Category Archives: Religion

Hanukkah – The Maccabee Intifada

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The following article below was published as a Facebook Note and is being republished here with the author’s approval: 

By Benjamin Dictor
December 8, 2012

Rethinking Hanukkah

judeaThe modern retelling of the story of Hanukkah is similar to that of most Jewish holidays.  The storyboard adopts the exhausted themes of victim/victor and the relentless and indiscriminate persecution of the Jews. The story is fairly one-dimensional:

“King Antiochus IV sought to obliterate the practice of Judaism in the Kingdom of Judea.  After a military invasion, Judea was occupied until the Maccabees rose up and defeated the occupying force, restoring Judaism to the Kingdom.”

As materialists we must question this myopic focus on the suppression of religion as the primary point of conflict.

Today, the story is told in an attempt to further the founder’s myth in support of a Jewish Theocratic State while the underlying story of the struggle for national self-determination is often glossed over and forgotten.

Hanukkah is not simply about the struggle of the Jews, but rather, it is the story of the struggle for national self-determination of the people of Judea  —- as well as their uprising and resistance against occupation and imperialism.

In short, Hanukkah is the celebration of the Intifada of the Maccabees.

Hellenism and the Gusanos of Judea 

Like many of the devastating military conflicts presently unfolding in the world, the Maccabean Intifada began as a civil conflict that was ultimately exploited by foreign powers in furtherance of their imperialist objectives. Just as we have seen in recent years, these foreign invaders were welcomed by many gusano Judeans who requested the military support of imperialist powers to help them maintain their opportunist grasp on power in the kingdom.

The roots of the Maccabean Intifada began as a conflict between Jews that had begun to reform their traditions as a result of the Hellenistic influence (cultural imperialism) in the region and those Jews who sought to maintain their national and religious identity.

In approximately 200 BCE, the Kingdom of Judea came under the control of the Hellenist Seleucid Empire (Syria).   Judea was still a somewhat independent kingdom and its people were allowed to maintain their customs and religion.

During that period, Hellenism was used much like the West uses its own cultural imperialism today in support of its foreign conquests.  The people of Judea were not blind to this and saw that the imposition of Hellenist customs, values and religion were a direct attempt to undermine the political independence of Judea.

Some historians have focused on the wealth disparity between rural peasants in Judea and those Jews who lived in Jerusalem.  The rural Jews favored continued independence and self-determination while the bourgeois Jews of the city of Jerusalem were easily Hellenized and adopted the cultural identity of their would-be occupiers.  (See, Tcherikover, Victor Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews, New York: Atheneum, 1975).  This tension led to periodic uprisings and ongoing hostility between those Jews who sought to maintain independence and those who favored Hellenism.

Prior to Syrian military invasion, Judea enjoyed considerable independence. However, the High Priest of Jerusalem, like most administrators or governors of colonized territories, served at the pleasure of the Seleucid King.

In the years leading up to the Maccabean Intifada, Jews in favor of self-determination made several attempts to oust these hand-picked High Priests and restore partisans to the leadership of Judea.  The Seleucid military invasion of Judea was, in fact, precipitated by these ongoing conflicts over the position of High Priest of Jerusalem.

It was the Jewish Hellenistic High Priest Menelaus who ultimately requested that Seleucid King Antiochas IV send troops into Judea to quash the pro-independence resistance. Just as we have seen in Libya and Syria, it was the collaborators in Judea — Jews themselves — that demanded an invasion of their homeland to suppress their countrymen insisting on self-determination.

With the welcome mat laid out by the collaborators in Jerusalem, Antiochus IV sent Apollonius with an occupying army to Judea to put down the resistance and restore the collaborator Menelaus to the position of High Priest.

The Maccabean Intifada

Around 168 BCE, after the occupation of Judea had begun, Antiochus began to slowly strip Judea of its independence — politically and religiously. The occupying Syrian army built fortresses and amassed a military presence in Judea. Antiochus issued edicts restricting religious practices and limiting civil rights of the Judean people.  The resistance against the occupation came in the form of an army of Jews known as the Maccabees (“Hammers”) — essentially the Hamas of their time.  The Maccabees fought the occupying Syrian army for seven years, relying heavily on guerilla tactics to defeat the overwhelming force of the Syrian army.

A series of military defeats and domestics disputes in Syria ultimately led to the victory of the Maccabees, the retreat of the imperialist Syrian occupiers, and the restoration of the independence of the Kingdom of Judea.

