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Europe and the United States, "Cultural Relativism" and Islamism

by Ben P Wed Mar 1st, 2006 at 07:38:03 PM EST

This diary started out as a comment on the Rushdie thread, but I thought it quite well encapsulated some of my thinking on the question of democracy and liberalism, univeralism and local self-determinism, to which I do not think (at least for myself) there are easy, cut and dried answers in a fundamentally imperfect world.


Firstly, the American context, and why American liberals basically saw the cartoon controversy differently. In the US, its really very easy to live one's life - even in a major city - and never meet a Muslim, much less see visible manifestations of Islam like you do in many European countries - ie. mosques, neighborhoods with large groups of woman in veils, etc.. The Muslims that you do see tend to be middle class and "assimilated" or perhaps, in a city like Philadelphia or Chicago, the only Muslims you are likely to see are from the offshoot, American-indigenous Nation of Islam (think Malcolm X) All in all, different groups have filled the kind of migratory/labor roles that Muslims have in say, France. And this is why it is impossible to live in a major city without hearing Spanish spoken frequently. As such, I think, with the Christian right, American liberals tend to have to deal with what they represent on a much more tangible, day-to-day basis, and thus may appear hypocritical to outsiders in terms of liberals spending more time worrying about conservative Christians than conservative Muslims. One could argue that being an atheist in Mississippi, say, or even in California, a much more immediate threat to your life is the local fundamentalist mega church than the Muslim Brotherhood. I don't think this is the case in Europe, where conservative, evangelizing Protestant is a marginal phenomenon, which is just not the case in the US (indeed, it is quite a dominant part of the public sphere in large parts of the country). Also, I think many liberals feel much more comfortable arguing and contesting fundamentalist religious values within the context of the United States and within the context of Chrisitniaty because these are communities they see themsevles as being within. Thus, it is an intercultural fight, not an imposition into a society or a cultural milieu they recognize as fundamentally foreign and which they don't know much about.

The questions in Europe are different, and as I note above also, in a European context, one has to stand foursquare in defense of basic liberal values as the foundation for the states functioning, because it does seem that there is something of a move amongst radical elements of the Muslim immigrant population to demand changes. I think this threat is exaggerated, but nevertheless one should be vigilant.

As to the larger, grand questions about univeralism, cultural imperialism and the right to local self-determination, it is a good one to which I don't have a quick or easy answer. I guess I would feel much more comfortable condemning a society in which rules are decided through non-democratic means, as was the case in apartheid South Africa, and as is in the case in (ironically) many of the ostensibly more "moderate" Arab states today. The fact of the matter is that many countries within the Islamic world are electing governments that support the imposition of some form of Islamic jurisprudence. Now, I don't necessarily see the ascendancy of Islamism as a good thing, and I think we need to provide pressure and support for those who wish not to have to live by its restrictions. But frankly, I can't get to exercised by a set of cultural mores that a country has decided to implement by popular will. At the end of the day, they live in different cultural and historical narratives and as long as they don't poke there values or try to impose their values upon me, I don't really care what they do. Indeed, I think trying to prevent the ascendancy of Islamism through democratic means within the Middle Eastmight in the end backfire. I think, along with many others in the US, that the election of Islamist governments will ultimately be positive in the long run. As such, I think one needs to understand the rise of Islamism differently in the Middle East to the potential dangers it poses within European society.

And this brings me to my final point. And that is there is something that rings not quite right about Salman Rushdie's petition and what it suggests. The basic problem is that Islamism has much deeper cultural roots than the other philosophies they want to compare it to. It is not an elitist vanguard philosophy like Communism. It is a genuinely rising popular movement that has widespread democratic support in the heart of the Islamic world. Why is that? That is the question

It assumes that somehow Islamist is an intellectual imposition and has not actually grown out of poor material conditions and that is someone be foisted on the people by a ruthless dictatorial elite. But the truth is right now somwhat the opposite. Islamism is genuinely popular, and Islamists are seen as the primary reformist force within the confines of Middle Eastern society, attacking the very corrupt and bankrupted dictatorial elite that is actually the carrier of 20th century European ideas which relate to communism and fascism.

