Muslim Brotherhood Inc., and righteous greed

Both ends of the spectrum of Political Islam have more or less collapsed.

The presence and influence of moderate Islamist political parties is in steep decline, particularly since the debacle of the Mursi presidency in Egypt, and the coup that ended it. The territorial demise of Da’esh, and with it, the evaporation of their delusional political project, as well, represent the coming irrelevance of the ideology of Political Islam in the Muslim world.

That is not to say that Islamists have renounced their ambitions for power. On the contrary, they are just as power-hungry as ever; it is just not manifesting itself in the desire for political positions so much as it is in the desire to accumulate wealth and to form business syndicates around the world.

This is not, of course, an entirely new trajectory for them. When the Muslim Brotherhood held the government in Egypt, however briefly, they articulated explicitly that the satisfaction of foreign investors was their top priority. Indeed, a contingent of government officials and businessmen from the US visited Egypt at the time, and characterized the Ikhwan as indistinguishable from the American Republican Party (historically regarded as the party of Big Business). Mursi agreed in principle to the demands of the International Monetary Fund, all of which are designed to favour multinational corporations, and generally to the severe detriment of the population. Mursi merely requested a longer timetable for the IMF reforms to be implemented.

It seems the Brotherhood has taken a tip from the AK Party of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and perhaps learned from the scattered efforts of activists in Egypt against the IMF and foreign investor domination; that lesson being: real power rests in the private sector. This realization, of course, makes it inevitable that the Islamist political agenda will collide against the private business interests of party members. This was most apparent when the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt went deafeningly silent about the IMF loan agreement for $12 billion (the largest loan the institution ever offered to a Middle Eastern country), which handed over Egypt’s economic sovereignty to Christine Lagarde and her successors for the next twenty years. The country’s fiscal policy, budgetary program, monetary controls, and everything from the price of medicine to the system of taxation, were all surrendered to the IMF; all without a word of protest from the “Islamic” opposition, despite the fact that the IMF reforms would have, and are indeed having, devastating effect on the economic lives of average Egyptians.

But, you see, the Muslim Brotherhood have become not only committed Capitalists, they have joined the ranks of the Neoliberals; presumably in the belief that this will financially enrich them as an organization, and with the newfound wealth they will wield greater political influence. The paradox should be obvious. They tell themselves that they will be able to serve the Islamist agenda in the long run, by sacrificing it in the short run for the sake of making money. This is not dissimilar from their previous strategy of serving the Islamist agenda in the long run by sacrificing it in the short run for the sake of infiltrating the established power hierarchy.

Based in Turkey, they are quietly building global business syndicates, particularly in the real estate sector; and continuing to fund projects for private profit through financial contributions to their many charities by religiously motivated, if naive, believers in the Ikhwan’s advertising slogan that “Islam is the Solution”.

Their political posturing, their continued declarations about Political Islam, have become exactly that: advertising.  A way to sell the Ikhwan brand, to keep revenues flowing in support of their private enterprise ambitions.  Their greed, you see, is righteous, because they have high-minded future plans of how they will use their nascent economic power.  Their less than exemplary actions must not be judged poorly because of their exemplary intentions.  So when they call for “escalation” in Egypt, which they know perfectly well will only result in the death or detention of who knows how many young people, it is still good, because it promotes the brand.  If the brand is successful, everyone wins in the end.  There is, however, no guarantee that either we or their intentions will make it that far.

Now more than ever, it is imperative that the Muslim Brotherhood become completely transparent about their finances. Where does their money come from, and where is it spent? Who is profiting, how much? Or are we to believe that their private business interests do not impact their public statements (or silences), nor their political aims; because why? They say so?


Jordan Peterson and the “clean room” theory of social change

When he is not offering esoteric Jungian interpretations of the Bible, or dissecting Postmodernist ideology, Dr Jordan B. Peterson is telling us to clean up our rooms. It is an old-fashioned bit of advice, springing from Peterson’s Protestant values; “take responsibility for those matters under your immediate control”.

It also reflects his experience as a clinical psychologist treating people suffering from depression, anxiety, and those with an overwhelming sense of living in chaos. The idea is, encourage people to apply themselves to the simple day-to-day things; help them organize their lives from the ground up. People, Peterson says, should be careful to remain within the boundaries of their own competency; and for him that means that most people should not preoccupy themselves with “changing the world”.

Peterson’s view is also influenced by his exposure on campus to young, idealistic, and very often narrow-minded and naïve political activists. He sees them (probably accurately) as biting off more than they can chew; dedicating themselves to changing society for the better, while they have done little or no work on improving themselves, developing their ideas, and cultivating their own maturity.

The problem is, all of these contexts that have influenced Peterson’s views lend themselves to a very skewed perspective. Peterson, for instance, has never been involved in any social, political, or human rights activism himself; hence his critique is entirely one-sided. He has no idea what sorts of discussions take place among activists, doesn’t know anything about their lives, or indeed, if their rooms are or are not clean already.

He also fails to recognise that the overwhelming majority of the population already implements his advice; i.e.; they are entirely consumed with their own daily lives, their own private concerns, their own personal issues; and have very little interest in anything else going on in society, or in the world, that does not impact them directly. And this is precisely why many activists become so vehement; because Peterson’s advice encourages an approach to life which enables horrific injustices to be perpetrated without the slightest notice from the general public.

I have personally seen regular, average people successfully delay a catastrophic loan agreement between the Egyptian government and the International Monetary Fund, and the only reason they were not able to derail the agreement altogether was because too many Egyptians opted to busy themselves with their own personal lives. The impact of that agreement has already increased the misery index for millions of people in Egypt. Being too focused on “cleaning up their own rooms” to participate in the opposition to the IMF, has made it more likely that they will have no rooms of their own to clean in the near future.

I have seen a housewife in England organize boats on the other side of the world to rescue Rohingya refugees from certain slaughter. Would she have been better advised to organize her closet?

I have known a husband and father who struggled every month to pay his own rent and to provide for his family’s basic needs, while simultaneously raising hundreds of thousands of dollars in charity to fund relief efforts in the Third World, which made millions of lives better. Should he have rather discarded those efforts in favour of a stable 9 to 5 office job with a livable wage?

Every significant social and political movement has been advanced by individuals willing to sacrifice their own well-being, their own comfort, their own personal interest, for the sake of a cause greater than themselves. The theory that society would have advanced in a similar, or in a better way, had all of these people instead attended to the tidiness of their own rooms, so to speak, is dubious at best, and delusional at worst.

I fully agree that everyone must try to remain within the boundaries of their own competency, but I do not at all agree that those boundaries can just be assumed. One does not definitively know the limits of one’s capabilities until one tries. There is also something to be said about the degree to which individual competency can be compounded with the competency of others through solidarity in a collective effort. That is something very real, and again, it is something attested to by the many triumphs of social and political movements throughout history. The “clean room” theory, is more or less an argument against solidarity.

I do not think it is as obvious as Peterson thinks it is, that one who cannot focus on “cleaning their own room” is automatically incapable of doing anything greater or more complex than that. Indeed, it may very often be the case that people opt to engage the greater and more complex challenges precisely because they (correctly) evaluate them as being more important and more urgent; and if they were to heed Peterson’s advice, they would be undermining their own potential, and robbing the world of what they had to offer.

A clean room is not necessarily a womb from which a better and more just world is born. It is sound advice, but with a very limited scope of relevance. If taken as too strict an injunction it is a call to self-absorption and indifference. Sometimes, it is necessary to step out of your room, regardless of what state it is in, and push the boundaries of your competency in an effort greater than your own self-interest.

On “warlords” and ideal men     عن “رجل الحرب” والرجل المثالي

لقراءة المقال مترجم إلى العربية انتقل إلى الأسفل

Evangelical Atheist, Sam Harris, along with countless others, has argued that Islam is a dangerous belief system, and that Prophet Muhammad is fundamentally a negative and destructive role model compared to Christianity and the Christian image of Jesus, because the doctrine of Islam includes laws pertaining to combat and because Prophet Muhammad was a “warlord”.

Christianity, he argues, and the Christian image of Christ, promotes peacefulness and pacifism and de-emphasize terrestrial rule and political power.  Islam, and the image of Prophet Muhammad, he says, promotes aggression and warfare, and the establishment of political authority.

Right from the start, of course, it is clear that the image of Prophet Muhammad he is referring to is the image of him as held by the Christians or by the West; it is not the image of him as held by Muslims.  Furthermore, it is an image held by Christians and Westerners who either know very little about him, or else who are ideologically selective about what they choose to acknowledge.

The argument therefore immediately falls apart.  His supposition is that Muslims are shaped by the fact that their role model, their archetype of the ideal man, was a violent warlord; and that Muslims are thus prone to violence the moment they become devout because they will seek to emulate this aggressive, bloody conqueror.  But this image of Prophet Muhammad is not the image devout Muslims have of him; it is a Christian, Western misrepresentation.  We do not see him the way you see him.  So if you want to talk about how Muslims are shaped by their image of Prophet Muhammad, which is the only relevant image of him that could plausibly shape them; it is going to result in a very different conclusion.

