearned to return to the Middle East to live and teach. However, in my opinion, Hisham saw the best and most promising intellectual work and social and political analysis as coming from the West, and this could not help but influence how he envisioned the future of the Middle East
Theory and Practice
After 1967 Hisham Sharabi’s work was divided between theory and practice. In terms of practice, his major activity was to contribute to the well-being of his people, the Palestinians, as they struggled against an enemy bent on ethnically cleansing them from their homeland. It is this part of his work that tapped into his emotions, channeled his anger productively, and allowed him to make a positive difference in the lives of many Palestinians. He helped establish the Jerusalem Fund with its charitable and educational support programs for Palestinians in both occupied lands and the Diaspora. He served as editor of the Journal of Palestine Studies from 1972 until 2002, and in 1990 helped set up the Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine, both dedicated to chronicling and interpreting the history and current evolution of the Palestinian struggle. He also tirelessly pursued “meetings with Congress, the State Department, the Pentagon, and [when possible] the White House . . . to tell them what’s wrong with U.S. policy in the region.” [vi] He pursued all such endeavors with a stubborn determination that refused to give in to the odds massed against the Palestinian people and their cause.
On the level of theory, he devoted himself to the intellectual analysis and theoretical understanding of contemporary Arab society. It is this work that preoccupied his powerful intellect and kept him connected to the intellectual life befitting his personality. In this effort, he helped found the Georgetown University Center for Contemporary Arab Studies and began writing extensively on the status of Arab culture and society. In both the English and Arabic speaking worlds, the most widely read product of that effort was his book Neopatriarchy: A Theory of Distorted Change in Arab Society.[vii]
In this seminal work, Sharabi concluded that the traditional patriarchal culture of the Arab world, far from being undermined by imperialism, became further entrenched in a new and more powerful form. In effect, instead of inheriting democracy or civil liberties from the West, the traditional Arab elites inherited the technologically enhanced power structure of their colonial masters. As a result, the struggle against imperialism left the old Arab system of the dominant male authority figure not merely intact but strengthened by new governmental structures. This meant that the various ideologies of reform, be they nationalist, socialist, or state capitalist, carried within them the seeds of a now bureaucratized and armed neopatriarchy. Thus, the various governmental forms that neopatriarchy took failed to produce truly modern and liberating societies. Indeed, the only thing modern about them was their use of up-to-date surveillance and military equipment. Civil society languished in a perennially undeveloped state, the economy remained locked into a patriarchal patronage system, initiative and free thinking were often punishable offenses, and other human rights, particularly for women, were nowhere to be found.
In Sharabi’s view, this neopatriarchal system did damage not only to the Middle East in general, but also specifically to the Palestinian cause. Thus, once Yasir Arafat and his associates negotiated their return to Palestine, they ruled the occupied territories like a shaykhdom. The neopatriarchal and authoritarian nature of the Palestine National Authority under Arafat (toward whom, after Oslo, Hisham felt only disgust and bitter disappointment) directly contradicted the goals of modernism and liberation that he both wrote about and acted to promote.
Paradoxes and Dilemmas
It was not only the state of the Arab world that caused Sharabi concern. The contradictions between West’s intellectual heritage, as he understood it, and Western (particularly American) policy in the Middle East constituted a never ending source of frustration for him. He was an Arab expatriate whose mind had been opened through the study of Western philosophy and intellectual history to the liberating potential of a critical and questioning approach to the world. Yet once he put down the books and walked out of the classroom, he was rudely confronted with the fact that the political leaders and public in the West often suspended critical thinking in favor of unanalyzed, unquestioned propaganda, fantasy, and distortion. Worse still, this uncritical approach was applied with particular zeal by his adopted Western country (the United States) specifically to the history and struggles of his own homeland (Palestine). It was not long before the juxtaposition of Western political theory (i.e., the championship of reason, democracy, and individual rights) and American practice (i.e., a foreign policy driven by prejudice and stereotyping) filled him with perplexity and a deep sense of injustice.
This sense of injustice was reinforced by his frequent contacts with U.S. government and civic officials. Concerning the way in which these last categorized Palestinians “in the most racist way as terrorists without anyone raising an eyebrow,” he noted: “Being at the heart of this, I am able to plumb the depth of the above attributes directly, without the comforting cushion of abstract analysis.”[viii] As for the Israelis whom these same officials portrayed as representatives of Western civilization in the midst of Middle Eastern barbarity, Hisham saw most of them as acting in a “moral vacuum which is the breeding ground of evil.”[ix]
I am aware of only one American political experience that Hisham saw as important and positive in the years following the 1967 war: his association with the Georgetown chapter of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). The chapter had been founded in the fall of 1967 by myself and several other students. The SDS opposed the Vietnam War and had an anti-imperialist analysis of American foreign policy. For Sharabi, who sometimes attended our meetings, this anti-imperialism meant that, potentially, the organization could serve as a vehicle to promote sympathy with and support for the Palestinian cause. More broadly, he saw the SDS as a vehicle through which young citizens resisted war, propaganda, and the dehumanizing effects of bureaucratic processes. His witnessing of a popular movement combining debate and analysis, egalitarianism, and activism suggested to him that reason could overcome fantasy and propaganda in the minds of Americans.