Indeed, as I state above, I actually think the rise of democratically elected Islamist governments will in the long run turn out to be a positive good. In this sense, I actually agree with elements of the Bush administration. However misguided the Iraq War may have been, I am probably not as hostile to it as many on this site because it attempts to attack the real root of the world's problems, which are always material. It was attempting to material conditions within the Islamic world, however hamhandedly. The problem with Rushdie's petition is that it is attempting to change the world through a statement of ideas, always an ineffectual response unless the larger material conditions enable ideas to find an audience. In other words, Rushdie's petition, like much of the (allow me to generalize) European response to question of Islamism looks at the problem backwards.

Display:
Interesting diary, but on this:

However misguided the Iraq War may have been . . . it attempts to attack the real root of the world's problems, which are always material. It was attempting to [change?] material conditions within the Islamic world, however hamhandedly.

You've got to be kidding me. I doubt there is anybody in the Bush administration who actually thought the Iraq War was about altering the material conditions of the Middle East. Certainly not Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, or any of the other main players. Hell, these people are themselves a corrupt authoritarian elite trying to turn US politics and society into something like the oligarchies they have in the Middle East. They cozy up to the very Saudi and Dubai oligarchs that you claim they are trying to supplant. Who are you kidding? The only ones who get whacked (Iraq, Iran, Syria) are the ones who don't toe the US line.

Sure, they'll say for public consumption that it's all about "democracy" or whatever, in order to give this fiasco a veneer of morality, and to give idiots like Tom Friedman an excuse to divide "liberal" opinion, but it's really about showing off to the world unilateral US military (and corporate -- don't forget about the oil, the contracting fiascos, the plans to neoliberalize the economy) power against (what was thought to be) the easiest target in the region. To show that the US is the 800-pound gorilla on the block.

Oh, and by the way for domestic political consumption too. It's always good politics to divide the Democrats with a war and convince "mainstream America" that the left "can't be trusted" with foreign policy. Like shooting fish in a barrel.

Those people don't give a damn about the Iraqi people or any other people in the Middle east.

by TGeraghty on Wed Mar 1st, 2006 at 11:32:28 PM EST
I think the reasons for the war were a combination of the base and the idealistic (foolishly idealistic). It'll be a fascinating subject for future historians.

Indeed, one of the war's major problems is its very vagueness and the inability of its architects to put forward a convincing rationale.

by Ben P (wbp@u.washington.edu) on Thu Mar 2nd, 2006 at 12:20:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe neocon "true believers" bought the war as for democracy, but the real powers behind the throne -- Cheney and Rumsfeld -- never believed that, I'm sure. They are the heirs of the old Midwest/Rocky Mtn isolationism. They're not strictly isolationist anymore, but their guns are still trained on Wilson/FDR-style liberal internationalism. They are unilateralists who believe that unchecked American power should dominate the globe (and beyond), and they have no use for international institutions or alliances that are not completely controlled by the US. And they have no use for fantasies about "democratizing" the rest of the world. They cozy up to anyone who will toe the US line, as when Rummy went to Baghdad and planted a nice big sloppy wet kiss on Saddam back about 20 years ago.
by TGeraghty on Thu Mar 2nd, 2006 at 12:51:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree generally, but think that it is not so much the "us" line that they want the world to toe as the inside elitist cabal of thieves that they embody.  It is not like they actually give a shit about the people of the US either.  Still, I suppose we deserve to be painted with their brush since those of us who fought against the regime lost, and what they do they do in our name.

"I said, 'Wait a minute, Chester, You know I'm a peaceful man...'" Robbie Robertson
by NearlyNormal on Thu Mar 2nd, 2006 at 05:15:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]

The basic problem is that Islamism has much deeper cultural roots than the other philosophies they want to compare it to. It is not an elitist vanguard philosophy like Communism. It is a genuinely rising popular movement that has widespread democratic support in the heart of the Islamic world. Why is that? That is the question

To me, there is a very simple answer to that question: Islamism is a very recent phenomenon that comes as a reaction to the corrupt dictatorships of the region and their dysfunctional relationship with the USA. Religion has been the only outlet for popular discontent, which is directed against each country's ruling elites and, indirectly, against the USA who are accused of propping them up and supporting their dictatorial ways, while pushing its liberal culture. Thus religion has acquired political (and social legitimacy) - but again, this is recent. You regularly get older Moroccans or other Arabs writing in French papers that many ofthe things that we take granted today in the Arab world today (veils, fatwas, the political prominence of religious leaders, religious police) simply did not exist in a number of places.