So let’s talk about this notion of Prophet Muhammad being a “warlord”.  Everyone from Harris to Richard Dawkins, to Christopher Hitchens, to Jordan Peterson, to Bill Maher, and many others, have used this term to describe him.  You will not find him described by such a term in Muslim sources, nor is that a view of him held by Muslims around the world.

One cannot help but notice a conspicuous tinge of racism in the use of this term.

After having read Machiavelli as a teenager, I recently revisited his writing and was struck by the cultural similarity between 16th Century Italy and 7th Century Arabia.  I was then struck by the fact that Italy’s warlords were referred to by a far more honorific title, as in the name of Machiavelli’s most famous book; in Italy, a warlord was a “prince”.  The same, of course, held true throughout Europe.  They were not “warlords” they were “lords” and “dukes” and all manner of other such royal titles, up to and including “kings”.  Their counterparts, with identical degrees of power and authority deriving from identical methods of control, were referred to as “warlords” if they happened to live in Asia, Africa, or Arabia.   So the term is clearly based on a subjective and ideological bias.  If Prophet Muhammad had been a European, he would have been royalty.

Did the Christian Jesus command an army?  Obviously not.  Did he ever engage in combat?  Again, no.  Did he establish and govern a state?  No, of course he didn’t.  Have men before and after him engaged in these things, including Christian men?  Of course they have.  Were they, and are they, emulating Christ when they do so?  No.  Has having the Christian image of Jesus as their ideal role model prevented them from engaging in these things?  Has the instruction in the Gospels “let he among you who is without sin cast the first stone” prevented the Christian West from developing a penal system?  Again, very clearly, this has not been the case.

The President of the United States is called the Commander-in-Chief; meaning he is the country’s supreme military commander.  He declares war, he orders killings for the sake of national security.  If the Christian Jesus is indeed the ideal role model, I wonder how any of this can be reconciled.  For, either his followers are continuously failing to adhere to that role model, or else, it is a role model with little or no functional utility in the real world.  Unless you can show me a pacifist Christian country of which I am until now unaware.

Or is it that we are to believe that the role model they do not follow is better and more useful than the role model we do follow?  Are we to believe that the Christian West has been profoundly and beneficially shaped by the Sermon on the Mount, while so demonstrably and so consistently contradicting it throughout all its history up until the present moment?  Or can we not admit that the platitudes of the Sermon on the Mount , in the real world, are a recipe for extinction; and that the Christian image of Jesus embodies perhaps the most impractical approach to interacting with the world that the world has ever seen.  In Jordan Peterson’s theory of the Dominance Hierarchy, the image of Jesus would have been annihilated long ago for manifesting a suicidal level of “agreeableness”.  So again, I wonder, how is this a useful or even noticeably influential role model on Western society?  There are things that men must do, and that states must do, and which Christians engage in every day, that either directly contradict the teachings of the New Testament, or about which the Christian image of Jesus offers no realistic or practicable guidance.

Did Prophet Muhammad command an army? Did he engage in combat?  Did he establish and govern a state?   Yes, of course he did; and as a result of that, we know how these things are to be regulated.  Critics blame Prophet Muhammad for engaging in what human beings inevitably engage in; including conflict and warfare.  As if this detracts from, rather than increases his value as a role model.  He made war, yes; he also made peace.  He carried out military campaign, and he contracted treaties.  He punished enemies, and forgave enemies.  He opted for combat, and he opted for diplomacy.  And we, the Muslims, learn from and try to emulate the guidance of his example in all such scenarios that invariably will be encountered over the course of our lives.  We hold a far more well-rounded and informed view of the Prophet, and when critics hysterically decry his armed actions, we understand the contexts, and we also consider his penchant for amnesty.  He provides us with a more whole human being, and a more realistic role model than the model they claim to be superior while not adhering to a single aspect of it.

So if Sam Harris wants to refer to Islam and Prophet Muhammad as dangerous influences because they address the human reality of the inevitability of conflict, and if he wants to claim that Christianity and the Christian image of Jesus are more positive because they do not; then if every instance of Christian and Western violence are to be treated as analogous to their own role model, perhaps he should reconsider the dangerousness of having a role model whose teachings are so unrealistic and impossible to manifest that people are forced to set them aside and plunge into conflict without moral or ethical guidance.

يقول الملحد التبشيري سام هاريس، ومعه عدد لا يحصى من الآخرين، أن الإسلام هو نظام اعتقادي خطير، وأن النبي محمد هو في الأساس نموذجا سلبيًا ومدمرًا مقارنة بالمسيحية والصورة المسيحية للمسيح، لأن عقيدة الإسلام تشمل قوانين متعلقة بالقتال ولأن النبي محمد يعد واحدا من “لوردات الحرب”، أو كما يطلق عليه “أمراء الحرب”.

فيقول أن المسيحية والصورة المسيحية ليسوع، يعززان السلام والسلم وﻻ يركزان على حيازة الأرض والسلطة السياسية. ثم يقول أن الإسلام وصورة النبي محمد، يعززان العدوان والحرب، وإقامة السلطة السياسية.

من البداية، بطبيعة الحال، نرى أن الصورة التي يشير إليها للنبي محمد هي تلك الصورة التي يعتقد فيها المسيحيين أو الغرب بصفة عامة، وهي مغايرة للصورة التي يعتقد فيها المسلمين. وعلاوة على ذلك، فهي صورة يؤمن بها المسيحيون والغربيون الذين لا يعرفون سوى القليل جدا عنه، أو من لديهم انتقائية أيدولوجية فيم يختارون أن يعرفوه.

لهذا فإن هذه الحجة تفشل فورا. فهي تفترض أن المسلمين يتشكلون من حقيقة أن مثلهم الأعلى، أو نموذجهم الأصلي للرجل المثالي، كان رجﻻ عنيفا من رجال الحرب؛ ولهذا فالمسلمون يتصفون بالعنف في اللحظة التي يتدينون فيها لأنهم يسعون إلى محاكاة هذا الفاتح العدواني الدموي. إﻻ أن هذه الصورة عن النبي محمد ليست هي الصورة التي يراها المتدينين المسلمين له؛ فهذه الصورة مسيحية، ومحرفة وغربية. ونحن لا نراه كما ترونه!!! لذا إن كنت تريد أن تتحدث عن تشكل المسلمين من خلال تصورهم (هم أنفسهم) للنبي محمد، وهو التصور الوحيد المعني بتشكيل عقولهم؛ فهذا سيؤدي بك إلى نتيجة مختلفة جدا… فنحن نتشكل مما نتصوره نحن، ﻻ مما يتصوره غيرنا!

لذلك دعونا نتحدث عن فكرة أن النبي محمد صلى الله عليه وسلم “رجﻻ للحرب”. فكل من هاريس وريتشارد دوكينز، وكريستوفر هيتشنس، وجوردان بيترسون، وبيل ماهر، وغيرهم الكثير، يستخدمون هذا المصطلح لوصفه. ولكنك أبدا لن تجد وصفا بمثل هذا المصطلح في المصادر الإسلامية، كما أن هذه الصورة مغايرة تماما لما يراه ويعتقد فيه المسلمين في جميع أنحاء العالم.

ولا يسع المرء إلا أن يلاحظ تمايزا واضحا للعنصرية في استخدام هذا المصطلح.

بعد أن قرأت ماكيافيلي وأنا في سن المراهقة، قمت مؤخرا بإعادة النظر في كتاباته وهالني التشابه الثقافي بين إيطاليا في القرن الـ16 وجزيرة العرب في القرن الـ7. ثم هالتني حقيقة أن رجال الحرب الإيطاليين يشار إليهم بلقب أكثر تكريما، كما هو الحال في كتاب ماكيافيلي الأكثر شهرة؛ في إيطاليا، فقد كان يطلق عليهم لقب “أمير”. والشيء نفسه، بطبيعة الحال، ينطبق على جميع أنحاء أوروبا. فهم لم يكونوا “رجاﻻ للحرب” بل “أمراء” و “لوردات” وجميع أنواع الألقاب الملكية الأخرى، بما في ذلك لقب “ملوك”. وقد تمت الإشارة إلى نظرائهم، الذين لديهم درجات مماثلة من السلطة والسلطة المستمدة من أساليب مماثلة للسيطرة، على أنهم “لوردات الحرب” إذا كانوا يعيشون في آسيا أو أفريقيا أو الجزيرة العربية. لذا فإن المصطلح يستند بوضوح إلى تحيز شخصي وأيديولوجي. مما يعني أن النبي محمد صلى الله عليه وسلم لو كان أوروبيا، فﻻ شك أنه كان سيصبح من أصحاب الألقاب الملكية!

هل قاد المسيح جيشا؟ بالطبع لا. هل شارك في القتال؟ مرة أخرى، لا. هل أنشأ دولة وحكمها؟ لا، بالطبع لم يفعل أي من هذا. هل الرجال قبله وبعده شاركوا في هذه الأمور، بما في ذلك الرجال المسيحيين؟ بالطبع شاركوا. هل كانوا، يحاكون المسيح عندما فعلوا هذا؟ لا. إن وجود صورة مسيحية للمسيح كمثال يحتذى به تمنعهم من الانخراط في هذه الأمور؟ هل تعليمات الأناجيل التي تقول “من كان منكم بﻻ خطيئة فليلقي بحجر أوﻻ…” منعت الغرب المسيحي من تطوير نظام جنائي؟ مرة أخرى، هذا لم يحدث.

