Sunday, January 14, 2007

Secularism, Hermeneutics, and Empire:

The Politics of Islamic Reformation by Saba Mahmood

"Taking the U.S. government’s current project to reshape and reform Islam on a global scale as my focus, I want to think about the place of the secular in relation to the current strategies of domination pursued by the United States. As I will show, over the last two years, in addition to its military “war against terror,” the United States has embarked upon an ambitious theological campaign aimed at shaping the sensibilities of ordinary Muslims whom the State Department deems to be too dangerously inclined toward fundamentalist interpretations of Islam.

As such, it is the ideological arm of an otherwise military campaign to subdue and discipline the vast population of Muslims who, in their religious beliefs and lifestyles, are judged to be the recruiting ground for more extremist and fundamentalist forms of Islamic opposition to U.S. strategic interests and what are now loosely termed “Western values.” In this elaborate undertaking, the U.S. government has found an indigenous ally in the form of moderate or liberal Muslims who, in the opinion of State Department planners, are most open to a “Western vision of civilization, political order, and society.”

The core problem from the perspective of U.S. analysts is not militancy itself but interpretation, insomuch as the interpretive act is regarded as the foundation of any religious subjectivity and therefore the key to its emancipation or secularization. In this understanding, the U.S. strategists have struck a common chord with self-identified secular liberal Muslim reformers who have been trying to refashion Islam along the lines of the Protestant Reformation.

Aware of these recent setbacks, the White House National Security Council (NSC) formally established a new program named Muslim World Outreach in 2003, with as much as $1.3 billion at its disposal (and with more allocations to come). This is a project aimed at “transforming Islam from within”:

Among the reformers the Rand Corporation mentions are Khaled Abou El Fadl, Serif Mardin, Abdulaziz Sachedina (United States), Bassam Tibi (Germany), and Muhammad Shahrur (Syria). They are upheld as “good Muslims,” distinct from their “bad” counterparts.

more here (pdf document)

Thursday, January 04, 2007

the problem with CAIR

Yes, I know CAIR sometimes does good work. Yes, I know the Sacramento activist Basim Elkarra is a good guy - and has done decent advocacy work in the area. And yeah, I know proggies love to pick on CAIR. OK - now that you know that I've said all that...

See, CAIR has this problem of insisting on inviting FBI and Homeland Security dudes to their conferences - so that they can be seen as one of the good guys. But then who are the bad guys? Those who have some awareness of COINTELPRO? Those who know how these agencies have actively played the divide and conquer game to destroy the activism of African Americans, Latino, Native Americans - you name it... ?

So, now CAIR is all shook up - 'cause guess what? Even with all these invitations and cozying up with the FBI - Boxer, the liberal senator from California, decided to rescind an award that she gave to CAIR. Now, I understand that there is Islamophobia at play here... But you know, at the same time - CAIR had it coming to them. Did they really expect that their FBI contacts was going to save them? Did they really? Do they really expect, that if/when the time comes, that their FBI/Homeland security contacts are going to save the day for Muslims in America? It is time to seriously wake up and smell some real strong coffee dudes and bros. That is not the way the US system works.

check malangbaba's blog for more on this sordid affair.

and Angry Arab offers a word or two on this affair also...

Monday, January 01, 2007