It assumes that somehow Islamist is an intellectual imposition and has not actually grown out of poor material conditions and that is someone be foisted on the people by a ruthless dictatorial elite. But the truth is right now somwhat the opposite. Islamism is genuinely popular, and Islamists are seen as the primary reformist force within the confines of Middle Eastern society, attacking the very corrupt and bankrupted dictatorial elite that is actually the carrier of 20th century European ideas which relate to communism and fascism.

It's been used by cunning leaders as a conduct to channel popular opposition to the "dicatorial and bankrupt elites". It is genuinely popular, simply because it is the only available alternative.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Mar 2nd, 2006 at 07:14:39 AM EST
I think this is pretty much true.

I would say, however, that, at this point, it is not very easy or perhaps even possible to object to Islamism without instigating a clash of civilizations. To me, its a bit like what the Christian Right says about gays: that they "love the sinner, but hate the sin." OK, thats theoretically a possible position to take, but the two get mixed up very easily.

Also, a bit of American perspective. At Kos, for example, I'm always seeing atheists and agnostics complain about the nature of American Christianity or perhaps Christianity more generally - along the lines of: "we need to create a liberal Christianity" or "where are the liberal Christian voices?" To me, this rings quite hollow, because if you aren't a Christian you can't exactly convincingly argue that a faith you don't have should change to suit what you want. The reason fundamentalist Christianity is globally ascendent is similar for the reasons Islamism is ascendent (really, Europe is the only part of the world that is not particularly effected by this phenomenon, except vis-a-vis recent migrant populations): it is providing something to its adherents that liberal religious traditions and secular belief systems don't. To me, the growth of fundamentalist religion worldwide (particularly Islam and Christianity, but in other relgions too, on a lesser scale) is intimately connected to neo-liberal globalization and the postmodern cultural turn that have been two of the major (if the two major) global trends since the 1960s.

Thus, while I find the proverbial older Moroccon man's observations interesting in this sense, I find it so primarily for historical reasons, because it isn't addressing the psychological and material changes that have driven this change. To, again, use a US example: in the 1950s, for example, what is known as "mainline" or moderate Christianity and denominations were dominant and fundamentalism and pentecostalism were seen as fringe, dying belief systems of the maladjusted. Today, it is just the opposite, because material and cultural circumstances have fundamentally changed.

Basically, and you see this especially well in a country like the US, which in some ways straddles both the European and the Third World trends vis-a-vis religion, is that people are either becoming entirely secular or joining religious bodies that offer quite fundamentalist strictures, often in the guise of quite modern forms. Liberal religion is becoming an anachronism, because the demographic to which it might appeal is basically vanishing (becoming irreligious).

BTW, two books I would really recommend on modern religion are Philip Jenkins's "The Next Christianity" and Mike Davis's soon-to-be-published "Planet of the Slums" (although he wrote an article by the same name for the New Left Review several years ago.

by Ben P (wbp@u.washington.edu) on Thu Mar 2nd, 2006 at 03:32:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"the good old times..."

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Mar 2nd, 2006 at 04:53:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Okay, but what is it in the culture that has changed? I can more or less make sense of the idea that the (so called) Moral Majority in the US became the new populism of discontent, and the thieves and crooks in the neo-con camp decided to exploit this by manufacturing an apparent (and fictitious) alliance of interests.

But what is it people in Kansas were actually unhappy about? Was it really just a change towards more diverse and open values?

There's a diary on Kos (by one of our regulars?) which wonders whether or not Bush is mentally ill. There's a comment hanging off it which asks what's maybe a more interesting question, which is whether the US as a country is mentally ill. On the basis that without a certain distance from reality, it should have been impossible for Bush to get anywhere close to the White House.

But it's not just Bush and the US that's had problem. Historically, crazy or damaged people have often become leaders.

