Saturday, March 13, 2010


This month's Ethnic and Racial Studies journal has a special issue on Muslim Minorities in Western Europe

(Vol. 33, No. 3 for March 2010)

(probably more easily accessible through a university library)

Democracy Now with John Perkins

"Given the dominance of the West in recent history,

any attempt at global organization risks reinscribing the colonial difference. And yet, as critical Muslims, critical Israelis, critical Americans, Europeans, and others, we cannot allow our identities to hold us apart. We recall Gramsci's insight that hegemony depends not on the absence of oppositional discourses, but, rather on the "the disorganization of dissent." We are indeed traveling a difficult road. But let us at least agree to eliminate false steps along the way. I shall discuss a few of these briefly...
-Susan Buck-Morss, "Can There Be a Global Left?," in Thinking Past Terror: Islamism and Critical Theory on the Left, p. 102

"Islamist politics has been multiple and contentious,

spanning a wide variety of political positions, including a critical Left. And although the term "Left" is clearly a Western category, emerging in the context of the French Revolution, its non-denominational character may permit it to be applied in a global public space. The "Left" here would mean radical in the critical sense, challenging not only the power inequities of the given world, but also the justifying discourses used to describe it. The Left would also mean cosmopolitan: it would define social justice in a way that excludes no group of humanity from the benefits of, and moral accountability within, the global public sphere.
-Susan Buck-Morss, "Can There Be a Global Left?," in Thinking Past Terror: Islamism and Critical Theory on the Left, p. 102

"We are looking for a route that will connect critical discourses

that have evolved in partial context, in order to make them useful for a yet-to-be-constituted, global, progressive left. We will not be satisfied with the realists' maxim: The enemy of my enemy is my friend - as this will not support global solidarity in a meaningful way. We also suspect that the splintering of the Left along the lines of discrete "identities" has run its course as a progressive form of critique, at least in its Western form, where identity politics now threatens to work to the advantage of anti-immigration nativism rather than the protection of cultural minorities. In its Islamist form, "identity politics" is indeed a powerful force, a constituency within civil society of over a billion people, connected in a global network of mosques. But those who desire (or fear) the crafting of this public into a uniform Islamist, global view do a disservice to the richness of debate that informs Islam, which not only allows critical thinking but requires it as a duty. If there are Islamist politicians who think they can count on supprt from a monolithic, unquestioning Muslim bloc, then these politicians are no less cynical and their motives are no less manipulative than their Western counterparts.
-Susan Buck-Morss, "Can There Be a Global Left?," in Thinking Past Terror: Islamism and Critical Theory on the Left, p. 102

Judith Butler: As a Jew, I was taught it was ethically imperative to speak up

Susan Buck-Morss

"My goal in this short essay is not the retelling of intellectual history.

Rather, it is to contribute to a discussion regarding a very specific, very political question: How today, in what intellectually critical idiom, might a global Left learn to speak together? In this context, intellectual history undergoes a transfiguration, no longer a story of specific civilizational continuities, be they Wester or Arabic or Islamic, but an "archaeology of knowledge," to use Foucalt's term, of a present global possibility. In the language of Walter Benjamin, we are looking for Urforms of the present, genealogical lineages that would guide us in articulating a critical discourse adequate to the demands of a global public sphere, in which the hegemony of the colonizing discourses has been shaken so that all criticism must be double critique. At the same time, if a new, global Left is to matter politically, it needs, as Sharabi writes, to "go beyond the negative," rising creatively above critique - without, however, falling into a new dogmatism - a tall order indeed. [12]
-Susan Buck-Morss, "Can There Be a Global Left?," in Thinking Past Terror: Islamism and Critical Theory on the Left, p. 100-101

