Wanted: Honest Muslim Intellectuals

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There is no denying the fact that even the well respected Western intellectuals, such as Bernard Lewis, did not shoulder their responsibility to expose the lies and analyze actions according to their causes and often hidden intentions. Unfortunately, many Muslims writers are toeing the same line under tremendous pressure and for many personal reasons under the label of “moderation.”

Despite the apparent political liberty, access to information and freedom of expression, there are forces that hold many Muslim analysts from seeking the truth lying hidden behind the veil of distortion and misrepresentation, and ideology through which the events of current history are presented to us.

The self-proclaimed Moderates’ aggressiveness, however it may be masked in pious rhetoric, is gradually promoted to the position of a dominant force in world affairs and must be analyzed in terms of its causes and motives. There is no body of theory or significant body of relevant information, beyond the comprehension of the layman, which makes the “moderate” mantra immune from criticism. To the extent that "moderates" seek peaceful co-existence with the West and want to address Muslim problems, it is surely appropriate to question their motives and intentions behind what they say, and the forces that make them say so, and also the goals their rhetoric serves. Some facts seem too obvious to require extended discussion.

It is easy to blame critics of the Muslims “moderates” as “extremists,” than to disprove the right analysis by the insiders like Noam Chomsky. He explains in his book, “Understanding Power,” that those associated with American Universities and think tanks are scared of being thrown out of these safe heavens for their challenging the status quo. This is particularly true with Muslims who have somehow managed to get into these institutions dominated by the not so hidden powers.

Chomsky writes that still, “in the universities or in any other institution, you can often find some dissidents hanging around in the woodwork-“and they can survive in one fashion or another, particularly if they get community support. But if they become too disruptive or too obstreperous-“or you know, too effective-“they’re likely to be kicked out.”

This “kicking out” is the first degree fear that is compounded with self-interest and keeps many associated Muslims from speaking truth to power. Interestingly, those who are there are there because of certain backgrounds. In the words of Chomsky: “The standard thing, though, is that they won’t make it within the institutions in the first place, particularly if they were that way [truth tellers] when they were young-“they’ll simply be weeded out somewhere along the line. So in most cases, the people who make it through the institutions and are able to remain in them have already internalized the right kinds of beliefs: it’s not a problem for them to be obedient, they already are obedient, that’s how they got there. And that’s pretty much how the ideological control system perpetuates itself in the schools-“that’s the basic story of how it operates, I think.” [1]

That’s the basic story of how “moderate” Islam is now being promoted through select puppets. Those who had the responsibility to speak the truth and expose the lies have become accomplices in the non-violent war on Islam. For the “moderate” Muslim students, fellows and professors, the truth is all that comes in the official statements from Washington. To their disadvantage, the internet has now grown into a medium which makes the facts available to all who care to know. It provides evidence to refute each falsehood as it is presented in the opinion pieces by the “moderates” and their western cohorts.

The problem however is that the power of the government’s propaganda apparatus is such that those who do not undertake a research project on the crucial subjects can hardly hope to confront government pronouncements with fact. It is where the need for honest Muslim intellectuals increases manifold. There must be people on the part of Muslims to confront and counter the biases, half-truths and out-right lies about Islam from the hidden and exposed neo-cons.

The deceit and distortion surrounding the fundamentalist and extremist Islam and the US war on terrorism is by now so familiar that it has lost its power to shock. It is therefore useful to recall that although new levels of cynicism are constantly being reached as more and more evidence is unearthed to disprove the official stories, their clear antecedents have been accepted by Muslim analysts with quiet toleration. It is a useful exercise to compare the US government and intellectual community’s statements at the time of supporting Jihad in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989 with the US condemnation of the same concept 15 years later with the active support of the sell-out intellectuals.

Nor is it only in moments of crisis that duplicity is considered perfectly in order. Muslim “scholars,” have scarcely distinguished themselves by a passionate concern for historical accuracy, even when they are not being called upon to provide a "propaganda cover" for ongoing actions or the past. Hussain Haqqani, a scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, for example, in one of his attempts to discredit the concept of Jihad, the role of traitors in Muslims’ defeats, etc., asserts that the British defeat of Nawab SirajudDaula of Bengal in the battle of Plassey in 1757 was not the result of the defection of Mir Jaffer. To him the British “might have had superior armaments and strategy, and that Jaffer’s decision to support the British might have been the result of their military superiority.” [2] Whereas British themselves write that Muslims had far superior weaponry and their victory was made possible only through the treachery of Mir Jaffer. [3]

The timing is important. Had such articles appeared 15 years ago, one could attribute it to ignorance. But condemning the same concept as Jihadism and JIhadists in their work after the US declaration of war on Islam under the banner of the war on terrorism shows there is something wrong. It is already public knowledge that these initiatives had preceded the escalation of war after 9/11.