A New Hanukkah 

This year, I propose that we celebrate Hanukkah as a holiday that commemorates the true story of resistance against occupation and imperialism.  Rather than allowing it to be used to promote the ongoing occupation of Palestine, let us tell the story of Hanukkah to remind ourselves of our obligation, as Jews, to fight for all oppressed people of the world.

Our Jewish values implore us to recognize that imperialism must be opposed in all its forms.  In that spirit, I submit that, this year, we light the menorah in commemoration of those who struggle against oppression and imperialism:

1st Candle —  For The People of Palestine for their continued resistance against occupation.

2nd Candle —  For The People of Cuba for over half a century of resistance against imperialism, attempted invasions and an illegal blockade.

3rd Candle –  For The People of Syria who have been invaded by a massive foreign military force supported by the imperialist west, but continue to struggle against it.

4th Candle — For The People of Vietnam who, like the Maccabees, successfully fought off a massive military with guerilla tactics.

5th Candle —  For The People of Libya, particularly Bani Walid, who continue to resist occupation and invasion.

6th Candle – For The People of Venezuela who have successfully thwarted attempts by imperialists to overthrow their democratically elected government.

7th Candle – For The People of Bahrain who have continued to oppose Saudi and U.S. imperialism.

8th Candle —  For all Oppressed People of the World.

U.S. anti-war, religious leaders meet with Iranian President Ahmadinejad

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The following article below was originally published by Fight Back! News, the news wing of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization

September 26, 2012

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaking at the 67th session of the UN General Assembly in New York.

New York, NY – 150 prominent anti-war activists, religious leaders and supporters of Iran attended a special here on Sept. 25 with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He is in New York to address the opening meeting of the 67th session of the UN General Assembly.

For the past year there have been escalating threats by the U.S. over Iran’s alleged development of nuclear weapons. Many speakers made it clear that Iran has no nuclear weapons and no plan to develop them. In fact, Phil Wilayto, one of the event organizers, said, “Iran has called for a nuclear free Middle East.” Unlike Israel, which has over 150 nuclear weapons, Iran has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and allows inspectors of its nuclear facilities.

According to a number of speakers, the U.S. is already intervening. Economic sanctions are an act of war, according to international law; the U.S. has admitted to carrying out cyber attacks on Iran’s nuclear processing facilities; and to having special operation troops on the ground. As with Libya and Syria, the U.S. is also looking for opposition groups to back inside Iran.

In addition, this past week the U.S. government removed the Mojahedin el Khalk from the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations. It is widely believed that they have carried out assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists.

Ironically, two of the anti-war activists attending the meeting – Joe Iosbaker, a key organizer of the Chicago anti-NATO protest and Sarah Martin, a member of Women Against Military Madness and Freedom Road Socialist Organization – have been targets of a grand jury investigation for allegations of “providing material support to terrorist organizations” in Palestine and Colombia.

‘Terrible time in history of America’

Prominent among guests was Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam. “This is a terrible time in the history of America. America and Israel are pushing this nation to war with Iran over alleged attempts to build weapons of mass destruction.” He warned, “We have to stand against the war mongers.”

Ramsey Clark, who was U.S. Attorney General when the Non-Proliferation Treaty was signed in 1968, said, “The heart of the treaty was for the nuclear powers to eliminate their nuclear weapons.” He concluded, “The nuclear powers failed,” explaining how the U.S. has not lived up to its end of the deal.

Ellie Ommani, of the American Iranian Friendship Committee congratulated Iran “… for successfully hosting the 16th summit of the Non-Aligned movement with 125 nations. This puts to rest the myth of Iran’s isolation.”

Leah Bolger, president of Veterans for Peace, called for the U.S. to, “Remove carrier battle groups armed with nuclear weapons from the region.” In a proposal to President Ahmadinejad, Bolger also called for a delegation of vets to visit Iran.

In closing remarks, President Ahmadinejad said, “The U.S. wants to expand its hegemony over the center of energy. Iran will not allow this.” This brought cheers from the crowd.

Iran speaks out against U.S. Pastor burning Qur’an, blames U.S. imperialism

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The following article below was originally published by Press TV

April 30, 2012

The people of Afghanistan demonstrate against the burning of their Holy Qur'an last year by Pastor Terry Jones, and the U.S. govt.'s Islamophobic foreign and domestic policies.

