Faisal Devji https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/859/all cached version 20/04/2018 10:55:10 en Faisal Devji https://www.opendemocracy.net/postcard/faisal-devji <div class="field field-full-text"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Our biggest obstacle was the Left. In its efforts to defend and at most reclaim some of the welfare state’s vanishing benefits, the Left had come to represent the most conservative and, quite literally, reactionary force in modern politics. Unable to imagine a future that was not theological and indeed monotheistic in its linear and redemptive utopianism, the Left’s dead hand had to be lifted before new forms of political thought and action could emerge. But this only happened by accident.</p><p>When as a result of the continuing financial crisis, the BRICS countries decided to cut their losses and switch from the US dollar to the Euro as a reserve currency, the immediate consequence was to wrest economic power from the grip of nation states. This made for a geopolitical realignment, where Europe’s newly buoyant currency translated not into the EU’s political dominance, but rather its greater dependence on Asian markets and industry.&nbsp;</p><p>Betrayed by Europe’s abandonment of the dollar, and faced with the refusal of Asia and Africa to underwrite her debts, the United States lost economic dominance. This meant that it suddenly became possible to think about human inter-connectedness by way of a more egalitarian politics. Did this mark the victory of capitalism? If so it was a victory for Leninism as well, since what then commenced was the withering away of the state. New kinds of struggles and new forms of political consciousness could now emerge. &nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-picture"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <img class="imagefield imagefield-field_picture" width="508" height="339" alt="" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/84360658_Bahrain_132916c_1.jpg" /> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-pic-attrib"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Picture from Bahrain </div> </div> </div> Faisal Devji Wed, 04 May 2011 14:13:15 +0000 Faisal Devji 59310 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Faisal Devji https://www.opendemocracy.net/author-profile/faisal-devji <div class="field field-au-term"> <div class="field-label">Author:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Faisal Devji </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-au-firstname"> <div class="field-label">First name(s):&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Faisal </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-au-surname"> <div class="field-label">Surname:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Devji </div> </div> </div> <p>Faisal Devji is associate professor of history at the <a href="http://www.newschool.edu/GF/centers/southasia/forum_faculty.htm">New School for Social Research</a>. </p><div class="field field-au-shortbio"> <div class="field-label">One-Line Biography:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Faisal Devji is associate professor of history at the &lt;a href=&quot;http://www.newschool.edu/GF/centers/southasia/forum_faculty.htm&quot;&gt;New School for Social Research&lt;/a&gt;. </div> </div> </div> Anonymous author Faisal Devji Fri, 26 Mar 2010 13:12:29 +0000 Anonymous author and Faisal Devji 51080 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Muslim liberals: epistles of moderation https://www.opendemocracy.net/article/muslim_liberals_epistles_of_moderation <p> If the unprecedented global protests over insulting depictions of the Prophet Mohammed in a book, <a href="/faith-terrorism/muslim_cartoons_3244.jsp">newspaper</a> or a papal speech tell us anything, it is that Muslims around the world can act in concert without following a leader or sharing an ideology. While such demonstrations might possess a local politics, in other words, they are shaped by global movements that lack traditional political meaning, not least by sidelining leaders and institutions for popular action in the name of a worldwide Muslim community as seen on television. The same holds true for Muslim support of global militancy, whose televised icons are capable of attracting a following without the help of local institutions or leaders. </p> <p> The new global arena that such movements bring to light, then, presents a threat to politics conventionally conceived. This is a threat that Muslim liberals are trying to address by promoting the cause of dialogue and debate on a global scale; the most recent manifestation of this trend was the <a href="http://www.acommonword.com/index.php?lang=en">letter sent on 13 October 2007</a> in the name of 138 Muslim &quot;scholars, clerics and intellectuals&quot; to &quot;the leaders of all the world&#39;s churches, and indeed to all Christians everywhere.&quot; </p> <p> In engaging in this effort, though, Muslim liberals also risk moving beyond the political structures of liberalism: chief among them the nation-state and its representative institutions. There is nevertheless a great deal of funding available for such efforts today, mostly from western governments interested in promoting &quot;moderate&quot; Islam internationally; and it is not difficult to mount a critique of the way in which Muslim liberals are enticed into supporting the particular projects of such states by accepting this funding. </p> <p> But even at their most genuine, such projects to support liberals tend to be counterproductive in the long run, having in the past done little more than create dependent and thoroughly compromised Muslim elites in Asia and Africa whose liberalism never became a living factor in their societies. I do not however intend to pursue this easy line of criticism here; instead I focus on the more general difficulties of dialogue and so of the <a href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/4e4307b4-fca8-11d9-8386-00000e2511c8,dwp_uuid=764f88b4-eefb-11d9-8b10-00000e2511c8.html">limits of liberalism itself</a> in a global arena lacking political institutions of its own. </p> <p> <strong>A disingenuous discourse</strong> </p> <p> In the first few years after 9/11, Muslim liberals were able to mount only defensive manoeuvres, presenting themselves as voices of moderation in the media while at the same time protesting the anti-Muslim tone that had come to mark so much public debate and government action in the west. But while the organisations they founded have had an undeniable importance in protecting the rights of Muslims living in Europe and America, the efforts of these liberals to advocate religious moderation appear to have had little effect on those who were not already &quot;moderate&quot; to begin with. </p> <p> <span class="pullquote_new"><strong> Faisal Devji</strong> is assistant professor of history at New School University, New York. His writing includes <a href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/hurst/bookdetails.asp?book=178"><em>Landscapes of the Jihad: Militancy, Morality, Mo</em><em>d</em><em>ernity</em></a> (C Hurst, 2005 / Cornell University Press, 2005)<br /> <br /> Also by Faisal Devji on <strong>openDemocracy</strong>:<br /> <br /> &quot;<a href="/conflict-terrorism/jihad_2768.jsp">Spectral voices: al-Qaida&#39;s world wide web</a>&quot;(19 August 2005)<br /> <br /> &quot;<a href="/conflict-terrorism/osama_3140.jsp">Osama bin Laden&#39;s message to the world</a>&quot; (21 December 2005)<br /> <br /> &quot;<a href="/conflict-terrorism/liberalism_3451.jsp">Back to the future: the cartoons, liberalism, and global Islam</a>&quot; (13 April 2006)<br /> <br /> &quot;<a href="/faith-europe_islam/pope_prophet_3940.jsp">Between Pope and Prophet</a>&quot; (26 September 2006)<br /> <br /> &quot;<a href="/globalization-institutions_government/dubai_cosmopolis_4543.jsp">Dubai cosmopolis</a>&quot; (19 April 2007)</span>In any case, despite their prodigious output of apologetic writings, Muslim liberals and their supporters possessed no global presence equivalent even to the most mediocre of militants. Naturally their lack of influence does not mean that most of the world&#39;s Muslims are opposed to the liberals among them, only that these moderates have been unable to assume any effective leadership globally. Recently some among the moderates have begun to conduct a more proactive media campaign that brings together the scattered energies of Muslim liberals in a collective enterprise. </p> <p> Such for example was the open letter that an array of thirty-eight Muslim politicians, clerics and intellectuals from around the world wrote the pope while global protests were occurring in response to his slighting reference to Mohammed in his <a href="http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2006/september/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20060912_university-regensburg_en.html">Regensburg address</a> of 12 September 2006. Interesting about this letter was the fact that it moved beyond a standard and reactive defence of Islam to instruct Benedict XVI about the necessity of tolerance and understanding for the common good. More important, however, was its attempt to achieve a global presence by neglecting the nation-state and its representative institutions (in which I also include international organisations) to address the head of a church that both is and is not part of a liberal order. The <a href="http://www.islamicamagazine.com/letter/">Muslim letter of 2006</a>, in other words, sought to make a global intervention by addressing itself to Christendom as a whole. </p> <p> A year later more Muslim notables, including many among the letter&#39;s signatories, issued another epistle, now addressed not only to the pope but the heads of all the major churches (indeed, it appears, to every Christian leader its Muslim authors could find). This was a letter of invitation, asking Christians and Muslims to come together by recognising that both their scriptures preached the love of God and of the neighbour. </p> <p> As open letters released to the media, of course, these communications were aimed at public opinion around the world as much as they were directed to the <a href="http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/5912">eminences</a> addressed. Indeed the pope and other churchmen to whom these letters were sent served as their media of dissemination to a global audience. Such epistles of moderation therefore play the same role as Osama bin Laden&#39;s letters and proclamations to the west, which are sometimes also signed by a variety of militant Muslim leaders. Unlike these latter, however, the epistles of moderation eschew all political debate by disingenuously casting the difficulties of Christian-Muslim relations in a purely religious light. </p> <p> Consider, for example, the following passage from the 2007 letter: </p> <p> &quot;Finding common ground between Muslims and Christians is not simply a matter for polite ecumenical dialogue between selected religious leaders. Christianity and Islam are the largest and second largest religions in the world and in history. Christians and Muslims reportedly make up over a third and over a fifth of humanity respectively. Together they make up more than 55% of the world&#39;s population, making the relationship between these two religious communities the most important factor in contributing to meaningful peace around the world. If Muslims and Christians are not at peace, the world cannot be at peace. With the terrible weaponry of the modern world; with Muslims and Christians intertwined everywhere as never before, no side can unilaterally win a conflict between more than half of the world&#39;s inhabitants. Thus our common future is at stake. The very survival of the world itself is perhaps at stake.&quot; </p> <p> What is striking is that the authors here envisage a religious confrontation between Christianity and Islam that is far more extensive than anything Bin Laden would countenance - since it makes Christians all over the world (and not simply those from certain western countries) into the potential enemies of Islam, ignoring the fact that the majority of the world&#39;s Christians do not live in the west and are not therefore party to some epic confrontation with Muslims. But I suspect this expansiveness of address was meant only to disguise the letter&#39;s small significance by mounting the parody of a global event. </p> <p> <strong>A simulacrum of dialogue</strong> </p> <p> Unlike the first epistle its second incarnation did not arrive as a reaction to some violent <a href="/faith-europe_islam/pope_prophet_3940.jsp">demonstration</a> of Muslim offence, though it certainly staked its claims upon the possibility of such violence in the future. In this sense both letters represented a kind of negative force, depending as they did on militant Islam for the strength of their arguments. </p> <p> True, liberalism everywhere gestures towards the supposed horrors of an alternative political order in order to justify itself, but in the west these days it usually does so with <a href="/conflict-terrorism/liberalism_3451.jsp">power on its side</a>. Muslim liberals, on the other hand, not only possess little power in their own right, they have also been unable thus far to stage the spectacular acts of sacrifice that mobilise people for a cause - acts of the kind that militants are so adept at performing. These sacrificial acts need not even be violent to be effective, as Gandhi and after him Martin Luther King and <a href="http://www.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/HistoryWorld/Africa/?view=usa&amp;ci=9780192805683">Nelson Mandela</a> demonstrated so well through the entire course of the 20th century. Perhaps liberals are incapable of staging such spectacles, given their devotion to protecting interests rather than sacrificing them, which is why liberalism has always come to power on the back of far more radical movements dedicated to religion, revolution or revenge. </p> <p> Muslim liberals, too, would like to come to power on the back of radical Islam, but they have never managed to ride the tiger of <a href="/faith-europe_islam/jihad_4579.jsp"><em>jihad</em></a> and so must reach out to the west for a helping hand. But this immediately puts them in the position of their colonial ancestors, consummate middlemen who occupied a kind of no-man&#39;s-land between the Christian masters and Muslim subjects of European empires by claiming to represent each to the other. </p> <p> Indeed, the arguments of these Muslim liberals are drawn without exception from the lexicon of their 19th-century predecessors, down to every single scriptural citation they deploy. Such arguments do not therefore constitute any part of a dialogue but are rather the ghostly reiterations of a conversation between men long dead. Like the spectres they imitate, the signatories of these letters - themselves a random assortment of government-appointed clerics, out-of-favour politicians, exiled intellectuals, university professors, aspiring spokesmen for Islam, converts and immigrants in the west - appear like nothing so much as entrepreneurs trying to squeeze out a share of influence for themselves by representing Muslims and Christians to one another. </p> <p> With a few exceptions, including the secretaries-general of the <em>Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind</em> and the <a href="/conflict-iraqconflict/article_1836.jsp">Al-Khoei International Foundation</a>, these men (and a few women) do not in fact represent any significant Muslim population; despite their sectarian, territorial and professional diversity, they include neither a single religious leader of any stature nor a single political one. Their representative character, in other words, is constituted by the sheer diversity of these individuals, who are therefore &quot;representative men&quot; in the colonial sense of this term. All of which means that a response from the pope is the only way of legitimising this ragtag group by lending it some kind of representative character as an interlocutor of the <a href="http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/index.htm">Holy See</a>. </p> <p> Yet it is not at all clear what kind of dialogue is possible between these Christian leaders and their self-proclaimed Muslim counterparts, assuming for the moment the latter&#39;s legitimacy. For one thing, Islam&#39;s lack of a church and therefore of dogma strictly speaking means that there can be no equivalence even between Christian and Muslim divines, let alone between the pope and a group of &quot;representative Muslims&quot; who are likely disagree with each other on more subjects concerning Islam than they disagree with <a href="/faith-europe_islam/pope_jihad_3914.jsp">Benedict XVI</a>. In any case, the absence of an institutional structure and so of dogmatic authority among them means that these men and women cannot in fact talk about the same subjects in the same way as the churchmen they address. </p> <p> Moreover, these Christian leaders can be addressed at all only because they happen to be churchmen. For could our group of Muslims address Buddhists, Hindus or even Jews in the same manner? Who would they address apart from some group of religious entrepreneurs like themselves? Indeed different Muslim sects cannot even address each other in the way their representatives do the pope, whose dogmatic authority as the head of the Roman church is what finally lends his interlocutors their coherence. Lacking such a structure of authority, Islam is much closer to the world&#39;s other religions than it is to Christianity, which is in fact the great exception among these faiths. But this makes the similarities that the letters so frequently invoke between the two largest monotheisms both true and false, since in some fundamental ways Islam is closer to Hinduism (in its lack of a church organisation and hierarchy, say) than it is to Christianity. </p> <p> <strong>The vanishing neighbour</strong> </p> <p> Like so many things about them, the desire of Muslim liberals to make common cause with Christians has a colonial history, one in which the moderates of the 19th century sought to form a partnership with their European masters, generally against some other group of fellow subjects. Whether it was greed for power or the fear of rivals that motivated them, these men stressed their religious kinship with colonial rulers to connive with them in the suppression of opposing religious, sectarian, ethnic and other parties. </p> <p> The words of the 2006 and 2007 letters - even though the signatories are not so crude as to voice their dislike of any particular community, not even that of the militants - breathe the same spirit of exclusivity as any edict of ostracism. For these epistles would construct an exclusive relationship between Christians and Muslims in particular, and between Christians, Muslims and Jews in general, by displacing the possibility of a violence that marked them in the past to some other body. The only problem with this quest for a monotheists&#39; alliance is that it goes against the geographical and demographic reality of the world&#39;s religions, with Hindus and Buddhists being much more likely neighbours for Muslims than Christians and Jews. In other words the quest for a special relationship with Christianity or Judaism is an explicitly occidental one, in which attention is shifted from the geographical and demographic realities of Islam to focus on its adherents only insofar as they come into contact with Christians and Jews in western Europe, north America and the Levant. </p> <p> The fact that the second epistle of moderation speaks so glowingly about loving one&#39;s neighbour makes it seem strange that the Muslims&#39; actual neighbours are forgotten for the only ones who count: Christians for the most part, and Jews out of courtesy, but only because both are meant to share the injunction of loving their neighbours. Yet surely loving one&#39;s neighbour has nothing to do with whether or not this neighbour shares such an injunction, indeed rather the contrary if we take the Gospels for our guide. </p> <p> <span class="pullquote_new"><strong>openDemocracy </strong>authors analyse religious-political crises in the global arena: <br /> <br /> Neal Ascherson, &quot;<a href="/node/3242">A carnival of stupidity</a>&quot; (6 February 2006)<br /> <br /> <strong>openDemocracy,</strong> &quot;<a href="/faith-europe_islam/muslim_cartoons_3244.jsp">Muslims and Europe: a cartoon confrontation</a>&quot; (6 February 2006) - a symosium<br /> <br /> Tariq Modood, &quot;<a href="/faith-terrorism/liberal_dilemma_3249.jsp">The liberal dilemma: integration or vilification?