Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Chomsky, National Defense, and Islamism


Slave Revolt left the following response to "The Democratic Left and the Ground Zero Mosque":

Come on now, play fair. There have been many Euro-Christian/American Pie-addled fanatics from the West that have engaged the task of conquering the entire world.

As far as the "Islamists" are concerned, which are you speaking of?

You do know that there are 1.6 billion people that practice variations of "Islam". You paint with a rather broad brush. That worked at the heights of abstract expressionism, but the world has changed in half a century.

You grope for metaphors and tropes that have long since lost their intellectual chache and spark.

But the guilt-by-association of the McCarthy era are still quite potent, and especially suited for this internet age of blog screeds.

Comment: "Slave Revolt" also left comments on two of my posts regarding Chomsky -- back in January of 2009. He is rather fond of Chomsky and suggests that I have the courage to debate him. SR writes, "Certainly, you haven't bothered to publically or privately debate the man.
"Far easier to sit on a blog and throw thought-turds--while your bevy of half-wit acolytes praise you for your intellect.
"Sorry, but that doesn't cut it for developing compelling arguments and then defend those arguments in any way that is convincing. "

I'm sure Chomsky would demolish me if we stood up some place and just talked. He does that for a living. I don't think he would be quite that successful if we were to exchange comments in such a forum as this one. Then too my "bevy of half-wit acolytes" isn't all that large; so he probably wouldn't think either course worth his while.

But in the absence of Chomsky, let's consider your comments in regard to the Ground Zero Mosque. Your first sentence seems to imply that since "fanatics from the West . . . engaged in the task of conquering the entire world," we should not fault the Islamists from wanting to conquer us. You might be right if "fairness" trumped national survival. However it never has and doesn't now; although you are not alone in thinking it should. Apparently many on the Left would rather be "fair" and "politically correct" than safe. Perhaps they take comfort in the layers of power that exist between them and actual danger, but all that could change if the Islamists have their way.

Which "Euro-Christian/American Pie-addled fanatics from the West that have engaged the task of conquering the entire world." I gave you the benefit of doubt in the previous paragraph, but I don't know to whom you refer. The only one from the West who some have purported to desire the "conquering of the entire world" was Hitler, and I am inclined to favor the "continental" interpretation of Hitler's desires (see Trevor-Roper on this). If you are referring to Europe's "colonial" aspirations, it would be even harder to prove that there was a desire on any nation's part to "conquer" the entire world. And to argue that these European nations were somehow working together to conquer the world could not be borne out by any historian I am aware of.

You ask "As far as the 'Islamists' are concerned, which are you speaking of?" I am using the definition that Islamists like to use for themselves, but we in the West have also used Militant or Radical Islam. In the early days, a favorite term was Islamic Fundamentalism. Arabic Islamism has been in the forefront of the attacks against the West. It can be traced from Saudi Arabian Wahhabism, to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. The chief ideologue of the Muslim Brothers was Sayyid Qutb and his chief contribution to Militant Islam was his emphasis on the Jihad. Islam traditionally considered a greater and lesser Jihad. The "greater" was something like that described in the Ephesians 6, but Sayyid Qutb revised the lesser Jihad to be the overriding demand of the Islamic religion for any Muslim who wished to enter paradise. In brief, he taught that Mohammad set about conquering the entire world with military force. After he died, the Righteous Imams followed his path, but after that, there was a falling away, an abandoning of Mohammad's path. Sayyid Qutb argued that true Muslims should resume Mohammad's Jihad and carry it through to completion -- completion being the conquering of the entire world in the name of Allah.

While Qutb's teachings have spread beyond the Arab world, there are two other schools of Islamism. The first is the Pakistani school created by Maududi. The Deobandis which produced the Taliban are largely of the Maududi school although his teachings have been combined with the teachings of Sayyid Qutb to some extent.

The third school was originated by Ruhollah Khomeini, the Shiite School of Islamism. Khomeini's teachings are very like those of Sayyid Qutb's, but for comparison's sake, we might say that the Khomeini school took a Stalinistic turn. Just as Stalin sought to build up Soviet Russia rather than convert the entire world, so Khomeini sought to build up Iran. This school extends very little beyond Iran and its military arm, Hezbollah. Sayyid Qutb, by contrast, would be the Trotsky of the Islamist world, seeking conversion of the entire world and not the advancement of any single Islamic nation.

In addition, the Proto-Islamist school of Wahhabism is still powerful as a result of Saudi Arabian wealth. We see the Wahhabi influence in Islamic regions beyond the ones mentioned.

Moving along, I don't know what you meant by "You grope for metaphors and tropes that have long since lost their intellectual chache and spark." I just reread the note you are responding to and don't see the "metaphors and tropes" you refer to -- although Metaphors are tropes, complicating my attempts to understand your sentence. I assume you also mean "cache" when you write "chache." I hope you aren't referring to my reference to "The Wretched of the Earth," for that is a famous book by Franz Fanon and not any "metaphor or trope" of my own.

Your final sentence reads, "But the guilt-by-association of the McCarthy era are still quite potent, and especially suited for this internet age of blog screeds." I can only guess at what you mean by this. The only thing that makes sense is that you are unaware that the earliest apologists for Islamism, Edward said and John Esposito were Marxist in orientation and dismissed the idea that Islamism was an influential ideology. They preferred the idea that the phenomenon perceived as an ideology was in actuality an anti-Colonial movement such as the Algerian resistance described in Franz Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth."

One final note, I have a policy of deleting the messages that are pure insult. You haven't quite gone that far, but if anything I have written in the above inspires you to take that direction, you might want to reconsider.

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