رئيس الولايات المتحدة يطلق عليه لقب القائد الأعلى؛ بمعنى انه القائد العسكري الأعلى للبلاد. فهو الذي يعلن الحرب، ويأمر بالقتل من أجل الأمن القومي. فإذا كان يسوع (بالتصور المسيحي) نموذجا يحتذى به عندهم، كيف يمكننا إذا أن نوفق بين كل هذه التناقضات؟؟ إما أن أتباعه لا يلتزمون بهذا النموذج، أو أنه نموذج مثالي قليل أو عديم الفائدة وبﻻ وظيفة حقيقية في العالم الحقيقي. إلا إذا كنت تستطيع أن تشير إلى أي دولة مسيحية سلمية لم أعرف عنها الآن.

أم أننا يجب أن نصدق أن النموذج الذي لا يتبعونه أفضل وأكثر فائدة من النموذج الذي نتبعه نحن؟ أم أننا يجب أن نعتقد أن الغرب المسيحي قد تشكل في عمقه من “خطبة السيد المسيح على الجبل”، في حين أن هذا يتناقض بشكل واضح مع كل تاريخهم حتى اللحظة الراهنة؟ أم هل نعترف بأن كل طقوس “خطبة السيد المسيح على الجبل”، تعتبر في العالم الحقيقي وصفة للانقراض والزوال! وأن الصورة المسيحية ليسوع تجسد نهجا غير عمليا بالمرة للتفاعل مع العالم بشكل لم يعرفه العالم قط؟ في نظرية بيترسون جوردان حول التسلسل الهرمي للهيمنة، كان من الممكن أن تباد صورة المسيح منذ فترة طويلة لإظهارها مستوى انتحاري من “التقبل والدعة”. لذلك مرة أخرى أتساءل، كيف يكون هذا نموذجا مفيدا أو حتى مؤثرا بشكل ملحوظ على المجتمع الغربي؟ هناك أشياء يجب على الرجال القيام بها، ويجب على الدول القيام بها، وهي أشياء ينخرط فيها المسيحيين كل يوم، وتتعارض مباشرة مع تعاليم العهد الجديد، أو تلك الأشياء ﻻ تقدم عنها الصورة المسيحية ليسوع أي توجيه واقعي أو عملي.

هل قاد النبي محمد جيشا؟ هل شارك في القتال؟ هل أنشأ الدولة وحكمها؟ نعم، بالطبع فعل كل هذا. ونتیجة لذلك، فنحن نعلم کیفیة تنظیم هذه الأمور. ينتقد النقاد النبي محمد، صلى الله عليه وسلم، على الانخراط فيم ينخرط فيه البشر حتما؛ بما في ذلك الصراعات والحروب. كما لو كان هذا ينتقص من قيمته، بدلا مما يضيف إليه كنموذج يحتذى به. لقد خاض الحروب، نعم؛ تماما كما أسس السﻻم. وقام بحملات عسكرية، ووقع المعاهدات، وعاقب الأعداء، وسامح الأعداء. لقد اختار القتال في حين، واختار الدبلوماسية في حين. ونحن، المسلمون، نتعلم ونحاول محاكاة مثاله في كل هذه السيناريوهات التي سنواجهها دائما على مدار حياتنا. فنحن نحمل نظرة أكثر دقة واستنارة عن النبي، وحينما ينكر النقاد أعماله المسلحة بشكل هيستيري، فنحن نفهم السياقات، ونتعلم من ميله للعفو. فهو يقدم لنا نموذج الإنسان المتكامل، والنموذج الأكثر واقعية من النموذج الذي يدعون أنه متفوق في حين أنهم ﻻ يلتزمون بأن جانب من جوانبه.

لذا إذا أراد سام هاريس أن يشير إلى الإسلام والنبي محمد على أن تأثيرهما خطير لأنهما يتناولان الواقع الإنساني لحتمية الصراع، ثم يدعي بعد ذلك أن المسيحية والصورة المسيحية ليسوع أكثر إيجابية لأنها لا تفعل ذلك، وإذا كانت كل حالة من حالات العنف المسيحي والغربي يجب أن تعامل على أنها تحتذي بهذا النموذج المثالي، فربما يجب عليه أن يعيد النظر في خطورة وجود نموذج يحتذى به إﻻ أن تعاليمه غير واقعية ويستحيل أن تتحقق في الواقع بحيث أنها تجعل الناس مضطرون إلى وضعها جانبا قبل الانغماس في صراعات دونما أي توجيه أخلاقي وقيمي.

President Oprah?

Oprah 2020?  In America, yes, it is conceivable.  When a belligerent and dubiously successful businessman and reality TV celebrity can become President of the United States, there is no reason to suppose that a narcissistic billionaire TV talk show host can’t potentially run for the office as well, and plausibly win.

The US presidency has largely become like a short-term version of the British monarchy; a figurehead whom people either love or hate based on entirely subjective and emotional reasons.  Style has not only triumphed over substance, substance is no longer part of the equation.

The Democratic Party continues to miss the point and to disappoint.  All of the same reasons they felt Trump was unqualified to be president apply to Oprah Winfrey, yet, after Trump’s victory, they are rushing to embrace his model.  She is almost an archetypically perfect point-by-point anti-Trump.  Again, it is not because they are opposites, but because they are twins.  She is his liberal incarnation; a Black, female, Democrat version of Donald Trump.

Both are obscenely wealthy, Oprah more so; both have willed themselves into popular culture; both are celebrity icons; both are endlessly enamored with their own names and shameless about self-promotion; both inhabit the highest echelons of elite power in business and the media; both are (in real life) utterly disconnected from the daily struggles of average people; and (since his campaign and election) both Trump and Winfrey can lay claim to broad popular support.  Both, also, have absolutely no political expertise or experience; though by 2020 Trump will have 4 years of experience tweeting about the brilliance of his non-accomplishments.

As a rags-to-riches Black woman, daughter of a single mother, with a record of advocating liberal causes, and connections with high level potential donors; Winfrey ticks all the right boxes for the Democratic National Committee.  She is technically an outsider in Washington, as Trump was, and can appropriate the “maverick” persona that worked in his favor in 2016.  But, all of these calculations fail to factor in the underlying reasons for Trump’s election win; namely, that there are real economic and political issues that genuinely matter to the population, which have been entirely ignored by both political parties for generations.

We can perhaps best begin on this topic by mentioning the issues that matter very little to most people, but which are at the heart of the liberal agenda and about which Oprah Winfrey has been outspoken; namely, gay rights; the definition of gender and transgender rights; gender equality; hate speech; police brutality; diversity in institutions of power; sexual harassment in Hollywood (and in the business world generally); and gun control.

While none of these issues is trivial, they are dwarfed in their significance by the fundamental economic grievances of Americans who have seen their real wages remain stagnant since the 1970s, while actual productivity has risen by around 75%.  Income inequality has grown radically over the past 3 decades; the last two generations in the US (Generateion X and the Millennials) are the first generations in American history that are worse off than their predecessors in terms of opportunity and financial stability.  Outsourcing of jobs, relocating factories outside the US, and so on, have obviously hurt workers, and this was one of the core themes of the Trump campaign that engaged with voters.  Blue collar workers, the middle class, and rural communities gambled on Trump; voters who were taken for granted as Democratic Party mainstays, precisely because the Democrats had all but abandoned them since (at least) the early 1970s.

Embracing Oprah Winfrey does not in any way represent a reversal of that abandonment.  As pointed out above, the issues she is associated with are issues of marginal importance to the traditionally Democrat voters who flocked to Trump.

Personally, I doubt Winfrey will run; but ultimately that isn’t the point.  The point is that the Democratic Party does not get the point, and nothing demonstrates that more clearly than their excitement over the possibility of an Oprah candidacy.

Why do otherwise intelligent people turn stupid when it comes to Islam?                                 لماذا يتحول الأذكياء إلى أغبياء متى تعلق الأمر بالإسﻻم؟

لقراءة المقال مترجم إلى العربية انتقل إلى الأسفل

Surely I am not alone in this experience.  You know, when you find some speaker or thinker, or even a comedian you like, and then you hear them bashing Islam in such an ignorant and ideologically blind way that it seems completely incongruous with the intelligence you thought they had.  It is disconcerting and disappointing; and it happens all the time.

Someone like Christopher Hitchens, clearly a highly intelligent man in other areas, used to sound like a cheap propagandist when he would rant against Islam in the last years of his life.  Yes, of course, he bashed religion in general, but he had a special fury against Islam that seemed to render him embarrassingly simple-minded.  He would fall back on the usual list of anti-Islam talking points: female genital mutilation, child brides, jihad, stoning and hand cutting; and one was left marvelling like Ophelia “Oh, what a noble mind is here o’erthrown!”