How do democratic processes allow this? It makes sense after a violent take-over. But what is it that stopped a significant proportion of the population (e.g.) in the US from looking at Bush's record and thinking 'This guy is nuts - no way'?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Mar 2nd, 2006 at 05:54:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is because older narratives about how the world works have broken down and no longer adequately make sense of how the world works. This process is, at root, I think a result of economic and technological changes, which have in turn broken down older community structures.

The manifestations of this are numerous:

  • The collapse of socialism as a credible intellectual alternative to capitalism, especially in western countries (and I would count myself in this category - if I had lived 30 or 40 years ago, I would have probably been a socialist. Today, I think socialism can't work.)
  • In the third or "developing" world, the rapid disruption of previously quite isolated rural modes of living and the susequent mass migration to megalopolises - Cairo, Mexico City, Manilla, Baghdad, Lagos, etc. - all places where fundamentalist religious has taken off in one form or another)
  • the breakdown of the European "social capitalism" model and the subsequent malaise afflicting countries like France, Germany, and Italy
  • in the United States, the collapse and offshoring of almost the entire manufacturing base, with the subsequent decimation of numerous inner-cities and the formation of minority ghettos
  • in general, an astonishing mobility of capital, facilitated by legal changes, but most importantly, by technological changes
  • while technology has given capital an advantage, it has also spurred a perhaps historically unprecedented round of migrations from third world to first world societies as well.

This is a start. Perhaps I should make this a diary as well : )
by Ben P (wbp@u.washington.edu) on Thu Mar 2nd, 2006 at 06:59:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It would be interesting to see statistics about inner city collapse as the result of the loss of manufacturing. (This is presumably not just a U.S. problem, as plenty of European goods are imported from China also.) There were plenty of slums around back in the 1950s...
by asdf on Thu Mar 2nd, 2006 at 08:38:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You don't think a city like Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, or Philadelphia has suffered greatly in the last 40 years? You know, the whole underclass debate, crack epidemic, etc.?

I think the problem is less acute than it was 10 years ago, but these cities - in different measures - have just been decimated since the 1950s. St. Louis's population, for example, has fallen by something like 66% in this time frame. Detroit by somewhere in the neighborhood of 50%.

The problem exists in Europe too. But I think it was more acute in the US because of the way poverty was racialized and spacially demarcated.

by Ben P (wbp@u.washington.edu) on Thu Mar 2nd, 2006 at 09:51:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]

the breakdown of the European "social capitalism" model and the subsequent malaise afflicting countries like France, Germany, and Italy

Please don't write this here on ET as if it were a fact. There is no breakdown of the European "social capitalism" model - that's only what the neoliberals want you to believe to impose their model instead.

Let's not ever play in their game.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 3rd, 2006 at 02:26:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hmmm... this is the "of course" or "everyone knows" gambit -- we all use it at one time or another consciously or un-, by assuming that some basic meme or foundational notion is shared by our audience;  but at other times it's used less ingenuously to present contentious assertions as if they were products of a secure consensus.

Examples abound -- "the US social security system is in terrible trouble and needs reform" is another "of course" meme (and one also serving neocon and neolib agendas) in which "trouble" (not well documented imho) is assumed, and "reform" is the label given to proposals which some critics would call sabotage.  "Of course" wages "have to be" suppressed, "flexibility" (meaning union-busting and revocation of worker rights) is required for "healthy" (healthy for whom?) economies, and so on.

Political battles seem to be twofold -- one is the raw struggle for secular power -- electoral and often dirty politics;  the other is the battle for mindshare or discourse space, the meme wars in which foundational assumptions frame (and, strategically, limit) the realm of discourse... so that certain ideas can be rendered unthinkable, undiscussable, "obsolete".  As CS Lewis pointed out long ago, far more effective than contending with the truth of falsity of an idea, if you want to suppress it, is to redefine it as "unfashionable" or  old fashioned.

It really does seem to me sometimes that we have a kind of fashion sense for ideas -- certain ideas are in vogue and can be taken seriously, and other ideas are out of style and can only be ridiculed like last season's cut of trousers.  And like fashion sense, this apparent consensus is at least partly manipulated and directed by vested interests...

Some ideas have -- or should have -- failed the test of time.  Slavery for example, we would hope, has few defenders left in the "enlightened" west, nor has child labour or (again, we would hope) indentured servitude or debt slavery (though the usury industry seems to be working on bringing that one back into vogue).  One would like to think that Kinder Kirche Kueche has had its day on the mental stage (though the Dominionists are working on a career comeback for that one).  

