As was to be expected, the western political elite this month have demonstrated their complete inability to see the wood for the trees. This week the world was treated to the surreal spectacle of so-called world ‘leaders’ mounting the rostrum at the United Nations and delivering high-sounding phrases whilst denouncing the very thing they are themselves guilty of – organised terrorism! Co-authors of state-orchestrated terror, such as Obama, Sisi, Cameron, Rouhani and others, were able – without so much as a blush – to bombastically lecture everyone on the dangers of the spread of Islamic terrorism, and the need to defeat it by their own state-promoted terror of guns, torture and bombs.
In complete denial over the role of decades of high-tech state-funded terror in promoting – all over the world – anger, frustration and opposition, such leaders demonstrated they are the most substantial part of the problem and consequently will never be part of the solution. By simply labelling all young Islamic fundamentalists as “psychopathic, murderous, brutal people” as UK’s David Cameron and others have done, they conveniently and effectively avoid their own complicity in bringing about the present dystopian and bestial nature of the middle east and the rest of the globe.
Their own decades-long practice of rendition, torture, mass-decapitations and extra-judicial murders by incarceration, shrapnel and laser guided bombs, are conveniently overlooked as they focus entirely upon the savagery of a considerable number Islamic thugs and decide to repeat – ad nauseam – the same tactics as before. Urged on by the financial, economic and military imperative of capitalism, ‘bombs and bombast’ just about sum up the nature and essence of the pro-capitalist political and military elite in every country of the world.
Starting from a self-interested assumption that the present mode of production is basically sound, these elites can only presume that any malfunction of, or serious opposition to their system is caused by demented individuals, who are bent upon mischief or evil. Yet freed from that self-conditioned supposition, it is obvious that the sources of religious fundamentalist resistance to the west, such as ISIS etc., etc., (and other forms of radicalisation), in the minds of many participants have economic, social and ideological roots.
The economic and social sources of conflict
The real material base for young people joining such violent patriarchal projects is more often than not, a mixture of two or more of the following characteristics: anti-Imperialist sentiments, a reaction to white racist prejudice, a sense of needing to oppose global injustice, these perhaps motivating relatively affluent jihadists. The same motives plus perhaps anger or frustration over unemployment, low pay and exploitation for those less affluent or destitute. In other words it is the same material base – springing from the totality of the capitalist mode of production – as previous forms of opposition to some or all of these symptoms.
It is only the choice of ideological expression in response to these characteristics stemming from economic, social and emotional factors, which is relatively new. Previous generations during systemic crises, have chosen, nationalist, fascist, communist or social-democratic ideologies to violently oppose the liberal-democratic hegemony of rampant, exploitative capitalism. The failure of these ideologies and their proponents to create a humane, sustainable well-being for the majority of people, has resulted in the vacuum being filled by the current obsession for a return to ancient religious forms of social interaction and control.
Yet these ancient religious forms are no less reactionary and regressive than the neo-liberal ideologies they make deals with or alternatively violently oppose. Look at the ideology of Judaism, which spawned, Zionism: reflect upon Christianity, which supported (and still supports) capitalism and colonialism; think about Islam, which has yet again, generated Caliphate conquest by the instruments of death. They are all patriarchal and sectarian. Protestant against Catholic; Sunni against Shia; Orthodox against Zionist; rich against poor!
These ideologies are all outmoded forms of understanding the world since they are based upon ancient gullible hearsay concerning an invisible male super-being whose ‘true’ (!) desires – only a male religious elite – can interpret. They are all detrimental to peace, understanding, equality and progress.
The ideological sources of conflict.
It is at this point that we can also see the mirror image of another set of elites in denial. Just as the pro-capitalist elites deny that their capitalist mode of production is out of control and systematically ruining the lives of millions along with the ecology of the planet, so too are the religious elite in denial. According to the moderate Islamic elite, Isis, Boko Harem, the Taliban, al Qaeda, etc are not following the dictates of Islam – but in fact they are. One only need to read the Quran, in any of its translations from Arabic to find ample passages which authorise and justify killing in the name of God. Killing in the name of God is part of the DNA Islam shares with the other two Abrahamic religions, Judaism and Christianity. Here are just a few examples;
“It is He who has sent forth His apostle with guidance and the true faith to make it triumphant over all religions, however much the idolaters may dislike it.” (Surah 9. 33. N.J. Dawood translation. Pub. Penguin Books)
“Whether unarmed or well-equipped, march on and fight for the cause of Allah, with your wealth, and your persons.” (Surah 9. 41 N.J. Dawood translation. Pub. Penguin Books)
“Prophet make war on the unbelievers and the hypocrites and deal rigorously with them. Hell shall be their home: an evil fate.” (Surah 9. 73 N.J. Dawood translation. Pub. Penguin Books)
“Allah loves those who fight for His cause in ranks as firm as a mighty edifice.” (Surah 61. 2. N.J. Dawood translation. Pub. Penguin Books)
“When the sacred months are over slay the idolators wherever you find them. Arrest them, besiege them, and lie in ambush everywhere for them.” (Surah 9. 5. N.J. Dawood translation. Pub. Penguin Books)
“Do you not see how those who dispute the revelations of Allah turn away from the right path? Those who have denied the Scriptures and the message with which We have sent Our apostles shall know the truth hereafter: when with chains and shackles round their necks they shall be dragged through boiling water and burnt in the fire of hell.” (Surah 40. 68. N.J. Dawood translation. Pub. Penguin Books)
“Others you will find who seek security from you as well as from their own people. Whenever they are called back to idol-worship they plunge into headlong. If these do not keep their distance from you, if they neither offer you peace nor cease their hostilities against you, lay hold of them and kill them wherever you find them. Over such men We give you absolute authority.” (Surah 4. 91. N.J. Dawood translation. Pub. Penguin Books)
So when ISIS and other Islamic fundamentalists read these verses – and others – it provides them with religious justification for their barbarism against anyone they decide falls into the categories the Qur’an outlines. And the fact is that moderate Muslims by their total support for this supposedly sacred book are underwriting the very justifications used by their barbaric co-religionists. If Muslims choose to regard the whole of the Qur’an as authentic and legitimate, then they should not be surprised if other Muslims choose to follow ideas and instructions from it that they personally find objectionable.