More recently, Dr. Jordan Peterson, whose intellect I regard very highly, and whose insights I value tremendously, seems to be disregarding his own advice when it comes to Islam.  Peterson frequently warns against viewing the world through ideological blinders, yet when it comes to Islam, he appears to be doing precisely that.  In a clip some time ago, it was encouraging to see him admit that he is ignorant about the religion, and to acknowledge that Islam is an extremely complex subject; but then he continued his discussion riding a vehicle of unquestioned assumptions and false premises about Islam that are purely ideological in nature:  Islam oppresses women, Islam is war-mongering, etc, etc.; and he opted to have this discussion exclusively with two other people who were similarly ignorant and hostile towards Islam, rather than, say, with a Muslim.

Comedian Owen Benjamin is another one.  His routines are frequently insightful and intelligent, albeit obscene and vulgar in both content and language.  His bits about men and women, about so-called Social Justice Warriors, and transgenderism, are often extremely funny to me, and accurate in the most blunt way possible.  But he posted a video bashing Islam in the beginning of December that trotted out some of the oldest pieces of propaganda trash (e.g., Muslims worship Muhammad) that I thought no one even thinks anymore if they have even the slightest education about the religion.

Benjamin said that Jews and Christians have a lot in common, but neither has anything in common with Muslims.  I mean, really?  Christians think Jesus was the son of God, Jews believe he was a false prophet who is burning in Hell.  Benjamin said this is an insignificant difference.  OK….And he suggests that the number of Christians and Jews are so few in places like Qatar, Kuwait, and Oman, because “I think they were murdered”.  Seriously?  This is an intelligent guy, but when it comes to Islam, it simply doesn’t apply.

“Islam spread by the sword”, they like to say.  Did it though?  If you don’t know, reading is an option.  First of all, let’s be clear, the Islamic empire spread through conquest; yes (I would like to know of an empire that spread by cookies), but that has to do with seizure of territory, not forced conversions.  For crying out loud, the most nonviolent man who ever lived, Mahatma Gandhi, debunked the notion that Islam forced the conquered to embrace Islam; what more do you want?  The poster-boy of peace says you are lying.

Peterson talks about how Jesus, the Jesus of the Christian narrative, serves as the archetypal Ideal Man for the West, and that Jesus was a peaceful figure. He says that Prophet Muhammad, on the other hand, was a warlord; implying that for him to be OUR archetypal Ideal Man, must necessarily make us aggressive and violent.  OK Jordan; shall we take a body count? The Conquistadors, the Inquisitions (Portugal, Spain, Mexico, Goa), the forced conversion of Native Americans, the Crusades, genocide, slavery, colonialism, right up until the Iraq war undertaken by George W. Bush because “God told him” to do it; shall I go on?

Even though Peterson will concede that Christians have been guilty of atrocious wars, he would say that these crimes cannot be laid at the feet of Christ, because Christ is an undeniably peaceful role model; whereas, according to him, Muhammad is not.  Well, what exactly is the utility of that peaceful role model when those who claim to follow him have been among the bloodiest conquerors in history?  Might it be, perhaps, that having a role model that does not provide you realistic, practical guidance on how to deal with conflict leaves you at a loss for how to ethically and morally execute confrontation?  Having a role model who actually did participate in armed conflict, who actually did lay down rules of warfare and rules of peace, whose religious principles were manifested in practical, real-world scenarios, has served the Muslim Ummah extremely well, if you care to study history without the blinders of ideology.




بالتأكيد أنا لست الوحيد الذي يمر بهذه التجربة: هل تعرف عندما تجد أحد المتكلمين أو المفكرين، أو حتى شخص كوميديان مثلك، يحاول قذف الإسﻻم ويتحدث عنه بهذه الطريقة الجاهلة والعمياء فكريا بشكل يبدو متناقضا تماما مع الذكاء الذي كنت تتصور أنه يمتلكه!! إنه أمر مثير للقلق ومخيب للآمال بﻻ شك؛ ولكنه يحدث طوال الوقت.

شخص مثل كريستوفر هيتشنس، يبدو لك كما لو كان رجلا ذكيا للغاية في أمور أخرى، ولكنه صار يبدو مثل المسوق الرخيص عندما بدأ يهرف ضد الإسلام في السنوات الأخيرة من حياته. نعم، بطبيعة الحال، قام بضرب الدين بشكل عام، ولكن يبدو أن عنده غضب خاص ضد الإسلام الذي جعله يبدو وبشكل محرج، مثل شخص محدود التفكير. فوجد نفسه يردد نفس القائمة المعتادة للنقاط المعادية للإسلام: ختان الإناث، وتزويج الأطفال، والجهاد، والرجم وقطع اليد… حتى جعلنا نتعجب مثل أوفيليا في مسرحية “هاملت” وهي تقول: “واحسرتاه على عقل نبيل قد هوى!”

وفي الآونة الأخيرة، بدأ الدكتور جوردان بيترسون، الذي كنت أقدر فكره وبصيرته للغاية، في تجاهل مشورته الخاصة متى تعلق الأمر بالإسلام. فكثيرا ما حذر بيترسون من مشاهدة العالم عبر “النظارة السوداء” للمفارقات الأيديولوجية، ولكن عندما جاء الدور على الإسلام، فهذا هو ما فعله بالتحديد. في مقطع نشر له من فترة، كان من المشجع جدا أن نراه يعترف بأنه جاهل فيم يتعلق بالدين، ويعترف بأن الإسلام موضوع معقد للغاية. ولكن بعد ذلك واصل نقاشه وكأنه قد قفز في قاطرة من الفرضيات غير المفندة والجدليات الخاطئة عن الإسلام التي تعتبر، في طبيعتها، أيديولوجية بحتة مثل: الإسلام يظلم النساء والإسلام يثير الحروب، وما إلى ذلك. و اختار أن يكون هذا النقاش حصريا مع شخصين آخرين جاهلين ومعاديين للإسلام، بدلا من أن يكونا مسلمين.

أما الكوميديان أوين بنجامين فهو قصة أخرى، فموضوعاته غالبا ما تكون ثاقبة وذكية، وإن كانت فاحشة ومبتذلة في محتواها ولغتها. فحواراته وأرائه حول الرجال والنساء، وحول ما يسمى بالمدافعين عن العدالة الاجتماعية، والتحول الجنسي، غالبا ما تكون مضحكة للغاية بالنسبة لي، وتكون دقيقة جدا وصريحة بشكل يفوق العادي. لكنه نشر فيديو يقذف الإسلام في بداية شهر ديسمبر، وأخذ يردد نفس القمامة الدعائية القديمة (مثل المسلمون يعبدون محمد) التي اعتقدت أنه لم يعد هناك من يفكر فيها حتى الآن إن كان لديهم ذرة علم عن الدين.

وقال بنجامين ان اليهود والمسيحيين لديهم الكثير من القواسم المشتركة، ولكن ليس لأي منهم علاقة مشتركة بالمسلمين… حقا!!؟؟ يعتقد المسيحيون أن يسوع هو ابن الرب، ويعتقد اليهود أنه كان نبيا كاذبا وأنه يتلظى في الجحيم!! ويقول بنجامين أن هذا الفارق ضئيل!! حسنا…. ثم يقترح أن عدد المسيحيين واليهود قليل جدا في أماكن مثل قطر والكويت وعمان، لأنه يعتقد “.. أنهم قتلوا”… هل أنت جاد يا رجل؟ هذا الشخص ذكي، ولكن عندما يتعلق الأمر بالإسلام، فالذكاء يفارقه تماما.

“الإسلام انتشر بالسيف”، كما يحبون أن يقولون! هل هذا ما حدث فعﻻ؟ إن كنت لا تعرف، فالقراءة هي الخيار. أولا وقبل كل شيء، دعونا نكون واضحين، الإمبراطورية الإسلامية تمددت من خلال الفتوحات؛ نعم (وعليك أن تخبرني عن أي إمبراطورية تعرفها تمددت من خﻻل صناعة البسكويت)، فالأمر كله يتعلق ببسط نفوذ الإسﻻم على الأراضي، وليس بإكراه الناس على الدخول فيه. بالله عليك، ألم تسمع بأن الرجل الأكثر بعدا ونبذا للعنف في العالم كله، وهو المهاتما غاندي، قد دحض تماما فكرة أن الإسلام أجبر الشعوب التي فتح بﻻدها على الدخول فيه؛ فماذا تريد أكثر من هذا؟ أيقونة السلام بشحمه ولحمه يخبرك بأنك كاذب، يا رجل!!