Coming in the post 9/11 environment, the “moderate” intellectuals’ pro-US stance and statements are less an example of opportunism and deceit than of contempt -” contempt for an audience that can be expected to tolerate such anti-Islam chorus with silence, if not approval.

In addition to the growing lack of concern for truth, we find, in the work of Muslims associated with Western, particularly the US institutions, a real or feigned naiveté about American actions that reaches startling proportions. Their recently discovered sympathies with Israel are really astonishing. Hussain Haqqani argues that Israel is “a reality and it might be in Pakistan’s interest to overcome ideology to recognize reality.” [4] Other "moderate" Muslim researchers, such as Muqtedar Khan, also a visiting fellow at Brooking Institute, believe:

1. Allah, through the Qur’an, tells Muslims to forgive injustices that Jews and Christians commit against Muslims [in other words, accept oppression in the present context].

2. The Israeli occupation of Palestine is "perhaps central to Muslim grievance against the West." The use of “perhaps” means, "moderates" are still doubtful.

3. The Israeli government treats its one million Arab citizens "with greater respect and dignity than most Arab nations treat their citizens." [5] It means, there is no need to support the suffering Palestinians. In a New York Times article, Muqtedar Khan writes: “Muslims must realize that the interests of our sons and daughters, who are American, must come before the interests of our brothers and sisters, whether they are Palestinian, Kashmiri or Iraqi.” [6]

Such comments are so wide of the mark and so irrelevant to the ground reality that even non-Muslims, who sacrificed their lives for alleviating suffering of the Palestinians, will feel ashamed to read. It surpasses belief that a person with even a minimal acquaintance with the record of American foreign policy could produce such statements.

Similar are their views about democracy, indispensability of secularism and the US role in promoting good governance in the Muslim world that these surpass belief, that is, unless Muslim intellectuals look at the matter from a more historical point of view, and place such statements in the context of the hypocritical moralism of the past; for example, of Woodrow Wilson, who, like Bush 2 in Iraq, was going to teach the Latin Americans the art of good government, and who wrote (1902) that it is "our peculiar duty" to teach colonial peoples "order and self-control-¦[and]-¦the drill and habit of law and obedience-¦”; Or of the missionaries of the 1840s, who described the hideous and degrading opium wars as "the result of a great design of Providence to make the wickedness of men subserve his purposes of mercy toward China, in breaking through her wall of exclusion, and bringing the empire into more immediate contact with western and Christian nations."

Let us fast forward to the war on terrorism, invasion and occupation of Muslim lands on the basis of outright lies turned to justifications for democracy and the response that it has aroused among Muslim intellectuals. A striking feature of the recent debate on the US policy has been the distinction that is commonly drawn between "responsible criticism," on the one hand, and "sentimental," "emotional," and "extremist" criticism, on the other. There is much to be learned from a careful study of the terms in which this distinction is drawn. The "extremist critics" are to be identified, apparently, by their “irrational” refusal to accept one fundamental political axiom, namely that the United States has the right to extend its power and reform Muslim societies without limit, insofar as is feasible. “Responsible” criticism does not challenge this assumption, but argues, rather, that Muslims probably can’t "do without it" at this particular time and place.

Other than the “moderates” characterization of dissent as “extremism,” it is important to note the assumptions on which it rests. Is the purity of American and pro-American moderates’ motives a matter that is beyond discussion, or that is irrelevant to discussion even though of their lies are internationally exposed?

There is much more that can be said about this topic, but, it is necessary to emphasize that, as is no doubt obvious, the cult of “moderate” experts of Islam is both self-serving, for those who propound it, and fraudulent. Obviously, the core message of Islam is moderation; obviously, unnecessary violence is not permitted in Islam. But it will be quite unfortunate, and highly dangerous, if the so-called moderates are not judged on their merits and according to their actual, not pretended, accomplishments.

In particular, if there is a body of “moderate” Islam’s theory, well-tested and verified, that applies to the conduct of foreign affairs or the resolution of domestic or international conflict, its existence has been kept a well-guarded secret.

In the case of war on terrorism and occupations launched on the basis of lies for democracy, if those who feel themselves to be perfect “moderates” have access to principles or information that would justify what the American government is doing in the Muslim world, they have been singularly ineffective in making this fact known. To anyone who has any familiarity with Islam and the social and behavioral sciences (or the "policy sciences"), the claim that following the fundamentals of Islam leads to extremism, or that application of the core message of Islam and Shari’ah is not compatible with modern times (secular democracy) is simply an absurdity, unworthy of comment.