A radical American pastor has once again burned copies of Muslims’ holy book, the Qur’an, as well as a portrait of Prophet Mohamed in a Florida church.

US pastor Terry Jones along with another pastor perpetrated the sacrilegious acts in front of their church in Gainesville, Florida on Saturday, AFP reported.

Some 20 people attended the burning process.

In a statement issued late on Sunday night, the Iranian Foreign Ministry termed the act as part of failed plans by the West for war of civilizations, adding that it aimed to incite hatred and phobia against Islam.

The statement also said that the US government’s failure to act against similar acts of desecration in the Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo prisons in Iraq and Cuba and the recent such sacrileges in Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan had led to the blasphemous acts of Saturday.

On February 20, US troopers burned copies of the Holy Qur’an and other Islamic texts at the US-run airbase in the northern Afghanistan province of Parwan.

On March 20, 2011, American evangelical preacher Wayne Sapp, who was serving as Jones’ assistant at the time, torched a copy of Qur’an, claiming that the holy book had been found “guilty” of crimes and was therefore “executed.”

Jones was also present during the event.

The desecration sparked widespread protests in many Muslim countries, including Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, and India after a video of the Qur’an burning was broadcast online. The protests turned violent in Afghanistan, leaving at least 12 people dead.

Banksters beware: Archbishop King’s on a mission to save his community and his own home

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By Carol Harvey
April 19, 2012

Archbishop Franzo King, an outstanding activist and diplomat on other critical community issues for years, has stepped out as a major spokesman on the foreclosure crisis. Here he speaks at the March 20 rally for a foreclosure moratorium resolution that was passed by the Board of Supervisors unanimously on April 10. – Photo: Christopher D. Cook

I first met Archbishop Franzo Wayne King and felt his warm wit and humor on a sunny Saturday, Feb. 25, 2012, at the top of Russian Hill. Occupy Bernal performed a street theater auction of bankster Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf’s top floor condo at 1090 Chestnut overlooking Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay.

The 150-strong rabble’s fanciful bids for Stumpf’s foreclosed condo included a tree stump, five corrupt judges, Jean Quan, Ed Lee and The American Dream. Peppered among these bids, the archbishop tossed “a bag of peanuts,” “one pigfoot,” “a jail cell,” “one American nightmare” and “a one-way ticket to hell.” His final offering was “five security guards” – a nod to the burly dudes standing five-strong across the highrise entrance.

A tiny head poked from a top floor window. This Stumpf servant or granny peered far below upon the archbishop as he told the gathered riffraff:

“I’m Franzo King. I’m the archbishop of the St. John Will-I-Am Coltrane African Orthodox Church. Mr. Stumpf, your Stumpfing is over. No more Stumpfing on the poor. You have used machines to falsify court documents through robosigning rather than properly serving legally required notices to tenants and homeowners.”

Robosigning was just one crosshair in a meshwork of crimes pulled off by Wells Fargo and the other big banks.

Imagine Stumpf two months before semi-confessing his heist sitting down the hall from his indentured looky-loo in his ornate living room high above the riffraff. Around Nov. 18, 2011, DiversityInc’s CEO, Luke Visconti, apparently shot a YouTube video entitled “DiversityInc Interview With John Stumpf, Wells Fargo.”

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If Jesus was a revolutionary then why is your preacher such an Uncle Tom?

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The following article below was originally published by the The Speed of Dreams news blog: 

By Enaemaehkiw Túpac Keshena
April 8, 2012

Who was Yeshua/Iyesus  (Hebrew/Amharic) of the town of Nazerath? Known in to the world through White Power Christianity by the name Jesus (from the Greek-Latin version of his name), Aguila y Condor, the political education organ of the Mexican-Indigenous liberation organization Union del Barrio, describes him as:

A revolutionary anti-Roman organizer that was later to be made the central figure of Christianity, and described as the “son of god” who was raised from the dead. He became one of the most influential figures in human history, but as revolutionaries we take him up as a revolutionary that struggled on the side of the poor and oppressed (unlike many modern so-called “Christians”).

Hugo Chávez, leader of the socialist Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela, has also described him as the greatest socialist in history.

I bring him up though because at this time of year billions of people around the world, primarily from within the ranks of the colonized, are crowding into these buildings they call churches in order mark the time of his martyrdom at the hands of the Romans and Jewish collaborators, and (so the stories say) his return from death three days later.