</a>&quot; (8 February 2006)<br /> <br /> Tina Beattie, &quot;<a href="/faith-europe_islam/pope_jihad_3914.jsp">Pope Benedict XVI and Islam: beyond words</a>&quot; (18 September 2006)<br /> <br /> Ehsan Masood, &quot;<a href="/globalization/pope_science_3918.jsp">Pope Benedict XVI: science is the real target</a>&quot; (19 September 2006)<br /> <br /> Michael Walsh, &quot;<a href="/faith-europe_islam/regensburg_3920.jsp">The Regensburg address: reason amid certainty</a>&quot; (20 September 2006) <br /> <br /> Patricia Crone, &quot;<a href="/faith-europe_islam/jihad_4579.jsp"><em>Jihad: </em>idea<em> </em>and<em> </em>history</a>&quot; (1 May 2007)<br /> <br /> Irfan Husain, &quot;<a href="/sir_salman_in_the_sea_of_blasphemy">Sir Salman in the sea of blasphemy</a>&quot; (22 June 2007)<br /> <br /> Birgitta Steene, &quot;<a href="/article/faith_ideas/europe_islam/swedish_cartoon?1">The Swedish cartoon: art as provocation</a>&quot; (10 September 2007)</span>In the haste to create an exclusive relationship with Christians in particular, their would-be Muslim interlocutors have even forgotten that among the verses of peace and amity they quote so liberally from the Qur&#39;an are many that refer to pagans and polytheists as much as they do to any monotheistic faith. But pagans and polytheists are of course consigned to the flames by our moderates while Islam is lifted out of its own much more pluralistic past to enter into the paradise of monotheist uniformity. By ignoring the rich and contentious history of Muslim relations with Zoroastrians, Buddhists or Hindus, these letters also reduce the forms and varieties of religious interaction in the Islamic world to a monotheistic point, in fact narrowing it simply to the similarities between Judaism, Christianity and Islam. </p> <p> All of this, moreover, is based on the presumption that the recognition of similarity necessarily leads to friendship and respect, whereas the opposite might well be true - as it certainly is in the histories of violent conflict between Muslims, Christians and Jews, to say nothing of Catholics and Protestants or <a href="/conflict-middle_east_politics/sunni_shia_4534.jsp"><em>Shi&#39;a and Sunni</em></a>. This exclusive focus on monotheistic similarities leads to one conclusion: the rejection of religious diversity and the consequent adoption of a Christian model for faith in general. Perhaps this is why the second epistle attributes a completely Christian locution to Islam: the love of God and of the neighbour. </p> <p> <strong>A question of sovereignty</strong> </p> <p> The Christianisation of the world&#39;s religions proceeds apace, precluding the mutual respect among them that is due only to the recognition of fundamental difference and disagreement. For with similarity there comes disputation and the narcissism of minor differences. So the letter to Benedict XVI in 2006 rejects the claim that Islam was spread by the sword and attributes the greater part of its conversions to missionary activity. But before their encounter with Christian missionaries in the 19th century, Muslims had little notion of organised proselytism, as indeed they would not without the institution of a church, which means that conversions to Islam occurred in the absence of a mission as much as of a sword. </p> <p> Both epistles of moderation are narcissistic in this way, for instance by pointing to minor differences between Christianity and Islam while at the same time adopting the most Protestant views of scripture. So the Qur&#39;an is approached directly and without mediation as if it were a transparent and self-evident text accessible to all, which goes completely against its traditional reading in the Muslim world. This holy book is moreover interpreted as literally as any American evangelist might interpret his Bible, to the extent that the Christians and Jews it mentions are described in the letters as if they were merely the ancestors of today&#39;s religious communities, which is to say historical and sociological groups rather than the exemplary figures and juridical categories of traditional thought. </p> <p> In the 1920s, for example, Muslim divines in India saw nothing odd in forming an alliance of Hindus and Muslims under Gandhi&#39;s leadership by invoking the Qur&#39;an&#39;s description of a pact between Jews and Muslims under the <a href="/faith-europe_islam/mohammed_3866.jsp">prophet&#39;s</a> leadership. These clerics, in other words, did not see the Jews mentioned in the Qur&#39;an as an historical or sociological community with contemporary descendants, but instead as nothing more than exemplary figures who could stand in for Hindus and provide the juridical precedent for a pact between Muslims and polytheists. It is this kind of thinking that the monotheistic intimacies longed for by Muslim liberals puts an end to. </p> <p> Islam is not what Muslim liberals, in their intellectual vapidity, would have it be. Militants, on the other hand, are far more creative in their religious thinking and much more imaginative about their means of propagating it. Insofar as violence (however transient it might be) represents one of these means, the <a href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/hurst/bookdetails.asp?book=178">intellectual adventurousness</a> of militant Muslims poses a serious problem for their liberal counterparts. Yet I am convinced that these militants will have done more to revolutionise Islam in the long run than any collection of Muslim liberals, no matter how diverse and representative the latter happens to be in character. For by operating in a global arena without political leaders or institutions of its own, these men reveal to us a vision of the future. All the moderates have to offer, by contrast, is a past endlessly recycled - but the past not of 7th-century <a href="/faith-europe_islam/mecca_3882.jsp">Arabia</a> so much as of 19th-century Europe. </p> <p> The Islam of militancy and offence occupies a <a href="http://www.cornellpress.cornell.edu/cup_detail.taf?ti_id=4441">global arena</a> in which it acts without being an actor. That is to say militancy exists as a global agent by virtue of sacrifices that are amplified in the media and mirrored around the world without the benefit of political leadership and institutions, since even Osama bin Laden exists for his Muslim admirers as nothing more than a media icon. Whatever their local causes or consequences, therefore, such acts represent the <a href="http://www.cornellpress.cornell.edu/cup_detail.taf?ti_id=4441">democratisation of sovereignty</a> in a global arena lacking sovereign power of its own. This sovereignty is exercised by individuals of all descriptions through the ostentatious sacrifice of their own lives as well as the lives of others in the name of a community and a cause that remain invisible everywhere but on television. </p> <p> What is the future of sovereignty in the global arena? How might it be attached to a set of institutions and a form of politics that does not as yet exist there? Why has religion come to provide the only vocabulary we have to describe this new world? Such are the questions that militancy poses and will in all likelihood proceed to answer. About these questions the moderates have nothing to say. </p> openSecurity Conflict Ideas conflicts faith & ideas democracy & terror europe & islam Faisal Devji Creative Commons normal religion Thu, 18 Oct 2007 18:10:57 +0000 Faisal Devji 34861 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Dubai cosmopolis https://www.opendemocracy.net/globalization-vision_reflections/dubai_cosmopolis_4543.jsp <p> As the images of planes crashing into the twin towers of New York&#39;s World Trade Center were relayed across the world on 11 September 2001, throngs of shoppers stopped to watch this spectacle on the television monitors of Dubai&#39;s many malls. Surrounded by American fast-food outlets, and clutching just-bought items of American fashion like the baseball caps that are worn with Arab robes, these spectators cheered as if they were American fans watching a sporting event. What did this celebration mean for the prosperous citizens of the United Arab Emirates, a country that is not only an American ally but in love with American commodities and culture? A country where Twin Towers and World Trade Centers continue to be built, looking now like the growing children of a fallen parent? </p> <p> Whatever the reasons for their unseemly cheering as the events of 9/11 unfolded on television, the shoppers of Dubai were not manifesting anti-American sentiments because of their economic deprivation, nor out of hatred for the west. They were not even motivated by Arab or Islamic politics, since that now familiar entity, the &quot;Arab street&quot;, does not in fact exist in Dubai. Like other members of the United Arab Emirates (<a href="https://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/ae.html" target="_blank">UAE</a>), this wealthy principality has a resident population that is overwhelmingly non-Arab, also possessing therefore a substantial non-Muslim component. So perhaps what happens in Dubai should be judged by the city&#39;s very lack of Arabs and Muslims, which is perhaps why its citizens celebrated 9/11 in the way they did, as the vicarious members of a virtual community. Indians are the real national majority in Dubai, accounting for some 66% of its population, and are alone in occupying every rank in its society. </p> <p> Emiratis themselves only comprise some 10% of their country&#39;s populace, though by law they dominate all public-sector enterprises there. Yet even the Arab domination of Dubai&#39;s public sector is due to an unusual policy of &quot;emiratisation&quot; or affirmative action for the ruling minority, whose standards of living have been in relative decline over the last few years. Lacking the educational background and professional qualifications of the foreign experts who manage their country, let alone the skills of the labourers and technicians who make it function, Emiratis are now being reserved positions in private sector enterprises as well. Though they do not possess the numbers to displace foreigners from either public or private sector, Emiratis can no longer afford to live on state subsidies or on fees paid to be the local partners of foreign companies. It has also become clear that the presence of many successful businessmen among the Emiratis is no substitute for a ruling race, one whose dominance must be secured by quotas, and whose purity safeguarded by restrictions on intermarriage. </p> <p> While the travails of this ruling minority are curious enough, much more interesting is the society they are part of. What does it mean that the most vibrant part of the middle east, in economic terms at least, is not in fact middle eastern? This paradoxical situation, or rather the novel society it brings to light, makes Dubai far more intriguing than its wealth or vulgarity might suggest. For it reveals to us one of the few societies not founded upon nationality. With a small number of locals outnumbered many times over by a large number of outsiders, most of whom are barred from becoming citizens of the UAE, the nation-state remains nothing but a mirage in Dubai&#39;s desert. The implications of this astonishing fact are far-reaching, and inform everything from the role of Islam to that of global capitalism in the region. </p> <div class="pull_quote_article"> <div class="pull_quote"> <p> <strong> <a href="http://www.newschool.edu/gf/centers/southasia/forum_faculty.htm" target="_blank">Faisal Devji</a> is assistant professor of history at New School University, New York. His writing includes Landscapes of the Jihad: Militancy, Morality, Modernity <a href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/" target="_blank">(C Hurst, 2005,</a> and <a href="http://www.cornellpress.cornell.edu/cup_detail.taf?ti_id=4441%29" target="_blank">Cornell University Press, 2005</a>) </strong> </p> <p> <strong>Also by Faisal Devji on openDemocracy:</strong> </p> <p> <strong>&quot;<a href="/conflict-terrorism/jihad_2768.jsp">Spectral voices: al-Qaida&#39;s world wide web</a>&quot;(19 August 2005)</strong> </p> <p> <strong>&quot;<a href="/conflict-terrorism/osama_3140.jsp">Osama bin Laden&#39;s message to the world</a>&quot; (21 December 2005) </strong> </p> <p> <strong>&quot;<a href="/conflict-terrorism/liberalism_3451.jsp">Back to the future: the cartoons, liberalism, and global Islam</a>&quot;<br /> (13 April 2006)</strong> </p> <p> <strong>&quot;<a href="/faith-europe_islam/pope_prophet_3940.jsp">Between Pope and Prophet</a>&quot; <br /> (26 September 2006)</strong> </p> </div> <p> <strong>The spirit of capitalism</strong> </p> <p> Dubai&#39;s cosmopolitanism rivals that of New York or London, the difference being that it is the local who&#39;s an exception here rather than the foreigner. But the privileges of Emirati citizenship can never become grounds for nationalist hysterics and xenophobia, as they sometimes do in Europe and America. Being itself a minority phenomenon, nationalism here cannot pitch itself against other minorities. Despite its huge numbers of immigrants, therefore, immigration as such is a non-issue in Dubai. However strong local feeling might be against the role that the United Kingdom and United States are playing in Afghanistan and Iraq, for example, the tens of thousands of Englishmen and Americans who live here have never become targets of general hostility. This is because nationality does not provide the basis for society in the UAE (see Faisal Devji, &quot;<a href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/1938f65e-b4bd-11db-b707-0000779e2340.html" target="_blank">Welcome to Dubai, the society that capitalism built</a>&quot;, <em>Financial Times</em>, 5 February 2007). </p> <p> Despite the regulations it imposes to give the impression of a national culture, Dubai plays host to what is possibly the most <a href="http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/10/19/news/dubai.php" target="_blank">diverse society</a> in the world. This was brought home to me on my frequent visits to Jumeirah Beach, whose clear waters get saltier by the day as desalination plants providing the city with its water continue to dump the salt they extract back into the Gulf - which is also where the fresh water thus produced is held in submarine reservoirs. All day until late afternoon the beach is populated by white-skinned sun-worshippers from places like Europe and north America. From about five in the evening it draws increasing numbers of Indians and Iranians, Pakistanis and Filipinos, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans and Arabs who&#39;re more interested in maintaining a lighter complexion. Women veiled in black from head to foot mingle with those in the skimpiest of bikinis, while Frenchmen in thongs bob alongside Afghans dressed in tunics and baggy trousers. Egyptian youths form human pyramids in the water, as if from some atavistic impulse, and Russians chat to each other while floating in circles. And in all this no language or ethnicity predominates. </p> <p> The Arab culture that is meant to give national form to a place like Dubai exists mostly in the form of advertising and commodities. It is to be found in the guise of leisure and entertainment, from <em>shisha</em> bars to desert safaris, whose designers, builders and consumers are generally foreigners. Similar is the use of Arabic in public life. From announcements on Emirates Airlines to street signs, Arabic serves as an exotic backdrop to the babble of Urdu, Russian, Persian and Tagalog that are the true languages of Dubai. Though it is possible to make one&#39;s way in the city using Hindi alone, there is only one common language here, English, which even local Arabs must use in their daily interactions with Chinese shopkeepers, Indian teachers and Iranian dentists. And rather than being diminished by the foreigner&#39;s length of residence in Dubai, this diversity is only compounded there, since even schooling is provided the children of migrant workers and expatriates according to British, Indian, Australian or Pakistani standards. </p> <p> Given the fragility of national culture, it is Islam that lends moral and legal substance to the UAE. This is manifested in disparate ways like banning alcohol and pork products for Muslims and pornography for everybody, forbidding the missionary activity of religions other than <em>Sunni</em> Islam and legitimating certain legal decisions by reference to the <em>sharia</em>. Rather like the Church of England, Islam is the state religion of the UAE, though professed in its official form by a minority of the country&#39;s residents. Unlike the Anglican church, however, Islam replaces rather than defines national history in Dubai. This is evident from the city&#39;s religious <a href="http://www.sheikhmohammed.co.ae/english/history/history_arch.asp" target="_blank">architecture</a>, with so many of its mosques built to imitate those from other Muslim lands, that I&#39;m inclined to think the emirate&#39;s only distinctive religious environment is the shopping-mall. To hear the call to prayer broadcast amidst the glass and marble of upmarket European shops, with American fast-food outlets set alongside prayer rooms, is surely a distinguishing feature of the Gulf. </p> <p> State-supported Islam functions like an iron mask meant to conceal the lack of a face, which is why not a single refinement in religious thinking, culture or practice has emerged from the UAE. In this respect Dubai is not the successor of medieval Baghdad, Cairo or Cordoba. There are, however, many attempts to make money from Islam in a global market where Dubai competes with countries like Malaysia, which is trying to corner the global market for <em>halal</em> food by patenting its standardisation and certification on the model of kosher food. While Malaysia is rushing to become a &quot;<em>halal</em> hub&quot;, Dubai is competing with London to become the hub for another moneymaking enterprise called Islamic banking that is estimated to be worth hundreds of billions of dollars. This offshoot of a mythical discipline called Islamic economics emerged during the dictatorship of <a href="http://www.storyofpakistan.com/person.asp?perid=P020" target="_blank">Zia ul-Haq</a> in Pakistan, as part of his effort to legitimise his rule in Islamic terms while gaining Saudi backing at the same time. </p> <p> Founded by