Encouraged by his SDS experience, Hisham broadened his efforts beyond the government and sought more media access for the message that American policy in the Middle East was wrongheaded. He appeared on television, wrote innumerable op-ed pieces, and held news conferences. He also sought to help strengthen Arab American interest group formation that had been ongoing for some time. For several years he was the head of the Association of Arab-American University Graduates. By 1970, he had learned that the SDS was in fact an anomaly within the American political scene and that it was not going to mature into a broad-based political movement. Particularly when it came to the subject of Palestine, the SDS never did evolve into the popularizing springboard for which he had hoped.
A good part of the problem was that Hisham, and the rest of us who supported the Palestinian cause, were doing verbal battle in an informational environment that more often than not failed to recognize the validity of any non-Zionist interpretation of reality. This made any effort to promote Arab and Palestinian interests in the United States extremely difficult. Any public statement Sharabi might make, no matter how accurate, would immediately elicit angry and sometimes libelous responses by the Zionist operatives who command attention in the nation’s capital. His assessment that Israel and its American allies were, to all intents and purposes, seeking to “subdue” the Palestinians in the occupied territories (an understatement relative to what was actually happening on the ground and an assessment with which any objective observer would agree) was condemned as an outrageous falsification by emotionally driven pro-Zionist elements at Georgetown University and the Jewish community of Washington, DC.[x] When he spoke in the Middle East he was forthright and descriptive. He commented to a Beirut newspaper that “Americans had entered the region [the Middle East] to possess the oil resources and redraw the geopolitical map,” and once told an Arab audience that the Middle East was under neocolonial attack.[xi] Although both statements are supported by abundant factual evidence, they and similar utterances nonetheless called forth accusations that he suffered from the “fantasy element that dogs Arab discourse.”[xii]
It is an indication of the dilemma Hisham faced that even Zionists who claim to have known him well were convinced that he wished for nothing less than the destruction of Israel (a reversal of what the Israelis not only yearned for relative to the Palestinians, but in fact executed).[xiii] In any case, it does not matter what Sharabi yearned for in his heart of hearts. Unlike some empowered Zionists, his behavior was not controlled by vengeful and genocidal yearnings. When it came to practice, “fantasy” was as far from Sharabi’s mind as stars in the heavens. Unless, of course, you consider the following position statement, written in 1998, as delusional:
I try to remind myself of what sustained all Palestinian refugees over the long years of exile: this land is not a memory, it is not lost, it is out there where it can be seen and touched, a patrimony that can never be given up or taken away. Does this mean that there can be no peaceful solution to the conflict? Does the solution lie in the reversal of what happened 50 years ago and the destruction of Israel? No, the clock cannot be put back, the past cannot be redeemed, Israel’s destruction cannot be the goal. The conflict’s real solution cannot be a zero-sum outcome, but only a political compromise. The legitimate struggle of the Palestinians will seek a solution based on justice, international law, and the imperative need for mutual accommodation and survival.[xiv]
Fantasy? Only if those who hold power in Washington and Jerusalem insist on a “zero-sum outcome” and then call that sanity.
Right to the end, Hisham Sharabi refused to accept as inevitable a world of Zionist realpolitik and as permanent the horrors it engendered. Right to the end he believed in acting within the public sphere, and in the possibility of melding theory and democratic practice—just as he had seen accomplished for a brief historical moment by the Georgetown SDS. More than once he told me that “I miss the ‘revolutionary’ days.”[xv] I would respond that he carried the seeds of a humanistic revolution within him and had helped nurture the same potential in others. I still believe this to be so. Through his work, both theoretical and practical, he chose to keep alive an alternative perception of reality that was eminently sane and humane. And he never gave up. Thus, he was, and will remain as long as his memory prevails, a model for those who fight for a world ruled by reason and justice.
Lawrence Davidson, professor of history at West Chester University, is the author of America’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood (University Press of Florida, 2001).
[i] Hisham Sharabi, Al-Jamr wa al-ramad: Dhikrayat muthaqqa arabi [Embers and Ashes: Memoirs of an Arab Intellectual] (Beirut: Dar al-taliy`a lil-tiba`a wal-nashr, 1978).[ii] Sharabi, Al-Jamr wa al-ramad.[iii] Johns Hopkins Press, 1970.[iv] Jordan Sand, "Hisham Sharabi, Bridging the Arab and European Worlds," published in the Faculty Profiles section of the 1998 History Department Newsletter, Georgetown University, Washington, DC, 1998, online at www.georgetown.edu.[v] Sand, “Hisham Sharabi.”[vi] Letter to the author dated 6 September 1980.[vii] Oxford University Press, 1988.[viii] Letter to the author dated 10 March 1986.[ix] Letter to the author dated 18 June 1999.[x] Patricia Sullivan, “Arab Intellectual Hisham Sharabi, 77, Dies,” Washington Post, 16 January 2005.[xi] Sullivan, “Arab Intellectual Hisham Sharabi, 77, Dies.”[xii] Barry Rubin, “Sharabi: Death of a Teacher,” 18 January 2004, online at gloria.idc.ac.il.[xiii] Rubin, “Sharabi.”[xiv] Hisham Sharabi, “The Palestinians: Fifty Years Later” (Washington: Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine, 1998).[xv] Letter to the author dated 23 January 1976.