"Interestingly, it was Islamism

that inaugurated an autonomous tradition of immanent critique within the Middle East. The influential Egyptian writer, Sayyid Qutb, a contemporary of the Frankfurt School theorists, critically attacked Islamic regimes as a return of the condition of ignorance - the "Jahiliyyah" of pre-Islamic times. Hence present-day Islamic society (Egypt) was un-Islamic. The strategy precisely paralleled the argument of Adorno and Horkeimer in Dialect of Enlightenment, that Western reason, which emerged from myth, had itself returned back into myth. The difference, of course, was Qutb's move to positivity, his affirmation of a return to Islam as stated, literally, in the Qur'an. This affirmation of the true Islam can be seen to mark a definitive break from Western-defined "modernity," allowing for an Islamic model to replace it. But what is interesting about Qutb's understanding of the "self-evidence" of Qur'anic thought, is that it, too, was dependent on the West, in the dialectical sense of critical negation. Islam - the true Islam - appears in Qutb's work as the inverted other of Western modernity: spiritual where the West is materialist; communal where the West is egoistically individual, socially just where the West is greedy and competitive, morally disciplined where the West is negligently libertine. This was, of course, the antithesis of the apologists' strategy of redeeming Islam within the value categories of the West. Redeeming Islam because it was "other" opened the way for endorsing an alternative road to modernity, different from both the capitalist West and the Soviet Union [6] - at the enormous price, however, of affirming neo-patriarchal social forms and opening the door for dogmatic, fundamentalist belief. [7]
-Susan Buck-Morss, "Can There Be a Global Left?," in Thinking Past Terror: Islamism and Critical Theory on the Left, p. 98

"Now, the Western modernity that Qutb and others attacked

were in fact the impoverished tradition of instrumental reason, possessive individualism, and lack of social consciousness that the members of the Frankfurt School and other European Marxists were criticizing from within. It would have taken a radical cosmopolitanism far in advance of what was possible at the time for both sides (German Jewish and Arab Muslim) to join forces in a critique of Western reason in its impoverished, (neo-)liberal, instrumentalized form. But the very thought of such an alliance, an attack launched from both within and without, suggests the power that a new Left in a global public sphere might begin to have today. To accomplish a global critique, however, it is the object criticized that must have priority, not the discursive model. If Western-centrism is to be avoided, Islam-centrism is only its other, not the theoretical solution. But just as clearly from the global perspective, the rejection of Western-centrism does not place a taboo on using the tools Enlightenment (as well as those of Islam) for original and creative application. To cite the Moroccan historian, Muhammad 'Abid al-Jabiri, who, as a leading critic of Orientalist discourses and Eurocentric world views, nonetheless makes eclectic use of Western concepts from Kant, Freud, Foucault, Marx, and others: "I do not limit myself to the constraints present in the original frameworks, but often utilize them with considerable freedom....We should not consider these concepts molds cast in iron, but tools to be used in each instance in the most productive way...."[8]
-Susan Buck-Morss, "Can There Be a Global Left?," in Thinking Past Terror: Islamism and Critical Theory on the Left, p. 98-99

John Perkins: Politicians Will Not Change the World

Thanks Ammar!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Stephen M. Walt: How not to contain Iran

‘O Fudayk! Establish the five daily prayers, abandon evil, and live amongst your people wherever you wish to live.’

Islam and/in/of the West Pt. 3

Have yet to listen to it!

Talk by Sheikh Abdal Hakim Murad - 16th February 2010 - Cardiff - 46 mins 09 secs

The third installment of our loosely-linked trilogy on Islam and identity in the West, this talk was given by Sheikh Abdal Hakim at the Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK at Cardiff University. Intriguingly entitled 'Can Non-Muslims Be Indigenous? Reflections on the Paradox of British Islam', it uses the work of Hilaire Belloc and G. K. Chesterton (particularly The Flying Inn, a fantasy novel set in a teetotal Britain under the sway of a renewed Ottoman Empire) to explore some underlying resonances between Islam and the religious culture and history of the British Isles. Beyond that, it somewhat defies easy explanation or summary, at least by this listener, but is all the more interesting for that. Enjoy!