Pakistanis but now disseminated by big business the world over, <a href="http://www.islamic-banking.com/ibanking/whatib.php" target="_blank">Islamic banking</a> is motivated on the one hand by perfectly genuine concerns over ethical investments and market practices, including abstaining from deals involving the manufacture or sale of alcohol and pork products. All this is quite in tune with the kind of ethical investment schemes already available in the west. On the other hand Islamic banking means abstaining from usury, incorrectly but popularly defined as interest. Of course it is impossible to operate in a capitalist market without either taking or giving interest at some level, so a great many euphemisms and often tortuous evasions are required to hide this fact, often to the financial detriment of those purchasing such <em>sharia</em>-compliant services - though of course to the benefit of its vendors. </p> <p> Islam is in fact as modern as anything else <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/travel/destinations/2006-10-23-dubai-mosque-tours_x.htm" target="_blank">in Dubai</a>. Or rather Islam is more modern than anything else in the emirate, because like other religions it is the first institution to adopt new technologies and make itself at home in them. But of course it will survive long after these novelties have disappeared. One needs look no further than the veil that has fascinated and repulsed the west for so long to see how this happens. Unlike the <em>burqas</em> and <em>chadors</em> worn by poor women in other parts of the Muslim world, it is clear that its various forms, like the <em>abaya</em>, worn in the UAE are statements of fashion as much as anything else. Not only is there a plethora of changing styles for what might appear at first glance to be a standard garment, but veils are also very obviously part of an economy of seduction. </p> <p> Emphasising as they do the body&#39;s visible extremities, such clothes are often worn by women with heavily made-up eyes, painted lips, bright nail polish, hennaed hands or feet and eye-catching footwear. Veils allow these parts of a woman&#39;s body to become fetishes, and indeed there is nothing so overpoweringly feminine as the heavily perfumed, painted and bejewelled Muslim woman to be found strolling the corridors of Dubai&#39;s many <a href="http://www.datadubai.com/dubai-culture/shopping/shopping-malls/" target="_blank">shopping-malls</a>. But then veils have been the garments of seduction for centuries, with a vast literature dedicated to their allure. It is this, rather than any misogynist prescription of modesty or invisibility, that accounts for their enduring popularity in certain quarters. </p> <p> In any case the habit is a sign of modernity not tradition, because it has put an end to the physical segregation of the sexes by allowing women to move about in relative freedom enveloped in their own cocoons of privacy. Indeed the veil permits its wearer to do things that many unveiled women would find impossible, like holding hands with their husbands in public or mingling with half-naked men at the beach. And of course what lies under the veil is often the most daring of European fashion. Instead of the familiar western distinction between a secular appearance in public and a religious one in private, we find the reverse in Dubai, with tradition signified in public and modernity in private. Instead of being kept at arm&#39;s length or reserved for the outside world, the west becomes the most intimate part of a Muslim woman&#39;s inner life. </p> <p> <strong>Love&#39;s labour lost</strong> </p> <p> Rather than seeing all this as some failure of modernity, the elimination of nationhood as a basis for identity, as well as the capitalisation of religion as a replacement for it, might be viewed as the portent of a global future. For Dubai is the closest thing to a society organised by relations of capital. It is the nearest approximation of the urban and island communities that served as models in the early days of capitalism, from <a href="http://www.bl.uk/learning/histcitizen/21cc/utopia/more1/communal1/communal.html" target="_blank">Thomas More&#39;s Utopia</a> to Daniel Defoe&#39;s Robinson Crusoe. Unlike these model communities, however, Dubai exists as a temporary home for most of its residents, who therefore repatriate the money they earn from a country that will rarely grant them citizenship. New laws giving permanent residence to those who buy property have been designed to lure a certain class of person and investment here, but these are the very people who will flee Dubai at the first sign of trouble, and who are unlikely in any case to invest in the public welfare of its residents. The emirate&#39;s financial success is built, paradoxically, upon capital flight not capital investment.<strong> </strong> </p> <p> Because it is temporary, investment in Dubai is about short-term exploitation without much regard to social or ecological consequences, as so many of the emirate&#39;s grandiose building projects illustrate. What has resulted is the façade of a city, the urban version of a Potemkin village, much of which seems to be made out of cardboard. It is only in the older and poorer parts of Dubai that a genuine urban life can be glimpsed, in which pavements exist on which people walk and local businesses rather than international chains operate. Not that there is anything traditional about this, since <a href="http://www.sheikhmohammed.co.ae/english/dubai/dubai_old.asp" target="_blank">old Dubai</a> is as temporary as its younger sibling. It&#39;s just that the world of the clerk, labourer, petty merchant and shady operator has more autonomy and therefore creativity than that of the professional linked to an increasingly homogeneous corporate culture. The <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,,1708287,00.html" target="_blank">new city</a> is a kind of Disneyland, full of pretend urbanity and even pretend infrastructure like the enormous and expensive system of roads, which are not only choked with traffic and populated by maniacal drivers, but also badly designed despite their beautiful quality. </p> <p> Befitting a capitalist paradise, the UAE has a reputation for bad labour practices, with maids from the Philippines immured by their employers, and construction workers from Bangladesh labouring under harsh conditions. Recently there have been a number of disruptive protests by labourers who block highways, destroy company property or hold a manager hostage when they are not paid wages or deprived of water and electricity in the stifling desert camps where they are housed. These latter tend to be made up of hundreds of flimsy cabins, each one crowded with three or more workers, which have a tendency to burn down taking the lives and possessions of their inhabitants with them. Conditions at the <a href="http://hrw.org/reports/2006/uae1106/" target="_blank">workplace</a> tend to be just as bad, with many injured and killed in accidents. </p> <p> In these situations the government steps in promising to check conditions and impose penalties, though what they in fact do is act as mediators between management and labour. Companies are rarely if ever prosecuted even when they forcibly detain and beat their workers - who are rescued by police only to be deported. The UAE&#39;s labour <a href="http://www.mol.gov.ae/Pages-en/ForeignLabourerInstructions.aspx" target="_blank">regulations</a> are routinely flouted and insufficiently policed. So even when companies do observe the law requiring a three-hour rest period for those working outdoors during the intensely hot summer, they sometimes release their employees onto the streets, where they may be found lying on grassy verges in their hundreds, as if stupefied by temperatures soaring well above a hundred degrees. </p> <p> While strikes are forbidden the &quot;temporary&quot; workers who form the overwhelming majority of Dubai&#39;s labour, they seem to be occurring more and more, and now even among white-collar workers. The days of cheap and unregulated labour may in fact be coming to an <a href="http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/fn/4723215.html" target="_blank">end</a>, because of a more assertive workforce as well as rising wages and opportunities in their home countries. But if labour practices in the UAE are still bad enough to drive the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to distraction, this has little to do with any local tradition of exploitation. Indeed most of the companies involved in violations are based in countries with strong workers&#39; rights, and the managers in charge of labourers in Dubai are rarely locals. Even when it is a UAE company in charge of one of the gigantic, some would say megalomaniacal, building projects in the emirate, the actual work is sub-contracted to European or South Korean businesses, so that it is very difficult to determine where responsibility lies. From management to labour, everything here is outsourced. </p> <p> It remains to be seen if <a href="http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2007/03/25/uae15547.htm" target="_blank">government plans</a> to create some kind of collective organisation representing labourers will be address the mounting problems that it recognises in this sector of the economy. But whether they are for labour or for capital, laws and rights in the <a href="http://www.dm.gov.ae/portal/dt?desktop.suid=uid=ENanonymous,ou=People,o=public,dc=dm,dc=gov,dc=ae" target="_blank">city</a> are not phrased in the terms of national unity. Freed from cant about the greater good, workers and management here have recourse to a language beyond citizenship. It is not the greater good of the nation, but the good of the individual, as much as of humanity, that is invoked here. The kind of language that characterises relations of all kinds in Dubai is one that is private instead of public, particular instead of general and religious instead of secular. Even when the state intervenes to affirm the right of one or another of its subjects, it does so not to represent some national will, which indeed it cannot, but as an arbiter possessing its own very particular judgement. </p> <p> The state&#39;s judgment has little to do with neutrality, not because it is biased in some way, but because the emirate is unable to function as a third party at all. It is instead the first among equals as far as the great interests of Dubai are concerned. As owner, partner or large investor in almost all the big private companies that make their home here, the state acts as one owner, partner and investor among others. While this is not a phenomenon unique to Dubai, it has achieved an unprecedented success here, such that it is difficult to tell where the public sector ends and the private begins. This means that the state actually ends up competing with its own subjects - undercutting rival businesses or buying them out, rather than providing a congenial site for their work. It is, therefore, predator as much as protector of its subjects. </p> <p> As the most powerful private interest in a society of such interests, the state presides over a marketplace rather than a country. It is not surprising, then, that this city should be the capital of other societies without states. Somalia, for instance, which has been without a government for more than a decade, is even more of a marketplace than Dubai, though obviously a much poorer one. Like other African cities, <a href="/democracy-africa_democracy/mogadishu_4507.jsp" target="_blank">Mogadishu</a> is supplied with goods largely through the emirate. More than this, Dubai actually provides the base for Somalia&#39;s airlines and banking, so that we might say Somalia itself has been outsourced to the UAE to become a business like any other. </p> <p> Dubai functions as a technocracy rather than a democracy. To call it a monarchy is anachronistic despite a powerful ruling family, which exists as the simulacrum of monarchy. Having been granted their titles by imperial Britain, the <a href="http://www.worldstatesmen.org/United_Arab_Emirates.html" target="_blank">rulers of the UAE</a> derive their glamour from the vanished world of the Raj, while in fact working like presidents of corporations. Democracy is misplaced in Dubai, since it is only possible in a community of citizens. But if confining democracy to the small minority of Emiratis is nonsensical, offering citizenship to the country&#39;s majority is absurd, as it would entail the creation of a national culture and therefore proscribe the very diversity that makes Dubai possible. </p> <p> In today&#39;s international order democracy means citizenship, citizenship means nationality, and nationality means the creation of a majority. But there is no ethnic, linguistic, religious or even political majority in Dubai, and nor can there be one given its lack of political representation. This makes for a bizarre situation in which demographic majorities and minorities do not translate into majority and minority interests or even consciousness. Though they are the largest national group in Dubai, for example, and probably the only one to occupy every rung of Dubai&#39;s class ladder, Indians neither think of themselves as a majority nor behave like one even in ways that are strictly non-political. One finds fewer signs in Hindi or Malayalam here than in London. </p> <p> <strong>Tempests in a teapot</strong> </p> <p> If democratic representation does not characterise political life in Dubai, public opinion certainly does, in the form of newspapers, radio and a welter of professional and community associations. The lively debates through which public opinion in the city are registered are not of course regulated by national interest, though they do sometimes include national loyalties from elsewhere - thus the many letters in the local media by well-paid American expatriates complaining about anti-United States bias. But unchained from the politics of citizenship, even these everyday loyalties luxuriate into strange growths. So the terrorist attacks on Mumbai&#39;s commuter trains in July 2006 were followed by at least three letters in one of Dubai&#39;s English-language newspapers pointing to the remarkable assistance that the city&#39;s residents rendered each other - but only to disprove a <em>Reader&#39;s Digest </em>poll some weeks previously that had named Mumbai one of the world&#39;s rudest cities. </p> <p> Pakistani and Egyptian taxi-drivers will tell you of the bigotry they have started to experience following the arrival of the most recent group of expatriates: whites from Britain, Australia or South Africa. And highly educated professionals of Indian or Pakistani origin, often themselves British or American citizens, express their shock at the overt racism they face from their new compatriots. But then many of these white expatriates have been imported to Dubai precisely because they are white, and come to hold jobs and enjoy lifestyles here that their class and qualifications would bar them from at home. Their contribution to the city is their colour, which fetches a high price in the bazaar, as white slaves always had in the region because of their rarity. They are, in this sense, the most racial group in the UAE. </p> <p> Even racism, then, has become an effect of advertising and the market, with members of the master race being mere servants at another level. This is also why racism here is not founded upon a code of silence or denial but forms the subject of lively debate. Rather than have liberal and conservative factions of a dominant ethnic group argue over race relations, with a few minority voices thrown in, as is done in Europe and America, there is no racial majority here, or at least not a dominant one, so the newspapers are full of letters from all sides of the racial divide. </p> <p> Here is a story from summer 2006. Someone writes to a local newspaper wondering why the city&#39;s Lebanese populace seems to have adopted the Brazilian colours as a kind of uniform during the soccer world cup. He suggests that these young men are a rather mercenary lot because they support a strong team only so that they can enjoy a vicarious triumph, something that they are obviously unable to do as Lebanese citizens. In response arrive a number of letters pointing out that since more Lebanese live in Brazil than in Lebanon itself, it makes perfect sense for them to support Brazil. The fact that the first writer did not know this fact, he is told, is because he is an arrogant westerner who takes his ignorance for wisdom. In any case, he is reminded, it is common for people whose national teams are not playing in the world cup to support another. </p> <p> More common than tales of racial discrimination are the relations of prejudice that structure social life in Dubai. These are often harmless, so the notion that Chinese are hardworking, for instance, is unlikely to effect them negatively in Dubai, just as the perception that Emiratis are lazy is unlikely to disadvantage them either. While everyone everywhere entertains stereotypes about other ethnic groups, these are generally cut across by the language of citizenship - which itself is often racially marked. But without ties of citizenship, only those of contract and prejudice bind as well as separate the disparate groups making up the population of the UAE. Stereotype, in other words, is as much a unifying factor in the city as a divisive one, since in the absence of a common or even a dominant nationality, it provides the only cultural background for social relations there. Prejudices are so highly developed in Dubai that they become signs of intimacy rather than estrangement. </p> <p> A good illustration is provided by the story of Lebanese fans during the world cup. Exchanges over their allegedly mercenary practice of supporting the stronger team continued for weeks in the newspapers. Once Italy had won the cup, a writer with an Anglo-Saxon name sent in a letter beginning with this sentence: &quot;Congratulations to Lebanon on securing another remarkable World Cup victory. Particularly amazing after being knocked out at the Quarter, then Semi final stage&quot;. In response the next day came a letter wondering at the obsession with Lebanese fan behaviour, which was put down to the first writer&#39;s shock at no longer being part of a dominant majority: &quot;Maybe because the only place you saw apart from the suburbs of England is Dubai&quot;. What struck me about this response was its attribution of English nationality to the first writer. Why not American, Australian or South African? I suspect because his Englishness was derived from his wit. </p> <p> That prejudice may be the product of knowledge rather than ignorance, and signal intimacy instead of estrangement, is an important point and one repeatedly borne out by the humour and sophistication with which it occurs in Dubai. Witness another exchange of letters. First, a lengthy complaint from &quot;a non British who is tired of people ruining the name of Asians&quot;, about a Pakistani couple boarding a flight to England so that the pregnant wife could give birth there and claim benefits. The letter ends with the words: &quot;I can tell you what lazy, ungrateful spongers some of these immigrants can be&quot;. The next day&#39;s newspaper carried two responses, one from a British &quot;expat for life&quot; who agreed entirely and vowed never to return, and the other by a Pakistani refuting &quot;the Indian person&quot; and ending with: &quot;I think the person must have been referring to an Indian