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August 12, 2006

Marxi-andIslami – sm

Filed under: Global Jihad, Islam, Terror — limewoody @ 8:14 pm

THE central conflict in the war on ideas lies in the underlying stuff of man and how we think societies should be organised. Regardless of what ideology has ruled human affairs, they have all provided answers to this question. This is true in religion as it is in politics.

As the conflict in the Middle East continues, the secular influences of groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah are not obvious to the neutral observer. Nor is their attraction to the young Muslim in the Sydney street or the professional living in Indonesia clear.

“The core problem,” as Paul Kelly argued on this page on Wednesday, “seems to be the attraction of the Islamist movement.”

The 20th century saw the demise of communism, despite its attraction to millions of people who felt poor or downtrodden. It was exposed as a totalitarian system that stifled the aspirations of man. But its stain is spreading within the casing of Islamic fundamentalism. This does not seem obvious, especially considering Osama bin Laden himself was instrumental in defeating the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan more than two decades ago. And the Iranian revolution of 1979 was in part a reaction to the perceived godlessness of communism knocking at its doorstep.

This was mimicked to a lesser degree throughout the Middle East, from Egypt to Jordan.

But the old Marxists are extending their influence in many of the Islamic political parties that are rapidly rising in popularity, in response to inept, autocratic Arab governments. Arab governments have closed off opportunity to such an extent that secular forces such as communism or liberalism have minimal outlets.

One of the few places for a political voice is at the mosque and through religion. Religion provides the cloak for what is essentially politics.

As a result, political Islam is on the rise throughout the Arab world. The first municipal election in Saudi Arabia delivered wins for Islamic parties and, of course, there was the election of Hamas by the Palestinians. Many of the leaders representing political Islam have previous ties to Arab socialism. This is particularly true in Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood won one-fifth of the vote in elections last year.

Veteran foreign correspondent Mary Ann Weaver writes in her book A Portrait of Egypt: “A number of my former professors from the American University of Cairo were Marxists 20 years ago: fairly adamant, fairly doctrinaire Marxists. They are now equally adamant, equally doctrinaire Islamists.”

The developments in Egypt are potent for it has long been a leader in the region.

The similarities of communism and Islam are considerable. Both are egalitarian and advocate radical economic change. They both demand a domination of the public space and share a dogmatic, ideological view of the world.

Political Islam is also supplying the social services in a collective context that communism promised, and the status of groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah depends on this. Their facilities are often described by locals as superior to those provided by the ruling governments.

Islam also promises to deliver the poor masses from oppression, but there is a difference: instead of the working class rising up against the bourgeoisie, the uprising to be encouraged is by hapless, impoverished Muslims against their oppressive Western masters or puppet Arab leaders. And like communism, Islam believes the collective must be preserved at the expense of the individual. We are social beings first, individuals second.

Like communism, Islamism promises a better life for the poor, oppressed and alienated. It is cloaked in God, but its essence is strongly secular. Unless the West fights the war of ideas at this level, offering a competing vision of morality as well as economics and technology, the lure of Islamic extremism will continue to flourish.

And this will especially be the case as television shows the Western class oppressors dropping bombs on the Muslim proletariat.

  • Tanveer Ahmed, a Sydney psychiatrist, is writing a book that is a comic look at Muslim life in Australia.

1 Comment »

  1. while i think the evaluation is spot on, i find it really hard to believe that you wrote this. i’ve seen your blog before, as well as your blogroll , and haven’t been very impressed. So the fact that I’m impressed now gives me pause. Kindly explain.

    Comment by eteraz — August 12, 2006 @ 9:43 pm

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