When we consider the responsibility of Muslim intellectuals in 21st century, our basic concern must be their role in the understanding of Islam and providing defense against the lies propagated against Muslims and Islam.

It is easy for the sell-out intellectuals of Islam to deliver homilies on the virtues of freedom and liberty, but if they are really concerned about, say, US sponsored dictatorships, such as in Pakistan and Egypt, or the burdens imposed on the Afghans and Iraqis, then they should face a task that is infinitely more important and challenging -” the task of creating, in the United States, the intellectual and moral climate that would permit it to release Muslims from direct and indirect occupations.

Granting Muslims true independence and letting them live by Islam might not succeed in alleviating the problems that tend to accompany early stages of developing new set ups, but they are far more likely to have positive effects than lectures on democratic values.

It is possible that even without the seemingly secular occupation -” led by Christianists from Bush, the altar boy, [7] at the top and General Boykin on the field [8] -” in its various manifestations, the truly democratic elements in Islamic revolutionary movements might be undermined by some fringe elements with extreme views. But it is almost certain that secular occupation itself, which all revolutionary movements now have to face, will guarantee this result.

There is indeed something of a consensus among Muslim intellectuals who have already achieved power and affluence, or who sense that they can achieve them by accepting Washington’s approach towards the Muslim world as it is and promoting the values that are presently being honored. It is also true that this consensus is most noticeable among the “moderate” experts and Muslim dictators who are shedding their old skins to make themselves acceptable to Washington. This consensus proposes and justifies the application of American power in the Muslim world, whatever the human cost, on the grounds that it is necessary to contain “Islamism” and “Muslim terrorism.”

It is this mentality that explains the frankness with which the United States Government and its academic apologists, including Muslim “moderates,” defend the American refusal to let Muslims live by Islam under an Islamic State. The concept of an Islamic State has become the most ridiculed concept of modern times even thought many Western analysts are coming to the conclusion that secular democracy has been abused beyond repair by different forces and corporate interests; that an Islamic State could not be a threat to Western governments and their interests; and that dictators such and Musharraf and Mubarak and the so-called “moderate” intellectuals are persons afflicted with benighted opportunism.

The battleground of intellectuals were supposed to be the minds and loyalties of the masses, the weapons were to be ideas. But here come unimaginable support for the “moderates" from both the hidden and obvious forces in the US. Instead of loyalties from masses, “moderates” Muslim intellectuals receive “celebration by governments, grants from foundations, recognition by the media and attention from the academy” [9] as a reward for the point of view they espouse.

Frankly, “moderates” are not strong enough now to compete with the few and far between truth tellers among Muslims on a purely political basis. They have logic and reason, and discussion on groups, such as PIDL, shows vagueness of moderate mantra and the failure of those who espouse moderatism in responding to solid arguments put forward by honest intellectuals.

Officials in Washington understand the situation very well. Top officials have declared on numerous occasions that there can be no dialogue or negotiations with the enemy unless the enemy comes to terms with demands from Washington. [10] The same attitude is adopted by the intellectuals who toe Washington’s line. They are happy discussing and exchanging ideas within their own community of loyalists to the throne in Washington.

Besides insisting upon the truth, it is also responsibility of Muslim intellectuals to see events in their historical perspective. They must realize the danger of appeasement, as many of us tirelessly point out to the sitting Muslim regimes -” which, they claim, are playing Chamberlain to the Hitler in Washington. Of course, the aggressiveness of American imperialism apparently is not that of Nazi Germany, though the distinction may seem academic to an Iraqi who is being bombed or starved to death. America does not want to occupy Iraq; it merely wishes to help the Arab/Muslim countries progress toward democracy and modernization, as relatively open and stable societies.

The formulation is appropriate. Recent history shows that it makes little difference to the US what form of government a country has so long as it remains an "open society," in the American peculiar sense of this term -” that is, a society that remains open to American economic exploitation and political control, like Saudi Arabia, where no invasion for democracy is on cards as long as economic exploitation continues and its policies are under total American control. If it is necessary to approach genocide in Iraq to achieve this objective, than this is the price, in the words of Madeline Albright, the US must pay in defense of freedom.