passenger as I believe the security apparatus in India at airports is very lax and the butt of many a joke&quot;. </p> <p> But intimacy comes in many forms, and among these the sexual one enjoys a high profile in this emirate. In a masculine population swollen to an absolute majority by large numbers of migrant male workers, sexual services are bought and sold as well as being forcibly procured. This city, which bans all material deemed pornographic, is nevertheless home to the most bewildering array of prostitutes. From Russian &quot;Natashas&quot; in the seedier hotels of Bur Dubai, to Filipina streetwalkers whose nocturnal pacing is watched by off-work Keralan men with hands wedged firmly in trouser pockets, sex workers are everywhere. Even shopping-malls, whose air-conditioned passages surely provide Dubai with its true public spaces, accommodate prostitutes who advertise and make assignations by mobile-phone. </p> <p> Yet the smallest sexual infraction with a &quot;respectable&quot; woman of any class or nationality often meets with swift reprisal, from jail terms to deportation. Indeed if labour practices in Dubai are unlikely to give the ILO much cheer, its laws on sexual harassment are as stringent as any a feminist would wish for. There are news items every other day about men in shops who use the cameras in their mobile-phones to look up women&#39;s skirts while supposedly bending to glance at products on bottom shelves. A woman squatting on a public toilet only realised she was being filmed by a camera-phone held above her head when it suddenly rang and she looked up to see an arm being quickly withdrawn. </p> What is interesting about acts of this kind is that they all have to do with the desire for privacy. Rather than purchasing the services of a prostitute or pornography from the black market, these men are interested in gaining access to some very personal image of privacy that would be adjudged as having little or no sexual content in the market. Though occurring for the most part in shopping-malls, such acts seem opposed to the market in sex and other commodities that makes Dubai what it is. The mobile-phone, which offers a prosthetic intimacy in any case, has simply had its range extended, allowing it to scan a privacy that can never be experienced. </div> <p> <strong>Calling at all ports</strong> </p> <p> Dubai is heir to a long history of free ports, from Zanzibar to Hong Kong. Such places have always provided the junctions along which international capital flowed. The city in fact is only the latest of the many ports that have garnered extraordinary riches in the region&#39;s past. It is the successor to Aden, not so long ago a vibrant and cosmopolitan centre that connected India to Britain. These city-states are also essential to the global capital of tomorrow. So Dubai is not only crucial in opening up the ex-Soviet republics of central Asia to business, it is also singularly important to countries already integrated into the global market. </p> <p> This was brought home to me when I found myself on an Air Tajikistan flight between Delhi and Dushanbe a couple of years ago. The aircraft had originated in Sharjah and was bound for Moscow, so Tajikistan itself was only a pit-stop for its national carrier. What made the connection between these disparate cities possible? Goods from around the world were being re-exported from the UAE to India, central Asia and Russia. Buyers and sellers were moving between countries. And middle-class Indian students shut out from western universities by cost, and from Indian ones by quotas and competition, were travelling in the cheapest way possible from places like the Smolensk Medical Institute to the provincial towns from whence they came. </p> <p> The importance that a small place like Dubai has for its much larger neighbours is nowhere more evident than in its relations with India. The Persian Gulf provides a huge country like India, Dubai&#39;s largest trading partner, with the bulk of its diasporic capital in the form of labour remittances. It also keeps India&#39;s national airline financially viable by ferrying these labourers back and forth. More than this the Gulf provides the world&#39;s largest film industry, Bollywood, with one of its major markets. And this is not even to mention the fact that many of the sub-continent&#39;s crime syndicates operate out of here. </p> <p> Among other things Dubai serves as the transit point for pirated DVDs and other goods that are not allowed to move legally between India and Pakistan. In this sense it serves to repair the economic links between Mumbai and Karachi, as well as between the Ganges and the Indus, that were severed with the partition of British India in 1947. Indeed given the numbers of Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis who live here, Dubai has even managed to reproduce the Raj by bringing its dispersed inhabitants to live together as they do nowhere else in the world. </p> <p> Media attention has focused on Dubai as a place full of marvels, indeed as a modern version of the marvellous East. But it is better viewed as a junction for traffic of all kinds. In this age of closed and patrolled borders, Dubai represents a highly monitored but remarkably open invitation to the world, though not of course an invitation to everyone. This is a city that plans to attract visitors who will outnumber its own shifting population by more than ten times. It lives by re-exporting not only automobiles and electronic goods, but also Russian dancers, Philippine lounge singers and British DJ&#39;s, who are now fixtures in every Asian city worth its name. </p> <p> Along with its Gulf neighbours Dubai even recycles the United States. Thus the fashion of building scaled down versions of the White House, which began in Kuwait after the first Gulf war and was exported throughout the region, as well as to places like Karachi. Here entire neighbourhoods are filled with White House knock-offs, their pediments inscribed with gilded phrases from the Qur&#39;an. But Dubai re-exports itself as much as it does the rest of the world, and may now be found in special economic zones all over the world. Yet the most important thing it recycles is a new kind of global society beyond the reach of nationality. </p> <p> <strong>The future of an illusion</strong> </p> <p> There are those who say the excessive publicity Dubai now receives, as well as its transformation into a destination for mass tourism, signal the end of its moment in the sun of global innovation. The energy and undoubted vision of its rulers in transforming this small port in the long-distance dhow trade crossing the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean must be acknowledged. From a town catering to pirates and pearl divers, Dubai has become one of the world&#39;s richest cities. But it is true that scale and vulgarity appear to be the only things that characterize the emirate&#39;s latest developments. </p> <p> There is nothing innovative about the environmentally destructive and financially risky obsession with tourism, conventions and sports tournaments, all of which would dry up at the first sign of trouble in this volatile region. Even without a war or terrorist incident, however, Dubai cannot remain fashionable for long, since unlike a Paris or a London it has nothing to offer visitors sheer novelty apart, and this too is now entering a blowsy phase. Not all the luxury in the world will prevent fashions from changing and taking the celebrities this city woos elsewhere, followed in short order by the package tourists. </p> <p> More dangerous is the possibility that Dubai&#39;s success today may be putting its future in peril. Quite apart from the threat posed by the spiralling costs of housing and commodities that will eventually reach the all-important labour sector, Dubai&#39;s latest fixation, property speculation fuelled by a construction boom, threatens to wipe out every attempt to create other forms of value. For instance eminently worthwhile efforts to make the city a hub for international media, medicine or e-commerce seem not to have borne fruit, with much-hyped projects like Dubai&#39;s Media City becoming zones for yet more property speculation. </p> <p> Similarly, prestigious institutions like Harvard&#39;s medical school appear to operate here only as businesses, transferring services for cash rather than knowledge for development. Like upmarket European and American shops in the city&#39;s malls that send only their second-rate goods to Dubai, these prestigious institutions seem to be interested only in flogging their least successful products here. But how can it be otherwise given the abysmal quality of so much higher education in Dubai, where a number of plush universities function with ranks of indifferent faculty and students? </p> <p> Yet it is precisely in sectors like higher education, now a huge growth industry as the establishment of profit-based British and American universities in Dubai demonstrates, that the emirate can take a lead. Dubai might easily become a hub for medicine, technology or design serving not only the entire middle east, but also south Asia and much of Africa. The fact that it has not yet become a centre for such enterprises, not even for publishing or music in the Arabic language, is surely a sign of the real failure behind Dubai&#39;s apparent success. For like many of the now-vanished cities of hurried riches before it, Dubai is still stuck in the first phase of an economic miracle and has been unable to entrench its gains at the next one. </p> <p> Property speculation is the biggest business in Dubai today, and not only has the whole city been transformed into a construction site, but artificial islands in fanciful shapes are also being dredged out of the sea to provide more sites for speculation. Such speculation, of course, is not limited to the UAE, with companies like Emaar now taking on gigantic building projects in Turkey and Lebanon (where it rebuilds Beirut after each war) as well as in Pakistan and India. This is already a big jump from old-fashioned investments in prestige properties abroad, which still continue to buy Dubai financial security as much as political influence in London or New York. </p> <p> Despite all the talk of economic diversification, the city does not produce value but remains a site for the adding of value. And for all its boasts about an economy that is not based on oil, Dubai depends precisely on cheap oil to keep its economy growing. It is still only a junction after all, and so at the mercy of financial speculators, such that the mere rumour of Saudi Arabia opening up its stock exchange is enough to wipe hundreds of millions of dollars off Dubai&#39;s market. While it is an extraordinary city by any measure, Dubai is caught in a time warp with nothing to offer but &quot;bigger, better and more of the same&quot;. For innovation in the region we need look no further than Qatar, which changed the world with a single product - <a href="/globalization-vision_reflections/aljazeera_qatar_4466.jsp">Al-Jazeer</a><a href="/globalization-vision_reflections/aljazeera_qatar_4466.jsp">a</a>. This is the kind of productivity that should represent the next phase of Dubai&#39;s future. </p> <p> In the everyday lives of its residents Dubai&#39;s novelty displays itself as tradition, and it is this taming of the new in habitual acts that gives the city its charm. One would think that such quotidian practices have been going on for centuries, as indeed they have in various forms, even if elsewhere and among other people. One of the most charming moments of Dubai&#39;s traditional life comes when dusk falls across the Creek. As neon signs and naked bulbs flicker on in the twilight, the drone of motors heralds the return of Keralan clerks and Punjabi shop assistants, seated in rows on the wooden boats ferrying them home. Not far from where they disembark, the cathedral mosque receives Yemeni and Pakistani worshippers, streaming into its ablution hall while the call to prayer sounds out. And just behind the mosque is a Hindu temple, into which proceed Sindhi and Gujarati women clad in saris, some bearing coconuts and others with handkerchiefs fastidiously tucked in at their waists. Devotees of both faiths mingle briefly before disappearing each into their house of worship. </p> <p> These humdrum practices are familiar to me from my childhood on the east African coast. If I recognise them here it is not only because Dubai and <a href="/themes/article.jsp?id=3&amp;articleId=1533" target="_blank">Zanzibar</a> partake of the same history but also because such traditions are themselves mobile and not firmly attached to places - having escaped the clutches of national culture thus far. The fact that communities can migrate with their traditions and reconstitute them in different places and among different peoples makes these histories as modern and as flexible as the latest technological habit. For such traditions can coexist with others and include as many strangers as they exclude. It is the possibility of reconstituting everyday practices in this way that keeps them alive, allowing quotidian acts to naturalise the most novel of phenomena. I suspect it is this history of tradition outside the nation-state, rather than any system of governance, that makes Dubai the stable and peaceable society it is, despite the extraordinary transformations it has undergone. </p> <p> Unlike the conservative role it plays in nation-states, tradition in the UAE functions not to forge a non-existent nationality, but to accommodate and naturalise change. In this sense it is in fact the most modern thing about a place like Dubai. This is a modernity that the official culture of the emirate tries desperately to colonise. My favourite example of such a colonised tradition is camel-racing, surely one of the great symbols of the UAE&#39;s Arab past. After receiving a great deal of criticism for the use of kidnapped or indentured child jockeys in this most traditional of sports, Dubai banned the practice only to replace the Indian or Pakistani boys with remote-controlled robots. And so a supposedly archaic custom was transformed into the most high-tech race in the world, one in which the animal element was combined with robotics to produce a cyborg. The use of remote-controlled robots in camel-racing also transforms this sport into a monstrous video game, becoming therefore the perfect example of Dubai&#39;s prosthetic modernity. </p> Globalisation middle east institutions & government visions & reflections Faisal Devji Creative Commons normal Best of 2007 Wed, 18 Apr 2007 23:00:00 +0000 Faisal Devji 4543 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Between Pope and Prophet https://www.opendemocracy.net/faith-europe_islam/pope_prophet_3940.jsp Muslims' response to Pope Benedict's address at Regensburg is a fresh chapter in the arrival of global Islam on the world's political stage, says Faisal Devji.<p>Pope Benedict XVI&#39;s citation of a medieval text disparaging the Prophet Mohammed, in his <a href="http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2006/september/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20060912_university-regensburg_en.html" target="_blank">address</a> at the University of Regensburg on 12 September 2006, has allowed Muslims across the world to mount yet another spectacle of their religion&#39;s globalisation. </p><p>The statements, demonstrations and acts of violence fuelling this controversy do not match the scale of those protesting the Danish caricatures of Islam&#39;s founder in February-March 2006. But the fact that they should have occurred so soon afterwards, and so much more rapidly, is telling given that nearly twenty years separated the cartoon controversy from the first spectacle of Islam&#39;s globalisation, which had as its cause the publication of <a href="http://www.contemporarywriters.com/authors/?p=auth87" target="_blank">Salman Rushdie&#39;s</a> novel <em>The Satanic Verses</em> in 1988. </p><p>That all these spectacles are concerned with the portrayal of the Prophet Mohammed, rather than with any adverse treatment meted out to Muslims, their mosques or even the Qur&#39;an, is not accidental. The prophet thus defended is not a religious personage so much as a model for Muslim identification, which is why it is not blasphemy that is at issue here but defamation, as is clear from the rhetoric of protesters throughout the Islamic world. </p>Moreover, <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/faith-europe_islam/mohammed_3866.jsp">Mohammed</a> brings his followers together in this way because he represents a community whose global presence is mediated neither by any religious nor any political authority, which is quite unlike Roman Catholicism in this respect. Despite the political uses made of these controversies by Muslim leaders, the prophet does not serve merely as a channel for the political <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/faith-europe_islam/grievance_3889.jsp">grievances</a> of his devotees, but instead permits them a global voice for the first time in Islam&#39;s history. <p class="pullquote-right"><b> <a href=http://www.newschool.edu/gf/centers/southasia/forum_faculty.htm target=_blank>Faisal Devji</a> is assistant professor of history at New School University, New York. His writing includes Landscapes of the Jihad: Militancy, Morality, Modernity <a href=http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/ target=_blank>(C Hurst, 2005,</a> and <a href=http://www.cornellpress.cornell.edu/cup_detail.taf?ti_id=4441) target=_blank>Cornell University Press, 2005</a>) </b></p> <p> Also by Faisal Devji on openDemocracy:</p> <p>"<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/conflict-terrorism/jihad_2768.jsp">Spectral voices: al-Qaida's world wide web</a>"(19 August 2005)</p> <p>"<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/conflict-terrorism/osama_3140.jsp">Osama bin Laden's message to the world</a>" (21 December 2005) </p> <p>"<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/conflict-terrorism/liberalism_3451.jsp">Back to the future: the cartoons, liberalism, and global Islam</a>"<br /> (13 April 2006)</p> <p><strong>Globalisation&#39;s addicts</strong> </p><p>As the slender reed upon which global Islam rests, the prophet becomes also a lightning-rod for any perceived insult. In fact such insults are even required to provoke the spectacle of Islam&#39;s globalisation and thus allow Muslims to see themselves as actors on a planetary stage, perhaps because they tend to have so little voice in the running even of their own countries. </p><p>Furthermore, these insults have themselves become global to the degree that Muslim demonstrators take offence at books, images and speeches only as they are represented in the media, and not as texts to be consulted in their own right. By refusing to consider these texts in their original form, to say nothing of the contexts in which they portray the prophet, Muslim protesters point to the irrelevance of such origins. Their anger is informed by the very media portrayals it is directed against, and is unrelated to the intention of their authors. </p><p>When authors like Rushdie or <a href="http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/index.htm" target="_blank">Pope Benedict XVI</a> are made responsible for the offensive portrayals of Mohammed circulated in the media, they are attacked not as individuals but as the media-enhanced representatives of abstractions like the west, Christendom or Zionism. However involuntary this representation may appear, the task of Muslim protest is to compel such individuals to take responsibility for its global effects. </p><p>Indeed such protest is concerned with holding specific persons or groups accountable for these geographically dispersed and institutionally unmoored abstractions, as if to demonstrate thereby the universal inter-connectedness that globalisation makes possible. So it is a fitting irony that these Muslims arguably attend more closely to the pope&#39;s words, and even expect more of him, than many Catholics themselves do.