Citation: Lawrence Davidson, “Remembering Hisham Sharabi (1927–2005),” Journal of Palestine Studies 34, no. 3 (Spring 2005), 57-64.
9) It seems like Cindy Sheehan is driving the nutcases nuts. Ever notice that non-Republicans never have a "III" following their name?:
Cindy Sheehan: Media Glorifies a Radical
By L. Brent Bozell III
Aug 10, 2005
One of the most profoundly annoying conceits of liberalism is the idea that dissent is the solitary province of the Left, and when liberals do it, they should be glorified for doing it, no matter how outrageous the protest. President Bush is spending some vacation time in Crawford, Texas, so the media, predictably, are once again glorifying his left-wing protesters with lavish coverage of their antics, while dutifully refusing to identify them in any way as left wing. Call it covering and covering up. Time and Newsweek both ran pictures of a tiny group holding MoveOn.org signs protesting the John Roberts nomination outside the White House. Neither magazine identified the group as liberals, nor even mentioned MoveOn; you had to squint at the photos to make out the group's name on the protest signs. Now, angry, Bush-hating Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq and co-founder of "Gold Star Families for Peace" -- last glorified by ABC in January for protesting President Bush's "lavish" second inauguration -- is being celebrated again as she sits outside Bush's Texas ranch. On their Saturday evening newscasts on Aug. 6, ABC and CBS touted the Sheehan protest with just "a few dozen people," allowing her to say Bush is enjoying his vacation while "I'm never going to be able to enjoy another vacation because he killed my son." Bush killed him, she says. Not Saddam-loving terrorists. Bush. No one in the media finds this rhetoric overheated. But just how overheated is Cindy Sheehan? In the world of politics, this woman deserves a padded cell. On her website, Sheehan wildly proclaims that "overwhelming" evidence proves the president is a traitor: "George [Bush] and his indecent bandits traitorously had intelligence fabricated to fit their goal of invading Iraq." On Monday morning, the Sheehan publicity continued, but still no one reported how radical she is. CNN's graphic throughout their story on "American Morning" read "Peace Mom." In a "Good Morning America" devoted almost entirely to mourning the death of Peter Jennings, ABC made room for the "angry and determined mother" on her "peace vigil." NBC's "Today" began their show by promoting "a mother's vigil" in the first seconds of the program. Can you imagine the networks ruining the Clinton vacation on Martha's Vineyard by making a big story out of a conservative protester there? I can't, because they didn't. In 1998, a few weeks after Clinton admitted sex with Monica Lewinsky, he went to his first partisan pep rally in Worcester, Mass. ABC and CBS did full stories, and the streets outside the hall were filled with protesters demanding Clinton resign, but ABC and CBS failed to interview them. Only Fox News brought up how a local Democratic city council member, Konstantina Lukes, refused to attend. Cut back to the present. Cindy Sheehan wasn't the only "peace" protester glorified by "Today." Late in the Monday program, they aired another seven minutes of pure propaganda on the "Raging Grannies" of Tucson, Ariz., who muster a whopping 15 to 20 protesters outside a military recruitment center every Wednesday. What is it with these left-wing grannies, anyway? It was almost exactly like five years ago, when the publicity frenzy was for Doris "Granny D" Haddock, agitating for the liberal cause of "campaign finance reform." ABC's Charles Gibson congratulated her for her "very worthy work." NBC's Matt Lauer ("I love Granny D!") and Katie Couric ("She's great!") took turns cheerleading. For the Tucson grannies, anchor Natalie Morales could only find cuteness and "commitment," not mudslinging and hard-core ideology: "Beware, there is a group of grannies serving up much more than milk and cookies. NBC's Peter Alexander caught up with them, proving commitment has no age limit." After a syrupy story in which Alexander hailed them as "compassionate," but never described them as harsh or ultraliberal, even as they screeched against the "illegal, immoral war" and yelled, "No blood for oil," Morales interviewed four of the Tucson activists, dressed in stereotypical "granny" garb and praised them for their "witty lyrics" and their status as role models. NBC never explained the "Raging Grannies" are a project of the local chapter of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, a 90-year-old "peace" group that despises any military spending and opposed even the Cold War. The grannies are loonies who pass out flyers stating that "The Iraq war has everything to do with U.S. controlling access to Middle Eastern Oil," and the war has nothing to do with terrorism, but "everything to do with U.S. world domination." Even so, NBC's Alexander supinely claimed, "they say they're fighting for the men and women fighting for them." "News" stories like these show that the media have chosen sides between the liberation backers and the "peace" protesters. They are to news what these protesters are to reasonable discourse. L. Brent Bozell III is the president of the Media Research Center.