Before devoting themselves to promoting Washington’s agenda, Muslim intellectuals need to realize that the US is breaking no new grounds in pursuing the aim of helping other countries towards progress with no thought of territorial aggrandizement. In fact, few imperialist powers have had explicit territorial ambitions. Thus in 1784, the British Parliament announced: "To pursue schemes of conquest and extension of dominion in India are measures repugnant to the wish, honor, and policy of this nation." Shortly after this, the conquest of India was in full swing. A century later, Britain announced its intentions in Egypt under the slogan "intervention, reform, withdrawal." It is obvious which parts of this promise were fulfilled within the next half-century.

In 1936, on the eve of hostilities in North China, the Japanese stated their Basic Principles of National Policy. These included the use of moderate and peaceful means to extend her strength, to promote social and economic development, to eradicate the menace of Communism, to correct the aggressive policies of the great powers, and to secure her position as the stabilizing power in East Asia. Even in 1937, the Japanese government had "no territorial designs upon China." In short, the US is flowing a well-trodden path with the only difference that the “political Islam” has replaced communism and other created evils and some Muslims have accepted the basic argument for justifying the US aggression against Muslim societies under the cloak of moderation.

In no small measure, it is blind devotion of Muslim intellectuals to the US agenda that lie behind the butchery in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and Kashmir and we had better face up to it with candor, or we will find our “moderates” and the US government leading us towards a "final solution" in Iraq and Palestine, and in the many Muslim countries that inevitably lie ahead.

Let us finally return to Noam Chomsky. He explains “the fate of an honest intellectual” (in his book Understanding Power) when he fulfills his responsibility. Of course it is hard to get into and then remain at places such as Brooking Institute and telling truth to power. In Noam Chomsky words: “in most cases, the people [particularly Muslims] who make it through the institutions and are able to remain in them have already internalized the right kind of beliefs: it’s not a problem for them to be obedient, they already are obedient, that’s how they got there.”

The problem with Muslims, however, is that most of those who are not even part of what Noam Chomsky calls “the ideological control system” toe the same line as a tick of fashion. Leading English dailies in the Muslim world feel proud to print articles from those engaged with the ideological control system of RAND and Brookings, etc., but shy away from publishing rebuttals to their hodge podge.

Here is where honest Muslim intellectuals come to play their role. The term honest Muslim intellectual is used to distinguish between those who are part of one or another extreme of the Muslim thought by virtue of their respective systems of indoctrination and those who analyse the world affairs without any personal interest at all. These intellectuals are not the ones whose understanding of Islam is reduced to a few quotes or phrases from the neo-cons lexicon, repeatedly used to please a specific audience each time they write. Nor are they the ones who think of moderation in terms of its axiological phenomena like building bridges, pro-democracy, pro-America, or pro-Israel.

The honest Muslim intellectual has to be one who understands the fundamental differences between Islam and kufr, and would therefore not confuse one with the other just in the name of bridging the gap between the two for no clear objective in mind other than pleasing his masters. In order to do his job, he has to know how and why Islam and Kufr are different, and where the differences actually lie. They cannot simply talk about differences in terms of dress, culture or behaviour -” these are merely the symptoms of difference, but they do not constitute the actual epistemological difference itself.

The honest Muslim intellectuals are not some kind of hybrid species, who emerge in the space between Kufr and Islam and whose borderline thoughts belong to none. It is naïve to claim that “moderates” Muslim intellectuals have their feet planted in their local traditions as well as the broader world of the modern age. They might feel comfortable in both and handicapped by neither, but that is not what is requirement of the time. The honest Muslim intellectual is one who is not daunted by the task of delving into the neo-cons’ knowledge and Washington’s agenda for critical answers and solutions to all problems. Such intellectuals are better able to do so because they are not the product of the thought control systems. They do independent research which is not narrow and rigid. They are not bound by norms and rules of the US think tanks’ discursive activity, because they are not really part of that particular narrow tradition.

The honest Muslim intellectuals have a role to play for the world community as a whole. The process of questioning the validity of doctrines and values promoted by Washington and allied intellectuals has already begun. As we have seen in recent years, a critical questioning and reassessment of the claims to human rights championship and monopoly over liberation and democracy has been done in the West. Thanks to the lessons of post-9/11 U.S. adventures and critical theory we all know that the modernity and moderation the US promote are not innocent.

Even the extremist American “intellectuals” such as Daniel Pipes have started to realise that the so-called “moderates” Muslims are mere “reformist apologetic.” [11] He is now looking for his allies in atheist Muslims [12] but at least it shows that the process of questioning credibility of the "moderates: has begun and would gradually develop into a more critical attitude towards the opportunist Muslims, who stand to betray both Muslims and non-Muslim alike.