A neat trick of the neocons and neolibs is 1) to claim -- I think rightly so -- that Soviet-style Communism failed the test of time, then 2) to conflate any variant of Socialism with Soviet-style Communism, and then 3) to claim that therefore all flavours of socialism have failed the test of time and are laughable, obsolete, or "evil."

It's the conflation phase that's disingenuous;  and also the wilful disregard of any evidence that real societies made up of real people are being strengthened by the judicious application of socialist principles.    Therefore Europe must be failing -- it is ideologically necessary for Europe to fail, regardless of its tangible successes in education, public health, industry, finance etc. -- because Europe is "socialist" ... and America must be succeeding (no matter how dire its balance sheet looks on every front) because it is not-socialist.

Meanwhile, I have just paid some taxes on a Canadian (you know, one of those "socialist" countries) purchase from a year and a half ago.  The US dollar has fallen so fast relative to the Canadian dollar that the currency exchange differential has cost me an extra 10+ percent on the amount of tax due.  I wish I had transferred almost all my capital to a Canadian bank two years ago.  Somehow I don't think the Euro has fallen that far relative to the CAD over the same period.  When I'm awake I think I'll go look it up.  And then I'll meditate for a while on the meaning of the word "failure."

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Fri Mar 3rd, 2006 at 03:42:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Jerome writes:

"Please don't write this here on ET as if it were a fact. There is no breakdown of the European "social capitalism" model - that's only what the neoliberals want you to believe to impose their model instead.

Let's not ever play in their game."

So Ben, here is a question for you. Did you read Newt Gingrich's little booklet from 1992? It sure seems so.  

I'm quoting; the memo was titled

"Language: A Key Mechanism of Control" by Newt Gingrich.

Newt wrote, "Often we search hard for words to help us define our opponents. Apply these words to the opponent, their record, proposal and their party".

And here's the list of words that Newt said you should always use whenever you are going to describe anything democratic or liberal. Always attach these words to everything 'liberal'.

"Decay, failure, fail, collapsing, deeper, crisis, urgent, destructive, destroy, sick, pathetic, lie, liberal, they, them, unionized bureaucracy, compassion is not enough, betray, consequences, limits, shallow, traitors, sensationalists, endanger, coercion, hypocrisy, radical, threaten, devour, waste, corruption, incompetent, permissive, destruction, impose, self-serving, greed, ideological, insecure, anti-flag, anti-family, anti-child, anti-jobs, pessimistic, excuses, intolerant, stagnation, welfare, corrupt, selfish, insensitive, status quo, mandates, taxes, spending, shame, disgrace, punish, bizarre, cynicism, cheat, steal, abuse of power, machine, bosses, obsolete, criminal rights, red tape, and patronage."

And as I went through that list, you probably recognized a lot of words that you've heard in the context of discussions about about democrats and liberals and it's no accident. What was amazing to me during this last election was the number of cons who would come onto shows like Crossfire and talking about John Kerry, would just pull these words out of the hat.

On the other hand, Newt said, to the Republicans, that there are positive governing words, positive words that should be attached to any discussion of the GOP or GOP policies, conservative policies.

He said, in fact he said, "memorize as many as possible" of these words. That's a direct quote. "Positive Governing Words".

Here's the words that Newt said should be attached to all things Republican, and have been, basically, ever since this memo came out more than a decade ago, certainly by right-wing radio talk show hosts.

"Share, change, opportunity, legacy, challenge, control, truth, moral, courage, reform, prosperity, crusade, movement, children, family, debate, compete, actively, we, us, our," (this instead of they or them), "candidly, humane, pristine, provide, liberty, commitment, principled, unique, duty, precious, premise, caring, tough, listen, learn, help, lead, vision, success, empowerment, citizen, activist, mobilize, conflict, light, dream, freedom, peace, rights, pioneer, proud, pride, building, preserve, pro-flag, pro-children, pro-environment, reform, workfare, eliminate good-time in prison, strength, choose, choice, fair, protect, confident, incentive, hard work, initiative, common sense, and passionate."

