Friday, 11 March 2011

The Left, Secularism and Islam

The aftermath of Arab Revolutions; will it create a change of perception and a breakthrough of understanding amongst the Western Left?

The progressive and liberal left in the West find it hard to fathom an amalgamation between religion and politics. For them, religion and politics simply do not mix. As a person who have lived most of her adult life in the West, it is somehow uncomplicated to grasp why the secular left has arrived and got stuck in this cul-de-sac, in their way of thinking, in terms of looking-at and perceiving the world, fragmented, disconnected and boxed in.

The background of those who advocate this separation has its roots mostly in the Judaeo-Christian heritage; they have carried an understandable luggage of suspicion, hatred and contempt towards religion. In their history religions were used as tools of oppression, control, backwardness, division, and suppression of human freedom and intellect, something that we as Muslims didn’t experience.

The hierarchical system within the Church gives very little power and freedom of thinking to the individual at the bottom of the “pecking order”. The collusion of the Church for example with extremely violent and oppressive establishments is witnessed even today. The inexplicable wealth of the church hierarchy leaves those at the bottom of the socioeconomic structure feeling alienated and disfranchised.

As for the Judaic heritage, just a scratch at the surface would divulge an incredible amount of racist elements within the Talmudic texts that would surely put off anyone with the slightest sense of justice, respect to human dignity and human equality.

What the Left fails to appreciate however, is the entirely distinct reality, history and experience of religion for people in the Middle East.

We have watched demonstrators gathering at mosques, imams discussing the demonstrations in sermons and Friday prayer was chosen as the time to gather for the most impressive demonstrations.

Ignoring or dismissing the organic social structure and the immense role of religion ( i.e. Islam) in those countries reflects intellectual laziness if not total intellectual paralysis and blindness.

This inability to explore and understand what is really happening in those countries with a fresh and unbiased mindset can lead to erroneous analysis, conclusions and decisions, worse, it might flare up misplaced fears, apprehension, suspicion and even hatred against those who are actually on their side; the side of the oppressed majority.

It’s absurd to continue reading reports insisting that the Arab revolutions witnessed today are “secular” revolutions. This repeated mantra -by MSM as well as progressive media- becomes more meaningless as we look at live broadcasts and pictures of millions of Egyptians, Tunisians, and Libyans praying even at the darkest hours of their demonstration when viciously attacked by army killing machines.

This dismissal of the role of Islam in the revolution, while ignoring its centrality and importance to people in the ME becomes even more absurd as we examine polls coming from those countries:

Just an example:
In their response to the question: “Is it good or bad that Islam plays a large/ small role in politics?”

The surveyfinds that Muslim publics overwhelmingly welcome Islamic influence over their countries’ politics. In Egypt, Pakistan and Jordan, majorities of Muslims who say Islam is playing a large role in politics see this as a good thing, while majorities of those who say Islam is playing only a small role say this is bad for their country. Views of Islamic influence over politics are also positive in Nigeria, Indonesia, and Lebanon.”

Why is it important for the “Western Left” to explore, understand, and accept these facts?

As long as the Left fails to come to terms with these facts, severe ethical problems would arise:
When good-intentioned “lefties” offer us THEIR “Secular-State Answer” to OUR problems; they bypass every thread of logic and commonsense.

By doing so, they actually juxtapose and transfer on us their own problems (living a lie of freedom, under a façade of democracy), their own history (struggling against the grip hold of their religious institutions), their own experiences (with their priests and rabbis), their own luggage (with the oppression from the religious hierarchy). They carry all this luggage, that Muslims don’t have and never had, then they project it on them, and try to impose their SOLUTIONS upon Muslims who have lived a very different encounter of history, an entirely different reality, with a totally different experience with regards to religion!

Contrary to the West, in the Arab world our experience with religion was and remains, for the most part, positive, constructive, energizing, enlightening and even liberating.

Furthermore, the revolutions that we witness today, were revolutions against Secular regimes with Secular, Liberal and Westernized DICTATORS who have strangled, oppressed, tortured and worked systematically against the wishes of the Arab people for decades. These regimes have silenced any call for reform or change under the pretext of fighting "Islamists" and keeping Islam away from politics.

In our “Eastern World”, historically, and up until recent times, where our region was plagued with colonialism, religion has managed to intertwine beautifully with politics, religion has formed the moral foundation and ethical backbone of the political arena.
Through the moral code inherent in Islam, the world of politics was protected against corruption and misuse of power.
Religion, as manifested by Islam was viewed by many as a natural and organic safeguard against the rise of egoistic fraudulent and oppressive rulers.

Despite the existence of a minority of “Imams of the Sultan” as we call them (those who sell their principles for the sake of the $ Dinar), throughout our history, Muslim scholars and Imams took a leading role in Liberation Movements from invading and imperialistic powers, and in opposing repressive tyrannical regimes; they have stood by the people; defending the weak, sharing with the needy, and working for the liberation of the oppressed.

By following Madeline Albright's call to Muslims that they would be accepted as part of political groups if they "are prepared to be part of a secular government", by insisting on secularism in countries where Muslims are a majority, and by insisting on supporting Muslim only if they separate religion and politics, the progressives fall into a paradoxical and very detrimental position; denying the other that which you call for, i.e. freedom of thought and freedom of choice.

Secularizing the Islamic world against the will of its people is nothing but another form of thought imperialism.

1 comment:

seamus macniel said...

nahlda, I arrived here through your comments on "red scribblings".
when i worked in oman we "westerners" were given christmas day off as a "gift". now, being an atheist, i actually told them that i felt like a "cheat" taking it. they didn't even appear ready to consider the concept of athiesm. the point i am making is quite simply that the "misunderstanding" is mutual. while europe has a christian heritage, there is more than enough evidence to suggest that a large minority, if indeed, not the majority, of europeans do not believe in god.

on the issue of palestine:
what we have is quite simply ethnic cleansing – which contrary to Benny Morris can never be justified morally – of one people by another.
furthermore,in the case of most palestinians islam is crucial to their identity and it is only right that their struggle should be based on that identity. one can, however, only hope that the struggle will be all inclusive and that palestinian christians, secular palestinians, western athiests, christians and, indeed, jews, can participate in it and that the struggle will define the shape of the independent palestinian state to come. a state based on tolerance and where everyone will have his or her place.