On the lookout for something else entirely, I came across an interesting column in the Telegraph of Calcutta, India, dated 26th November 2006. The journalist is Amrit Roy. The column itself deals with several topics, but the first section is a glowing endorsement of a book by Lord Meghnad Desai, Professor Emeritus of the London School of Economics, now a member of the House of Lords where he sits on the Labour Party benches.
The book is Rethinking Islamism: the ideology of the new terror. I haven’t read it, but I’m prepared to bet it’s a fascinating read. I would like to quote. Amrit Roy is certainly a fan, if one is to believe this column. I would like to quote a passage that Roy quotes in the column:
“There is one distinguishing feature of the new wave of terrorism that has done more than anything else to muddy the debate about its nature. This is the religious rhetoric which has been at the heart of its propaganda. The new terrorism wears Islamic garments. Its perpetrators recite and quote the Holy Koran. Its young agents the suicide bombers, men in most instances, go to their deaths with the promise of a paradise with scores of virgins waiting for them. But my argument is that one needs above all to separate Islam as a religion in both theory and practice and Islamism as an ideology. It is the ideology which feeds terrorism. It puts on religious garb and takes shelter in quotations from the Koran. But the ideology is political, its aim being the winning of power over people. In this, Islamism is much like other ideologies: Communism, anarchism, nationalism.”
I would like to offer some comments on this. Firstly it seems to me to be entirely true that Islamism is a political ideology, and that its Muslim aspect, no matter how sincere the Islam of its adherents, is its clothing rather than its nature. However, what many people fail to realise (I will give Lord Desai the benefit of the doubt until I get the chance to read his book) is that no matter how detestable one may believe a particular group to be, they do not exist in a vacuum. They exist because they can persuade a constituency. I do not mean that word as in an electoral constituency, but in a broader sense. If there was not a constituency of people in Muslim countries and communities that felt itself powerless and disenfranchised by the powerful, capitalist West, then there would be nowhere from which to draw recruits. The same could be said of other fascistic movements – the Nazis in Germany, for example, whose rhetoric was populist and patriotic in a time of Germany’s humiliation and poverty. Even today’s British National Party recognizes the appeal of populism, coming out against the UK Government’s cuts, declaring itself against the threat to Civil Service jobs, and so on.
It is pointless confronting ideologies unless you are prepared to confront the conditions in which those ideologies exist. Even if the disenfranchisement I spoke of above were nothing but a perception, then that perception too should be confronted. This is something that politicians of the 'liberal democracies' consistently refuse to do or fail to do, this is something that is not in the interests of the rich and powerful to address because they actually need the weak, poor, and disenfranchised to stay in that state in order to be able to dominate and exploit them. Meanwhile they perpetuate the myth that their way of doing things is magnificent and laudable simply because things elsewhere can be seen to be worse - the old myth of democracy being "... the worst form of government except for all the others" (to which I add "... so far tried", which is far from saying it's perfect!). So my message to the likes of Lord Desai is this: confront the basic problems first, and do not neglect to ask yourself whether you are part of those problems!
My second comment is this – and it is one in which I take a stand against Lord Desai. I want to nail the lie that anarchism’s aim is “the winning of power over people”. Where is the evidence to substantiate that? Where is anything except evidence to the contrary? The rigorous rationality of anarchism is entirely open to view, it is sane and humane, it is the antithesis of the arcane secrecies of Capitalism, Statism, Bolshevism, and even of the superficial Democracy of Western bourgeois societies. With anarchism what you see is what you get. It is arguably the most open political ideology ever conceived. Here is an unattributed passage from An Anarchist FAQ at infoshop.org:
“So, in a nutshell, Anarchists seek a society in which people interact in ways which enhance the liberty of all rather than crush the liberty (and so potential) of the many for the benefit of a few. Anarchists do not want to give others power over themselves, the power to tell them what to do under the threat of punishment if they do not obey. Perhaps non-anarchists, rather than be puzzled why anarchists are anarchists, would be better off asking what it says about themselves that they feel this attitude needs any sort of explanation.”
This is typical of all information given out by anarchists. So why the persistent lie? Well, perhaps because of the principle set out by Nazi propagandist Dr Joseph Goebbels, a principle which has been employed by all power structures, no matter how seemingly liberal:
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”
It is not for us to prove a negative; it is for the likes of Lord Desai to make their case. Where does he and his colleagues in ‘conventional’ politics make a case? Nowhere (apologies if he does so in his book, but as it would be off the central topic I would be surprised if he did). Where has conventional politics ever confronted our arguments, here and now in the 21st century? Nowhere.
Except perhaps by kettling.
Following on from that section of his column, Amrit Roy has a few frothy paragraphs about the endorsement by England cricketer (and a personal sporting heroine of mine) Isa Guha’s endorsement of the Uplifted Lingerie Company’s sports bras. An advertising blurb says:
“If you are about to start heading to the gym this bra is for you. Offering maximum support with a funky style, this can also be worn as a top.”
Laura Newton, Nicki Shaw, and Isa Guha
My straight friends are looking forward to the endorsement of sporting underwear by Alastair Cook and Stuart Broad. They have been waiting five years for this. Come on, lads!