</p><p>As with the previous spectacles of <a href="http://www.cornellpress.cornell.edu/cup_detail.taf?ti_id=4441" target="_blank">Islam&#39;s globalisation</a>, demonstrations against the pope&#39;s words have secular rather than religious meaning, because they are occasioned only by the &quot;hurt&quot; caused to Muslim feeling and make no claims about the truth of Mohammed&#39;s revelation. By recognising this hurt and responding to it in as secular a manner, the pope undercut his own speech on the relationship of faith and reason at Regensburg University by showing how difficult it is to use religious language outside sectarian borders. </p><p>On the other side, the more violently that Muslims protested, the less secular their hurt became, since its expression now damaged the very image of Mohammed&#39;s character that his followers sought to defend. In other words, by damaging their own cause these Muslims took leave of secular reason without adopting a particularly religious reasoning in the process. Maybe this is how the relationship of faith and reason that Benedict XVI had addressed at Regensburg University manifests itself outside the academic institutions of rich European democracies.</p><p>An even more interesting feature of the secularisation of Muslim protest is its overwhelming rejection of the language of law. Whether marked as sacred or profane, the vocabulary of legal transgression and punishment has been left unpronounced, and there have been no <em>fatwas</em> issued as in the Rushdie affair. It is also significant that <em>jihad</em>, which the pontiff had referred to in his speech, has not been declared against him; this illustrates the multiple ways in which Muslim protest is manifested globally. </p><p>As with the Danish cartoon controversy, Muslim anger at the pope&#39;s citation does not follow the al-Qaida line, and in fact puts it quite in the shade by setting another kind of agenda for Islam&#39;s globalisation. After all, the pope was asked for an <a href="http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/09/097d1766-3606-4fe3-ba2a-c73b94f93e59.html" target="_blank">apology</a> so that forgiveness might be extended him. However coercive in its violence, this Muslim demand can be taken as an invitation to the kind of dialogue that Benedict XVI called for in his speech, and it should be seized upon as an opportunity by all concerned. The meeting held at the Vatican between the pope and diplomatic representatives from Muslim states on 25 September 2006 is a notable <a href="http://www.zaman.com/?bl=international&amp;alt=&amp;trh=20060926&amp;hn=36819" target="_blank">development</a> in this regard. </p><p>Contrition and forgiveness are of course religious acts, which is why their entirely secular deployment in this controversy becomes significant. If it is not before God but Muslims worldwide that the pope is meant to repent, and not from God but these Muslims that he is to receive forgiveness, then nothing separates such contrition from that expressed by the Hollywood actor <a href="http://www.beliefnet.com/index/index_525.html" target="_blank">Mel Gibson</a> for anti-Semitic remarks. </p><p>Yet there is a difference here that goes beyond the fact of Muslim violence, which is that <a href="http://www3.undpress.nd.edu/exec/dispatch.php?s=title,P00581" target="_blank">ethics</a> provide the only language for dialogue in a global arena whose lack of political institutions stands in contradiction to humanity&#39;s increasing <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/globalization-vision_reflections/interdependence_3658.jsp">interdependency</a>. How else was the head of the world&#39;s largest religious organisation to communicate with Muslims belonging to many organisations or none at all? Certainly not by way of international organisations like the United Nations, which exist only to express the voice of nation-states. </p><p><strong>The longing for Christianity</strong></p><p>If Muslim anger appears to be so raw, this is because it voices a global presence that remains as yet unmediated by any institution or authority. And if Muslim hurt appears so intensely felt, this is because it expresses disappointment at the supposed lapse of a religious leader who had otherwise enjoyed considerable respect in the world of Islam. </p><p>If not the pope himself, then certainly his title evokes for many Muslims as well as Hindus and others a specifically Christian aura of otherworldliness and sanctity, one that leads them to expect a different kind of language from him. This is why Benedict XVI&#39;s alleged <a href="http://www.beliefnet.com/frameset_offsite.asp?pageloc=http://www.cathnews.com/news/203/19.php" target="_blank">lapse</a> into what seemed to be common prejudice was so shocking for Muslims, who (as it were) overheard the pope speak of their prophet, since he did not choose to address them while doing so. </p><p>That such a reaction has not even been afforded President Bush, despite his much-resented talk of a &quot;crusade&quot; in the immediate <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010916-2.html" target="_blank">aftermath</a> of 9/11, bears testimony to the specificity of Muslim disappointment in Benedict XVI. It is as if the protesters were acknowledging, with sadness as much as anger, that the pope too had to be included in the ranks of those who would defame their religion. </p><p>What is extraordinary, given the steady diet they are fed by the militants among them of Christianity&#39;s crusading spirit, is that Muslims should have expected anything different. So it is in fact a hopeful sign that Muslims did not expect a description of Islam&#39;s violence from the head of a church that has contributed the words crusade and inquisition to our vocabulary. </p><p>Writing in the aftermath of the second world war, the political philosopher <a href="http://www.iep.utm.edu/a/arendt.htm" target="_blank">Hannah Arendt</a> commented on the Vatican&#39;s silence at the doings of Nazi Germany, a state with which Rome operated a concordat. Unlike those who would find the church as a whole culpable of collaborating with fascism, Arendt not only pointed to the many priests who risked and lost their lives defending its victims, she also made it clear that the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/debates/article.jsp?id=5&amp;debateId=127&amp;articleId=2402">Vatican</a> behaved in no way differently than any other state when it came to protesting the extermination of the Jews. But this precisely was Rome&#39;s greatest betrayal, to behave in a secular rather than a religious way, a betrayal that <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/globalization/arendt_deutscher_3813.jsp">Arendt</a> claimed lost the church an opportunity to renew its own mission, as much as that of religion in general for a humanity that so urgently required it. </p><p>It is this very betrayal of what they see as the church&#39;s mission that Muslims are protesting today, just as they have done before in celebrated instances like the Ayatollah Khomeini&#39;s message to <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/faith-catholicchurch/article_2399.jsp">Pope John Paul II</a> in 1979. However disingenuous such expectations might be, they derive rhetorical effect from the very real hope that even un-baptised populations have of the world&#39;s largest religious organisation. </p>It is the disappointment of this expectation that also gives rhetorical force to Muslim dissatisfaction with the speedy retractions and clarifications that have proceeded from the Vatican in response to their protests. For what appears to dissatisfy these protesters are precisely the secular remnants in the pontiff&#39;s carefully couched apologies. Yet if for all their rage, today&#39;s protesting Muslims have the audacity to expect Christian humility of the pope, this in no way contradicts Benedict XVI&#39;s own audacity in asserting the role of faith within a secular dispensation. Such indeed was the import of his address at Regensburg University. <p class="pullquote-right"></p><p><b>Also in openDemocracy on Pope Benedict's Regensburg address and the controversy it provoked: </b></p> <p>Tina Beattie, "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/faith-europe_islam/pope_jihad_3914.jsp">Pope Benedict XVI and jihad: beyond words</a>" <br />(18 September 2006) </p> <p>Ehsan Masood, "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/globalisation/pope_science_3918.jsp">Pope Benedict XVI: science is the real target</a>" <br />(19 September 2006)</p> <p>Michael Walsh, "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/faith-europe_islam/regensburg_3920.jsp">The Regensburg address: reason amid certainty</a>" (20 September 2006)</p> <p><strong>Faith and good faith</strong></p><p>A great deal has already been written about the complex role that Islam and its prophet play in the pontiff&#39;s now notorious quoted remark, to say nothing of the position that Jews and Protestants also occupy in it. What has so far gone unremarked is the pope&#39;s use of violence as a criterion to decide upon the truth of religion. </p><p>On the surface this is an extraordinary argument for <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/faith-catholicchurch/article_2441.jsp">Benedict XVI</a> to make, not only because it goes against centuries of Catholic tradition, but also because it is secular to the core. Violence can only become a criterion of religious truth, or rather of untruth, if it is separated from the argument of secular betterment. Non-violence, in other words, can demonstrate religious truth only if it is good in its own right quite apart from any reason of utility. And this is a promise the church does indeed possess in doctrines like the sanctity of life; though to be fulfilled, it needs to be extended from abortion and euthanasia to execution and war.</p><p>The point of this controversy is not that Muslims have misunderstood the pope, that Benedict XVI has misunderstood the Prophet Mohammed, or that either party has acted out of hatred and prejudice. However true or false any of these points may be, the controversy&#39;s great irony is that the pontiff&#39;s Muslim protesters should engage so fully with the argument of his speech. They did so not by providing an illustration of what happens when faith and reason are separated, but rather by demonstrating how difficult it is for anyone including the pope himself to move beyond the language of secularism. This indeed is the crisis of religion to whose resolution Benedict XVI has dedicated his papacy. </p><p>It is telling in this respect that the leader of a venerable church, the world&#39;s largest religious organisation, should broach the subject of religion&#39;s crisis by referring to Christianity&#39;s old rival, Islam. Whatever his intent in doing so, the pope&#39;s invocation of Mohammed is remarkable for the importance it accords the prophet, doing Islam a perverse honour thereby. </p><p>Has not Islam taken control of the language of faith by posing as its most fervent exemplar in the sacrificial spectacles of its globalisation? And was not this position held, not so long ago, by the Roman Catholic church, which gloried in the mystery of doctrines that surpassed reason? Today these mysteries, of transubstantiation and consubstantialism, to say nothing of papal infallibility, have been placed under the fervid star of Islam, even in Catholicism&#39;s European homeland. </p><p>But it is precisely this situation that makes the kind of dialogue Benedict XVI has called for at all possible, if only by showing us how intertwined these religions are with each other as well as with secularism. This dialogue can be seen occurring in the extraordinary importance that the pontiff&#39;s address accords the prophet and his revelation, as well as in the corresponding importance that Muslims have accorded the speech. But given that it is occurring among large masses of people in an uneven global arena lacking any institutions of its own, it would be foolish to expect such dialogue to be conducted in parliamentary or academic fashion. Indeed the pope himself has made it very clear - the Vatican meeting on 25 September notwithstanding - that he attaches little value to <a href="http://folk.uio.no/leirvik/Chrismusint.html" target="_blank">interfaith dialogue</a> of this kind. </p><p>In his Regensburg address, the pontiff described Europe as Christianity&#39;s <a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0906/p01s04-woeu.html" target="_blank">spiritual homeland</a>, though he knows of course that the majority of Christians, and indeed Catholics, live outside this partial continent. By explicitly forsaking the desire to return to Christianity&#39;s Asian origins, and even to &quot;the God of Abraham and Isaac&quot;, Benedict XVI could not have been so crude as to reject his religion&#39;s Jewish heritage. By criticising Muslim and Protestant attempts to recover the moral transcendence of this heritage, as signified in the story of Abraham&#39;s sacrifice - which, like the reference to Mohammed, was literally and metaphorically &quot;put in quotation marks&quot; by being cited from another text - he seemed only to be asking Christian Europe to remain true to <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-europe_security/article_359.jsp">its own past</a>. </p><p>But this Hellenistic past, the pope well knows, was shared by Judaism and Islam as much as it was by Christianity. Indeed this largely pagan heritage could be possessed by none of these religions because it was external to all three, and even to Europe itself within its current geographical boundaries. Might the pontiff&#39;s speech be heard as an invitation for Europe to contribute her own history to the dialogue of faith and reason, one in which all Europeans, however defined, could participate? </p><p>Perhaps this is too charitable a reading, but whatever the case, his <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/faith-europe_islam/regensburg_3920.jsp">boldness</a> in turning to Europe&#39;s pagan past requires more attention than has been given the pontiff&#39;s address even by his staunchest supporters. In yet another irony, then, the pope&#39;s radical agenda has been registered and taken most seriously by the Muslim protesters, whom Benedict XVI has to thank for the unprecedented interest that his speech has evoked among Roman Catholics themselves.</p><p>The universal interconnectedness that globalisation makes possible means that the dialogue called for by the pope has already begun. But despite the fact that it has the whole world as its stage, this dialogue possesses no space of its own, for being global in dimension it can be conducted neither in the seminary nor the <em>madrasa</em>, to say nothing of the university. </p><p>This is also a dialogue that finds no place in the national and international politics of our time. So it occurs on the street and in the media, in demonstrations and soundbites rather than in treatises and contracts. It is easy to find examples of such dialogue outside Europe, where this controversy has received some of the most acute press analysis, and I will conclude by citing one of these cases.</p><p class="pullquote-right"></p><p><b> Also in openDemocracy on themes related to Pope Benedict XVI's speech:</b></p> <p>Judith Herrin, "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-europe_security/article_359.jsp">How did Europe begin? </a>" <br />(4 July 2001)</p> <p>Patricia Crone, "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/faith-europe_islam/mohammed_3866.jsp">What do we actually know about Mohammed? </a>" <br />(31 August 2006)</p> <p><strong>The violence of dialogue</strong> </p><p>Indian and Pakistani Muslims were prominent by their presence in the global protests against the pope. And while both countries have a long record of contributing to international Islamic causes, this is by no means a uniform phenomenon. Pakistani Muslims, for instance, entered the Danish cartoon protests very late in the day, and certainly long after their Indian neighbours lost interest. </p><p>On the other hand the latter have never joined the <a href="http://www.cambridge.org/uk/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=0521791405" target="_blank">global <em>jihadi</em> movements</a> that so occupy Pakistani militants in any significant way. Both countries have a history of anti-Christian feeling, though in India it is <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy/article_504.jsp">Hindu militants</a> who are involved in attacks on this minority. In both countries, moreover, it is Protestant evangelicals in rural areas, both missionaries and converts, who come under fire, and not the long-established Catholic communities in urban settings. </p><p>Conversion and western licentiousness are generally the causes, actual or ostensible, of prejudice and violence against Christians in India and Pakistan, though even on these grounds they are targeted far less than other religious groups, mostly Muslims of one sort or another. In the immediate aftermath of the Danish cartoon protests, Catholics around the world, but especially in India and Pakistan, began their own much more peaceable demonstrations against the showing of a Hollywood film called <em>The</em> <em>Da Vinci Code</em>, which retold Christian history by claiming that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had married and produced a line of descendants who survive to this day. The villain of the piece is the Roman Catholic church, which (according to the film) has spent more then two millennia tracking down and killing Christ&#39;s descendants.</p><p>These Catholic demonstrations were clearly and explicitly inspired by Muslim protests over the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/faith-europe_islam/liberalism_3451.jsp">Danish cartoons</a>, in a startling illustration of how Islam has come to occupy the language of faith globally. Like Muslim as well as Hindu protests in the sub-continent, Catholic demonstrations express themselves using the secular vocabulary of hurt, making no claims to the religious veracity of their feelings. </p><p>What is more, these demonstrations were <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/4985370.stm" target="_blank">joined</a> by numbers of Muslims in both countries, with prominent Muslim clerics rallying their followers to support a cause they saw as being completely Christian. This support, in other words, was premised not on the fact that Muslims, too, were offended by the film&#39;s portrayal of Jesus (who is one of Islam&#39;s prophets), but on their sympathy for the hurt felt by their Christian compatriots.