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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Somehow, one senses when listening to the bobbas of Islam dispensers, there’s another audience -beside thedirectly addressed- to placate; some unseen but present audience nonetheless, which translates into attempts, with hems and haws, to keep them at a save distance and preserve whatever credibility one’s with them -thisaudience is presumably that of the Islamic movements back wherever they’re. Thus the ’scholars’ never gobeyondquestions of etiquette and minor adjustments in tactics, for the USA or the West in general to adopt and pursue. For, in Berween’s words “…it is impossible to separate politics from Islam and the best solution forthesecountries is to Islamicize democracy.” Or in the words of G. Gerges: “…still in the minds of manyArabsand Muslims, liberal democracy remains synonymous with Western political hegemony and dominations.” Inhairsplitting parsing reminiscent of Bill Clinton’s what is is, the analysis takes either the contextual and incidentaltangent or circles way far and above history into the areas of meta-history and beyond physics. While they urge Arabs to democratize still insist on rejecting the so-called “Lewis Doctrine,” or theKemalistsecularized democracy, and in the same vain reject explicitly the Mullahs system in Iran or Afghanistan only to embrace implicitly some sort of theocracy by adhering to the notion of Islam’s inseparateness from politics or theso-called doctrine of Islam as a complete way of life mantra. The parsing comes in trying to distance one’sposition from the Mullahs in Iran and advocating democracy under Sharia Law, of how to explain that any form of democracy based on the eternal verities of the Holy Text and the Sharia’ Law would eventually differ from thepresent models of the Mullahs or the Sheikdoms!
Hear more! D. Pipes: “there’s nothing in Islam that necessarily contradicts democracy.” Hold on to your seats,again Berween’s potion:”…in order for democracy to succeed in the Islamic countries it has to beIslamized-meaning, it has to be redefined in Islamic terms, concepts, and make it acceptable to the Muslim masses.” Notice democracy is treated as a finished good to be packaged and sold to a particular consumer in thesame vain that other consumer products are dealt with in their niche market!

How to define democracy in Islamic terms, concepts” or any other religious terms for that matter, or how to”make it acceptable to the masses” are the centuries old puzzles that have defied human ingenuity so far. Inessence it comes down to: How to reconcile an absolutist doctrine and way of looking to the world -Religion- with a system based on the idea of work-in-progress, consensus-seeking, and in final analysis humanistic relativism? The abyss between these two systems is irreconcilable; it constitutes a real dichotomy which have been puzzling thinkers and muddling their screeds since at least the Renaissance times, to finally come to rest on their separation into actually to what amounts to be their essences: spiritual and mundane domains!

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

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

By Ghoma,
Forum Taht Essour Wednesday August 23, 2006 06:17 PM.