However, the sermons of their White and Uncle Tom/ahawk preachers will try as best they can to ignore a lessor known side of the person they claim to celebrate. They hide it because they don’t want the colonized to know it. They don’t want the colonized to know it because they know if they do they might begin to question the way it is that these Uncle Tom/ahawks are making a buck off them and selling them out the white power structure.

The truth is that Yeshua/Iyesus was an anti-imperialist and revolutionary collectivist. He was deeply involved in the struggles of his people against Roman imperialist occupation and exploitation. Luckily though though the White and  Uncle Tom/ahawk preachers have not been able to fully erase this side of him from the record, try as they might.

Below Omali Yeshitela, Chairman of the African People’s Socialist Party, the leader of the Uhuru Movement, talks about this side of Yeshua/Iyesus and how it is relevant to us today.

So, when you next encounter someone carrying one of those strange little books they call Bibles who asks you if you “know” Jesus you can that yes, you do know him, and you know the real him. You can then ask him if he knows the real Jesus, and if so then why “if Jesus was a revolutionary are you and your preacher such Uncle Toms?”

Where are the protests against the killing of Shaima Al Awadi?

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By Nina Burleigh
March 28, 2012

An undated photo of Shaima Alawadi.

Forty thousand Iraqis live in El Cajon, California, where this week, Shaima Al Awadi, a devout Muslim mother of five, died after being beaten inside her home with a tire iron and left next to note reading “Go back to your country, you terrorist.” Coming on the heels of the Trayvon Martin killing in Florida, there would seem to be many parallels between the two crimes—the hate speech, the prejudice, the innocence of the victims. A One Million Hijabs for Shaima Al Awadi page has even been launched on Facebook, but it’s doubtful that the movement will really catch on because Iraqis still considered dangerous infiltrators in the eyes of Americans.

The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq has led to a massive displacement of Iraqis—some five million fled their country between 2003 and 2007, filtering into Syria and Jordan, many reduced to tatters, living on the streets of Amman and Damascus. Our country was one of the least receptive to the plight of Iraqi refugees during the war, allowing in just a few thousand every year. After 2007, the US eased its restrictions and between 2007 and 2011, out of 166,084 Iraqis referred to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, 58, 811 have been resettled in the U.S., many of them living in pocket communities like El Cajon.

It is true that Iraqis, and especially Muslim Iraqis (many of the new arrivals are Christians seeking asylum), have not been assimilating easily into America. They have a hard time finding jobs in the down economy, they actively resist having their daughters fall into western teen lifestyles, and unfortunately, covered women are the very public face of a religion that many Americans still associate with terrorism. But Iraqis are not “terrorists.” They were among the most educated and secular people in the Middle East for decades before being mercilessly abused by a vicious dictator, then economically sanctioned by the West, followed by Shock and Awe bombing, and ten years of invasion and civil war.

Moreover, Iraqis living in the United States are by no means a homogenous group. A few years ago, I wrote a story about the Iraqi community in Lincoln, Nebraska, a corn-and-beef plains city where it is now common to encounter women in head scarves and long dresses. After only a few days there, it became clear that even small Iraqi expat communities are a mosaic of very different religions and ethnicities, including Shi’a, Sunni (the minority that ran the hated Saddam Hussein’s political regime,) Chaldean, Assyrian, Yazidi.

The police in El Cajon are still looking for Al Awadi’s killer, whose family reported that they had found a similarly menacing note tacked to their door a week before the attack, which they had dismissed as a joke. The hijab is not the hoodie—yet. Police do not profile muslim women as they most certainly do black men. But only when we see people for their humanity and not their clothes or religious beliefs are we living up to the principles on which this country was founded and should now be evoking.

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The Washington – “Moderate Islam” Alliance: Containing Rebellion Defending Empire

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December 12, 2011

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shaking hands with Libya Interim Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril.

The dynamic of democratic, nationalist and class struggles throughout the Moslem world has set in motion a new constellation of alliances between the imperial West (US and European Union) and Islamist parties, leaders and regimes, dubbed “moderate” by US officials, propagandists and academics.

This essay analyzes the changing contemporary context of imperial domination, especially the demise of longstanding client regimes. It then examines the previous significant ties between western imperial powers and Islamist movements and regimes and the basis of ‘historical collaboration’.

The third part of the paper will outline the political circumstances in which the imperial powers embrace “moderate” Islamists in government and utilize “armed fundamentalists” in opposition to secular regimes. We will critically analyze how “moderate” Islam is defined by the Western imperialist powers. Is this a tactical or strategic alliance? What are the political “trade-offs”? What do imperialism’s neo-liberal clients and their new ‘moderate’ Muslim allies have in common and how do they differ?

