Saturday, 23 February 2013

A question by an anarchist: "Is revolutionary self-defence... fascism?"

First of all, why is this question even being asked? It implies that for some, being an anarchist is more about their identity or self-image than about their thought or practice. For me to be a Muslim means being an anti-imperialist and being an anarchist to some extent, so revolutionary self-defence is definitely not fascism.
"Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism." - Martin Luther King
We, as anarchists, have never condemned Hamas, PLO, PFLP, Hizbullah, the Black Panthers, the IRA, Sahrawi Liberation front, the Kashmiri mujahideen, Vietnamese resistance Algerian liberation war, or the Cuban revolution, etc. for their anti-imperialism - even if we have been against some of the things they've done. Like we don't complain about the victims of police brutality for confronting the police, the bullied for confronting the bully. We are never against the oppressed confronting the oppressor. We support it!
Revolutionary self-defence is revolutionary self-defence.

Monday, 15 August 2011

The Material Disease

by "Mikail Ibn Maryām"

Last week saw widespread rioting and looting across British cities. The scenes are reminiscent of those seen in France in 2005 and Los Angeles in 1992. As is usual, the establishment media exhibited its reactionary nature and have provided little, if any, analysis or context during their coverage. Certain social commentators, from both within the mainstream and outside it, have attempted to fill this gap. Consequently, those who follow the news intensely, searching desperately for something of substance, have found some answers. Nevertheless, even these are left, with the rest of society, with more questions than answers.

The mainstream ideology shaping these questions, and their answers, is materialism, falsely dichotomised in the left and the right. These supposedly opposed ideologies have an endless array of synonyms and euphemisms: communism and capitalism, liberalism and socialism, free-market economies and centrally planned economies, and many, many more. The proposed solutions even seem opposed and different: the left suggests increasing the welfare state, while the right suggests decreasing it. However, both suggestions are premised on the idea that material wealth, or lack thereof, is both the cause and the solution of the problem. Thus, the suggestion that the problem, and the solution, lies outside the material –or the physical– sphere and inside the spiritual –or the metaphysical–, eludes both these versions of materialism.

Furthermore, the idea that this absence of the metaphysical might be, in and of itself, the problem, is completely alien. When examining the latest riots, however, this reality smacks one right in the face[1]. While there are those who are specifically targeting the police in a reaction to the persistent police brutality, they are not a majority. Instead, most of these youngsters –and the professional criminals hiding amongst them– are involved in the looting of fashionable clothing, flat screen TVs and other (electronic) consumer goods. With the perception that (immediate) judicial reprisal was absent, these children went straight for what their hearts desired. In the process they expressed their opinion about fundamental metaphysical values such as thou shall not steal.

Commentators have pointed out this disregard for values is not limited to these youngsters: it is predominant in society. Whether one examines the politicians, the media or the financial sector, values seem irrelevant in the grab for power and money. Even if we ignore these supposed leaders of society, what other examples are these children presented with? Viewing, on average, more then four hours of TV per day, they are inundated with a constant flow of sexual innuendo and veiled pornography, celebrity worship and celebrity degradation, voyeurism and exhibitionism, conspicuous consumption and glorification of violence. With teenage pregnancy, drug use, domestic abuse, gang and other criminal violence as the daily reality, local communities offer little better. Indeed, the local drug dealers exemplify what the rest of society constantly reiterates: to be successful is to have material wealth; to be a looser is to be poor. Everything else is empty chatter.

This propagated correlation between material wealth and success becomes especially problematic in a self-proclaimed meritocracy. So while possessions must be accumulated, one must rely solely on oneself to achieve this. In this sense, these youths are not just failures; they have only themselves to blame. With £20 billion per year spend on advertising in the UK alone, these children will be acutely aware of what they’re missing out on because of their –alleged– “inabilities”. The dehumanising effect of this insistent reminder of failure cannot be overestimated. Hence, one can recognize the instant liberation of looting a pair of fresh new sneakers; youths are after all, all by themselves, accumulating a priced new possession.