Perhaps someone with enough time on his hand should take last year's editorials on Europe, France, Germany published in the NYT, WaPo, Guardian etc. and run them through a word count text program and come up with with a list of the most frequently used neo con buzzwords.

"The USA appears destined by fate to plague America with misery in the name of liberty." Simon Bolivar, Caracas, 1819

by Ritter on Fri Mar 3rd, 2006 at 03:27:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wow.

Ritter I knew -- in a background way, from the work of  Lakoff (with whose "framing" arguments I am not all that comfortable but that's another story) -- about this Newspeak guidebook.  But I had not actually read it and your excerpts here are very telling.

What happens when Madison Avenue meets electoral politics?  we are all finding out.

I wrote my thesis on the semantic "absolute value" overloading of common words, and the use advertisers and propagandists make of this curious feature of language... funny how things come around again.

Socialism Double Plus Ungood :-)

thanks for the killer pullquotes.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Fri Mar 3rd, 2006 at 11:22:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for these quotes from Newt, Ritter. I'd read all this once on a Blog somewhere but didn't keep the reference, now we've got it on record here on ET. You wouldn't want to do a diary on this, would you? ;)
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Mar 4th, 2006 at 02:02:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
a 4 for you jerome, for stating this.

however there is a distinct malaise in italy right now, maybe not france...

i think a big problem the left has both attaining and managing power is that moderate lefties are not control freaks; they (we) want time with our families, to relax, have fun with our work, participate in politics, but in a minimal way (just enough).

our opponents -thugs -don't have lives, they live for external power, not that of love.

so whatever structure is in place: capitalism, communism, socialism or dictatorship, these thugs with entirely too much time on their hands crawl to the top, by dint of greedy need, working like the psycho-drones they are, when honest folk are sleeping after their love and labour.

politicians are squeezed betwen two lobbying forces: that of social welfare, (ngo's, civil rights, human rights etc,) and that of the  corporations.

guess who has the most money to 'invest'?

once-pure ideas become transformed into vicious police states as means foul ends, and thugs reach the power apex.

naked capitalism likes to dress up its objectives with figleaves of christianity, democracy etc, and so far the cognitive dissonance between purported 'values' and reality has not reached the alarming levels of louis 14th or stalinist russia.

won't be long at this rate....

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Mar 5th, 2006 at 01:35:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The collapse of socialism as a credible intellectual alternative to capitalism, especially in western countries (and I would count myself in this category - if I had lived 30 or 40 years ago, I would have probably been a socialist. Today, I think socialism can't work.)

Some political ideas like Social democracy has its roots in socialist ideologies and is working just fine in most of the Scandinavian countries today.  What most people think is that socialism is a static ideology, but that is by no means true.  Socialism, that is democratic socialism, is changing as society progress.   Social democracy is no exception and as a set of political ideas it is extremely adaptable to changes in society, too adaptable according to some.  

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.

by Gjermund E Jansen (gjans1@hotmail.com) on Sat Mar 4th, 2006 at 12:41:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I also wonder about the rise of the evangelical christians throughout the world led by other cunning leaders.

"I said, 'Wait a minute, Chester, You know I'm a peaceful man...'" Robbie Robertson
by NearlyNormal on Thu Mar 2nd, 2006 at 05:40:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm very much interested in this, especially about their lobbying and propaganda efforts within the EU. Have you any idea where to start to find out about those activities? Any articles that come to your mind?

"The USA appears destined by fate to plague America with misery in the name of liberty." Simon Bolivar, Caracas, 1819
by Ritter on Fri Mar 3rd, 2006 at 03:49:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry for the long delay in answering.  Will try to gather some stuff together today and tomorrow.

"I said, 'Wait a minute, Chester, You know I'm a peaceful man...'" Robbie Robertson
by NearlyNormal on Wed Mar 8th, 2006 at 02:42:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Excellent diary.  But I have to agree with TG on Iraq.  While I do think that there are some true believers inside the Policy Wonk Land of think-tanks in DC, I don't think the real players give a damn about the Iraqi people.  However, I have little doubt, afer talking with so many people, pro- and anti-war, that the public does care a great deal about the Iraqis.  That's the only reason the Bushies have been able to keep the war going.