In conclusion we will evaluate the viability of this alliance and its capacity to contain and deflect the popular democratic movements and repress the burgeoning class and national struggles, especially in regard to the ‘obstacles’ posed by the Israel-US-Zionist ties and the continued IMF policies which promise to worsen the crises in the Muslim countries.

The Transition from Neo-Liberal Client Rulers to Power-Sharing with Moderate Islamists

The key motivation in Washington’s and the European imperial troika’s (England, France and Germany) embrace of what their press and officialdom hail as “moderate” Islamist parties has been the collapse or weakening of their long-term client rulers. Faced with the ouster of Mubarak, in Egypt, Ali in Tunisia and Saleh in Yemen, mass protests in Morocco and Algeria, the US-EU turned to conservative Muslim leaders who were willing to work within the existing state institutional framework (including the army and state police), uphold the capitalist order and align with the empire against anti-imperial movements and states. In Egypt, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) (the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood), in Tunisia the Renaissance Party, in Morocco the Justice and Development Party have all indicated their willingness to serve as reliable partners in blocking the pro-democracy movements that challenge the socio-economic status quo and the long-standing military-imperial linkages.

The Islamist collaborators are called “moderate and respectable” because they agree to participate in elections within the boundaries of the established political and economic order; they have dropped any criticism of imperial and colonial treaties and trade agreements signed by the previous client regions – including ones which collaborate with Israel’s colonization of Palestine.

Equally important “moderate” means supporting imperial wars against nationalist and secular Arab republics, such as Syria and Libya, and isolating and/or repressing class based trade unions and secular-left parties.

“Moderate” Islamists have become the Empire’s ‘contraceptive of choice’ against any chance the massive Arab peoples’ revolt might give birth to substantive egalitarian social changes and bring those brutal pro- western officials, responsible for so many crimes against humanity, to justice.

The West and their client officials in the military and police have agreed to a kind of “power-sharing’ with the moderate/respectable (read ‘reactionary’) Islamist parties. The Islamists would be responsible for imposing orthodox economic policies and re-establishing ‘order’ (i.e. bolstering the existing one) in partnership with pro-multinational bank economists and pro US-EU generals and security officials. In exchange the Islamists could take certain ministries, appoint their members, finance electoral clientele among the poor and push their ‘moderate’ religious, social and cultural agenda. Basically, the elected Islamists would replace the old corrupt dictatorial regimes in running the state and signing off on more free trade agreements with the EU. Their role would keep the leftists, nationalists and populists out of power and from gaining mass support. Their job would substitute spiritual solace and “inner worth” via Islam in place of redistributing land, income and power from the elite, including the foreign multi-nationals to the peasants, workers, unemployed and exploited low-paid employees.

Why the Empire Arms Fundamentalist Anti-Secular Muslims

While the US and EU have backed respectable “moderate Islam” in heading off a popular upheaval of the young and unemployed, in other contexts they have enlisted violent, fundamentalist Islamic terrorists to overthrow secular independent anti-imperialists regimes – like Libya, Syria – just as they had done earlier in Afghanistan and Yugoslavia. The US, Qatar and the European troika financed and armed Libyan fundamentalist militias and then engaged in a murderous eight months air and sea assault to ensure their client’s ‘victory’ over the secular Gaddafi regime. Fresh from NATO’s success, the US, the European ‘Troika’ and Turkey, with the backing of the League of Arab collaborator princes and emirs, have financed a violent Muslim Brotherhood insurrection in Syria, intent on destroying the nationalist economy and modern secular state.

The US and EU have openly unleashed their fundamentalists allies in order to destroy independent adversaries in the name of “democracy” and ‘humanitarian intervention’, a laughable claim in light of decade long colonial wars of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan. All target regimes have one crime in common: Using their national resources to develop modern secular states – independent of imperial dictates.

NATO implements its campaigns through conservative ‘moderate’ or armed fundamentalist Islamist movements depending on the specific needs, circumstances and range of options in any given target nation. With the fall of pro-Empire ‘secular dictatorships’ in Egypt and Tunisia, pliable conservative Islamist leaders are the fall back “lesser evil”. When the opportunity to overthrow an independent secular or nationalist regime arises, armed and violent fundamentalist mercenaries become the political vehicle of choice.

