2016 Reflections: Deformation of Islam and the Neoconservative Threat to Society

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It is that time of the year: a hectic month as the British people recover from their frenzied Christmas shopping, briefly punctuated with the peace of the annual family get together, only to be followed by scrambling over various items thanks to the hype produced by corporations eager to increase the debt through boxing day “sales”. As the recovery from these activities begins and the damage to the bank accounts dawn, we take advantage of this lull for some customary reflection.

This year has been a particularly unsettling one; the sordidly racist campaign which ultimately culminated in Brexit; the far-right terrorist attack claiming the life of Jo Cox – the first killing of an MP in 26 years; the B-movie being played in the US starring Donald Trump, the West-wide rise of the far-right and unleashing of political and social xenophobia, security globalisation via totalitarian measures like the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) agenda; Britain passing one of the world’s widest and intrusive surveillance laws; the list goes on.  Sadly, it is the Muslim minority, either through scapegoating or being subjected to the fruits of this dangerous concoction of nationalism, disenfranchisement through the global neoliberal order, and neoconservative domestic and foreign policies, which has by and large, bore the brunt.

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Orientalism, Palestine and covering Islam

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CROSSPOST: Dr Hatem Bazian

Three of Edward Said’s books are as timely today as the day they were published almost 40 years ago: Orientalism (1978), The Question of Palestine (1979), and Covering Islam (1981). The three constitute Said’s trilogy that focused on literary and artistic representation in the service of empire, colonial dispossession, and the media shaping and reproducing Orientalist tropes. Said’s contributions are an invaluable source for anyone attempting to deconstruct the ebbs and flows of events and development in the Arab and Muslim worlds. At the same time, the three books offer a strong critique of Western policies and public discourse that purport to cover the “East” as a separate and mysterious place filled with irrationality.

Observing the daily events in the Arab and Muslim worlds, one is at a loss to comprehend the sheer destruction and the snuffing out of hope faced by a multitude of peoples – 1.4 billion, to be precise. Said’s writing intuitively de-constructed the racialized lens used by Western academics, press, and policymakers to justify their continued disregard of the needs and well-being of the Arab and Muslim worlds.

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Globalising CVE: The New Western Imperialism

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We could favour the birth of a new Islam, more inclined towards compromise and tolerance of Europe; to encourage the young generation of ulama who are working in that direction…” ~ French Colonialist, Edmond Douttee, [1] 1901

“It is the modernists whose vision matches our own.  Of all the groups, this one is the most congenial to the values and the spirit of modern democratic society.” ~ (Former) wife of US neocon Zalmay Khalilzad, Cheryl Bernard, 2003[2]

“We’re now going to actively encourage the reforming and moderate Muslim voices.” ~ British PM David Cameron, Speech on Extremism, 2015

Slogans based within particular parlance and values often provide the veil for an agenda of a different kind.  During the 1970s, the human rights industry was used as official US imperial policy.  Prior to this, the enlightened liberalism of the west was driving colonisation of the world to bring it out of “darkness” – a psychological projection of its own “dark” past.  Today, neoconservatives have taken much of the above, tweaked the rhetoric and driven a strategic policy which has now begun to gain international traction.  Today, the “cure” for “backward” and “violent” Muslims remains one grounded in the European, supremacist experience. However, this prescription is administered through the now pressing lens of security and specifically the counter-extremism agenda. In other words, neocons have successfully managed to securitise human rights, allowing them to foster closed societies domestically whilst pursing their doctrine of pre-emption objectives on a global scale through war – both physical and ideological.  The vehicle which provides the language set and values for this culturalist war is the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) agenda.

In a previous article, I noted how the underlying neoconservative “clash of civilisations” assumptions about Islam have premised the counter-extremism discourse.  In the British context, we now a have state-coerced effort to deconstruct Islam piece by piece in order to assimilate, as opposed to integrate, Muslims.  When we understand that Britain through its neocon “think-tanks” and pseudo-liberal “reformers” are at the centre of defining the counter-extremism ideology transnationally, we can appreciate, or rather, be perturbed by the extent of the influence of this dangerous thinking.

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The settlement that killed the Palestinian state

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Image Source: Middle East Eye

Crosspost: CJ Werleman

Last week UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon called Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem an “affront” to not only the international community but also to Israel’s commitment to a two-state solution.