يتحدث بيترسون عن كيف أن يسوع، يسوع المذكور في نسخة السرد المسيحي، يعتبر النموذج المثالي للغرب، وأن يسوع شخصية سلمية. ويقول أن النبي محمد، في المقابل، كان أميرا للحرب؛ مما يعني أنه لو كان نموذجنا المثالي، فﻻ شك أن هذا سيجعلنا نميل للعدوانية والعنف. حسنا يا جوردان؛ هل تحب أن نحصي أعداد القتلى؟ الغزاة، ومحكام التفتيش (في البرتغال وإسبانيا والمكسيك وجاوا)، وإكراه الأميركيين الأصليين على الدين والحروب الصليبية والإبادات الجماعية والعبودية والاستعمار، حتى حرب العراق التي قام بها جورج دبليو بوش لأن “الله قال له” افعلها؛ هل تحب أن أكمل، أم لعلك اكتفيت؟

على الرغم من أن بيترسون يعترف بأن المسيحيين مذنبون بالتسبب في حروب فظيعة، ولكنه يقول أنه لا يمكن لصق هذه الجرائم بالمسيح، لأن المسيح نموذج للدور السلمي الذي لا يمكن إنكاره. في حين، وفقا له، فإن محمد ليس كذلك. حسنا، ما هي بالضبط فائدة النموذج السلمي عندما يكون من يدعون اتباعه من بين أكثر الغزاة الدمويين في التاريخ؟ فربما أو من المحتمل أن هذا النموذج الذي يحتذى به لم يوفر لهم أية توجيهات عملية أو واقعية عن كيفية التعامل مع الصراعات، فوجدوا أنفسهم مفتقرين لكيفية القيام بأية مواجهات بطريقة أخﻻقية وإنسانية؟ إن وجود نموذج يحتذى به وشارك فعليا في الصراع المسلح، وقام فعليا بوضع قواعد للحرب وقواعد للسلام، وفي نفس الوقت تتجلى مبادئه الدينية في صورة سيناريوهات عملية، على أرض الواقع، ﻻ شك أنه قد خدم الأمة الإسلامية بشكل جيد للغاية، هذا طبعا إذا كنت تهتم بدراسة التاريخ بدون “المنظار الأسود” للأيديولوجية.

The myth of “watershed moments” and the lie of Political Islam

The arc of history has no joints.  There are no hinges; no corners; no angles; at least not while you are living through it.  Later historians pinpoint so-called “watershed moments” in history, events that represent the beginning, or perhaps the peak, of what will eventually become significant change of one kind or another.  But this is all in retrospect. For the people living through it, change is often imperceptible, and indeed, just as often, non-existent.

I remember as a new convert to Islam, being told that the collapse of the Ottoman Empire was an earth-shattering catastrophe, and that life as Muslims had known it for a thousand years came to a sudden and drastic end.  I was told that Ataturk utterly and completely obliterated religion from Turkey; and that, as it were, over night, the entire Muslim world capsized into secular misery and oppression.  The Khilafah Paradise was lost.

But, in real life, there are no such things as moments that “change everything”.

By 1924, the Ottoman Empire barely existed in any real organised, hierarchical way, and its demise had very little practical impact on the daily lives of Muslims around the world.  Turks living in the countryside continued, generation to generation, much as they always had; from the Ottoman era, through the Kemalists, through military coups, and right up until Erdogan’s reign today.  And the same holds true for the rest of the Muslim world.  Because the truth of the matter is that for most people the state is a marginal player in their lives.

We have lived through oppressive regimes, unjust governors, corrupt judiciaries, greedy politicians, abusive security services, and so forth, all along.  And sometimes things have been better, and sometimes they have been worse. There is no formula to suspend this cycle from continuing, there is no antidote for the fundamental realities of human society.

This is the lie at the heart of Islamism; and this is one of the things that makes me angry about it.

I have argued for quite some time now that the role of Islamists should not be to seek power; it should not be to “establish” an “Islamic state”; or to “revive the Khilafah”; nor even to seek the imposition of Shari’ah (whatever that means).  The end of the Ottoman Empire did not necessitate the invention of a political ideology that would, for all intents and purposes, replace the actual religion; but that is what happened, and it has proven to be a far more catastrophic development than the event which precipitated it.  Yes, I said it.  The invention of the ideology of Political Islam has been a greater disaster for the Muslim ummah than the dismantling of the Ottoman Khilafah.   They have warped our understanding of Islam itself, essentially grafting into the creed a statist political obsession that, by necessity, radicalizes us.  They have made the Khilafah a sixth pillar of the religion.

Islam is sufficient guidance for helping us cope with political collapse, with tyranny, with injustice.  It always has been enough to help us cope throughout centuries of political turmoil.  Muslims have always understood their duty to speak the truth to power, to enjoin what is good, to advise the rulers, to obey what is obedience to Allah and disobey what is not; and to work for the betterment of society.  And we have always understood that the practical manifestation of these duties will vary depending on the time and place and circumstances.

It is not as though every ruler from the abdication of Hassan bin Ali until 1924 was pious and just; indeed, the just and pious rulers are remembered precisely because of their infrequency; and all along, the righteous Muslims have struggled in one way or another to improve the conditions, correct their governments, and tried to live in accordance with, and to promote the values and objectives of the Shari’ah; without undertaking strategies and tactics that cause more disruption than benefit.  And this is what we are supposed to be doing now.  This is what Islamism, if we insist on using the term, should be about.

I guarantee you that if the Ottoman Empire had persevered, and if it still existed today; our lives would not be obviously different than they are right now.  The rise of Western power, of American supremacy, and the ascendancy of multinational corporate sovereignty would all still have occurred, and the impact of these trends on our societies would still have happened; and we would be dealing with almost the exact circumstances that we are dealing with at this moment.

So, in my view, it is time for the Islamists to stop reminiscing about an idyllic past that did not really exist; and to stop fantasizing about a Utopian future that never will exist; and to start dealing with reality as it is in a manner consistent with what the religion actually says.  Stop pretending that there were ever watershed moments that changed everything, and stop pretending that there will be any such moments in the future.  Just work practically within your own sphere of influence to improve our societies; no more, no less; just as the righteous believers did before you.

Atheism, Free Speech or Hate Speech?                                         الإلحاد أم حرية التعبير أم خطاب الكراهية؟

لقراءة المقال مترجم إلى العربية انتقل إلى الأسفل

The intellectual battle against Islam has been largely handed over in recent years to Atheists.  After countless debates and arguments in which Christians have been soundly defeated by Muslim experts on comparative religion, a new brigade of Atheists have taken up the fight.  People like Richard Dawkins Sam Harris, Douglas Murray, and the late Christopher Hitchens, have adapted their antipathy towards religion in general to focus specifically on Islam.  Recently there was a public relations campaign in the UK which saw signs posted on the sides of trains and buses stating “there probably isn’t a God, so just relax and enjoy life”.  It would seem that the desire to undermine the spread of Islam is so great that the West is even willing to throw God aside, if it will mean getting rid of Islam in the process.

Here in Malaysia a clash is brewing between the government and a group calling themselves “the Atheist Republic”.  The group posted a picture on social media of one of their gatherings, causing concern among authorities and Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki issued a badly worded statement saying essentially that Atheism is unconstitutional in Malaysia, and that attempting to spread Atheist ideas would be deemed a threat to public order.  Dawkins tweeted in response that the Malaysian government was comprised of “prodigies of stupidity and injustice”, adding, apparently, to his credentials as a biologist and author; ‘expert on Malaysian constitutional law’.

Malaysian MPs from the opposition have criticized Asyaf’s statement, and suggest that the curtailment of Atheism represents a kind of repression and a deterioration of human rights in Malaysia.

Malaysia is a country in which all religious faiths coexist; each group respecting what the other regards as sacrosanct.  While lawyer Azhar Harun, another critic warning against any restrictions on Atheist promulgation, says that “freedom of religion includes the choice to opt out of religion”, he is missing the point.  What Atheists are opting out of, in the context of this discussion, is not religion, but the underlying social contract between the citizenry to respect each others’ beliefs.

The Malaysian Alliance of Civil Society Organisations in the UPR Process, clarified the issue in a statement, saying, ““They are rejecting their responsibility to respect what their fellow Malaysians hold sacred…it is no longer a matter of being anti-religious but a matter of being anti-social”.

Indeed, anyone has the right to opt out of religion, and if that is all Atheists do, then there is no legal or ethical issue here.  But what can be called “Evangelical Atheism”, by definition, constitutes an attack on the religious beliefs of every community; Muslim and non-Muslim.  It is not a matter of disagreeing with the particular doctrinal precepts or practices of this or that religion; Atheism literally calls all religious people ‘stupid and unjust’.  Among religious people, we can have a discussion about scriptures and theology, and that can be respectful and useful.  But the core position of Atheists is that the beliefs of any religious group are fundamentally moronic and delusional; and that is immediately hurtful and belligerent.  Do you see the difference?  And do you see how disruptive this can be to social cohesion?

Now, as I said, the attack on religion in general appears to have the primary goal of undermining Islam; they are willing to sacrifice the followers of other religions if it is useful for denigrating Muslims.  Consider the fact that almost one-tenth of the American states bar Atheists from holding public office, and at least one state does not even allow Atheists to testify as witnesses in court; but are the legislators of Arkansas, Maryland, Mississippi, North and South Carolina, Texas, and Pennsylvania referred to as “prodigies of stupidity and injustice”?

The fact that Muslim countries tend to take the issue of Evangelical Atheism more seriously than Western countries is portrayed as evidence of Muslim intolerance, and the Atheists are trying to create a perception that their rights are being violated by Islamic regimes – and yes, they are specifically targeting Muslim countries.

However, the curtailment of Atheist preaching in Muslim countries demonstrates how seriously those countries take the rights of religious people of all faiths, and how vital it is for each of them to be respected and protected from ideological attack because, again, that is what Evangelical Atheism is: a slander against all religious people.