HA Hellyer: Remembering the UK’s eloquent voice for Islam

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

"In his recent collection of essays

The Significance of Theory, Terry Eagleton includes an essay "Criticism, Ideology and Fiction," wherein he clarifies the difference between academics (who may or may not be intellectuals) and intellectuals. If one looks at the traditional Western understanding of the intellectual, then it seems to me to be characterized by at least two distinct questions. At intellectual is not simply somebody who trades in ideas. I have many colleagues who trade in ideas whom I'd be extremely reluctant to call intellectuals. An intellectual is somebody who trades in ideas by transgressing discursive frontiers, because he or she sees the need to do that. Secondly, an intellectual is somebody who trades in ideas in their vital bearing on a wider political culture. Eagleton's distinction rests of the assumption of a quality of critical openness that enables transgression. Clearly, he considers it essential that intellectuals be creative thinkers, explorers in the realm of ideas who are able to push to the limits and beyond, following ideas in whatever direction they might take.
-bell hooks, "Black Women Intellectuals" in Breaking Bread: Insurgent Black Intellectual Lifeby bell hooks and Cornel West, pg. 152

"Never thinking of intellectual work

as being in any way divorced from the politics of everyday life, I consciously chose to become an intellectual because it was that work which allowed me to make sense of my reality and the world around me, to confront and comprehend the concrete. This experience provided the groundwork for my understanding that intellectual life need not lead one to be estranged from community but rather might enable one to participate more fully in the life of family and community. It early confirmed what Black leaders in the 19th century well knew - that intellectual work is a necessary part of liberation struggle, central to the efforts of all oppressed and/or exploited people who would move from object to subject, who would decolonize and liberate their minds.
-bell hooks, "Black Women Intellectuals" in Breaking Bread: Insurgent Black Intellectual Lifeby bell hooks and Cornel West, pg. 150

"During adolescence, I underwent a conversion process

that pushed me towards intellectual life. Constantly persecuted and punished in our family, my attempts to understand my lot pushed me in the direction of critical analytical thought. Standing at a distance from my childhood experience, looking at it with a detached disengagement, was for me a survival strategy. To use pschoanalyst Alice Miller's term, I became my own "enlightened witness," able to analyze the forces that were acting upon me, and through that understanding able to sustain a separate sense of my self. Wounded, at times persecuted and abused, I found the life of the mind a refuge, a sanctuary where I could experience a sense of agency and thereby construct my own subject identity. This lived recognition of how the mind engaged in critical thought could be used in the service of survival, how it could be a healing force in my struggle to fight childhood despair enabled me to become an autonomous elf in the dysfunctional household and led me to value intellectual work. I valued it not because it brought status or recognition but because it offered resources to enhance survival and my pleasure in living.
-bell hooks, "Black Women Intellectuals" in Breaking Bread: Insurgent Black Intellectual Lifeby bell hooks and Cornel West, pg. 149-150

"Living in a society that is fundamentally anti-intellectual,

it is difficult for committed intellectuals concerned with radical social change to affirm in an ongoing way that the work we do has meaningful impact. Within progressive political circles, the work of intellectuals is rarely acknowledged as a form of activism, indeed more visible expressions of concrete activism (like picketing in the streets or traveling to a Third World country and other acts of challenge and resistance) are considered more important to revolutionary struggle than the world of the mind. It is this devaluation of intellectual work that often makes it difficult for individuals from marginalized groups to feel that intellectual work is important, that it is a useful vocation. Throughout our history as African Americans in the United States, Black intellectuals have emerged from all classes and conditions of life. However, the decision to consciously pursue an intellectual path has always been a exceptional and difficult choice. For many of us it has seemed more like a "calling" than a vocational choice. We have been moved, pushed, even, in the direction of intellectual work by forces stronger than that of individual will.
-bell hooks, "Black Women Intellectuals" in Breaking Bread: Insurgent Black Intellectual Life by bell hooks and Cornel West, pg. 148

