April 06, 2004

Islamism on a human face

I'd been meaning to mention this post by Zack of Procrastination, noting that Islamists are not monolithic, that there are variations among them. I'm probably as guilty as anyone of tossing the term around without offering much of a definition, but I would add in my defense that while there were variations among German, Italian and Spanish fascism, or Soviet, Chinese and Yugosalvian communism, that all these systems are illiberal, that the only difference is how heavy is the one wearing the boot while standing on your face.

Take Rachid al-Ghannouchi, one of the leaders of the Islamic Tendency Movement (it sounds better in French -- Mouvement de la Tendance Islamique) in Tunisia in the 1980s, which later renamed itself Hizb al-Nahda (the Renaissance Party). I can't recall whether MTI was behind a series of bombings in the 1980s aimed, as Nazih Ayubi puts it in Political Islam: Religion and Politics in the Arab World,

...such symbols of moral laxity and cultural decadence as cafes and patisseries that serve food and drink during times of fasting, or hotels that cater to the tourist hordes of 'semi-naked' Europeans and Americans

...but I'll check when I get a minute to look up the old clips on Nexis. But consider this 1994 piece he wrote on Israel, particularly this passage:


Zionism, then, nurtured by and in turn nurturing this global pseudo-civilization, represents a secular onslaught on the heart of our Islamic nation. The Islamic project, by contrast, is its polar opposite, representing the hope that human civilization can be rescued from this new worship of the golden calf To speak of saving Palestine from the Zionists is to speak simultaneously of one's hope for a global liberation. The 'Palestinian cause' does not signify the simple reconquest of a patch of territory occupied by aggressors. It is not even about peace and war; Its implications go much further. For to strike at Zionism in Palestine is to strike at the enemy in its new citadel, which it has constructed at the center of the world, in the very heart of our Muslim nation, in a land which has always been of unlimited strategic and spiritual fecundity. The West, as a civilization, seems set to extend its influence to the heartland of the Old World, the better to destroy the surviving traces of spiritual resistance which have remained intact there, and finally to obliterate mans remaining hopes for the rebirth of a civilization which is qualitative and humane, rather than quantitative and secular.

He also calls for essentially a worldwide struggle against Israel, a tiny patch of land where a few million Jews live, to usher in the new millennium. I wonder what he thinks will happen to those Jews should their defenses fail, and their government fall. What percentage does he think would be killed in a war? In the aftermath of war? Forced to emigrate?

Can you judge someone by the company they keep? Al-Ghannouchi seems to be quite chummy with the blood-soaked mullahs of Iran:

Rachid Al-Ghannouchi, the leader of the An-Nahdha has regularly visited Tehran and carries a Sudanese passport given to him by Sudan at Iran's behest. In a meeting on March 28, 1991, with Tehran University students visiting Algiers, he stressed, "Iranian youths' efforts inspired university students in Tunisia to resist Habib Bourguiba's rule. Our movement was in dire need of Islamic revolutionary ideals which marked a turning point in our movement."

The article -- actually, a book chapter -- provides references for those statements.

And here's a brief summary of his thought from a book review.

Although Ghannouchi is widely characterised as a ‘democrat’ – a ‘democrat within Islamism’ in Tamimi’s title – it is important to note that he has a particular understanding of democracy, as a set of mechanisms for guaranteeing the security of the people from authoritarian hegemony. Unlike many so-called Islamic democrats, he has no illusions about Western liberalism democracy, arguing that liberal values in general, and their secular foundations in particular, are a product of the Western historical experience and have no place in Islamic societies or the ‘democratic’ institutions that they need. It is this conceptual clarity which distinguishes him from many other Islamic democrats.

I don't know much about the rather charming Fazlur Rahman, who wants to "use the state as an instrument of 'moral-religious' values." It is not the state, but the people who are the source of moral religious values. It is the state that must be restrained in order to ensure it is responsive to the people's values. I'll have to look into him.

Note: I should have pointed out in this post that Zack was linking to this post by Thebit of Muslims Under Progress. Posted by Ideofact at April 6, 2004 11:19 PM

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