</p><p>While it was obvious that the Muslims who supported Catholic protesters in India and Pakistan, often against their own governments, did so for a complex set of reasons that might have included the assertion as much as the abnegation of self-interest, it is also true that in doing so they participated in an ethical dialogue with their Christian <a href="http://www.cambridge.org/uk/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=0521827035" target="_blank">neighbours</a>. One part of this dialogue was to show that unlike many Christians in the west, who had refused to acknowledge Muslim hurt during the cartoon controversy, they were entirely capable of sympathising with the followers of other religions. </p><p>In the end the offending film was banned in Pakistan as well as in a number of Indian states, without, it seems, endangering freedom of speech more generally. Abstract rights were sacrificed to <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/arts-multiculturalism/article_2204.jsp">concrete feelings</a> in a way that was constitutionally troubling while at the same time being socially ethical.</p><p>None of this meant, of course, that Christians and Muslims had suddenly become allies or even friends, only that a dialogue had been set in motion between them. So today, when the pope has become a target for Muslim ire, Catholics in India and Pakistan have to tread very carefully. All signs are, however, that they have responded in the ethical way that was demanded of them, though I do not mean by this that Roman Catholics have apologised to Muslims out of fear. </p>In India at least, where there is no history of Muslim-Christian violence, the pontiff&#39;s flock has announced its determination to endure the consequences of the controversy with fortitude, blaming neither pope nor prophet for their travails. Does not this expression of a truly Christian spirit illustrate in the most striking way the unity of faith and reason that Benedict XVI has called for?<br /><br /> Ideas faith & ideas europe & islam Faisal Devji Creative Commons normal Mon, 25 Sep 2006 23:00:00 +0000 Faisal Devji 3940 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Back to the future: the cartoons, liberalism, and global Islam https://www.opendemocracy.net/faith-europe_islam/liberalism_3451.jsp Muslim protests over the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed mark the arrival of a force challenging liberal democracy from the future: a global Islam that is inventing new forms of ethical and political practice for a global arena. Faisal Devji, author of "Landscapes of the Jihad", maps the trajectory of this ultra-modern phenomenon.<p>On 30 September 2005 the Danish newspaper <em>Jyllands-Posten</em> published a number of caricatures on the subject of Islam, Muslims and the Prophet Mohammed. It had solicited these as part of a competition in which cartoonists had been asked to address the supposed fear that Danes and other Europeans felt in depicting Islam critically. </p><p>In response to the publication Muslims in Denmark protested against some of the cartoons, such as that portraying Mohammed as a terrorist, with one group of protestors actively trying to gain the support of Muslim leaders in the middle east. The series of diplomatic and other representations made by Muslims to the Danish government during this period all resulted in the latter invoking the liberal principle of <a href="http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/freedom-speech/" target="_blank">freedom of expression</a> in defence of <em>Jyllands-Posten&#39;s</em> right to print such material. </p><p>By the end of the year this obscure event had snowballed into a global controversy, with Muslims the world over protesting, often violently, against Danish and other western interests in countries from Indonesia to Lebanon. In their non-violent aspect these demonstrations included a widespread boycott of Danish goods that was unprecedented in its extent. </p><p>Such events kept the cartoon controversy at the centre of global attention for many weeks, even pushing news from the war in Iraq off the front pages. But despite the extraordinary passions unleashed among the protestors as much as among their opponents, Muslim demonstrations had completely dissipated by <a href="http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/islam/muhammad_cartoons_timeline.html" target="_blank">March 2006</a>, leaving in their wake a state of universal confusion about what the crisis had all been about.</p><p><strong>A new global subject</strong></p><p>After the <a href="http://www.contemporarywriters.com/authors/?p=auth87" target="_blank">Salman Rushdie</a> affair of 1989, in which Muslims protested against the author&#39;s portrayal of Mohammed in his novel <em>The Satanic Verses</em>, the cartoon controversy was the second great manifestation of Islam&#39;s globalisation. Interestingly, both controversies revolved around the portrayal of Islam&#39;s prophet, and both were discussed in the west as threats to freedom of expression. </p><p>Now the debate on freedom of expression goes back to the origins of liberalism - or rather to the origins of the nation-state that is its political body. Sadly the terms of this debate also go back to the beginnings of liberalism, and are unable to encompass the radical novelty of the challenge that confronts it. Unlike the weight of tradition that loads down such debate, the illiberal character of Muslim protest is astonishingly modern in form. After all freedom of expression only has meaning within old-fashioned national states, because it protects the speech of one section of citizens against another, and even against the state itself. Muslim protests, on the other hand, have meaning in an <a href="http://www.cornellpress.cornell.edu/cup_detail.taf?ti_id=4441" target="_blank">absolutely new global context</a>. </p> <p class="pullquote-right"> <a href=http://www.newschool.edu/gf/centers/southasia/forum_faculty.htm target=_blank> Faisal Devji </a> is assistant professor of history at New School University, New York. <br /> His writing includes: <br /> -<em> <a href=http://www.cornellpress.cornell.edu/cup_detail.taf?ti_id=4441 target=_blank> Landscapes of the Jihad: Militancy, Morality, Modernity </a> </em> <br />(Cornell University Press, 2005)<br /> - <a href=http://news.ft.com/cms/s/4e4307b4-fca8-11d9-8386-00000e2511c8,dwp_uuid=764f88b4-eefb-11d9-8b10-00000e2511c8.html target=_blank> "A war fought for impersonal passions" </a> <em> (Financial Times, </em> 25 July 2005)<br /> <br /><br /> Also by Faisal Devji on openDemocracy: <br /> - "<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2768">Spectral voices: al-Qaida's world wide web"</a> (August 2005)<br /> - "<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=3140">Osama bin Laden's message to the world</a>" (December 2005)<br /> </p><p>The cartoon protests were remarkably dispersed geographically, and unconcerned for the most part with the rights of states or the responsibilities of citizenship. If this unconcern were due only to ignorance or irrationality among them, such protesting Muslims might eventually be educated to become the good citizens of a liberal democracy. Unfortunately this is not the case. Muslim protests, which moved so far beyond the bounds of state and citizenship, were informed by the new rationality of a global arena. Within this arena freedom of expression&#39;s more restricted realm had been rendered irrelevant. For at the global level there is no common citizenship and no government to make freedom of expression meaningful even as an expression. Liberalism was being challenged here <a href="http://news.ft.com/cms/s/4e4307b4-fca8-11d9-8386-00000e2511c8,dwp_uuid=764f88b4-eefb-11d9-8b10-00000e2511c8.html" target="_blank">not by its past but by its future</a>. </p><p>Muslim protesters did not represent some religious tradition that needs to be schooled in the lessons of modern citizenship. Rather their protests brought into being a hypermodern global community whose connections occur by way of mass media alone. From the Philippines to Niger, these men and women communicated with each other only indirectly, neither by plan nor organisation, but through the media itself. And just as in 1989, most Muslims in 2006 were hurt not by the offending item, a book read or an image seen, but by its global circulation as a media report. </p><p>Yet it was this very circulation of the offending item as news that also allowed Muslims to represent themselves as a <a href="../articles/View.jsp?id=2904">global community</a> in, through and as the news. Moreover they could only do so by way of English as a global language. It is no accident that the cartoon controversy took the Muslim world by storm only when it was reported on the BBC and CNN. English not Arabic is the source language of <a href="http://religion.info/english/interviews/article_117.shtml" target="_blank">global Islam</a>.</p><p>In this hypermodern community, traditional distinctions of belief and practice have ceased to be relevant, as indeed has religion itself in an old-fashioned sense. For the generic Muslim being displayed on television screens across the world cannot be marked by any specifically theological concern. If in the Rushdie affair the explicitly religious issue of the <a href="http://onlineislamicstore.com/b5092.html" target="_blank">&quot;satanic verses&quot;</a> was never taken up as a cause for offence even in Ayatollah Khomeini&#39;s fatwa, Muslims protesting seventeen years later similarly made nothing of Islam&#39;s supposed proscription of the prophet&#39;s image. In any case there is a long if contested history of Muslims depicting their prophet. Such images continue to proliferate among the Shi&#39;a, for example, without in any way dampening the outcry over the cartoons in Baghdad or Tehran. </p><p>These theological concerns are in fact interesting only to the defenders of liberal democracy, who think of challenges to its freedoms in terms that are a few centuries out of date. That it should be a religious group demonstrating its globalisation here is in any case consonant with liberalism&#39;s past. For the nation-state was founded to subdue religion, seen as the only entity capable of providing an alternative foundation for political life. So it is only natural if today Islam seems to confront the liberal state with its own founding myth, having become the Frankenstein&#39;s monster of its history. </p><p>Liberal democracy appears doomed to repeat its own past by the way in which it prefigures its enemies - always understood as offering politics alternative foundations like that of religion. If not religion, then anarchism, fascism or some other historical rival of the liberal state comes to occupy this role in the long-running comedy of its founding. But this is not true of global Islam, which should be defined in terms of liberalism&#39;s future instead of its past.</p><p>As in the Rushdie affair, the prophet insulted by some Danish cartoons is not a religious figure of any traditional sort. In 1989 it was Mohammed as husband and family man who stood impugned in the eyes of protesters. Many protesters in the new century continued to express their hurt by comparing the prophet to members of their &quot;family&quot;, hardly a religious role for him to play and one of dubious orthodoxy in any case. This is language that belongs more in the Christian than the Muslim <a href="http://www.columbia.edu/cu/cup/catalog/data/023112/0231127960.HTM" target="_blank">tradition</a>. In fact Mohammed as father, husband and family man has become a role model of the most modern kind, one representing the ideal Muslim not as the citizen or even the leader of a state, as he did for yesterday&#39;s fundamentalists, but as a properly global figure instead. </p><p>Strange to say, therefore, the prophet as a global figure manifests himself in domestic rather than political ways. It is his very particularity as father, husband and family man that has been universalised beyond the language of state and citizenship, giving <a href="http://www.penguin.ca/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,0_0316727296,00.html" target="_blank">Mohammed</a> a global countenance as part of a mythic family. This is not surprising among Muslims who themselves are made global subjects beyond the terms of citizenship through displacement by war as much as economic migration, by the massive growth of cities as well as technological transformation.</p><p><strong>Islam&#39;s trajectory</strong></p><p>Muslim protests over the caricatures of Muhammad published in <em><a href="http://www.jp.dk/meninger/ncartikel:aid=3527646" target="_blank">Jyllands-Posten</a> </em>did not pose any threat to the freedom of expression in liberal democracies. They presented a challenge to liberal democracy itself as a political form that is being made parochial within a new global arena. And if this challenge by no means spells the doom of nation-states, it does force them into new shapes that put liberalism&#39;s premises and foundations into question. </p><p>What could be more indicative of this than the erosion of civil liberties in such states as part of the global war on terror? Liberal democracies today are increasingly shot through with new global vectors, running the gamut from immigrants to multinational corporations. Islam provides only one, though perhaps the most interesting one, of these vectors.</p><p>While Islam is certainly not the only global movement around, nor the only one to issue challenges to liberal democracy, its geopolitical situation has made of this populous religion the most volatile phenomenon of our times. Islam&#39;s globalisation is possible because it is anchored neither in an institutionalised religious authority like a church, nor in an institutionalised political authority like a state. Indeed it is the continuing fragmentation and thus democratisation of authority in the world of Islam that might account for the <a href="http://www.cambridge.org/uk/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=0521791405" target="_blank">militancy of its globalisation</a>.</p><p>What did the global <a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0206/p01s02-wogi.html" target="_blank">protests</a> over a few Danish cartoons demonstrate if not the splintering of Islamic authority, since these expressions of Muslim outrage were rarely organised by any seminary or political party? In the absence of any significant religious or political authority in the Muslim world today, it is precisely unseen figures like <a href="../articles/View.jsp?id=2768">al-Qaida</a> or the Danish cartoons that have the ability to mobilise Muslims globally, though of course in different and even opposing ways. For example, the cartoon protests by and large eschewed the rhetoric of holy war, though they did invoke the same themes of hurt and respect as al-Qaida.</p><p>Islam no longer serves merely to voice reactions against neo-colonialism or democracy, capitalism or modernity, but increasingly <a href="../articles/View.jsp?id=421">sets the terms for politics</a> globally. So the unexpected escalation of the cartoon controversy moved it well ahead of any demonstrations over Iraq, Afghanistan or <a href="../articles/View.jsp?id=3044">Guant&agrave;namo Bay</a>. Of course these and other, more local issues certainly informed Muslim anger. But they did so by providing global Islam an opportunity to manifest itself in the most arcane and therefore autonomous way: through a set of caricatures. </p><p>By chancing in seemingly arbitrary fashion upon the Danish cartoons as a cause, Muslim protesters were only proving global Islam to be relatively unhampered by the political traditions proper to liberalism. Like other global movements, from environmentalism to anti-globalisation, the Muslim one we are looking at is free to map its own trajectory and will not follow the dictates of someone else&#39;s idea of political rationality.</p><p>It was left for liberal democrats to puzzle over the meaning of this movement, coming up with explanations for it like American imperialism, economic exploitation or &quot;third-world&quot; dictatorship. Meanwhile the protesters themselves, who must have been more than familiar with such shibboleths, were content to ignore them altogether. The Danish cartoons did not simply disguise the political or economic causes of Muslim anger in religious terms, for we have seen that their anger had little or no religious substance. Rather they allowed Muslims to set the terms for global politics precisely by fixing on an issue that national states are unable to address. </p><p>Yet this very issue, of personal hurt, <a href="http://unp.unl.edu/bookinfo/2714.html" target="_blank">insult</a> and offence, illustrates the global nature of the protests, because it located Muslims outside the geographical boundaries and juridical categories of any state. As global subjects, these Muslims and their prophet were so easily hurt because they had been denuded of the protection that states and citizenship have to offer. Their hurt was nakedly felt and nakedly expressed, existing outside the cosseted debate on freedom of expression. </p><p><strong>The challenge to liberal democracy</strong></p><p>It is because global Islam comes to us from the future that it exposes so clearly the limits of liberal democracy. Such limits are evident in the circular definition that has marked liberalism from its founding days: only those will be tolerated who are themselves tolerant. Such a definition deprives tolerance of any moral content by making it completely dependent on the behaviour of others. Tolerance therefore becomes a process of exclusion in which it is always the <a href="http://www.word-power.co.uk/catalogue/1842771973" target="_blank">other person</a> who is being judged. </p><p>Even at its most agreeable, however, the definition is severely limited, because its circularity works only within the bounds of a national state. It is unable to deal with real differences at all and certainly not with difference at a global level. As important as it undoubtedly is, we should remember that liberal tolerance was never meant to replace every other ethics in civil society, but is instead a procedural and legalistic form specific to the functioning of the nation-state. </p><p>There are many other kinds of tolerance possible, including the Christian one called charity, which would convert others or foster good relations with them by forbearance and example. But ethical rather than legal definitions of tolerance, like the Christian one, tended not to be invoked in this controversy, with commentators abandoning the claims of civil society altogether to become ventriloquists for the state. Yet it is surely within civil society that the problem lies, and statesmen from Mahatma Gandhi to Nelson Mandela have in the recent past mobilised precisely such non-legal conceptions of tolerance to effect great social transformations. </p><p>One does not have to legislate this kind of respect, simply to inculcate it as an ethical principle. And this is only possible by sinking below the negative universality of liberal tolerance, tied as it is to the state&#39;s neutrality and indifference, to grasp the positive if particular tolerance of Hindus, Christians or indeed atheists. The paradox of this particularity is that it is far more expansive than the universality of liberal tolerance, because it cannot be confined within the borders of a nation-state. </p><p>It was this particularity of respect, and even the positive tolerance of Christian charity, that so many Muslim protesters had been demanding, in no matter how frightening a manner. Their fulsome expressions of hurt, after all, were not derived from the cartoons in any direct way, since these remained unseen <a href="http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/02/22/news/islam.php" target="_blank">for the most part</a>, but from the absence of respect for Muslim feeling. Unlike the photographs of American soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners at <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/media-abu_ghraib/debate.jsp" target="_blank">Abu Ghraib</a>, these images had not been globally circulated to spur Muslim anger. Like Rushdie&#39;s novel before them the cartoons were in fact not supposed to be seen at all, which explains the actions against newspapers in the Muslim world that did try to incite protests by printing them. </p><p>That a few invisible caricatures should cause more offence globally than large numbers of photographs depicting torture in the most real way is an important fact, and one that has little to do with the outrage of any specifically religious feeling. Given the invisibility of the cartoons in the Muslim world, there was no real outrage to religious feeling there but only the report of <a href="http://service.spiegel.de/cache/international/0,1518,k-6817,00.html" target="_blank">European disrespect</a>. I</p><p>n other words the materiality of the images themselves had nothing to do with the protests they inspired, only the apparent injury done to Muslim feeling by the report of their circulation. More than an offence experienced, or a reality recognised, Muslims were protesting the violation of an ethical principle. This was the naked but non-juridical principle of respect within a global civil society made possible by media, markets and migration. </p><p>Global Islam in its current form poses an insurmountable obstacle for liberal democracy, one that it can only attempt to destroy by destroying its own principles and thus itself. After all what does it mean for a nation-state or any combination of states to place a religion of well over a billion adherents under suspicion, as is now routinely done within <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/debates/article.jsp?id=10&amp;debateId=96&amp;articleId=1214" target="_blank">European</a>, north American and other countries, especially at their borders? Such nations might well try to monitor their Muslim minorities, or somehow direct them onto the paths of liberal virtue, but they are by no means constituted to coerce Islam as a global fact. </p><p>It is impossible to target Muslim minorities inside liberal states without by the same token targeting liberalism itself, and impossible seriously to target Muslim majorities outside these states without at the same time targeting their own wealth and security. So whereas global Islam has a number of options open to it, liberal democracy has only compromise and suicide to choose from.