Tuesday, December 8, 2015

No Consistency = Hypocrisy


Sifting through my Twitter and Facebook news feeds, I cannot help but notice that all my colleagues who defend the Iran Deal have been busy ever since its signing sharing articles heavily critical of Saudi Arabia, noting its barbaric executions, crackdown on dissent, support of terrorist groups and its role in increasing regional instability. In addition to sharing these articles, they also add their own comments advocating a review of current U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia and other members of the GCC.

By doing this, these colleagues are, in fact, proving that Saudi officials were right all along about the significance of the deal, that it is indeed about taking sides, and it’s about the adoption of a radically different approach to the region, one that favors the rise of Iran and the fall of Saudi Arabia, and other Sunnis powers in the region including Turkey and Egypt, considering that sharing articles critical of Erdogan and Al-Sisi is also common these days.

Naturally, humanitarian concerns are not the real issue here, nor is it support for terrorism or even regional stability, because on all of these issues, Iran is no less guilty or brazen than Saudi Arabia, not to mention Turkey and Egypt.

So, whose interests are being served by advocating such a course of action? And what are these interests? We are taking here about a “who” that operates in the U.S. and Europe. The benefits accrued to Iran, Russia, and China as a result of this course “correction” seem to be incidental. There must exist in the U.S. and Europe a group, or a collection of groups, no matter how haphazardly put together, that sees such a change in policy to be beneficial, if not to the U.S. and Europe as a whole, than to its own particular interests. Who are these people? What new order do they want to see emerge in the Middle East the Gulf and the world? And can they keep their countries safe? Or, are they reconciled to having terrorism become part of daily life, just like drug-smuggling and human trafficking?

Personally, I think that, no matter who these people happen to be, and irrespective of their intentions and interests, they are busy turning our worst collective fears into self-fulfilling prophecies, because, like so many intelligent people before them, by preparing themselves for the worst they ended up setting the course for it. Because to have forgotten how the process of preparedness and vigilance works: you hope and fight for the better while preparing for the worst. In their case, they only heeded the second part.

Note: The “chilling comment” allegedly made by Bandar Bin Sultan before the tragic developments of 9/11 and which has now surfaced and is being quoted by all and sundry is a case in point. For while the comment predicts a dire future for the Shia in the Middle East, the reality that has been unfolding in Syria since the beginning of the Revolution, and even during its peaceful protest phase, is one of mass killing conducted by Alawite ad Shia militias supported by Iran, Russia and Hezbollah against the majority Sunni population – an absurd and macabre development, but all too real and documentable. Is someone trying to justify the murderous actions by the Assad regime and his allies by ascribing a preemptive quality to them? Perhaps. Whatever the case maybe, an agenda is clearly being served here, and it has nothing to do with humanitarian concerns, or any lofty goals and ideals. Saudi and Iranian support for terrorism and their commitment to a variety of barbaric practices at home in the name of their faith is equally repugnant, documented, and known. By advocating rapprochement with one side while targeting the other underscores the existence of a hidden agenda.

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Ashin Wiratu, the Buddhist monk who refers to himself as
the Buddhist Bin Laden, proves that fascism comes
in all shapes and sizes
To keep speaking about Islamic radicalism as the main security challenge facing us misses the point entirely, as it consecrates an “Us. Vs. Them” mentality. Islamic extremism is a more visible manifestation of the larger phenomenon of a resurgent identity politics often manifesting itself in the form of fascist movements mixing religion, nationalism and politics, glorifying militarism and security and seeking the destruction of a perceived external enemy working in cahoots with fifth columnist inside the holy homeland. Since the weakest have to shout the loudest to be noticed, the phenomenon assumes a more violent form among the less empowered.

As a result we have Buddhist monks killing Muslims in Myanmar, Hindus going on occasional rampages against Muslims in India, Christians killing their Muslim neighbors in the Central African Republic, and a variety of intra-ethnic violence all over the world.

The case of Islamist extremism, however, is far more visible, not because it is more violent, the numbers involved simply don’t back the claim, but because it is more widespread, and because its advocates and perpetrators want it to be seen. Muslims can be found everywhere in this world, and so do the discontented in their midst. But long before doctrine has any role in the formation of their worldview, the political and socioeconomic conditions shaping their lives tend to shape their minds as well. In other words, people are radicalized long before they are indoctrinated. Had they not already had a radical mindset, extremist would have treated the more controversial elements in their holy texts in the same way other followers of the faith do: by ignoring them. Moreover, by choosing to put these controversial elements at the front and center of their worldview, the extremists are, in effect, rejecting the traditional faith system, and the efforts of the modernizers, and are reinventing the faith in a manner that suits their own agenda and their narrow self-interests. For this reason, it makes no sense to treat them as representatives of the very system they reject.