As with European empires in the past, the modern Western imperial countries have relied on retrograde religious parties and leaders to collaborate and serve their economic and military interests and to provide mercenaries for imperial armies to savage any anti-imperialist social revolutionaries. In that sense US and European rulers are neither ‘pro nor anti’ Islam, it all depends on their national and class position. Islamists who collaborate with Empire are “moderate” allies and if they attack an anti-imperialist regime, they become ‘freedom fighters’. On the other hand, they become “terrorists” or “fundamentalists” when they oppose imperial occupation, pillage or colonial settlements.

Contemporary History of Islamist-Imperial Collaboration

The historical record of western imperial expansion reveals many instances of collaboration and cooptation as well as conflict with Islamist regimes, movements and parties. In the early 1960’s the CIA backed a brutal military coup against the secular Indonesian nationalist regime of Sukarno, and encouraged their puppet dictator General Suharto to unleash Muslim militia in a veritable “holy war” exterminating nearly one million leftist trade unionists, school teachers, students, farmers, communists or suspected sympathizers and their family members. The horrific ‘Jakarta Option’ became a model for CIA operations elsewhere. In Yugoslavia the US and Europe promoted and financed fundamentalists Muslims in Bosnia, importing mujahedeen who would later form part of Al Qaida, and then backed the Kosovo Liberation Army, a known terrorist organization, in order to completely break-up and ethnically ‘cleanse’ a modern secular multi-national state – going so far as to have Americans and NATO bomb Belgrade for the first time since the Nazis in the Second World War.

During President Carter’s administration, the CIA joined with Saudi Arabia’s ruling royalty, providing billions of dollars in arms and military supplies to Afghan Muslim fundamentalists in their brutal but successful Jihad overthrowing a modern, secular nationalist regime backed by the USSR. The murderous fate of school teachers and educated women in the aftermath was quickly covered up.

Needless to say, wherever US imperialism faces leftists or secular, modernizing anti-imperialist regimes, Washington turns to retrograde Islamic leaders willing and able to destroy the progressive regime in return for imperialist support. Such coalitions are built mainly around fundamentalist and moderate Islamist opposition to secular, class- based politics allied with the Empire’s hostility to any anti-imperialist challenge to its domination..

The same ‘coalition’ of Islamists and the Empire has been glaringly obvious during the NATO assault on Libya and continues against Syria: The Muslims provide the shock troops on the ground; NATO provides the aerial bombing, funds, arms, sanctions, embargoes and propaganda.

These Islamist-Imperialist coalitions are usually temporary, based on a common secular or nationalist enemy and not on any common strategic interest. After the defeat of a secular anti-imperialist regime, militant Muslims may find themselves attacked by the colonial neo-liberal regime most favored by the imperial west. This happened in Afghanistan and elsewhere after the overseas Islamist fighters (Afghan Arabs) returned to their own neo-colonized, collaborating home countries, like Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Egypt and elsewhere.

Contemporary History of Islamist-Imperial Conflict

The relation between Islamist regimes and imperialism is complex, changing and full of examples of bloody conflict.

The US backed the “modernizing” free market dictatorship of the Shah in Iran, overthrowing the nationalist Mosaddegh regime. They provided arms and intelligence for the Savak, the Shah’s monstrous secret police as it hunted down and murdered tens of thousands of nationalist-Islamists and leftist resistance fighters and critics in Iran and abroad. The rise to power of the fundamentalist-anti-imperialist Khomeini regime fueled US armed attacks and provoked retaliatory moves: Iran backed and financed anti-colonial Islamist groups in Lebanon (Hezbollah), Palestine (Hamas) and Iraq (the Shia parties).

Subsequent to 9/11 the US invaded and overthrew the Islamist Taliban regime, re-colonized the country, establishing a puppet regime under US-European auspices. The Taliban and allied Islamist and nationalist resistance fighters organized and established a mass guerrilla army which has engaged in a decade long war with armed support from Pakistani Islamist forces responding to US military incursions.

In Palestine, Washington, under the overweening control of Israel’s Zionist fifth column, has armed and financed Israel’s war against the popularly elected Palestinian Islamist Hamas government in Gaza. Washington’s total commitment to the Jewish state and its colonial expansion and usurpation of Palestinian (Muslim and Christian) lands and property in Jerusalem and elsewhere reflects the profound and pervasive influence of the Zionist power configuration throughout the US political system .They secure 90% votes in Congress, pledges of allegiance from the White House, and senior appointments in Treasury, State Department and the Pentagon.

