Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Projections: Islam and the West.

I was in the audience at this debate last year, though I've only just found this video and I haven't been able to find the rest of it online except for snippets. It was an interesting debate between Douglas Murray and Tariq Ramadan, I had seen both of them on YouTube before then but never on the same stage as one another. Douglas Murray is the director of the Centre for Social Cohesion, he's a notable political commentator and has been called the enfant terrible of British neoconservatism. Tariq Ramadan is a intellectual, concerned with Islamic Studies and known for an emphasis on the heterogeneity of Islam. Both men have been controversial for quite different reasons, Douglas Murray is scorned for his criticism of Islamic culture and Tariq Ramadan is attacked as being "too soft" on Islamic fundamentalism. Each figure is too invasive to be accepted into the realm of discourse, but that is precisely the reason that each of them has attracted so much attention in recent years.

The motion of the debate was "Europe is failing its Muslims", naturally Murray was in opposition and Ramadan in a defensive position. It was a very interesting night, with some booing of Murray at one point and yet in the end he won over the audience. The vote at the end of the debate was swayed in his favour by the last person to speak from the audience, who argued that Europe had not failed European Muslims because Europe was not represented adequately by politicians and the media. Personally, I found Ramadan's take on things imperfect but preferable to Murray's neocon posturing so I voted for the motion. Ramadan is a problematic figure for he still believes that the answers for the Middle East may still lie in the Qu'ran rather than in education, political change and development. Though Ramadan is not an opponent of any of the latter mentioned. We ought not be looking for a Muslim who is essentially a white liberal. The opposition to violence, support for reform and emphasis on heterogeneity are all positive qualities in his work.

The major reason for this article is to address the context in which the debate was held, a grand narrative which is hopefully coming to a close, that of the "War on Terrorism" which was re-declared by George Bush in 2001. Douglas Murray is a particularly important figure in this respect, given he is one of Britain's few self-described neoconservatives. The "War on Terror" emerged as the grand narrative by which Westerners held together our understanding of the world. With the beginning of this "war" shape and form were given to international events in a way not seen since the Cold War. In an obscene triumvirate the interests of politicians, journalists and Islamists converged to form this narrative. The Islamists struck to lure the US into a war against a Muslim country, the press and the politicians jumped at the opportunity to do so. The mutually assured projections of Western commentators and Islamic fundamentalists have played an interesting role in this narrative of terror. The projections onto Islam and the West are self-serving.

Fundamentalism envy can be picked up in the anti-Islamic rhetoric of neoconservatives like Douglas Murray. For such reactionaries the Muslim Other are the people who really believe in a moral cause and yet the neocons have their equivalent, military operations like 'Just Cause' and 'Geronimo, which no one really believes in. Even the neoconservatives are cynical liberals hiding behind a false belief, which they deem a noble lie necessary to bring unity in a liberal society. If we did believe then we would stop at nothing, thus the fixation with the beliefs of Muslims and the prevalence of "dhimmitude" in the West. For that very reason the Other are incredibly dangerous fanatics, whom we cannot negotiate with, whereas we are sane proponents of open debate and freedom of speech. The envy even runs deeper, not only is the Muslim Other the one who truly believes, the Muslim Other is also the one who butchers us. The neocons can't stand that the Muslims "get away" with this.

As the neoconservatives like to remind us that "Islamo-fascism", the preferred term of neoconservatives, rejects liberal values of democracy, freedom and human rights as absolutely binding moral frameworks. It is a concerted effort to undermine and destroy Western civilisation, these are the people who are capable of every imaginable and unimaginable horror. The splinter cells of "Islamo-fascism" can fly planes into buildings, send the retarded off to commit suicide-bombings and behead infidels on video. So we engage in cruel and degrading forms of interrogation in an international network of secret prisons and torture recorded at Abu Ghraib. We drop bombs on weddings, phosphorus on civilians and open fire on ambulances. All done in the hope of wiping al-Qaeda from the face of the earth, we suspend Western values like freedom and human rights in order to secure Western civilisation in a perpetual war fought for perpetual peace.

For the Islamist the secret truth of the "War on Terrorism" is part of a new crusade by the West. The combination of military conquest and religious conversion supplemented with the spread of jahiliyyah. The only appropriate response is the radical transformation of Jihad, the struggle for purity in Islam, into a militant struggle to defend Islam by means of force and to destroy the infidels. Notice that in this sense Islamism, in line with populism and fascism, offers a radical return to "fundamentals" but actually engages in systematic challenge of tradition and hierarchy. The Taliban were keen to destroy the Buddhist heritage of Afghanistan in order to reaffirm the country's Islamic values. The ultimate aim is to establish the preconditions necessary to build and expand a new Islamic Caliphate. Western civilisation has to be destroyed in order for this grand plan to progress. There is no room for tolerance of theological or political opposition, even along the lines of coexistence.

The Islamic fundamentalists project attributes of a cesspit of sexual depravity onto Western civilisation. The West is where people have the freedom to marry donkeys and children are taught about how to have sex at the age of 10. Apart from that the projection might be a lot like Ancient Rome through the eyes of the Marquis de Sade. There is nothing which demonstrates this more clearly than the provocative attire and behaviour of Western women, a constant temptation to men which leads them into perpetual masturbation to an endless supply of pornography. Sharia Law is posited as necessary for this very reason, the imposition of harsh penalties like the stoning of adulterers is required to constrain and suppress lust in all people. Otherwise the masses will start indulging in adultery and self-pollution on a massive scale. The fascination with sex is also mirrored in the West, where the 72 virgins have been of discussion on-and-off for years.


Anonymous said...

I want to say one thing. You mentioned that 'shariah law' is meant to be a constraint. What is your definition of Shariah? Because the western world has given this word a brand new meaning to what it originally means. People in the western world have become accustomed into believing that 'Shariah Law' is a law imposed thing such as stoning adulterers and chopping off the hands of robbers, but it isn't. You see, to a Muslims Shariah is a way of life. And Muslims in non-Muslim states still follow some aspect of the Shariah, such as the dietry laws, code of dress..ect. You see, Shariah ISN'T a Law in particular, its a way of life. And this about the Taliban and other Islamic states wanting to impose Shariah is slightly incorrect, cause if thats what people believe Shariah is, we suddenly assume it's to do with punishment- but it isn't. Shariah, shouldn't be used with the ending 'law'. I find it highly misleading. Just wanted to clarify that.The west has produced a brand new meaning to Islamic traditions and beliefs- which enhances Islam's negative image in most forms of media.Hope you get me?

J.T. White said...

I think you have to some extent misunderstood my article, which is all about projections about Islam and the West. The context of the reference to Shariah is in how it is advocated in it's most crude form by Islamists, for whom it is about prohibition and punishment. I also didn't say anything about the Taliban wanting to "impose" Shariah, though I could have considering the Taliban were adhere to Shariah in the sense that I explain in the article.

My argument is that the projections onto Islam and the West are mutually assuring. Just as the Islamists are ready to shape Islam to their cause, the neoconservatives in the West alter our understanding of Western civilisation for similar ends. This is going on as the two are still projecting onto one another, it is almost a form of interdependence. The Islamists would destroy this world out of a love for another world, while neocons would destroy the world out of hatred of the Muslim Other.

Thanks for reading.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for clearing it up. I understand your article much more now. Take care.