</p><p><strong>The universal Muslim</strong></p><p>Instead of defending their freedoms dressed in the wigs and breeches of liberalism&#39;s past, the critics of Islamic fanaticism must think about the limits of liberal democracy in new ways. But they can only do so by taking leave of the prejudice against immigrants and minorities in general, as much as against Muslims in particular, that has characterised the debate over freedom of expression so far. </p><p>For even when placed within the bounds of old-fashioned liberalism, the initial demand by Danish Muslims to have their own prejudices protected did not threaten freedom of expression in any way. Nor did Muslims in <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/people-migrationeurope/article_1563.jsp&quot;/articles/View.jsp?id=1563&quot;">Denmark</a> or elsewhere in Europe and north America make their demands in a criminally violent manner. Such demands are in fact made all the time in liberal democracies, whose boundaries of free expression are therefore constantly shifting. </p><p>From state secrets to racial discrimination, libel and copyright to sexual harassment, proscriptions on expression are being put in place by the very defenders of its freedom. Indeed today&#39;s &quot;<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/columns/global_security.jsp" target="_blank">war on terror</a>&quot; has led to the most concerted reduction of such freedom in decades. </p> <p class="pullquote-right">Also in openDemocracy on the <a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/faith-europe_islam/debate.jsp target=_blank>"cartoon war" </a> in Europe and the Muslim world:<br /><br /> - Neal Ascherson, <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=3242">"A carnival of stupidity"</a> (February 2006)<br /> - <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=3244">"Muslims and Europe: a cartoon confrontation"</a> a compendium of writers' views, including Fauzia Ahmad, Zaid Al-Ali, Patrice de Beer, KA Dilday, Sajjad Khan, Shaida Nabi, Roger Scruton, and Adam Szostkiewicz (February 2006)<br /> - Doug Ireland, <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=3245">"The right to caricature God&#133;and his prophets" </a> (February 2006)<br /> - Tariq Modood, <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=3249">"The liberal dilemma: integration or vilification?" </a> (February 2006)<br /> - Ehsan Masood, <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=3247">"A post-Satanic journey" </a> (February 2006)<br /> -Sarah Lindon, <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=3256">"Words on images: the cartoon controversy" </a> (February 2006)<br /> - Fred Halliday, <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=3262">"Blasphemy and power" </a> (February 2006)<br /> - S Sayyid, <a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/faith-terrorism/old_europe_3269.jsp target=_blank>"Old Europe, New World" </a> (February 2006)<br /> - Saskia Sassen, <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=3282">"Free speech in the frontier-zone" </a> (February 2006)<br /> - Farhang Jahanpour, <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=3294">"Cartoons, caricatures, and civilisation" </a> (February 2006) <br /> - Ulf Hedetoft, <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=3315">"Denmark's cartoon blowback" </a> (March 2006) </p> <p>Those who would defend free expression, in its abstract and absolute form, against Muslim fanaticism, are shutting the gate long after the horse has bolted. In any case flexibility is fundamental to liberal democracy, which is why including the prophet in its roster of taboos, if only informally, is such a trifling matter. We should also note that Muslims themselves are caricatured all over the world thousands of times every day, and that even their depiction as suicide-bombers prompts little if any complaint. </p><p>So it was not at all offences against Muslims in general that were here being condemned, but something quite particular. What prevents the self-proclaimed <a href="../articles/View.jsp?id=3245">protectors</a> of liberal freedom from recognising the falseness of their piety, however, is nothing as trite as racist or religious prejudice. It is, I think, the unvoiced realisation that their liberal project is an increasingly parochial one in a global arena within which they are in fact a minority. Is it perhaps this unspoken realisation that manifests itself in their vision of a Europe besieged?</p><p>In the meantime it is Muslims themselves who are inventing new forms of ethical and political practice for a global arena. Such were the remarkable boycotts of Danish goods in many parts of the Islamic world. However unfair or unjust they might have been, these peaceful and individualised boycotts of unprecedented extent were, like the <a href="http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,2144,1894816,00.html" target="_blank">controversial cartoons</a>, perfectly legal and even democratic. </p><p>Indeed they derived from a tradition of non-state or civil-society boycotts that include the movement to divest from apartheid-era South Africa. Both these boycotts operated through transnational capitalism to create a global ethics and politics outside the cognisance of states. We have already moved a <a href="../articles/View.jsp?id=3247">step beyond</a> the banning and burning of the Rushdie affair here. </p><p>More important, however, is the fact that this <a href="www.pupress.princeton.edu/titles/8159.html" target="_blank">global mobilisation</a> of Muslims should have represented itself neither in the old language of imperialism and oppression, nor indeed in that of resistance and <em>jihad</em>. Instead it took its rhetoric from the arsenal of liberalism itself, merely extending categories like democracy and civil society into a global arena. </p><p>But this extension also transforms such categories, which seem finally to have achieved the universality that liberalism invested them with, if only outside the nation-state and its legal forms. What has resulted from these protests and boycotts, then, is not simply damage to the Danish economy, but rather a complete reversal of the primal scene of liberal freedom as it was staged by <em>Jyllands-Posten</em>. </p><p>The scenario envisioned by <em>Jyllands-Posten</em> was of a poor immigrant minority being &quot;tested&quot; for its tolerance by an entrenched and wealthy majority. (But isn&#39;t the classical doctrine of liberal tolerance meant to protect minorities from majorities and not the other way around?) Having gone on to fulfil the newspaper&#39;s prediction by failing its test, this wretched minority could then be accused of threatening the majority&#39;s liberal constitution. </p><p>I will not go into the unpleasant task of speculating about the <a href="../articles/View.jsp?id=3242">newspaper&#39;s motives</a> in creating its own news by scooping itself in this way, nor ask about the rise in its sales afterwards. The denouement was a sudden implosion of the paper&#39;s national audience into a global Muslim one, within which the unfortunate Danish majority unexpectedly became a minority. Did these boycotts, then, signal the slow movement of democratic practices from a national to a global arena - one in which there exist as yet no institutions to anchor them? </p> Conflict Ideas faith & ideas europe & islam democracy & terror conflicts Faisal Devji Copenhagen attack: from the archive Original Copyright Wed, 12 Apr 2006 23:00:00 +0000 Faisal Devji 3451 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Back to the future: the Danish cartoons, liberalism and global Islam https://www.opendemocracy.net/faisal-devji/back-to-future-danish-cartoons-liberalism-and-global-islam <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Muslim protests over the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed marked the arrival of a force challenging liberal democracy not from the past, but from the future: Islam in the global community.&nbsp;<strong><em>First published 12 April, 2006.</em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span>On 30 September 2005 the Danish newspaper&nbsp;</span><em>Jyllands-Posten</em><span>&nbsp;published a number of caricatures on the subject of Islam, Muslims and the Prophet Mohammed. It had solicited these as part of a competition in which cartoonists had been asked to address the supposed fear that Danes and other Europeans felt in depicting Islam critically.</span></p><p>In response to the publication Muslims in Denmark protested against some of the cartoons, such as that portraying Mohammed as a terrorist, with one group of protestors actively trying to gain the support of Muslim leaders in the middle east. The series of diplomatic and other representations made by Muslims to the Danish government during this period all resulted in the latter invoking the liberal principle of&nbsp;<a href="http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/freedom-speech/" target="_blank">freedom of expression</a>&nbsp;in defence of&nbsp;<em>Jyllands-Posten's</em>&nbsp;right to print such material.</p><p>By the end of the year this obscure event had snowballed into a global controversy, with Muslims the world over protesting, often violently, against Danish and other western interests in countries from Indonesia to Lebanon. In their non-violent aspect these demonstrations included a widespread boycott of Danish goods that was unprecedented in its extent.</p><p>Such events kept the cartoon controversy at the centre of global attention for many weeks, even pushing news from the war in Iraq off the front pages. But despite the extraordinary passions unleashed among the protestors as much as among their opponents, Muslim demonstrations had completely dissipated by&nbsp;<a href="http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/islam/muhammad_cartoons_timeline.html" target="_blank">March 2006</a>, leaving in their wake a state of universal confusion about what the crisis had all been about.</p><h2><strong>A new global subject</strong></h2><p>After the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.contemporarywriters.com/authors/?p=auth87" target="_blank">Salman Rushdie</a>&nbsp;affair of 1989, in which Muslims protested against the author's portrayal of Mohammed in his novel&nbsp;<em>The Satanic Verses</em>, the cartoon controversy was the second great manifestation of Islam's globalisation. Interestingly, both controversies revolved around the portrayal of Islam's prophet, and both were discussed in the west as threats to freedom of expression.</p><p>Now the debate on freedom of expression goes back to the origins of liberalism - or rather to the origins of the nation-state that is its political body. Sadly the terms of this debate also go back to the beginnings of liberalism, and are unable to encompass the radical novelty of the challenge that confronts it. Unlike the weight of tradition that loads down such debate, the illiberal character of Muslim protest is astonishingly modern in form. After all freedom of expression only has meaning within old-fashioned national states, because it protects the speech of one section of citizens against another, and even against the state itself. Muslim protests, on the other hand, have meaning in an&nbsp;<a href="http://www.cornellpress.cornell.edu/cup_detail.taf?ti_id=4441" target="_blank">absolutely new global context</a>.</p><p>The cartoon protests were remarkably dispersed geographically, and unconcerned for the most part with the rights of states or the responsibilities of citizenship. If this unconcern were due only to ignorance or irrationality among them, such protesting Muslims might eventually be educated to become the good citizens of a liberal democracy. Unfortunately this is not the case. Muslim protests, which moved so far beyond the bounds of state and citizenship, were informed by the new rationality of a global arena. Within this arena freedom of expression's more restricted realm had been rendered irrelevant. For at the global level there is no common citizenship and no government to make freedom of expression meaningful even as an expression. Liberalism was being challenged here&nbsp;<a href="http://news.ft.com/cms/s/4e4307b4-fca8-11d9-8386-00000e2511c8,dwp_uuid=764f88b4-eefb-11d9-8b10-00000e2511c8.html" target="_blank">not by its past but by its future</a>.</p><p>Muslim protesters did not represent some religious tradition that needs to be schooled in the lessons of modern citizenship. Rather their protests brought into being a hypermodern global community whose connections occur by way of mass media alone. From the Philippines to Niger, these men and women communicated with each other only indirectly, neither by plan nor organisation, but through the media itself. And just as in 1989, most Muslims in 2006 were hurt not by the offending item, a book read or an image seen, but by its global circulation as a media report.</p><p>Yet it was this very circulation of the offending item as news that also allowed Muslims to represent themselves as a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/articles/View.jsp?id=2904">global community</a>&nbsp;in, through and as the news. Moreover they could only do so by way of English as a global language. It is no accident that the cartoon controversy took the Muslim world by storm only when it was reported on the BBC and CNN. English not Arabic is the source language of&nbsp;<a href="http://religion.info/english/interviews/article_117.shtml" target="_blank">global Islam</a>.</p><p>In this hypermodern community, traditional distinctions of belief and practice have ceased to be relevant, as indeed has religion itself in an old-fashioned sense. For the generic Muslim being displayed on television screens across the world cannot be marked by any specifically theological concern. If in the Rushdie affair the explicitly religious issue of the&nbsp;<a href="http://onlineislamicstore.com/b5092.html" target="_blank">"satanic verses"</a>&nbsp;was never taken up as a cause for offence even in Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa, Muslims protesting seventeen years later similarly made nothing of Islam's supposed proscription of the prophet's image. In any case there is a long if contested history of Muslims depicting their prophet. Such images continue to proliferate among the Shi'a, for example, without in any way dampening the outcry over the cartoons in Baghdad or Tehran.</p><p>These theological concerns are in fact interesting only to the defenders of liberal democracy, who think of challenges to its freedoms in terms that are a few centuries out of date. That it should be a religious group demonstrating its globalisation here is in any case consonant with liberalism's past. For the nation-state was founded to subdue religion, seen as the only entity capable of providing an alternative foundation for political life. So it is only natural if today Islam seems to confront the liberal state with its own founding myth, having become the Frankenstein's monster of its history.</p><p>Liberal democracy appears doomed to repeat its own past by the way in which it prefigures its enemies - always understood as offering politics alternative foundations like that of religion. If not religion, then anarchism, fascism or some other historical rival of the liberal state comes to occupy this role in the long-running comedy of its founding. But this is not true of global Islam, which should be defined in terms of liberalism's future instead of its past.</p><p>As in the Rushdie affair, the prophet insulted by some Danish cartoons is not a religious figure of any traditional sort. In 1989 it was Mohammed as husband and family man who stood impugned in the eyes of protesters. Many protesters in the new century continued to express their hurt by comparing the prophet to members of their "family", hardly a religious role for him to play and one of dubious orthodoxy in any case. This is language that belongs more in the Christian than the Muslim&nbsp;<a href="http://www.columbia.edu/cu/cup/catalog/data/023112/0231127960.HTM" target="_blank">tradition</a>. In fact Mohammed as father, husband and family man has become a role model of the most modern kind, one representing the ideal Muslim not as the citizen or even the leader of a state, as he did for yesterday's fundamentalists, but as a properly global figure instead.</p><p>Strange to say, therefore, the prophet as a global figure manifests himself in domestic rather than political ways. It is his very particularity as father, husband and family man that has been universalised beyond the language of state and citizenship, giving&nbsp;<a href="http://www.penguin.ca/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,0_0316727296,00.html" target="_blank">Mohammed</a>&nbsp;a global countenance as part of a mythic family. This is not surprising among Muslims who themselves are made global subjects beyond the terms of citizenship through displacement by war as much as economic migration, by the massive growth of cities as well as technological transformation.