defining a muslim Left II: The Gash of Civilizations

I have previously argued that in defining a genuinely Islamic-American political identity, we must identify what exactly our issues are. This news seems relevant in that regard:

Most people in Muslim countries and the West believe divisions between them are worsening, a Gallup poll for the World Economic Forum (WEF) suggests.

The poll also suggested that most Europeans thought more interaction with Islam would be a threat - though most Americans disagreed.
Describing the position now, majorities on both sides said they did not believe the two sides were getting along.

This belief was strongest in the US, Israel, Denmark - where the publication of cartoons about the Muslim Prophet Muhammad caused worldwide controversy - and among Palestinians.

WEF experts examining the poll data put this down to the effect of the Iraq war and the Middle East conflict.

By contrast, there was a less gloomy response in Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

According to WEF poll, neither the West nor the Muslim world believed the other side respected it.

But while Muslims said they believed their world did respect the West, Western respondents agreed that the West did not respect the Muslim world.

The issue for Muslim Americans is fairly obvious, given that we are highly vested in closing this gap between east and west, because the existence of this "gash" of civilizations serves to strain our own identities. We have family and friends on both sides of the Gash, we have cultural practices and values that span it, and we live in two worlds at once. Hence, a political party or politician that demonstrates an awareness of the Gash, and policies that serve to mend it or bridge it, is one that deserves our support.

It should be noted that neither political party is doing much to mend the Gash at present. The Democrats' seizure of the Dubai Ports World issue was a disgraceful example of latent xenophobia, but had they played it the correct way would have served as a powerful example of an issue which could draw east and west together (on the basis of economic cooperation and mutual gain). However, the Republicans are far worse than this, engaging in a rhetorical war against muslims and engaging in overt religious prejudice by their insistence on the phrase "Islamofascism" :

The pairing of "Islam" and "fascism" has no parallel in characterizations of extremisms tied to other religions, although the defining movements of fascism were linked to Catholicism - indirectly under Benito Mussolini in Italy, explicitly under Francisco Franco in Spain. Protestant and Catholic terrorists in Northern Ireland, both deserving the label "fascist," never had their religions prefixed to that word. Nor have Hindu extremists in India, nor Buddhist extremists in Sri Lanka.

In contrast to the way militant zealotries of other religions have been perceived, there is a broad conviction, especially among many conservative American Christians, that the inner logic of Islam and fascism go together. Political candidates appeal to those Christians by defining the ambition of Islamofascists in language that makes prior threats from, say, Hitler or Stalin seem benign. The point is that there is a deep religious prejudice at work, and when politicians adopt its code, they make it worse.

The use of such rhetoric becomes a feedback loop which drives the GOP further and further into the jafi embrace. There is a real danger that if this continues, the GOP will ultimately become as radicalized as the white supremacist political parties of Europe, except on religious grounds rather than racial. It may be that Democrats are not doing anything to improve the Gash, but the Republicans are actively exacerbating it. The challenge then for the muslim Left is to articulate the concern about the Gash, and present the case for why its existence is not just a threat to our interests but to the nation as a whole.


Nightstudies said...

I'm sure you noticed in the news that a journalism student in Afganistan, Sayed Parwez Kambakhsh, is facing a death sentence under Hanafi jurisprudence (enshrined in their bright new constitution) for the crime of printing out an article on the place of women in Islam that he found on the internet.

Fascist, maybe not, but certainly totalitarian, heavy handed and oppressive.

But if I turn to Iran and Ahmidinijad's allusions to Islamic triumphalism, his glorification of hatred "our holy hatred will expand continuously and spread like a wave." Or to jihadis all over the world, we see the pornography of hatred and death that was called fascist long before anyone applied that word to Islam.

The word "fascist" is a word that has meaning and it is not applied blindly out of mere prejudice, it is applied because it conveys a truth that we can see out in the real world.

Aziz said...

"The word "fascist" is a word that has meaning"

agreed, and the threat of radical islam is many things but does not meet that definition.