Much of Islamism has its roots in recent history, but the conflicts are much deeper than simply anger at the elites and countries like the US, Israel and Britain (and Denmark and so on).  Remember that countries in the Middle East are divided by a bunch of bullshit borders drawn up after World War I.  Do we really think the Kurds, Sunnis and Shi'ites would've wanted to share a country?  We need only look at the television to find the answer.

And, yes, Muslims in the Middle East are still angry about what happened in the WWI era.

There's a great deal of nationalism inherent to the Islamist movement, and it has been present for much longer than Islamism, itself.  Islamism -- and this is, basically, what Jerome said above -- simply provides a unifying theme in an area where there isn't really any other alternative.  There are no (American) "liberals" or "conservatives" or "socialists" or (American) "libertarians" in the ways we think of these terms.

It's a much more narrow fight, once we look above the tribe level.  But, again, at the tribe level, there are deep tensions between various nationalists, too.  And I think those tensions fuel what is happening in the region.  Those tensions also, unfortunately, open individuals and groups to exploitation from both sides at the national and supranational levels.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Thu Mar 2nd, 2006 at 08:26:13 AM EST
This all didn't really start as a result of the First World War, though. Until then the region was controlled by the Ottoman Empire for about 400 years.
by asdf on Thu Mar 2nd, 2006 at 08:44:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Right, and that, too, connects with the issue of nationalism.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Thu Mar 2nd, 2006 at 10:06:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Aeeey... I just wrote a detailed point by point response and hit "post" and got a "page expired" message.  Poof ... gone.  Uhg.

Not going to write it all over, but will just say I think the reason Americans weren't more outraged by the cartoon is that 1) fierce defense of freedom of speech - we've seen worse in our own papers, no one here is immune from satire, it's our national defense mechanism - and 2) an unfortunately sizable percent of the population feel the Arabs & Muslims are terrorists, at worst, or dangerous at best, and they felt their racism vindicated when the Muslim response to the cartoons shown on TV was to bomb embassies...

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Thu Mar 2nd, 2006 at 06:03:01 PM EST
speaking of "those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities"

The poll also shows that 42 percent of the troops surveyed are unsure of their mission in Iraq, and that 85 percent believe a major reason they were sent into war was "to retaliate for Saddam's role in the Sept. 11 attacks." Ninety-three percent said finding and destroying weapons of mass destruction is not a reason for the ongoing military action.

"We were surprised by that, especially the 85 percent [figure]," Zogby said. "Clearly that is much higher than the consensus among the American public, and the public's perception [on that topic] is much higher than the actual reality of the situation."

estripes

almost any orgy of atrocity can be justified if it is spun as "vengeance"...  Remember the Maine!

Forget the Alamo.  (from Sayles' "Lone Star")

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Thu Mar 2nd, 2006 at 07:23:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Interesting diary.  One comment regarding Muslims in America.  America's vision of itself has been a "melting pot".  And fundamentally, that vision has worked, and continues to work.  Muslims seem more integrated into American society than they do in Europe.  IMO, that will continue to be a basic American value, that will prevent the "Parisian car fires" by Muslim youths from coming to America.
by wchurchill on Fri Mar 3rd, 2006 at 03:26:38 AM EST
As Jerome and others have pointed out repeatedly, they weren't Muslim.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Mar 3rd, 2006 at 05:25:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Or, if they were, their being muslim played no role in the unrest. It's great that now I can just direct people to the "French Riots" section of this wikipage instead of having to dig through the archives with google.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Mar 3rd, 2006 at 05:31:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Or, if they were, their being muslim played no role in the unrest. It's great that now I can just direct people to the "French Riots" section of this wikipage instead of having to dig through the archives with google.

If you mean religion, sure, if you mean Muslim as a racialized group in Europe you're wrong. That played a key role in the riots, just as being black, with all its negative consequences in American society, was at the essence of the much more violent US race riots.

by MarekNYC on Sat Mar 4th, 2006 at 06:24:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
if the arab and muslim nations had not long resorted to political caricature to stir up hate and prejudice, their 'taking offence' at these cartoons would be taken more seriously everywhere, not just america.

glass houses...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Mar 5th, 2006 at 01:39:37 PM EST


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