When the United States criminalizes racist speech because it is hateful and hurtful to an entire segment of the population, they are right.  And the same principle applies to Atheism, perhaps even more so, because it degrades the overwhelming majority of citizens who hold religious beliefs.  Again, you need look no further than the tweeted response of Richard Dawkins about the controversy in Malaysia.  An Atheist cannot open his mouth to express his beliefs without being harmful to others, just as a racist cannot express his views without being harmful.




لقد تسلم الملحدون زمام المعركة الفكرية ضد الإسلام إلى حد كبير في السنوات الأخيرة. فبعد سجاﻻت لا حصر لها وحجج انهزم فيها المسيحيون بشكل واضح من قبل خبراء مسلمين في الدين المقارن، قام لواء جديد من الملحدين بتولي زمام المعركة. فقام أشخاص مثل ريتشارد دوكينز وسام هاريس ودوجلاس موراي والكاتب الراحل كريستوفر هيتشنس بتوجيه كراهيتهم تجاه الأديان بشكل عام لتتركز بشكل خاص على الإسلام. ففي الآونة الأخيرة شاهدنا حملة علاقات عامة في المملكة المتحدة قامت بنشر ﻻفتات على جانبي القطارات والحافلات تقول “في الغالب ليس هناك إله، فاسترخوا واستمتعوا بالحياة”. يبدو أن الرغبة في تقويض انتشار الإسلام كبيرة لدرجة أن الغرب مستعد “للإلقاء” بالإله جانبا، إذا كان هذا سيعني التخلي عن الإسلام في أثناء هذه العملية.

هنا في ماليزيا أرى صراعا ما يختمر بين الحكومة ومجموعة تطلق على نفسها “الجمهورية الملحدة”. وقد نشرت هذه المجموعة صورة على وسائل التواصل الاجتماعي في إحدى تجمعاتها، مما أثار القلق بين السلطات ونائب الوزير في إدارة رئيس الوزراء أسياف وجدي دوسوكي فتم إصدار بيانا غير موفق يقول فيه بشكل أو بأخر أن الإلحاد غير دستوري في ماليزيا، وأن محاولة نشر الأفكار الإلحادية سيعتبر تهديدا للنظام العام. فكتب دوكينز ردا على ذلك بأن الحكومة الماليزية تتكون من “أعاجيب من الغباء والظلم”، مضيفا بذلك إلى سيرته الذاتية كعالم أحياء ومؤلف، بأنه “خبير في القانون الدستوري الماليزي”.

وقد انتقد النواب الماليزيون من المعارضة بيان أسياف، واقترحوا أن كبت الإلحاد سيمثل نوعا من القمع وتدهور لحقوق الإنسان في ماليزيا.

ماليزيا بلد تتعايش فيه جميع الأديان؛ وكل مجموعة تحترم ما يعتبره الآخر مقدسا. وقد قام المحامي أزهر هارون، وهو ناقد آخر، بالتحذير من وضع أي قيود على مسار الإلحاد، وقال أن “حرية الاعتقاد تشمل خيار ترك الدين”، وهو بذلك لم يلتفت للنقطة الأساسية. فردا على كﻻمه، ما يختار الملحدون أن يتركوه ليس هو الدين ولكنه العقد الاجتماعي الأساسي بين المواطنين لاحترام معتقدات بعضهم البعض.

وقد قام التحالف الماليزي لمنظمات المجتمع المدني في عملية الاستعراض الدوري الشامل، بإيضاح المسألة في بيان قائلا “إنهم يرفضون مسؤوليتهم في احترام ما يراه زملائهم الماليزيون مقدسا … لم يعد الأمر متعلق بمعاداة الدين ولكنه أصبح متعلقا بمعاداة المجتمع”.

بالطبع يحق لأي شخص أن يختار ترك الدين، إن كان هذا هو كل ما يفعله الملحدون، ولما كانت هناك قضية قانونية أو أخلاقية من الأساس. ولكن ما يسمى “بالإلحاد التبشيري”، وهكذا نسميه بحكم التعريف، يعتبر شكل من أشكال الإعتداء على المعتقدات الدينية ﻷي مجتمع. مسلم كان أو غير مسلم. فالأمر لا يتعلق بالاختﻻف مع الممارسات العقائدية الخاصة بهذا الدين أو ذاك؛ الإلحاد يطلق وصف “غبي وظالم” على كل وأي شخص معتنق لأي دين. فبين الدينيين، قد نرى حوارًا حول الكتاب المقدس واللاهوت، وقد يكون حوارا محترما ومفيدا. ولكن الموقف الأساسي للملحدين هو أن معتقدات أي جماعة دينية تعتبر في الأساس غباء وأوهام، وهذا طبعا أمر جارح وفيه اعتداء صريح، فهل ترون الفرق؟ وهل ترون كيف يمكن أن يكون هذا الأمر مخربًا للتماسك الاجتماعي؟

والآن، فكما قلت، يبدو أن الهجوم على الدين بشكل عام لديه هدف أساسي متمثل في تقويض الإسلام؛ فهم على استعداد للتضحية بأتباع الديانات الأخرى إذا كان هذا سيشوه سمعة المسلمين. علينا أن نفكر في حقيقة أن ما يقرب من عشر وﻻيات في الولايات الأمريكية تحظر الملحدين من شغل المناصب العامة، ولا تسمح دولة واحدة للملحدين بالإدلاء بشهاداتهم كشهود في المحكمة؛ ولكن هل المشرعين من أركنساس، وميريلاند، وميسيسيبي، وشمال وجنوب كارولينا، وتكساس، وبنسلفانيا يتصفون هم أيضا بأنهم “أعاجيب من الغباء والظلم”؟

حقيقة أن الدول الإسلامية تميل إلى تناول مسألة الإلحاد التبشيري بشكل أكثر جدية من الدول الغربية تصور كدليل على التعصب الإسلامي، والملحدون يحاولون خلق تصورا بأن حقوقهم تنتهك من قبل الأنظمة الإسلامية – ولكنهم هم أنفسهم من يستهدفون على وجه التحديد البلدان الإسلامية.

ومع ذلك، فإن الحد من الوعظ الإلحادي في البلدان الإسلامية يدل على مدى جدية تناول هذه البلدان لحقوق الدينيين من جميع الأديان، ومدى أهمية أن يكون كل واحد منهم محترما ومحميا من الهجوم الأيديولوجي عليه لأنه، مرة ثانية، هذا هو تحديدا ما يفعله الإلحاد التبشيري: الافتراء والتعدي على جميع الأديان.

عندما تجرم الولايات المتحدة خطاب الكراهية لأنه بغيض ومؤذي لقطاع كامل من السكان، فهي على حق. وينطبق المبدأ نفسه على الإلحاد، وربما لأكثر من ذلك، لأن الإلحاد يحط من الأغلبية الساحقة من المواطنين الذين يحملون معتقدات دينية. مرة أخرى، لا تحتاج الأمر إلى أكثر من النظر إلى تغريدة ريتشارد دوكينز على تويتر حول الجدل في ماليزيا. لا يمكن للملحد أن يفتح فمه للتعبير عن معتقداته دون أن يكون ضارا للآخرين، تماما كما لا يمكن للعنصري التعبير عن آرائه دون أن يكون ضارا لغيره.

Turning Islam into an ideology

The 20th Century was the heyday for ideology. Marxism, Socialism, Communism, Nazism, Fascism, on and on.  The 20th Century also sent the Muslim world into a tailspin with the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire.
In some ways, you can kind of see a parallel between what happened intellectually in the Muslim world with what happened in Europe in terms of the shift away from traditional religious structures of thought and understanding to rationalistic ideology, because they basically lost their moral footing when they turned away from religon.  Something Fredich Nietzche predicted well before it happened, when he said “God is dead…we have killed Him…who will wipe the blood off us?”  What he meant, of course, was that men had killed their belief in God, renounced religious structures, and in so doing, had ventured into chaos.

For Europe, the turn away from religion made them turn to ideologies for something to believe in.  For the Muslims, the end of the Ottoman Empire left them scrambling for a way to re-energize themselves around a concept that could restore their power and sense of identity.  Extremism emerged both in the West and in the Muslim world in the form of radical belief in ideologies.  For Europe, these were rationalistic, while for the Muslim world, it was still religiously based, with the concept of Islamism or Political Islam.

Since Islam is a religion and not an ideology, turning it into an ideology was not an easy thing to do.  So what they did was to basically borrow elements of other ideologies.  While there were a variety of trends, generally aligning with one or another European ideological trend, Islamism was essentially focused on building an ideology that was state-centric.  This isn’t surprising, since the whole movement developed as a response to the collapse of the Ottoman state.

As Islamism was developing, in the Arab world, there was also the emergence of another ideology, that of Pan-Arabism, or Arab nationalism; which, in fact, was already brewing prior to the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire, and played a role in its collapse.  This then saw the Baathist ideology form, and spread in the Arab world.  It was a kind of mix between Fascist and Socialist, Totalitarian dogmas, and Islamism was quite influenced by this.  In fact, it is more or less the same, politically, but with the religious element blended in.