Notes:

[1]. Noam Chomsky, “Understanding Power,” New York, 2002, pp. 244-248

[2]. Hussain Haqqani, “Sources of Brainwashing,” http://www.hipakistan.com/en/detail.php?newsId=en66697&F_catID=17&f_type=source&day=5

[3]. Even Jawaharlal Nehru, in The Discovery of India (1946), describes Clive as having won the battle "by promoting treason and forgery." “The "battle" lasted no more than a few hours, and indeed the outcome of the battle had been decided long before the soldiers came to the battlefield. The aspirant to the Nawab’s throne, Mir Jafar, was induced to throw in his lot with Clive, and by far the greater number of the Nawab’s soldiers were bribed to throw away their weapons, surrender prematurely, and even turn their arms against their own army. Jawaharlal Nehru, in The Discovery of India (1946), justly describes Clive as having won the battle "by promoting treason and forgery", and pointedly notes that British rule in India had "an unsavoury beginning and something of that bitter taste has clung to it ever since." Battle of Plassey, From a web site created by: Vinay Lal Associate Professor of History, UCLA

A Hindu Professor, Vinay Lal, at UCLA writes: “Mir Jafar, was induced to throw in his lot with Clive, and by far the greater number of the Nawab’s soldiers were bribed to throw away their weapons, surrender prematurely, and even turn their arms against their own army.”

As regard better weaponry of British, Sir Robert Clive writes in one of his letters: “we soon entered into engagements with Meer Jaffier to put the crown on his head. All necessary preparations being completed with the utmost secrecy, the army, consisting of about one thousand Europeans and two thousand sepoys, with eight pieces of cannon, marched from Chandernagore on the 13th and arrived on the 18th at Cutwa Fort-¦. At daybreak we discovered the Nabob’s army moving towards us, consisting, as we since found, of about fifteen thousand horse and thirty-five thousand foot, with upwards of forty pieces of cannon.” Taken from: Oliver J. Thatcher, ed., The Library of Original Sources, (Milwaukee: University Research Extension Co., 1907), Vol. VII: The Age of Revolution, pp. 59-64. Scanned by: J. S. Arkenberg, Dept. of History, Cal. State Fullerton. Prof. Arkenberg has modernized the text. This text is part of the Internet Modern History Sourcebook. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts for introductory level classes in modern European and World history.

[4]. Haqqani, Hussain. “Israel or the home front,” The Nation, July 23, 2003. See: http://www.nation.com.pk/daily/July-2003/23/EDITOR/op1.asp

[5]. M.A. Muqtedar Kahn, "A Memo to American Muslims," Column on Islamic Affairs, at: http://www.ijtihad.org/memo.htm

[6]. Muqtedar Khan, “Putting the American in American Muslims,” The New York Times, September 07, 2003.

[7]. The Newsweek caption under the old picture of H. W. Bush’s family attending church says, "George Sr. once taught Sunday school and George W. was an alter [sic] boy." http://www.msnbc.com/news/878520.asp and http://www.truthorfiction.com/rumors/g/georgewbush.htm

The spelling error is perhaps the only truthful thing in this article by Howard Fineman (March 10,2003) which proclaims that the Bush presidency is "the most resolutely faith-based" in modern times, "an enterprise founded, supported and guided by trust in the temporal and spiritual power of God."

[8]. Appearing in dress uniform before a religious group in Oregon in June, Boykin said Islamic extremists hate the United States "because we’re a Christian nation, because our foundation and our roots are Judeo-Christians. … And the enemy is a guy named Satan." http://www.cnn.com/2003/US/10/16/rumsfeld.boykin.ap/

General Boykin has praised the leadership of President Bush, whom he extolled as “a man who prays in the Oval Office.” “George Bush was not elected by a majority of the voters in the United States,” Boykin told an Oregon congregation. “He was appointed by God.” http://www.dailyhowler.com/dh102703.shtml

“The day before Boykin appeared at the pulpit in Oregon,” wrote military analyst William M. Arkin in a separate Op-Ed article in the Los Angeles Times, “the Pentagon announced that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had nominated the general for a third star and named him to a new position as Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence.”

[9]. Daniel Pipes, “[Moderate] Voices of Islam,” New York Post, September 23, 2003. See http://www.danielpipes.org/article/1255

[10]. For example Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld denied April 1 that the United States is negotiating an end to the war with Iraq. "The only thing the coalition will discuss with this regime is their unconditional surrender," he told reporters at a Pentagon briefing. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/04/01/iraq/main547252.shtml

[11]. Debate between Pipes and Muqtedar Khan. http://www.ijtihad.org/debate.htm

[12]. Daniel Pipes, “Moderate Voices of Islam,” New York Post, September 23, 2003. http://www.danielpipes.org/article/1255

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