What does this mean for those who pay scant attention to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Not much.

Not much because typically most casual observers of the conflict, particularly in the West, are befuddled by pro-Israel propaganda (hasbara) that by design is meant to mislead and confuse, and there’s hardly a more misleading word in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict lexicon than the word “settlements”.

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Not Tackling This Extremism? “Israel’s Ultranationalist Right”

We have an “imposition of an interpretation of religion” (Maajid Nawaz’s definition of “extremism”) in the justification for the creation of Israel, but no ” Jewish extremism” label is heard.

We have violence erupting thanks to “millenials” stealing land and justifying it through Biblical texts, but no label of “violent extremism” is applied.

We have people joining them from the West, but no Jewish mothers are compelled by the State to spy on their children, no teachers are referring Jewish children to PREVENT Officers to be deradicalised for supporting the Zionist entity, and Jewish practices shared with these “extremists” are not being derided in the media, mocked in public “debates”, and attacked by government officials as “extremist”.

Extremism: a political term to manufacture an enemy for the State.

The Triumvirate of Influence – Corps, Neocons and Zionists

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There is something fundamentally wrong with Britain.  I have addressed in past blogs how the neoconservative political thinking, which a number of government officials adhere to, is dangerously spearheading Britain towards a neoconservative authoritarian state, no doubt due to the lies, deception and tendency toward despotism inherent in its philosophic underpinning.

Though it is established that neoconservatism has taken root in the government, what needs further analysis is how it is drastically undermining democracy through influence, backed by spineless corporations and one-track “think-tanks”.   In the end, it is this triumvirate of influence which negatively impact the “demos” in the “democracy”.

Unleashing Corporations Against the People

George Osborne announced, in time for the run up to the election, that he will ensure companies which avoid tax through elaborate tax havens, are forced to pay taxes. Note of course, that the biggest tax havens in the world reside in the square mile of City of London as well as the Cayman Islands, the former for which the government legislated to make tax avoidance far easier for large transnationals. David Cameron even exclusively consulted those holding hundreds of tax haven subsidiaries on how laws should look within that process.  But let not such a minor point distract us.  Osborne’s proposals, like a catalogue of prior fiscal failures, seem unrealistic, as the taxes (which is already low for companies), are most to likely to bounce due them conflicting with EU law.

The proposals themselves would have limited impact on big companies like Google and Amazon which Osborne seeks to target.  Once we get passed the potential illegality, and the slippery nature of its application, the aspect being taxed, “diverted profits”, would be equivalent to trimming at the hedges.  Professor Sol Piccciotto, notes,

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Andrew Gilligan’s PREVENT-Infused Anti-Muslim “Journalism”

Attacks because of one’s faith or race, or any other identifying feature is unacceptable. It is dehumanising, and very often for the victim, traumatising. The perpetrators too, can be victims; victims of their own ignorance which is exasperated by stereotypes reinforced in the media and government officials.  Instead of fighting stereotypes, and challenging xenophobia, our government has institutionalised xenophobia, a necessary ingredient for hate-crimes and manufacturing consent for draconian policies.

As such I was happy to see Theresa May and other neocons mourning the increases in attacks against the Jewish community, even though the claims which prompted Theresa May’s reassurance were from a study which the Institute of Jewish Policy Research slammed as “littered with flaws”, with the conclusions being “dubious”, “irresponsible” and “incendiary”. Nevertheless, it was befuddling to see the comparative silence on the rise of attacks against the Muslim community, not just in the UK, but across Europe.  Instead, the rhetoric around the Muslims continued to assign blame to the Muslim community, calling on them to “do more”, and therefore reinforcing the far-right narrative that the Muslim minority is inherently to blame for every and any attack perpetrated anywhere in the world. It abhorrently played Muslims off the Jewish community, in a similar fashion to the political opportunism displayed in David Cameron’s Chanuka speech.

Key senior figures are clearly not interested anti-Muslim hate crime.  Tell MAMA, headed by the opportunistic Fiyaz Mughal, was set up as a government initiative.  Once the Foreign Office had published its 2013 report on Human Rights and lionised the fact that the Muslim minority had a comforting arm of the government cuddling the Muslim minority, Tell MAMA’s funding was promptly pulled.

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