Monday, March 8, 2010

"It is certainly possible to combine elements

of the "internalist" account of the West's rise to global supremacy (which focuses on factors internal to Europe) and the "externalist" account (which focuses on Europe's changing relations with the rest of the world); they are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Nor should one ignore or belittle the very real and very important scientific, technological, cultural and intellectual advances which Europeans achieved over the centuries. At the same time, it will clearly not do to treat the emergence of the modern West - or the birth of the modern world , or the rise of capitalism, or whatever we choose to call it - as if it was the product of factors entirely internal and unique to Europe and basically unconnected with Europe's changing relations with other parts of the world. The concepts of Europe and of the West in their modern sense emerged just as a new global order centered on Europe was coming into being, and the two processes were intimately and inextricably interwoven. Europe and the rest of the world, "the West" and "the rest," therefore cannot be usefully depicted as two utterly distinct or monolithic entities; on the contrary, they have created, molded and defined each other, and mixed with each other, through many complex interactions over the last five centuries (and well before, too).

Nawawi Foundation Papers

I love these articles! Let's read them, re-read them, let's discuss them! :)

Religious prejudice simmers by Eboo Patel

Thanks Jordan

Violence in Nigeria: food not faith

Thanks Khalid

Arrested American 'not al-Qaida spokesman'

57 dead in Turkish earthquake

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Contentions 15 - Abdal Hakim Murad [March 2010]

Thanks Qudsiyya

"Both the Islamic community of interpretation and the Western or American community

as formed mainly by the mass media have tragically staked much of their energies on the narrow point of confrontation between them, and in the process have ignored what did not concern this confrontation. Since we have been all too ready to believe this about Muslims opposing "satanic" America, it is worthwhile to pay attention to some of what has actually happened. While it is undoubtedly true that control of "news" and "images" in the West is not in Muslim hands, it is no less true that only an overall Muslim delay in understanding the reasons for Muslim dependence prevents their doing something about it. The oil-rich states, for their part, cannot complain that resources are lacking. What is lacking is some concerted political decision to enter the world in earnest, a lack that proves that far from being a unified force the Muslim states are not yet politically mobilized or coherent. There are many talents that need to be encouraged first, not least among them the capacity to produce and articulate a conscious and forceful self-image. But this means a serious assessment of the positive (not merely the reactive and defensive) values for which Muslims, in many different ways, stand. A great debate on this subject, usually in the form of discussions of turath (that is, specifically Islamic heritage) has been going on in the Muslim world.: [66] now its findings and its issues need to be communicated to the rest of the world. There is no longer much excuse for bewailing the hostility of "the West" towards the Arabs and Islam and then sitting back in outraged righteousness. When the reasons for this hostility and those aspects "of the West" that encourage it are fearlessly analsyzed, an important step has been taken toward changing it, but that is by no means the whole way: something must be put in its place if a new mass of anti-Islamic propaganda is not to result. Certainly there are great dangers todays in actually following, actually fulfilling, the prevailing hostile image of Islam, though that has thus far only been the doing of some Muslims and some Arabs and some black Africans. But such fulfillments underline the importancec of what still has to be done.
-Edward Said, Covering Islam: How the Media and the Experts Determine How We See the Rest of the World p. 67

"Still, there is no need complacently to glean insufficient wisdom from recent history.

The fact is that change is taking place in "Islam" much as it is taking place in "the West." The modes and paces are different, but some dangers and some uncertainties are similar. As rallying cries for their constituencies, "Islam," and "the West" (or "America") provide incitement more than insight. As equal and opposite reactions to the disorientations of new actualities, "Islam" and "the West" can turn analysis into simple polemic, experience into fantasy. Respect for the concrete details of human experience, understanding that arises from viewing the Other compassionately, knowledge gained and diffused through moral and intellectual honesty: surely these are better, if not easier, goals at present than confrontation and reductive hostility. And if in the process we can dispose finally of both the residual hatred and the offensive generality of labels like "the Muslim," "the Persian," "the Turk," "the Arab," or "the Westerner," then so much the better.

February 9, 1981
New York
-Edward Said, Covering Islam: How the Media and the Experts Determine How We See the Rest of the World p. lxx