So what sort of religious element would work here?  Well, it makes sense that it would be an interpretation that emphasizes a strict view on the rules and regulations of the religion, I think.  It should be an interpretation that creates a necessity of enforcement of those rules by the state.  And this is predictably going to mean exaggerating the status of what may just be recommendations into the status of obligatory legislation, and it is going to mean denying the existence of divergent opinions on a single issue.  It should also be an interpretation that emphasizes a divisive group identity and a method of proving group identity through superficial, observable adherence to the rules being mandated.

This is the only viable religious interpretation that can be used to support a state-centric ideology, and to a certain extent, that is exactly what happened with Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia when the modern state was founded.

Now, I should say, of course, that this is not to in any way lessen the centrality and importance of the Shari’ah in Islam.  But the fact of the matter is that the Qur’an, as explained by some of the most eminent scholars of Islam, only contains about 500 verses that provide explicit legislation, explicit meaning, they are not open to interpretation, they are clear-cut rulings; and most of these pertain to acts of worship, not to governance or the penal system and so forth.  That is out of a total number of verses over 6000. So the actual explicit rulings in the Qur’an are relatively few.  The same sort of ratio exists in the Hadiths; the overwhelming majority of Hadiths do not contain explicit legislation.  What has happened is that the line between what is an explicit ruling and what is an interpreted ruling derived from non-explicit verses and Hadiths has become blurred.  That is, the line between the Law itself and jurisprudence, or Fiqh, has been blurred.  And this means the line between what is Revelation and what is opinion has become obscured.

Furthermore, the methodologies for deducing jurisprudential rulings have decreased.  We have started to take a very cut-and-dried approach to jurisprudence, we over-simplify, we discard nuances, we fail to consider circumstantial factors, environmental and historical factors, and so on.  And it is necessary to do that when you are creating an ideology.  You have to over-simplify.  You have to reduce complexity.  You have to create a black and white perspective and eject as many alternate views as possible.

So we have this idea today that because the early generations of Islam are the best generations, we have to do what they did, we have to imitate their actions; rather than saying that we should engage in the same intellectual processes that they did to determine what our actions should be; because those processes are complicated, and because those processes may very well result in a multiplicity of opinions about what we should do.  That approach does not lend itself to the uniformity and cohesion required by an ideology.

An ideology must be able to manifest itself into a system; you have to be able to tick the boxes, with the belief that once all the boxes are ticked, you will have established a Utopia.

But here is the thing:  there is no such thing as an Islamic System.  This term does not appear in the entirety of the Qur’an or Hadith literature.  But, you know, Marxists have a system, Communists have a system, Fascists have a system, Baathists have a system, so we have to have a system…if we are going to have an ideology.

What the Qur’an is, and what the Sunnah is, and what they say they are, is Guidance; not a system.  That is because Islam is a religion, not an ideology; and when you reduce it to an ideology, you make it dysfunctional.  You turn it into a man-made construct, and not Divine Guidance.  We always like to say that Islam provides a prescription for an ideal society; as the Islamist slogan says “Islam is the solution”.  But that is not what the Book says, that is not what the Prophet said.  And if Islam really did claim to provide a panacea for each and every human problem that has ever and will ever occur, and if it claimed that it lays out the blueprint for a Utopian society; that would be proof positive that it did not come from the Creator.

I know for Muslims, this sounds strange.  We are fond of likening the Qur’an to an instruction manual for life.  We say that Allah has provided us with a rule book for how to live our lives, how to deal with any and every difficulty and challenge; and that it is the very comprehensiveness of Islam that proves it has a Divine Origin; because who else could have come up with such a system other than God?  But the truth is that our Creator Knows better than we do how complex we are, how complicated our nature is, how much our circumstances and situations change, and that any sort of comprehensive set of instructions are inevitably going to become obsolete in a very short span of time.  That is why what we get from the Qur’an and Sunnah is Guidance that can be adapted as we and our circumstances change.  That is why Islam does NOT provide a list of boxes to tick to create a Utopian society, because our Creator Knows that the nature of the Creation He produced and the nature of the creatures in it are such that there is no such thing as an earthly Utopia.

The proof of the Divine Origin of Islam is that it does NOT present a formula, a plan, a system for creating an idyllic society, because only a human being would imagine that such a society could be created.  Islam provides Guidance and Wisdom that can adapt to circumstances and that can inform us about our nature to help us navigate through life in ways that will hopefully make our lives more successful and our selves more virtuous, and most importantly (as it IS a religion) improve our relationship with the Creator and make us successful in the Afterlife.

Even though Islamism is awash with religious rhetoric and references to Allah, really, it functions as a secular neo-fascist ideology, almost exclusively concerned with material issues and explanations of worldly matters, and it has very little to do with worship or spirituality.  Allah has become the rhetorical figurehead of a conceptual state in the Islamists’ minds almost like the mythologized image of Joseph Stalin in Soviet Russia, whom everyone wants to please and associate themselves with through their strictness and expertise in the ideology.  Islamists have kind of become the clergy Islam never had, and isn’t supposed to have; the priest class who are the arbiters and enforcers of an ideology that is primarily interested in power and control.  And again, that is one of the things that happns when you turn religion into ideology; you create a class of experts and authorities who have no real qualification outside of the niche they have created for themselves. That is what happens with any ideology I suppose; you have a group of intellectual interpreters of the ideology, and they become authorities; and they are people who could never attain authority in any other scenario.

Recognising the dark side     علامات الجانب المظلم

لقراءة المقال مترجم إلى العربية انتقل إلى الأسفل

As Muslims we believe in two basic forces that can draw us into bad behaviour and wrong-doing. One is external, and one is internal. There is Shaytan, and there is the nafs. We do not believe that people are innately good or bad, but that they have the innate potential to be either, and indeed, to be both simultaneously.

It is fairly important to clarify that when Allah says that “all human beings sin” He did not say “all human beings are sinful”; that is a significant difference. A person’s life is comprised of both good deeds and bad deeds, and these will all be weighed against each other on Judgment Day.

The nafs, or the Self, is more or less similar to what Carl Jung described as the Shadow; it is the dark side of our nature that we are continuously grappling with, and to which we often succumb, though to varying degrees. Muslims are aware of this perpetual struggle, and the added factor of the external temptations and promptings and incitements of Shaytan which further complicate our efforts to live a moral and disciplined life.

Despite what most people think about Islam; that it is harsh and unforgiving, our awareness tends to make us more compassionate and less judgemental when someone stumbles; even if that compassion does not negate the necessity of punishment.

And we are emphatically encouraged to conceal the misbehavior of others, to address wrong-doing one-on-one rather than in a public forum, and to refrain from prying into the private affairs of other people looking for their sins. We all know that every one of us is struggling, and that every one of us fails in that struggle from time to time; and we know that righteousness does not mean never failing, but always continuing to struggle.

It seems to me that the standard shock and vilification non-Muslims display about the misbehaviour of others is quite dishonest, or at best very naive and self-deceiving. It seems to be a denial of the fact that everyone has a dark side and that everyone is capable of succumbing to urges and confusions which cause them to behave in ways radically contradictory with their own moral aspirations.

No one is their “best self” all the time, and everyone’s “worst self” can be utterly horrendous, disgusting, and dangerous. This is something that we all must acknowledge, about ourselves and about each other.

We have all been subjected, at one time or another, to other people’s ugly descent into their worst selves, and it is always hard to know what to do and how to react. But, by the same token, others have been subjected to our own ugliness at one time or another and I would argue that across the board, the people who have reacted to us with understanding and pity tend to become dearer to us and help us to become better. And this, after all, is what we should be trying to do with each other.

كمسلمين نحن نؤمن بوجود نوعين من القوى الأساسية المؤثرة التي قد تجذبنا لارتكاب الذنوب والسقوط في الآثام: المؤثر الأول خارجي، والمؤثر الثاني داخلي. فهناك الشيطان، وهناك النفس… نحن إذا لا نؤمن بأن الناس إما أشرار أو أخيار بالفطرة، ولكن هناك قدرة فطرية لدينا أن نكون إما هذا أو ذاك، أو كلاهما في آن واحد.

من المهم إلى حد ما أن نوضح أن الله سبحانه وتعالى عندما أعلمنا بأن كل بني آدم خطاء، فهو لم يقل لنا كل بني آدم مخطئون، وهناك فرق كبير. فحياة الشخص تتكون من تركيبة من الأعمال الصالحة والسيئة، كفتين من الذنوب والحسنات سيتم وزنهما يوم الحساب في مقابل بعضهما البعض.

فالنفس إذا هي أقرب ما تكون إلى ما وصفه كارل يونغ بـ”الظل”، فهي الجانب المظلم من طبيعتنا الذي نواجهه باستمرار، وغالبا ما نخضع له، ولو بدرجات متفاوتة. والمسلمون على دراية بهذا الجهاد الدائم، مع العامل الإضافي للإغراءات الخارجية وتحريض ووسوسة الشيطان الذي يزيد من تعقيد جهودنا في أن نعيش حياة أخلاقية ومنضبطة.

على علكس ما يظنه معظم الناس من أن الإسلام قاسي وبلا رحمة، إلا أن وعينا يميل إلى جعلنا أكثر رحمة وأقل إصدارا للأحكام عندما يتعثر شخص ما، حتى وإن لم تنفي هذه الرحمة ضرورة العقاب.