What determines whether the US Empire will have a collaborative or conflict-ridden relation with Islam depends on the specific political context. The US allies with Islamists when faced with nationalist, leftist and secular democratic regimes and movements, especially where their optimal choice, a military-neo-liberal alternative is relatively weak. However, faced with anationalist, anti-colonial Islamist regime (as is the case of the Islamic Republic of Iran), Washington will side with pro-western liberals, dissident Muslim clerics, pliable tribal chiefs, separatist ethnic minorities and pro-Western generals.

The key to US-Islamist relations from the White House perspective is based on the Islamists’ attitude toward empire, class politics, NATO and the “free market” (private foreign investment).

Today’s ‘moderate’ Islamist parties in Tunisia, Egypt, Turkey, Morocco (and elsewhere), which have offered their support to NATO and its wars against Libya and Syria, uphold ‘private property’ (i.e. foreign and imperialist client control of key industries) and repress independent working class and anti-imperialist parties: They are the Empire’s “new partners” in the pillage of the resource-rich Middle East and North Africa.

The US-brokered counter-revolutionary alliance among moderate Islamists, the previous military rulers and Washington is fraught with tensions. The military demands total impunity and a continuation of its economic privileges; this includes a veto on any legislation addressing the previous regime’s brutal crimes against its own people. On the other hand, the Islamist parties uphold their electoral victories and demand majority rule. Washington insists the alliance adhere to its policy toward Israel and abandon their support for the Palestinian national struggle. As these tensions and conflicts deepen, the alliance could collapse ushering in a new phase of conflict and instability.

Emblematic of “moderate Islamiist” collaboration with US-EU imperialism is the role of Qatar, home to the ‘respectable’ Arabic media giant, Al-Jazeera, and the demagogic Qatari “spiritual guide” Sheik Youssef al-Qaradawi. Sheik Youssef quotes the Koran and Islamic moral principles in defense of NATO’s 8-month aerial bombing of Libya, which killed over 50,000 pro-regime Libyans (themselves Muslims). He calls for armed imperial intervention in Syria to overthrow the secular Assad regime, a position he shares comfortably with the state of Israel. He urges the “moderate Islamists” in Egypt and Tunisia to cease any criticism of the existing economic order, ( see “Spiritual guide steers Arabs to moderation”, Financial Times, December 9, 2011 – p5). In a word, this respectable Muslim cleric is NATO’s perfect Koran-quoting “moderate Islamist” partner – a dream come true.

The Strategic Utility of “Moderate” Islamist Parties

Islamist parties are approached by the Empire’s policy elites only when they have a mass following and can therefore weaken any popular, nationalist insurgency. Mass-based Islamist parties serve the empire by providing “legitimacy”, by winning elections and by giving a veneer of respectability to the pro-imperial military and police apparatus retained in place from the overthrown client state dictatorships.

The Islamist parties compete at the “grass roots” with the leftists. They build up a clientele of supporters among the poor in the countryside and urban slums through organized charity and basic social services administered at the mosques and humanitarian religious foundations. Because they reject class struggle and are intensely hostile to the left (with its secular, pro-feminist and working-class agenda), they have been ‘half-tolerated’ by the dictatorship, while the leftist activists are routinely murdered. Subsequently, with the overthrow of the dictatorship, the Islamists emerge intact with the strongest national organizational network as the country’s ‘natural leaders’ from the religious-bazaar merchant political elite. Their leaders offer to serve the empire and its traditional native military collaborators in exchange for a ‘slice of power’, especially over morality, culture, religion and households (women), in other words, the “micro-society”.

For their part, they offer to marginalize and undermine the left, anti-imperialist secular democrats in the streets. In the face of mass popular rebellion calling into question the imperial order, a ‘moderate’ Islamist-imperial partnership is a ‘heavenly deal’ praised in Washington, Paris or London (as well as Riyadh and Tel Aviv).

Conclusion: How Viable is the Imperial-Islamic Coalition?

Those who thought that the spontaneous pro-democracy movements spelled the end of the imperial order left out the role of organized “moderate” Islamist electoral parties as able collaborators of Empire. The brutally repressed mass mobilization of unemployed youth was no match for the well-funded grass roots community organization of the moderate Islamists. This is especially true when politics shifted from the street to the ballot box, a process that the Islamist parties facilitated. In the absence of a mass revolutionary party, seeking state power, the existing military-police state was able to work around the mass protesters and put together a power sharing agreement at least in the short-run.

