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Libyan Writer Ghoma

Sunday, 20 August, 2006

ISLAMIZING DEMOCRACY OR DEMOCRATIZING ISLAM?

By: Ghoma

        As the summer heat rises, it seems, to cause the human folly to follow suit. The guns of August are again at work in many spots in the heart of the so-called Arab world. And the war planners are busy in tweaking its goings and toolings. As it moves from "shock and awe" to more insidious but hopefully -for its planners- more effective approach, the so-called "hearts and minds" lullaby motto! In this campaign the pen takes its place alongside the mighty sword. A swarm of new and old recruits of dispensers of wisdom are called upon, once again, mind you not to re-draft the message, but only to re-package it. The talking points are already there: democracy, rule of law, human rights, economic prosperity, social mobility, integration into the world system (read the market system), etc.

        There's a group of Arab "pundits" now living in the West, who make their living out of peddling Islam and hawking 'advice' on matters Middle Eastern on demand. They come and go as they say, and in the process a change occurs from the 'radicalists,' such as, the Ajamis and the Telhams -and now the Jahmis!- to the more "moderatist" voices of today's crop. This crop, as the old ones, are anchored in academia but lend themselves better to media's hollow messages and make-believe drivel. The process of transition from academy to media stardoms comes not without its own risks. As time goes on the crop slips the academic rigor of scholarship into the unrestrained and mundane world of politics. The elusive world of media-politics is located on unstable fault lines. As the underlying tectonics shake and twist, shifts in the above world are registered on the Richter-scale of political scoring and polls' watching. Many indications seem to point the under currents are going through some adjustments these days, as we speak: from the inflexible neophytes-cum-neo-conservatives's (who were looking to the world through lenses of their own making) imperious march orders, to the more tamed albeit nebulous area of the realpolitik promoters. The literati are following these trends as well in sensing the changing winds. Now, instead of offering advise to the hawkish of how to wreck the places further good, they're saying go for the change but be carefully of what you wish for. Asking for democracy may bring folks not of one's liking! Islamic movements are on the rise and they're here to stay, so it's better to find a way to reach some sort of compromise, an entente, with them and a modus vivendi with the rest. They remind their sponsors as well as their listeners of the ineffectiveness of carrying only the big stick. Dictates don't work effectively. It's time for obfuscation and sweet talk! The time of you should do this and not that; you must take this into considerations but not that, has passed, now we're entering into a zone which is prone to bargains and compromises.

        The offering of how to deal with Arabs -and somehow Muslims always follow the appellative, as if what befits merely 300-million Arabs can necessarily and automatically be transferred to the other billion-plus Muslims around the globe?- in these trying times of raging fires everywhere from Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, Sudan, Somalia, to the other burning or smoldering spots, and even to the merely simmering ones in the rest of the wretched world of the Arabs. In the tradition of colonial scholars and officers, the debate never gets to the root of the cause-problem(s) but floats on the surface of today's crisis and bugs down on technicalities: how to manage what's at hand! It never touches what's becoming sacrilegious taboo: the absolute wrongness of continues interferences and manipulations, or its implicit mantra, "the White man's burden" to civilize the heathens. The discussion would hover over how to do the job at hand without all the bad side effects the bad tactics and approaches would necessarily generate.

        The hodge-podge of how to deal with the Arabs created a cottage industry complete with its captains, soldiers, and even arm-chair generals-philosophers. It's springing up everywhere, flanked and sometimes supplemented, particularly in the States, with the swarms of Islamophobic and their proportionately scanty number of Islamophiliacs as well. Overshadowed -actually overwhelmed- by the relentless and vicious attacks of the first the squeals of the second are barely edible. And when it's heard, while less strenuous yet as effective as demanding the xenophobics to love the illegal immigrants. The question that preoccupies the media and its experts is: how to make the bitter pill more palatable for the patient to swallow. It all boils down to: How to make the Arabs -and again Muslims- accept the final solution: total subjugation!

        Most of these gun-for-hire 'intellectuals' are gravitating around a media, which had already sold itself or let itself be coopted, into the big scheme of things and objectives of its sponsors: the corporations and their patronized governments until this media itself have become a big giant conglomerate with its own strings to pull. Thus the media and its sponsors set the agenda and delineate the acceptable boundaries of discourse and then the herd of intellectuals, the eggheads will line on to bless the scheme. To be fair, it's true, some wouldn't buy whole sale but reserve some modicum of respectability by tweaking the messages a bit in this direction or a bit in the other, adjusting them a little bit to the right or left enough to discern some 'dissent' so these voices that preserves some credibility and give to the media what always vaunted, its traditional fig-leave, that of including the 'other view'.