نحن نشجع بشدة على ستر أي زلل في سلوك الآخرين، وبأن التصدي للخطأ يكون بشكل شخصي (من شخص لشخص) بدلا من أن يكون في ميدان عام، وعن عدم التلصص على خصوصيات الآخرين بهدف تتبع خطاياهم. فنحن نعلم أن كل منا يجاهد نفسه، وأن كل منا يفشل في هذا الجهاد من وقت لآخر، كما أننا نعلم أن التقوى لا تعني عدم الفشل أبدا، ولكنها تعني الاستمرار في جهاد النفس.

يبدو لي أن الصدمة المعتادة التي يظهرها غير المسلمين عند سوء تصرف الآخرين تعتبر غير أمينة ومضللة خاصة عندما يشيطنون هؤلاء المخطئون، أو في أحسن الأحوال فإن ما يفعلونه يكون مخادع جدا ومضلل، فهو ينكر حقيقة أن لكل شخص جانب مظلم وأن الجميع قادرون على الاستسلام لإلحاح النفس وللتشويش الذي يدفعهم إلى التصرف بطرق تتناقض جذريا مع تطلعاتهم الأخلاقية.

لا يوجد أحد على وجه الأرض “متمالك لذاته السامية” طوال الوقت، ولو كان الجميع يتصرفون “بذاتهم المتدنية” طوال الوقت لكان الأمر أصبح مروع جدا، ومثيرا للاشمئزاز، وخطيرة. وهذا أمر يجب علينا جميعا أن نعترف به: عن أنفسنا وعن بعضنا البعض.

لقد تعرضنا جميعا، في وقت أو آخر، لدركات للجانب القبيح في الناس أو إلى ذواتهم المتدنية، ومن الصعب دائما أن نعرف ما يجب أن نفعله أو كيف نتصرف. ولكن، على نفس المنوال، فقد تعرض آخرون لقبحنا في وقت أو آخر، وأحب أن أقول أنه على كافة الأصعدة، فإن من تعاملوا معنا بالتفاهم والشفقة قد أصبحوا أعزاء علينا وساعدونا على أن نصبح أفضل… وهذا تحديدا ما يجب أن نحاول أن نفعله مع بعضنا البعض.

Brotherhood of circumstances                 أخوة الظروف

لقراءة المقال مترجم إلى العربية انتقل إلى الأسفل

Perhaps the most important and useful thing I learned in prison, or rather, that happened to me in prison, was the excruciating experience of developing the capacity to tolerate and forgive.

In prison, obviously, you cannot choose your company.  If you have a dispute with someone, or if there is someone who annoys you, or someone who embodies everything that you despise; you have no choice but to interact with them on a daily basis.  You cannot “unfriend” or “unfollow” someone in prison, and make them disappear from your life.  You have to deal with them every day, throughout the day.  And this is extremely beneficial; even though it is also extremely hard to cope with.

Feeling offended becomes unviable very quickly in prison, because you realize that you simply have no option to eject offensive people from your life.  And I am someone who has always been exceedingly selective about the company I keep, so this process was often torturous.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that you do not have confrontation; but in prison, it is understood that the confrontations have a boundary beyond which they will not escalate.  You and I are both going to still be here tomorrow, we are still going to interact, and yes, we are both still going to be sharing the same difficult circumstances, and we still have to get along.  You do not have the luxury of branding someone you dislike as “evil” and banishing them from your presence forever.  You have to keep your conflicts within the parameters of what is your unavoidable camaraderie as prisoners.

In the online, virtual culture of social media, I think, it is far too easy to shut people out, and far too easy to escalate your offended-ness to the point of basically turning off the switch of other people’s existence in your life, over mere differences of opinion or because their manners do not correspond to what you are accustomed to.  This is really quite harmful, on an individual level and on a societal level.

It seems to me that, look, we are all here on this Earth, in our countries, in our societies, in our communities, and none of us is going anywhere, and we have to deal with each other.  “The world is a prison for the Believer”; I think we need to begin to understand this beyond just thinking that it means our life in this world is just hardship.  We need to begin to see it as if we, this population that is inhabiting the planet right now, are all inmates of the same prison, and we are going to have to share this world with each other, interact with each other, today, tomorrow, and beyond; and we cannot eject anyone.

I am thinking about this in terms of the anti-Muslim hate going around, and the anti-non-Muslim hate going around as well.  Muslims are not going away, and neither are non-Muslims.  And if you think that by these arguments and attacks between us, that we are trying to settle problems for future generations (as if we, in our generation, are going to implement some sort of Final Solution to the disputes between us so that our children’s children will not have to fight the same battles), you are horrendously mistaken.  It would be far more responsible for us to bequeath to our heirs a sensible, mature, and realistic view of fundamental human brotherhood; to keep our conflicts within the parameters of our unavoidable camaraderie as human beings.

لعل من أهم وأجل ما تعلمته في السجن، أو بالأحرى ما حدث لي في السجن، كان هو التجربة المروعة لتطوير قدرتي على التسامح والمغفرة.

في السجن، طبعا لا يمكنك أن تختار صحبتك. فإذا كان لديك نزاع مع شخص ما، أو إذا كان هناك شخص ما يزعجك، أو شخص يجسد كل ما تحتقره في هذه الدنيا، فليس لديك خيار سوى التفاعل معه بشكل يومي. في السجن لا يمكنك “إلغاء الصداقة” أو “إلغاء المتابعة” لشخص ما فيختفي من حياتك. ولكن عليك التعامل معه كل يوم، وعلى مدار اليوم. وعلى الرغم من أن هذا الأمر مفيد إلا أنه من الصعب جدا التعامل معها.

فالشعور بالإهانة يصبح إحساس غير قابل للتطبيق في السجن، لأنك ستدرك بسرعة أنه لا يوجد لديك خيار لطرد الناس المزعجين من حياتك. وأنا عن نفسي كنت شخص دائما انتقائي للغاية في الصحبة التي أبقي عليها، لذلك فقد كانت هذه المسألة في كثير من الأحيان تعذيبية جدا.

بطبيعة الحال، هذا لا يعني أنه لن تكون هناك مصادمات؛ ولكن في السجن، معروف أن الصدامات سيكون لها حدود لن تتصاعد بعدها. فأنت وأنا سنظل في نفس المكان هنا غدا، وسيكون علينا أن نتفاعل معا، وطبعا سيكون علينا أن نتقاسم نفس الظروف الصعبة معا، وسيكون علينا أن نتفاهم معا بأي شكل. لن يكون لديك ترف تصنيف أي شخص تكرهه على أنه “شرير” وإبعاده من حياتك إلى الأبد. سيكون عليك أن تبقي صراعاتك ضمن نطاق صحبة مفروضة عليك من سجناء لا يمكنك تفاديهم أو تجنبهم.

في الانترنت، ومع الثقافة الافتراضية لوسائل التواصل الاجتماعية، أعتقد أنه من السهل جدا أن نقوم بإسكات الناس، ومن الأسهل أن نقوم بتصعيد شعورنا بالإساءة للنقطة التي قد نصل بعدها إلى ضغط زر “الغلق” لوجود هؤلاء في حياتنا، وهذا لمجرد اختلافات في الرأي أو لأن أخلاقهم لا تتوافق مع ما اعتدنا عليه. وهذا أمر ضار حقا، على المستوى الفردي وعلى المستوى المجتمعي.

انظر معي… يبدوا لي أننا جميعا هنا على هذه الأرض، في بلداننا، في مجتمعاتنا، في جماعاتنا، ولن يذهب أن منا إلى أي مكان، وعلينا أن نتعامل مع بعضنا البعض: “الدنيا سجن المؤمن”. أعتقد أننا بحاجة أن نفهم هذه المقولة أبعد من كونها تعني أن حياتنا في هذه الدنيا مجرد مشقة. نحن بحاجة إلى أن نبدأ في فهمها كما لو أننا، نحن سكان هذا الكوكب، جميعا نزلاء نفس السجن، وأن علينا أن نتقاسم هذا العالم مع بعضنا البعض، والتفاعل مع بعضنا البعض، اليوم، وغدا، وبعد غد؛ وأننا لا يمكننا أن نقوم بإنهاء وجود أي شخص هكذا ببساطة.

وأنا أفكر في هذا الأمر في ضوء الكراهية المناهضة للمسلمين، والكراهية المناهضة لغير المسلمين التي تدور حولنا. المسلمون لن يختفوا من الحياة، ونفس الشيء بالنسبة لغير المسلمين. فإذا كنت تعتقد أن ما يدور بيننا من جدال وهجوم هدفه هو تسوية المشاكل للأجيال القادمة (وكأننا في جيلنا سنجد نوعا من الحل النهائي للنزاعات التي بيننا حتى لا يحارب أبناءنا نفس معاركنا)، إن ظننت هذا فأنت مخطئ بشكل كبير. الشيء المسئول فعلا الذي يمكننا أن نقدمه هو أن نترك لأبنائنا رؤية عقلانية وناضجة وواقعية للأخوة في البشرية، وأن نبقي صراعاتنا ضمن نطاق صحبة مفروضة علينا من “بشر” لا يمكننا تفاديهم أو تجنبهم.