Thursday, June 26, 2003

One more post before I get ready for work.

Which way to Mecca? I
Which way to Mecca? II

Clifford Geertz shows how ineptly Western politicos and academics "explain" radical Islam. Now more than ever anthropologists are needed in the punditry.

Hmm, now compare and contrast Geertz's essay (especially the part on Schwartz) on Islamic "studies" to this one :

Holy Writ

Hitchens writes effusively of Schwartz, whom Geertz is rightly suspicious of.

Alas, Schwartz's rhetoric couldn't play better to the prejudices of well-meaning leftists like Hitchens. That it has also been coopted by the vile Kristolmethodist rightwing is also too easily predictable. For Hitchens, whose attitude to religion is much like my own, Puritanism in any form is rightly seen as a concentrated evil. Hence, wahabbism, which is overestimated in its adherents, is understandably translated as "islamofascism". But EVERY monotheist religion has its Puritans; in every religion, indeed, there is a range, possibly a continuum, of zealotry, the extremes of which vary according to the religion and to its respective age, AND to its specific properties when put under the pressure of such forces as nationalism, globalism, etc. Put another way, the capacity for vicious sectarianism as well as Puritanism depends on the age of the religion, and various economic and tribalistic factors. It is in this sense that Schwartz, if he is to be believed, is to be understood : that wahabbists are merely the Islamic equivalent of the Western phenomena of Cromwell, Pilgrims and Jerry Falwell.

BUT, you say, our fundamentalists don't fly planes into buildings, which is true. But then, they do bomb abortion clinics. And as a species, their record on human rights is, historically, nazi-like. This is where local conditions and geopolitical forces come into play : our fundies exterminated the Indian because the economic forces of Western Expansion, which could be called proto-Globalism, made it worth their while, as well as sated their heaven-sanctioned hatreds. Wahabbists, on the other hand, lack the power (with a few exceptions, like the Taleban in Afghanistan) to do this sort of thing, not to mention the economic clout. Without doubt, wahabbism, if it exists as Schwartz claims, would have its adherents even if there were no Western "heathens at the gate". But it would not be anymore of a force in Islamic politics than Jerry Falwell is in ours were it not for the nationalist forces and Anti-American reaction stirring it. This, then, brings back Chomsky's point that Hitchens and so many others denounced. If Islamic fundamentalism was not subjected to the forces of American Imperialism, there would be no reaction -- there would be a brief "civil war" of sorts, at worst; more likely, wahabbism would have been marginalised at its birth. Hence, kill the imperialism and the Muslims will deal with their Falwells as we deal with ours. Increase the imperialism, as we have done and will continue to do (because of $$$), and fundamentalism becomes the means with which Islamic culture reacts. It means to survive, to not be assimilated into the West. If left alone, it would coexist; when pushed, a culture's innate tribalist, sectarian, and nationalist frictions spark a flame, a flame that burns that which puts it under the friction to begin with.

(That this phenomenon is ROUGHLY pan-monotheist should be apparent when observing how Jewish fundamentalists, in the guise of the Likud and Moledat parties, adopt fascist means in their reactions to external pressures and in the crucible of nationalism. Make a real Palestinian state -- the Israelis long ago smashed the Arab Imperialism that threatened them -- and remove the American influence, and watch how the Israelis marginalise their "judeofascists" as we do our Falwells and the Arabs would their wahabbis. Of course, I could be wrong in the sense that Israel may be too infected with its own form of imperialism to make this sort of change. But then, the point is the answer to the strain of religious fascism is NOT intervention, for if that were true, the same interventionalists who call for the forced assimilation of Islam into the "liberal" empire would have had to call for the forced assimilation of young Israel into the nationalist mini-empires of Islam. I trust no one, decent or Kristolmethodist, would consent to THAT form of assimilation.)