        The cacophony of voices describing what Muslims are and what they are not is submerged only by the noises that try to define what Islam is and what it is not. Every egghead has his/her own description of what Muslims are or are not! And every one of them has the gall to even give his/her own definition of what Islam is and what is not! The few who don't have enough gall or guts would hedge their bet on one or the other of the slew of the meta-theoreticians, such as, Bernard Lewis, Samuel Huntington, or even Daniel Pipes, not to forgot the gaga and darling of the New York Times' left and right coasts's 'liberals,' Thomas Friedman. Both voices, of the right and left, resonate with each other only to differ the necessary distance between the two major factions jockeying for power in the USA. If one is on the Republican side of the media, then the dissent is confined within Hail-to-the-Chief: and mitigated by more of this or less of that. But if it's on the Democrats's side then one has to make a real acrobatic jumps and twists only to land back safely: while accepting the message one's supposed to question the messenger's motives.

        I was watching Ahmed Akbar -as he defined himself the anthropologist and scholar of Islam- on C-Span waxed and waned in expanding on Iqbal's, Jinah's, Rumi's, and the Sufi's great tolerance and unletteralist readings and interpretations of Islam; and how Pakistan, the only nuclear (puppet) and the great ally of USA, is the cornerstone of both Islam and the "War on Terror" in the same time. Going on for an hour never mentioned what the fuss is all about, or why was he batting the never-ending criticisms left and right, by wearing the shields of vagueness and withdrawing under the cocoons of defensive positions whenever a major point was raised.

        Somehow, one senses when listening to the bobbas of Islam dispensers, there's another audience -beside the directly addressed- to placate; some unseen but present audience nonetheless, which translates into attempts, with hems and haws, to keep them at a save distance and preserve whatever credibility one's with them -this audience is presumably that of the Islamic movements back wherever they're. Thus the 'scholars' never go beyond questions of etiquette and minor adjustments in tactics, for the USA or the West in general to adopt and pursue. For, in Berween's words "...it is impossible to separate politics from Islam and the best solution for these countries is to Islamicize democracy." Or in the words of G. Gerges: "...still in the minds of many Arabs and Muslims, liberal democracy remains synonymous with Western political hegemony and dominations." In hairsplitting parsing reminiscent of Bill Clinton's what is is, the analysis takes either the contextual and incidental tangent or circles way far and above history into the areas of meta-history and beyond physics. While they urge Arabs to democratize still insist on rejecting the so-called "Lewis Doctrine," or the Kemalist secularized democracy, and in the same vain reject explicitly the Mullahs system in Iran or Afghanistan only to embrace implicitly some sort of theocracy by adhering to the notion of Islam's inseparateness from politics or the so-called doctrine of Islam as a complete way of life mantra. The parsing comes in trying to distance one's position from the Mullahs in Iran and advocating democracy under Sharia Law, of how to explain that any form of democracy based on the eternal verities of the Holy Text and the Sharia' Law would eventually differ from the present models of the Mullahs or the Sheikdoms!

        Islamize democracy! What's that drivel about: paint it green? Or change the Text's words such Tughat (tyrants) by Democrats and kings and khalifs into Presidents and Popes? Which Islam they're talking about: the meta text and abstract word and will of God or the Islam of history. Is it the Islam that men, and one adds women, have made of it over the last 14 centuries, or some never tried pie-in-the-sky hocus-pocus? Or, again some of these literati are merely lost -or perhaps are still living!- in a time warp of their own choosing?

        Democracy may differ in its forms and expressions. Its mechanics may adapt to different circumstances. But in essence its main principle is, as clear as the desert sky in mid-summer night, freedom -of individuals and groups from all forms of coercions, including that of religion. Thus democracy is, in essence, incompatible with any other wholistic ideology which demands total allegiance. Democracy can only compete with itself! Democracy without secularization of societal structures and behaviors is a myth. Democracy is (synonymous with) secularization. Any other form must be called by other names and leave democracy alone! Capisci...?

Ghoma
Ghoma47@hotmail.com

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