Though slightly hyperbolic, the liberating sense of theft indicates the systematic problem of materialism. Of course, the establishment media will loudly propagate the need for “law and order” and for “trial and punishment”. The juxtaposition between this reaction and the absence of such calls during similar criminal behaviour, during, for instance, the financial crisis or the phone-tapping scandal, illustrates the role of power in the overall equation. As such, the financial crises required intervention because the actors were “too big to fail” and following these riots the youngsters (and their parents) must “pay a proper price” because else anarchy will ensue. Alas, at all times the insecurity and fear, caused by relative wealth disparity, must be maintained.

The death of three men in Birmingham –and the destruction of homes and small businesses­– have brought the riots from the TV and the high street to people’s front door. Politicians and the media will skilfully exploit this communal pain. The playbook will be opened to the chapter on social-crises and the standard responses espoused by PR virtuosos. So know that while the establishment starts it retribution, the problems these children face will not be solved, nor will their causes be addressed. How can they, when nobody has even asked these youths themselves?

I wake up everyday it’s a daydream

Everythin’ in my life ain’t what it seems

I wake up just to go back to sleep

I act real shallow but I’m in too deep

And all I care about is sex and violence

A heavy bass line is my kind of silence

Everybody says that I gotta get a grip

But I let sanity give me the slip

Some people think I’m bonkers

But I just think I’m free

Man, I’m just livin’ my life

There’s nothin’ crazy about me

Some people pay for thrills

But I get mine for free

Man, I’m just livin’ life

There’s nothin’ crazy about me


Bonkers by Dizzee Rascal (Dylan Kwabena Mills)

[1] Language isn’t particularly helpful here either. Consider the word reality, for instance, which actually originates from the Latin res, meaning thing.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

ISLAMIC UNITY: Through Orthodoxy or Orthopraxis?

Everyone wants (at least claims to want) Muslim unity.

In practice, no concrete steps are taken because some would rather stall any serious discussion on the matter until they feel they have unity on their terms. Often, those terms are interpreted by the particular party to be the best terms of unity.

When some dream of unity, they dream that all the multiplicity in interpretation of the Din will disappear. They work (in vain) to establish a single orthodoxy in Islam. They want unity of belief because they believe that only then can we have unity of action (ie. the political unity of the Ummah, and therefore the strength to resist intrusions into our hearts, minds, social spheres, and lands of origin). But unity in this sense is interpreted as 'same'.

One of the greatest long-lasting obstacles to such unity has been the Sunni-Shia conflict. Al-Fitna, the original internal strife and conflict between Muslims.

It makes for a brilliant example of how unity can be achieved even within smaller categorizations of Muslims.

Unity cannot be established by forcing orthodoxy. It can only come about through orthopraxis. What does that mean? It means unity of action. It should not matter which madhhab we follow - Maliki, Hanafi, Hanbali, Shafi'i or (Shia) Jafari - for our own purposes in our own communities, in our own societies and groups. Our wider socio-political and economic goals are essentially the same.

I am personally of the belief that Islam prescribes such unity, and for such 'existentialist'-like understandings of our responsibility in this life to ensure our every action is righteous and conducive to (or at least not obstructing) the path to unity, self-determination, resistance against domination and imperialism on local and global scales.

Outside of our own denominations (and perhaps even within our own), we should no longer aspire to constructing grand theories about what true 'Islamism' or Islamic Politics is. Instead we must simply act upon the Qur'anic Guidelines and prescriptions (our only saviours from Godless existentialism).

What are these prescriptions and guidelines? This is something I am working on, but a Shia brother has written a fantastic article justifying Islamic unity through action from his perspective. It inspired me to get this article done and put it out there.

But for now, I'll leave you with some possible guidelines for action as bullet points for thought:

  • Unity (from Tawhid, philosophy of unity devolving from Islamic (Abrahamic) Monotheism. We must seek unity on equal terms wherever possible.
  • Justice [and balance] ('adl and qist). We must seek justice, because an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere (like a murder of one is like the murder of all), but with balance - targeting the major injustices first.
  • Praxis, action through striving and struggling (Jihad). Rectification starts with the self striving against his own faults, but this becomes invalid if it is not reflected on a communal, societal level (vice versa to a large extent).
  • Ummah - Our unit requiring unity. The keepers of the religion of Islam, the vanguard for liberation of humanity. When it comes to unity within the Ummah, all petty ideological barriers and desires become secondary.
  • The oppressed on the earth (al-mustad'afun fil-ardh in the Qur'an, or the wretched of the earth as Fanon put it). Our brothers in humanity, the people who we must align with to defeat the arrogant powers, and to prevent our justice from becoming exclusivist.
  • The arrogant powers (al-mustakbirun). Those who hoard wealth, force usury, murder on a mass scale, colonise, terrorise, enslave, establish divisions of class, race etc. In the past these were represented by Firaun, and the Arab priests of jahiliyya. Now represented by European capitalism & imperialism (so including by extention the USA and the Zionist regime), its elites, political classes, and their wealthy supporters.
  • Power. All originating from Allah, but simultaneously emanating from Him in the creation at many sources, creating various complex power relations that can be analysed for correct intervention if one understands how power functions.
  • Ownership (milk, as in maliki yawm idDin). God is the owner of all existence, as such anything we possess is held in trust by us. So nobody can claim ownership of natural resources, they must be held in trust for just use.
I think that's enough for now. But I hope I've made it clear that within the Qur'an are the best prescriptions and guidelines for unity and emancipation, and to ACT on these with some dynamism is better than attempting grand theories. Why do I emphasize orthopraxis or action over orthodoxy or theorising beliefs?

Because the Qur'an shows that there is not a one way relationship between what you believe and how you act.

29:69 - As for those who strive in Us, We shall surely guide them in Our ways, and Allah is indeed with the virtuous.

Many people assume as a maxim that one must have the right beliefs before you can act right, but the Qur'an affirms that you can arrive at the right beliefs with right action. Belief is not limited to what sect or school you belong to. Orthopraxis leads to orthodoxy, or in other words, UNITY of ACTION can help us arrive at UNITY of BELIEF, and therefore UNITY of UMMAH.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Considerations for those who call for "Shari'ah" and/or "Khilafah"

by Farhaz Miah

[In] order to have a social system underpinned by a Shariah-backed state, a country must have the social and cultural infrastructure in place. As such, a bottom up micro grass roots initiative would be more effective in bringing in a model of Khilafah as opposite to the Marxist-like utopian top-down approach advanced by certain groups. Why? In essence the necessity of this is in order to reign in rent-seeking urges of the ruling elite, which under a Khilafah system without the necessary institutional mechanisms, cultural revolution and spiritual transformation will not only flounder, but will give rise to autocracy and a suppression of political, economic and social liberty with a dominant clergy-elite who would be mired in nepotism. In the long-run, when individual spirituality, and a social transformation has taken place, whereby the nature of society is egalitarian in outlook, and conducive to the implementation of a Khilafah system, which requires these pre-conditions of freedom of individual liberty (where only Allah is the ultimate arbitrator of justice; similar to the Lockesian argument), and of individual spiritual liberation and attainment of taqwa, then can a Khilafah system be envisaged. This is the example laid out by the prophet Muhammad (saws). He did not immediately call for a political transformation of Arabia, but worked in a grass roots framework, building a popular bottom-up movement and spreading the message of unity, piety and justice and laid the foundations for the expansion of the Ummah throughout the peninsula once these pre-conditions were met. As such, it is very ideological, utopian and also comforting for us as Muslims to suppose that an Islamic political revolution will solve the problems the Ummah is facing today.The problems are much more complex, and require a socio-economic-political analysis of micro and macro factors, and to this end it is fundamental that Muslims engage and understand contemporary philosophy, politics, economics, sociology, epistemology, history and historiography on an academic and grassroots level so that the negativity that neo-liberalism attempts to paint of Islam can be counteracted and de-constructed through logical and rational discourse. Once the ideological battle has been won, the battle is then one of introspection. Only after Muslims have rectified their own thought, philosophy, outlook and spirituality on an individual level, myself included, then as this becomes a collective effort, the establishment of Sharia-backed governance model becomes the logical next step. The problem of so-called Muslim states today is that they aren't necessary Islamic at all. In reality, if Islamic social norms and values were adopted, this would in fact have a positive impact on economic, social and political development in those countries as was the case when East Asian countries utilised the values of Confucianism (brotherhood, solidarity and fraternity) to great effect in their journey to development. To this end, although I don't believe we are at an institutional and infrastructural juncture to establish a Shariah-backed state even in a single Muslim-dominated country, I would still argue that not only the adoption of Islamic values and social norms are desirable, but they are imperative upon these Muslim majority countries if they actually want to develop economically, politically and socially.