Bombing an idea out of existence – really?
The decision to try to bomb ISIS out of existence, whether in Iraq, Syria or elsewhere, can only be the product of a complete lack of understanding among the political and military elite. For a start, these fundamentalists are located among non-fundamentalists, who will suffer from the bombardment. Lives, buildings and infrastructure as well as economic activity will be devastated and destroyed by the most powerful bombs imaginable, delivered in the most cowardly and anonymous way – drones or high speed planes. Does anyone in the normal world think that communities treated this way will only blame ISIS and not the west? It is far more likely that targeted communities – who manage to survive – will begin to see the Islamic fundamentalists as the lesser of two evils. Perhaps only a few will become so angry they will actually join the ranks of militant fundamentalists, but their ranks will undoubtedly swell.
It is simply not possible to destroy an idea by destroying the people who believe in it. It can only be destroyed by proving itself inadequate or destructive. The ancient pagan imperialisms tried to destroy monotheism by crucifying, annihilating and otherwise killing and destroying those who adopted it. They failed. The monotheisms themselves, once they became dominant, tried to kill alternative monotheistic ideas by torturing, burning and wiping out those they saw as heretics. They also failed. Both Communist and Fascist elites tried to kill oppositional humanist ideas by torture, concentration camps, gulags, and assassination of those who thought differently. To no avail!
Sectarianism, whether religious or political, always turns in on itself, before, during, or after it has turned upon others. This is because sectarianism is a manifestation of male arrogance and dogmatic certainty that thinks itself superior not only to women, but to all others who do not accept its dictates. Those who personify sectarianism, will manifest some or all of the characteristics of sectarianism however these are mediated by the religious or political constraints organisationally placed upon them. Sectarianism is an intellectual cancer eating away and destroying the intellectual creativity of humanity. As such it cannot be bombed out of existence. Indeed, in this case bombing will only create more fertile ground upon which it will flourish.
The religious sectarianism of ISIS and others, as with its intellectual brother – political sectarianism – needs to be struggled against on the terrain of ideas and values. It needs to be exposed for what it is, what it represents and what its logical outcomes have been, are being and will continue to be. The various fundamentalist ideologies of fascism and communism were not destroyed by killing those who believed in them, they destroyed themselves by proving in practice that they represented nothing more than new forms of oppression. The same was true of religious fundamentalisms in the past and it will be proved again in the present and future.
The past Caliphates, were established by sword-wielding, horse-mounted patriarchs bent on forcing their will on believers and non-believers alike. The self-serving and self-justifying myth of an Islamic Golden Age, once seriously examined, turns out to be no more than a tarnished system of oppression and exploitation. It was a system in which wealth – the Gold – derived from extracted produce and taxation was accumulated and transported back to the ruling Islamic elites for their personal disposal. The present embryo Caliphate has already plotted its own – now mechanised path – along almost identical lines and the reality has been starkly revealed to the world. Taxation, conversion or death! Assassinations, decapitations and crucifixions of Muslims, Christians, Jews, non-believers, men, women and children.
Of course, international communities need to defend themselves against Islamic Fundamentalism, but not by ruthlessly attacking or bombing the communities in which these extremists reside. Not all participants, joining or caught up in this movement are evil psychopaths bent on an orgy of killing. Some joined these resistance groups for the reasons noted above – resistance to the domination of neo-liberal economics and politics and their puppet regimes. They will learn, sooner rather than later, that the form of resistance they have chosen is counter-productive, inhumane and doomed to failure. They will be helped in realising this if more and more Muslims vocally reject and negate the above noted passages of the Qur’an.
The case for a collective revolutionary-humanist understanding within a clearly articulated anti-capitalist perspective has never been more needed by humanity. It is to be hoped that one soon emerges.
Roy Ratcliffe. (September 2014.)