Arun Kundnani writes:
Since the end of the Cold War, conservatives have argued that the world should be seen through the lens of a clash between civilizations. The world could be divided, they argued, on the basis of different cultures and their distance from Western values.
Countries where the majority of the population is Muslim were grouped together as the ‘Islamic world’ and seen as culturally prone to fanaticism and violence. Revolution there could only mean Islamic revolution along the lines of Iran in 1979. Democracy could only emerge if imposed by force from outside, as disastrously attempted in the Iraq War.
Liberals had their own version of such thinking, particularly after 9/11. Rejecting the necessity of a clash between civilizations, they spoke of a dialogue between civilizations. But they shared with conservatives the assumption that culture was the primary driving force of political conflict.
There was something of this thinking in President Obama’s famous 2009 speech in Cairo, addressed to “the Muslim world.” Liberals like Obama thought it possible that dialogue could allow for the peaceful co-existence of cultural differences between Muslims and the West. Conservatives, on the other hand, feared that no dialogue was possible with Islam, and it was better for the West to ready itself for inevitable conflict.
These have been the terms of debate between liberals and conservatives since 9/11.
Significantly, both sides in the debate assumed that the fundamental divisions in the world were cultural rather than political.
Over the last century Europe ridiculed its “bourgeois revolutionaries.” The same can be said about this century’s “Jihadi revolutionaries.” Most were caught up in a bloody movement of men trying to cover-up with willingness to kill and die the fact that their lives were corrupt, cowardly, mendacious and takfir. Zawahari is a typical example of a leader trying to cover-up his cowardice, betraying colleagues in fear of pain. We’ve had a decade of those covering up their lack of manhood with mass murder and others proving theirs with suicide-murder.
The will to live and the will to self-sacrifice get rather muddled in the life of a revolutionary. The Muslim Brotherhood began as an effort of “brothers” under God to help each other stay pious in a corrupt world. In the end, they used more energy struggling in Jihad within themselves and failing, succumbing to their ambitions and appetites, so they switched to trying to kill the Muslim leaders who, like them, became takfir. In a letter from Tora Bora, as Afghanistan fell, binLaden urged his sons to abandon the cause as there is insurmountable treachery and corruption on the inside as on the outside. He realized that true Jihad against one’s self must precede jihad against takfirs. So until now, outwardly corrupt Arabs ruled and inwardly corrupt Arabs terrorized. But now, the mass majority of young Arabs are struggling in utter modesty to modernize, to bringing the Arab World to sci/tech equality– at the very least– with Israel’s modernity. Such people had been hopeless when terrorism seemed the only alternative to their shyster parents in the leadership. After lives of misery by modest Arab families sacrificing to educate their first born sons, the prospects for these sons were zero. Diploma in hand, these young men had to suffer the shame of continuing to live off their desperate families as their rotten governments created no career prospects for any of them. Some chose to settle for immortality by becoming terrorist shahids. The mass majority, however, struggled on day by day in hopeless cynicism until one day, one of them in Tunisia, chose to set himself on fire so as to say with his self-sacrifice: “no more!” He did not punish his helpless fellow Muslims by blowing himself up in their midst, but rather set himself on fire as a personal statement of protest. After a decade of pointless shahids, killing more Muslims than infidel oppressors, young Arabs were drawn to the purity of this self-sacrificing protest, so different from the routine daily victimizing of innocents around him.
Internal documents and discussion with Muslim Brothers makes clear that PERSONALLY very many were drawn to the Arab youth’s focus on modernization. Finally there occurred an act of manliness around which all could rally, in contrast to the psycho-criminal behavior of the likes of Zarqawi. So today Arab World is facing a generational revolution devoted to the very modern world it was trained to build….a evolution it can’t lose because its parent generation knows that this is heroic, not cowardly and corrupt as is their own. And so, in the Arab Street, the parents are finally following the children’s clean break rather than lead the again into hopelessness and despair.
This revolution, therefore, is one to be measured by societal results first and personal benefits later, in contrast to the standard Arab baksheesh that made their parents the flunkies of foreigners. It is this youthful Arab surge to modernization backed up by the parents’ generation that Israel’s shyster leaders fear the most. The issue is not military security but commercial insecurity about Israel’s ability to compete economically with the Arab modernists. So, rather than stand with them and guide them to a joint region-wide modernization, Israel’s leaders are demanding that America force the Arabs back to the incompetent, corrupt and cowardly Arab regimes with whom a similar Israeli upper class could always do business. As alQaeda disappeared off stage, the corrupt Arabs it was fighting will soon too, not because of its Jihad but because of the modernization revolution of Arab youth. Israel is comfortable with this. In fact the Muslim Jihad was its cash cow. Obama must, therefore, decide now if he’s going to invest America’s prestige in the modernist future of the whole Middle East or is going to support the Israeli-Arab shysters, as before, in order to assure the filling of his campaign coffers for 2012?
Every other issue– security and terrorism in particular– are cover-ups and excuses for slipping back into the comfy past that made so many Americans and their Arab/Israeli friends so very rich.
I’m not sure the ‘clash of cultures’ is as defunct as that of the ‘clash of civilizations’. The culture of the conservatives and ‘liberals like Obama’ is definitely the culture of the shysters, while the Egyptian people have demonstrated that selfless collective social action still has life — in some parts of the world at least. The real clash is, as always, between those that need and those that deny it.
The corporate culture in the US and Europe is one that devalues the dignity and freedom of the people of the body politic. They regard them as no more than ‘consumers’ of their increasingly trashy products. If they employ them it mostly is as ants working mindlessly to increase the profit margins for their rentier shareholders — parasites living of the labour of others.
It is a pity we are not all Egyptians, with the courage to place our bodies in the path of the neo-liberal juggernaut. Perhaps one day we will — when we grow up.