In the November 2011 elections, the radical Egyptian Islamist party, Nour, gathered one-quarter of the vote in Cairo and Alexandria. Their showing was even higher among the urban poor districts, which promises even greater support among poor rural constituencies in the coming elections. Essentially a Salafist Islamist party, Nour, unlike the Muslim Brotherhood, combined denunciations of class abuses and elite corruption with mass appeals to a return to a mythic harmonious life. They used effective grass roots organizing around basic services in order to gain a greater proportion of the working class vote than all the leftist parties combined. Nour’s message of “class retribution against the …abuses of Egypt’s elite fueledNour’s new found popularity”, (Financial Times December 10, 2011 p6).

Despite the successes of the Islamist-Imperial partnership, the world economic crises and especially the growing unemployment and misery in the Arab countries will make it difficult for the ‘respectable moderate’ Islamists to stabilize their societies. They are inextricably constrained by their alliances to function within the confines of the ‘orthodox neo-liberal framework’ imposed by the Empire. For that reason, the “moderate” Islamists will try to co-opt some secular liberals, social democrats and even a few leftists as ‘minority partners’, so that they won’t be held solely responsible for dashing the expectations of the poor in their countries.

The fact of the matter is that the pro-imperial Islamist parties have absolutely no answer to the current crises: Charities delivered from the mosque during the dictatorship won them mass support; now more austerity programs imposed from their ministerial posts will certainly alienate and infuriate their mass base. What will follow depends on who is best organized: Liberals are limited to media campaigns and tied to economic orthodoxy; the leftists have to advance from protest movements in the downtown squares to organized political units operating in popular neighborhoods, workplaces, markets, villages and slums. Otherwise radical fundamentalist, like the Salafists, will exploit the people’s outrage with moderate Islamist betrayals and promote their own version of a closed clerical society, opposing the West while repressing the Left.

The US and EU may have ‘temporarily’ avoided revolution by accommodating electoral reforms and adapting to alliances with “moderate” Islamists, but their ongoing military interventions and their own growing economic crisis will simply postpone a more decisive conflict in the near future.

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Jailed Somali woman faces anti-Muslim bigotry

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October 30, 2011

Minneapolis, MN – According to numerous reports in the press here, Amina Farah Ali, the jailed humanitarian worker convicted of ‘material support for a foreign terrorist organization’ on Oct. 20, is facing religious discrimination in the Sherburne County Jail.

Sherburne County Sheriff Joel Brott refuses to allow Ali to wear a scarf, or hijab, to cover her head, a common religious practice for many Muslim women.

Ali, who is awaiting sentencing, is accused helping al-Shabab, an Islamist organization that fights to free Somalia from foreign domination. In addition to a conspiracy charge, she was convicted of 12 material support charges. Each charge carries up to a 15 year sentence.

A friend of Ali’s, Hawo Mohamed Hassan, was convicted of 2 counts of lying to an FBI agent and is also awaiting sentencing.

On the day of their conviction, Mick Kelly, of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression stated, “These women have done nothing wrong. They care about the people of Somalia and worked to make the country a better place. The U.S. government has no business dictating what political party, religion or social movements that the Somali people chose to support. The laws on ‘material support for terrorism’ should be scrapped.”

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US Muslims support Occupy Wall Street

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October 23, 2011

An Occupy Wall Street activist showing solidarity to the Muslim demonstrators.

American Muslims have thrown their weight behind the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement, which is a campaign against social injustice, poverty and corporatism in the US, Press TV reports.

Scores of Muslims gathered for communal pray in Zucotti Park, New York, to show their support for the growing anti-corporatism movement, a Press TV correspondent reported on Sunday.

American Muslims, many of whom have been part of the movement since its beginning, believe it is of great importance to come in large numbers and show the world that they too are Americans and understand the concerns of the discontented.

“Now is our chance to do something and make a difference, because, really there is no government without the people,” one of the protesters said.

The news of US pulling out its troops of Iraq by the end of the year was met with cautious optimism by Muslim protesters.

The US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is seen by many demonstrators as a major financial drain on US resources.

The Occupy Wall Street movement began on September 17 in New York City, with protesters saying they intend to literally take over the country’s financial center until their demands are met. The movement has spread to major US cities, and other countries including Australia, Britain, Germany, Italy, Spain, Ireland, and Portugal.

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