Saturday, September 25, 2010

Shaykh Jihad H. Brown - Are Muslims Afraid of Their Own Shadow?

"Today many of the atrociously offensive and polemical statements against the Prophet Muhammad

come from some Christian leaders who seem persuaded that in tearing down the faith of other human beings they are building up the faith of their own flock. [...] These have not been isolated episodes - they have been repeated in the most public of settings. [...] These Christian leaders are not marginal figures. They utter such statements in the most public and high-profile media outlets. If we were dealing with Muslim figures making similarly offensive comments against Christ or labeling all Jews as evil, there would be an international outrage followed by calls for the immediate removal of these figures. Likewise, one could predict the swift outcry if Falwell or Robertson had labeled Judaism as demonic or satanic. Yet when statements about Islam or Muhammad are made, the treatment is different. At best, when these Christian leaders call Muhammad a terrorist or the Anti-christ, they are seen as exercising their "free speech" rights rather than as being purveyors of hate speech. At worst, there is perhaps a nagging suspicion among some listeners that these statements contain a kernel of truth. In the beginning decade of the twenty-first century, it seems undeniable that at least some Christians (and some champions of Western hegemony) have a Muhammad problem - and thus an Islam problem.
 -Memories of Muhammad: Why the Prophet Matters by Omid Safi, pgs. 2-4

Friday, September 24, 2010

"But even if we fail to halt the decline,

it will not be the end of hope. The forces we face may be powerful and ruthless. They may have the capacity to plunge us into a terrifying dystopia, one where we will see our freedoms curtailed and widespread economic deprivation. But no tyranny in history has crushed the human capacity for love. And this love - unorganized, irrational, often propelling us to carry out acts of compassion that jeopardize our existence - is deeply subversive to those in power. Love, which appears in small, blind acts of kindness, manifested itself even in the horror of the Nazi death camps, in the killing fields of Cambodia, in the Soviet gulags, and in the genocides in the Balkans and Rwanda.

The Russian novelist Vasily Grossman wrote of the power of these acts in his masterpiece Life and Fate:

I have seen that it is not man who is impotent in the struggle against evil, but the power of evil that is impotent in the struggle against man. The powerlessness of kindness, of senseless kindness, is the secret of its immortality. It can never be conquered. The more stupid, the more senseless, the more helpless it may seem, the vaster it is. Evil is impotent before it. The prophets, religious teachers, reformers, social and political leaders are impotent before it. This dumb, blind love is man's meaning. [Vasily Grossman, Life and Fate, trans. Robert Chandler (New York: Harper and Row, 1985), 410.]
 -Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle by Chris Hedges, pg. 191

John Gray on Tariq Ali's 'The Clash of Fundamentalisms'

In the first and last chapters of The Clash of Fundamentalisms, a hastily assembled collection of autobiographical vignettes and commentaries on Islamic themes, Tariq Ali writes that he is not a believer. The veteran leftist need not be taken literally. What he means is that he has rejected Islam for another faith: a rather crude version of Enlightenment humanism.
The Clash of Fundamentalisms is well worth reading, if only because it shows that the harshest critics of fundamentalism are often exponents of a rival fundamentalism. Tariq Ali performs a valuable service by reminding us that Islam was once a tolerant and pluralist religion, more intellectually advanced than anything Christendom had to offer. Ironically, though, he seems to pine not for the complex culture that Islam once animated, but for that monument to Enlightenment fundamentalism, the former Soviet Union.
-John Gray, "How Marx turned Muslim," The Independent. July 27, 2002.

"But our collapse is more than an economic and political collapse.

It is a crisis of faith. The capitalist ideology of unlimited growth has failed. It did not take into account the massive depletion of the world's resources, from fossil fuels to clean water to fish stocks to soil erosion, as well as overpopulation, global warming, and climate change. It failed to understand that the huge, unregulated international flows of capital and assault on manufacturing would wreck the global financial system. An overvalued dollar (which could soon deflate); wild tech; stock and housing financial bubbles; unchecked greed; the decimation of our manufacturing sector; the empowerment of an oligarchic class; the corruption of our political elite; the impoverishment of workers; a bloated military and defense budget; and unrestrained credit binges are consequences of a failed ideology and conspire to bring us down. The financial crisis may soon become a currency crisis. This second shock will threaten our financial viability. We let the market rule. Now we are paying for it.

In his book The Great Transformation, written in 1944, Karl Polanyi laid out the devastating consequences - the depressions, wars, and totalitarianism - that grow out of a so-called self-regulated free market. He grasped that "fascism, like socialism, was rooted in a market society that refused to function." He warned that a financial system always devolved, without heavy government control, into a Mafia capitalism - and a Mafia political system - which is a good description of our power elite.

Polanyi, who fled fascist Europe in 1933 and eventually taught at Columbia University, wrote that a self-regulating market turned human beings and the natural environment into commodities, a situation that ensures the destruction of both society and the natural environment. He decried the free market's assumption that nature and human beings are objects whose worth is determined by the market. He reminded us that a society that no longer recognizes that nature and human life have a sacred dimension, an intrinsic worth beyond monetary value, ultimately commits collective suicide. Such societies cannibalize themselves until they die. Speculative excesses and growing inequality, he wrote, always destroy the foundation for a continued prosperity.

-Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle by Chris Hedges, pg. 184-5

John le Carré - The United States of America Has Gone Mad - Democracy NOW!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

"Just as politics cannot be separated from life,

 life cannot be separated from politics. People who consider themselves to be non-political are no different, they've already been assimilated with the current political views - they just don't feel it any more. [...] People must broaden their understanding and accept the fact that politics, not political parties, is tied in with anything and everything that is related to power. As long as man is a social animal, he will participate in political activity."

-Pramoedya Ananta Toer quoted in The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity, pg. 382

From Tariq Ali's chapter "A Short-Course History of US Imperialism"

But the secular priests of the Empire are not referring only to religious bigotry when they excoriate 'anti-Americans' and 'Occidentalists'. [76] They are speaking of those liberal critics and leftists who will not have it that the collapse of the Soviet Union means bending the knee before the Caesar in the White House. For the Americophiles, no criticism of the Empire matters that is not conducted within the framework of loyalty. This is then internalised and affects all their activities in the public domain. Their self-image is that of loyal but disinterested advisers to the politicians in power: if only they followed this disinterested advise all would be well in the world. The historic compromise with integrity that this form of Americophilia entails transmutes the friendly critic into a slave of power, always wanting to please. S/he becomes an apologist, expecting the Empire to actually deliver on its rhetoric. Alas, the Empire, whose fundamental motivation today is economic self-interest, may sometimes disappoint the more recent converts to its cause. They feel betrayed, refusing to accept that what has been betrayed is their illusions. What they dislike most is to be reminded of the sour smell of history. An argument often deployed is that one must back the United States because 'it's the only game in town' and more enlightened than those it seeks to destroy. This display of historical amnesia refuses to recall the time of US imperialism's birth, gestation and early banditry, long before the Russian Revolution transformed international relations after 1917. 
-Tariq Ali, The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity, pg. 283