On 22 June 2009, Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President, asserted that burqas (or the burqa-clad?) are “not welcome” in France, adding that “[i]n our country, we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity” and that “the veils reduced dignity.”France’s Muslim minority is Western Europe’s largest Muslim minority, estimated at six-million-strong. And this is just an approximation, as the French Republic implicitly claims to be post-race and post-religion via a prohibition on any census that would take into account the race or religion of its citizens. (This anxiety mirrors the brouhaha in Indian media àpropos the much-contested enumeration of OBCs or Other Backward Castes in the Indian census surveys of 2011, or the urgency to declare some spaces post-caste, post-feminist, and post-racist while casteism, patriarchy and racism continue unabated.)
From his weekly perch at CNN, Fareed Zakaria, speculated last Sunday (or the Sunday before) whether George Bush could take credit for the events that were unfolding in Tunisia, whether this was the late fruit of the neoconservative project to bring ‘democracy’ to the Middle East.
It is quite extraordinary watching Zakaria – a Muslim born and raised in India, and scion of a leading political family – mimic with such facility the language of America’s ruling classes, and show scarce a trace of empathy for the world’s oppressed, despite his propinquity to them by reason of history and geography. He does have a bias for India, but here too he only shows a concern for India’s strategic interests, not the interests of its subjugated classes, minorities and ethnicities. This I offer only as an aside about how easy it is for members of the upper classes in countries like India, Pakistan or Egypt to slip into an American skin whenever that dissimulation offers greater personal advantages.
As a cover for deepening US control over the Middle East – here is the latest civilizing mission for you – the neoconservatives in the Bush administration argued that the Islamic world produces ‘terrorists’ because it lives under autocracies. To solve the ‘terrorist’ problem, therefore, the US would have to bring democracy to the Middle East. This demagoguery only reveals the bankruptcy of America’s political class. It is a shame when the President of the United States and his neoconservative puppet-masters peddle such absurdities without being greeted by squeals of laughter – and shouted down as hypocritical, as farcical.
Who has been the leading ally and sponsor these past decades of nearly all the despotisms in the Middle East – those of royal pedigree and others seeking to become royalties?
Regardless, the real plan of United States failed miserably. It was dispatched to its grave by a people’s resistance in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Ali Allawi on his book The Crisis of Islamic Civilization. (see Robin’s review)
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Thank you very much, Joanne, and good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I had really two choices. One was to try to summarize Islamic civilization in half an hour, or to discuss this more in a personal way and a personal capacity which I thought might be interesting at such an early hour. I’ve called my talk, “In Search of Islam’s Civilization.”
I was born into a mildly observant Muslim family in Iraq. The 1950s in the Middle East and the broader Islamic world were a time when the secular elements of society, the ruling political class, and cultural and intellectual feats had moved far from an overt identification with Islam. It appeared then to be only a matter of time before Islam would lose whatever hold it may have still had on the peoples and societies of the Muslim world.
OK… here’s the PULSE exclusive I’ve been working on. Hope you enjoy.
Is president Barack Obama the change America has been waiting for or is he another corporate Democrat representing elite interests? According to Tariq Ali, very little has chanced between Obama and former president George W. Bush. In his latest book “The Obama Syndrome: Surrender at Home, War Abroad,” Ali argues that Obama is carrying on the reckless policies of the Bush regime. If Obama continues down this path, the Democratic Party not only face the prospect of the House & Senate in 2010 but also the presidency in 2012. This should be a cause for concern.
I caught up with Ali during his American book tour and here’s what he had to say about the Obama presidency.
Where did the idea for this book emanate from? Why did you want to write a book about “The Obama Syndrome” and what does that refer to?
The idea occurred because I speak a lot on the United States. People ask me questions after each talk and increasingly in the past two to three years, the talk has been about Obama. I thought a short book which essentially provided a balance sheet from the left on the mid-term would be a useful exercise. Given that he’s being attacked nonstop for being a socialist, a leftist, being a Muslim and all this nonsense that comes from the Tea Party-Fox Television alliance, I thought it was better to have a hard-headed realistic account about who the guy really is. So my book is a critique of him, but it’s also by implication a very sharp critique of people who claim that everything Obama is doing is so radical that they can’t take it anymore.
There are numerous ways to approach this question. From a legal standpoint, many Muslims are American, having been born in the United States. Many Muslim immigrants are in possession of a United States passport, an item that ideally would be the only criterion by which one is judged “American.” National identity is only partly informed by formal citizenship, however. In the United States today, as throughout its history, citizenship is invested with crucial symbolic features. Most of the symbolic features of proper American-ness involve race or religion (wherein, say, Jews or African Americans aren’t seen to be fully American ideologically or, in some cases, legally). Another, often related, feature is political belief: dissent from what politicians and corporate media deem the national interest isn’t traditionally a welcome feature of true American-ness (i.e., the normative American). In turn, the politically-mainstream white Christian is the truest American of all.
Current conceptions of the normative American can best be detected in the recent imbroglio over the “ground-zero mosque,” a histrionic misnomer popularized by right-wing media. The proposed Muslim community center two blocks from the northeastern tip of ground zero, actually called Cordoba House, has created a national frenzy that compels us to reassess the symbolic qualities of citizenship in the United States. By expressing such loud opposition to the community center, a significant portion of Americans has again reinforced a limited definition of American-ness, in this case one that excludes Muslims from the full rights of citizenship.