</p><h2><strong>Islam's trajectory</strong></h2><p>Muslim protests over the caricatures of Muhammad published in&nbsp;<em><a href="http://www.jp.dk/meninger/ncartikel:aid=3527646" target="_blank">Jyllands-Posten</a>&nbsp;</em>did not pose any threat to the freedom of expression in liberal democracies. They presented a challenge to liberal democracy itself as a political form that is being made parochial within a new global arena. And if this challenge by no means spells the doom of nation-states, it does force them into new shapes that put liberalism's premises and foundations into question.</p><p>What could be more indicative of this than the erosion of civil liberties in such states as part of the global war on terror? Liberal democracies today are increasingly shot through with new global vectors, running the gamut from immigrants to multinational corporations. Islam provides only one, though perhaps the most interesting one, of these vectors.</p><p>While Islam is certainly not the only global movement around, nor the only one to issue challenges to liberal democracy, its geopolitical situation has made of this populous religion the most volatile phenomenon of our times. Islam's globalisation is possible because it is anchored neither in an institutionalised religious authority like a church, nor in an institutionalised political authority like a state. Indeed it is the continuing fragmentation and thus democratisation of authority in the world of Islam that might account for the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.cambridge.org/uk/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=0521791405" target="_blank">militancy of its globalisation</a>.</p><p>What did the global&nbsp;<a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0206/p01s02-wogi.html" target="_blank">protests</a>&nbsp;over a few Danish cartoons demonstrate if not the splintering of Islamic authority, since these expressions of Muslim outrage were rarely organised by any seminary or political party? In the absence of any significant religious or political authority in the Muslim world today, it is precisely unseen figures like&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/articles/View.jsp?id=2768">al-Qaida</a>&nbsp;or the Danish cartoons that have the ability to mobilise Muslims globally, though of course in different and even opposing ways. For example, the cartoon protests by and large eschewed the rhetoric of holy war, though they did invoke the same themes of hurt and respect as al-Qaida.</p><p>Islam no longer serves merely to voice reactions against neo-colonialism or democracy, capitalism or modernity, but increasingly&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/articles/View.jsp?id=421">sets the terms for politics</a>&nbsp;globally. So the unexpected escalation of the cartoon controversy moved it well ahead of any demonstrations over Iraq, Afghanistan or&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/articles/View.jsp?id=3044">Guantànamo Bay</a>. Of course these and other, more local issues certainly informed Muslim anger. But they did so by providing global Islam an opportunity to manifest itself in the most arcane and therefore autonomous way: through a set of caricatures.</p><p>By chancing in seemingly arbitrary fashion upon the Danish cartoons as a cause, Muslim protesters were only proving global Islam to be relatively unhampered by the political traditions proper to liberalism. Like other global movements, from environmentalism to anti-globalisation, the Muslim one we are looking at is free to map its own trajectory and will not follow the dictates of someone else's idea of political rationality.</p><p>It was left for liberal democrats to puzzle over the meaning of this movement, coming up with explanations for it like American imperialism, economic exploitation or "third-world" dictatorship. Meanwhile the protesters themselves, who must have been more than familiar with such shibboleths, were content to ignore them altogether. The Danish cartoons did not simply disguise the political or economic causes of Muslim anger in religious terms, for we have seen that their anger had little or no religious substance. Rather they allowed Muslims to set the terms for global politics precisely by fixing on an issue that national states are unable to address.</p><p>Yet this very issue, of personal hurt,&nbsp;<a href="http://unp.unl.edu/bookinfo/2714.html" target="_blank">insult</a>&nbsp;and offence, illustrates the global nature of the protests, because it located Muslims outside the geographical boundaries and juridical categories of any state. As global subjects, these Muslims and their prophet were so easily hurt because they had been denuded of the protection that states and citizenship have to offer. Their hurt was nakedly felt and nakedly expressed, existing outside the cosseted debate on freedom of expression.</p><h2><strong>The challenge to liberal democracy</strong></h2><p>It is because global Islam comes to us from the future that it exposes so clearly the limits of liberal democracy. Such limits are evident in the circular definition that has marked liberalism from its founding days: only those will be tolerated who are themselves tolerant. Such a definition deprives tolerance of any moral content by making it completely dependent on the behaviour of others. Tolerance therefore becomes a process of exclusion in which it is always the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.word-power.co.uk/catalogue/1842771973" target="_blank">other person</a>&nbsp;who is being judged.</p><p>Even at its most agreeable, however, the definition is severely limited, because its circularity works only within the bounds of a national state. It is unable to deal with real differences at all and certainly not with difference at a global level. As important as it undoubtedly is, we should remember that liberal tolerance was never meant to replace every other ethics in civil society, but is instead a procedural and legalistic form specific to the functioning of the nation-state.</p><p>There are many other kinds of tolerance possible, including the Christian one called charity, which would convert others or foster good relations with them by forbearance and example. But ethical rather than legal definitions of tolerance, like the Christian one, tended not to be invoked in this controversy, with commentators abandoning the claims of civil society altogether to become ventriloquists for the state. Yet it is surely within civil society that the problem lies, and statesmen from Mahatma Gandhi to Nelson Mandela have in the recent past mobilised precisely such non-legal conceptions of tolerance to effect great social transformations.</p><p>One does not have to legislate this kind of respect, simply to inculcate it as an ethical principle. And this is only possible by sinking below the negative universality of liberal tolerance, tied as it is to the state's neutrality and indifference, to grasp the positive if particular tolerance of Hindus, Christians or indeed atheists. The paradox of this particularity is that it is far more expansive than the universality of liberal tolerance, because it cannot be confined within the borders of a nation-state.</p><p>It was this particularity of respect, and even the positive tolerance of Christian charity, that so many Muslim protesters had been demanding, in no matter how frightening a manner. Their fulsome expressions of hurt, after all, were not derived from the cartoons in any direct way, since these remained unseen&nbsp;<a href="http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/02/22/news/islam.php" target="_blank">for the most part</a>, but from the absence of respect for Muslim feeling. Unlike the photographs of American soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners at&nbsp;<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/media-abu_ghraib/debate.jsp" target="_blank">Abu Ghraib</a>, these images had not been globally circulated to spur Muslim anger. Like Rushdie's novel before them the cartoons were in fact not supposed to be seen at all, which explains the actions against newspapers in the Muslim world that did try to incite protests by printing them.</p><p>That a few invisible caricatures should cause more offence globally than large numbers of photographs depicting torture in the most real way is an important fact, and one that has little to do with the outrage of any specifically religious feeling. Given the invisibility of the cartoons in the Muslim world, there was no real outrage to religious feeling there but only the report of&nbsp;<a href="http://service.spiegel.de/cache/international/0,1518,k-6817,00.html" target="_blank">European disrespect</a>. I<span>n other words the materiality of the images themselves had nothing to do with the protests they inspired, only the apparent injury done to Muslim feeling by the report of their circulation. More than an offence experienced, or a reality recognised, Muslims were protesting the violation of an ethical principle. This was the naked but non-juridical principle of respect within a global civil society made possible by media, markets and migration.</span></p><p>Global Islam in its current form poses an insurmountable obstacle for liberal democracy, one that it can only attempt to destroy by destroying its own principles and thus itself. After all what does it mean for a nation-state or any combination of states to place a religion of well over a billion adherents under suspicion, as is now routinely done within&nbsp;<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/debates/article.jsp?id=10&amp;debateId=96&amp;articleId=1214" target="_blank">European</a>, north American and other countries, especially at their borders? Such nations might well try to monitor their Muslim minorities, or somehow direct them onto the paths of liberal virtue, but they are by no means constituted to coerce Islam as a global fact.</p><p>It is impossible to target Muslim minorities inside liberal states without by the same token targeting liberalism itself, and impossible seriously to target Muslim majorities outside these states without at the same time targeting their own wealth and security. So whereas global Islam has a number of options open to it, liberal democracy has only compromise and suicide to choose from.</p><h2><strong>The universal Muslim</strong></h2><p>Instead of defending their freedoms dressed in the wigs and breeches of liberalism's past, the critics of Islamic fanaticism must think about the limits of liberal democracy in new ways. But they can only do so by taking leave of the prejudice against immigrants and minorities in general, as much as against Muslims in particular, that has characterised the debate over freedom of expression so far.</p><p>For even when placed within the bounds of old-fashioned liberalism, the initial demand by Danish Muslims to have their own prejudices protected did not threaten freedom of expression in any way. Nor did Muslims in&nbsp;<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/people-migrationeurope/article_1563.jsp%22/articles/View.jsp?id=1563%22">Denmark</a>&nbsp;or elsewhere in Europe and north America make their demands in a criminally violent manner. Such demands are in fact made all the time in liberal democracies, whose boundaries of free expression are therefore constantly shifting.</p><p>From state secrets to racial discrimination, libel and copyright to sexual harassment, proscriptions on expression are being put in place by the very defenders of its freedom. Indeed today's "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/columns/global_security.jsp" target="_blank">war on terror</a>" has led to the most concerted reduction of such freedom in decades.</p><p>Those who would defend free expression, in its abstract and absolute form, against Muslim fanaticism, are shutting the gate long after the horse has bolted. In any case flexibility is fundamental to liberal democracy, which is why including the prophet in its roster of taboos, if only informally, is such a trifling matter. We should also note that Muslims themselves are caricatured all over the world thousands of times every day, and that even their depiction as suicide-bombers prompts little if any complaint.</p><p>So it was not at all offences against Muslims in general that were here being condemned, but something quite particular. What prevents the self-proclaimed&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/articles/View.jsp?id=3245">protectors</a>&nbsp;of liberal freedom from recognising the falseness of their piety, however, is nothing as trite as racist or religious prejudice. It is, I think, the unvoiced realisation that their liberal project is an increasingly parochial one in a global arena within which they are in fact a minority. Is it perhaps this unspoken realisation that manifests itself in their vision of a Europe besieged?</p><p>In the meantime it is Muslims themselves who are inventing new forms of ethical and political practice for a global arena. Such were the remarkable boycotts of Danish goods in many parts of the Islamic world. However unfair or unjust they might have been, these peaceful and individualised boycotts of unprecedented extent were, like the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,2144,1894816,00.html" target="_blank">controversial cartoons</a>, perfectly legal and even democratic.</p><p>Indeed they derived from a tradition of non-state or civil-society boycotts that include the movement to divest from apartheid-era South Africa. Both these boycotts operated through transnational capitalism to create a global ethics and politics outside the cognisance of states. We have already moved a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/articles/View.jsp?id=3247">step beyond</a>&nbsp;the banning and burning of the Rushdie affair here.</p><p>More important, however, is the fact that this&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/faith-europe_islam/www.pupress.princeton.edu/titles/8159.html" target="_blank">global mobilisation</a>&nbsp;of Muslims should have represented itself neither in the old language of imperialism and oppression, nor indeed in that of resistance and&nbsp;<em>jihad</em>. Instead it took its rhetoric from the arsenal of liberalism itself, merely extending categories like democracy and civil society into a global arena.</p><p>But this extension also transforms such categories, which seem finally to have achieved the universality that liberalism invested them with, if only outside the nation-state and its legal forms. What has resulted from these protests and boycotts, then, is not simply damage to the Danish economy, but rather a complete reversal of the primal scene of liberal freedom as it was staged by&nbsp;<em>Jyllands-Posten</em>.</p><p>The scenario envisioned by&nbsp;<em>Jyllands-Posten</em>&nbsp;was of a poor immigrant minority being "tested" for its tolerance by an entrenched and wealthy majority. (But isn't the classical doctrine of liberal tolerance meant to protect minorities from majorities and not the other way around?) Having gone on to fulfil the newspaper's prediction by failing its test, this wretched minority could then be accused of threatening the majority's liberal constitution.</p><p>I will not go into the unpleasant task of speculating about the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/articles/View.jsp?id=3242">newspaper's motives</a>&nbsp;in creating its own news by scooping itself in this way, nor ask about the rise in its sales afterwards. The denouement was a sudden implosion of the paper's national audience into a global Muslim one, within which the unfortunate Danish majority unexpectedly became a minority. Did these boycotts, then, signal the slow movement of democratic practices from a national to a global arena - one in which there exist as yet no institutions to anchor them?</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/maryam-namazie/islam-and-culture-of-offence-missing-point">Islam and the &quot;culture of offence&quot;: missing the point </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/benjamin-ward/assessing-europe%E2%80%99s-response-to-paris-attacks">Assessing Europe’s response to the Paris attacks</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/amandine-scherrer-didier-bigo/will-democratic-debate-over-counterrorism-gain-edge">Will the democratic debate over counterrorism gain the edge in battle? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/cas-mudde/what-freedom-of-speech-of-foxes-chickens-and-jesuischarlie">What freedom of speech? Of foxes, chickens, and #JeSuisCharlie</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/semanur-karaman/charlie-hebdo-stop-pointing-fingers-and-drop-reductive-approach">Charlie Hebdo: stop pointing fingers and drop the reductive approach</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Denmark </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> </div> </div> Denmark Culture Democracy and government Ideas faith & ideas europe & islam Faisal Devji Wed, 12 Apr 2006 09:00:00 +0000 Faisal Devji 90549 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Osama bin Laden's message to the world https://www.opendemocracy.net/conflict-terrorism/osama_3140.jsp Osama bin Laden&#146;s urgent attempt to reconstruct a unified and global Islam from its increasing fragmentation is only one form of a wider global predicament, says Faisal Devji, author of &#147;Landscapes of the Jihad&#148;.<p>In his address to the American people on <a href=http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/79C6AF22-98FB-4A1C-B21F-2BC36E87F61F.htm target=_blank>29 October 2004</a>, days before they went to the polls in a bitterly contested presidential election, Osama bin Laden spoke of the profound similarities between the Muslim world and the United States. To some degree he did so with great doses of irony, comparing the Bush administration to corrupt regimes in the middle east by saying that he &#147;found no difficulty in leading Bush and his administration on, in light of the similarity between them and the regimes in our countries, half of whom we would describe as being ruled by the military, and the other half by sons of kings and presidents. We have long experienced them.&#148; </p><p class="pullquote-right"><br />Faisal Devji is reviewing Bruce Lawrence, ed., <em>Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama Bin Laden</em> (<a href=http://www.versobooks.com/books/klm/l-titles/lawrence_ed_messages_osama.shtml target=_blank>Verso, 2005</a>)</p> <p>&#147;This similarity&#148;, continued bin Laden, &#147;goes back to the visits of Bush Senior to the region. While some of our people were dazzled by America and hoped that these visits would make an impression on our countries, in fact it was he who was impressed by these monarchic and military regimes. He envied the fact that they could remain in power for decades, embezzling the nation&#146;s funds with neither account nor regulation. So he brought tyranny and the suppression of liberties to his own country and called it the Patriot Act, implemented under the pretext of fighting terrorism.&#148;</p> <p>And so it went, with <a href=http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/binladen/who/bio.html target=_blank>Osama bin Laden</a> reversing the direction in which global influence is meant to flow by describing how much the United States has supposedly learnt from its clients in the middle east, from falsifying elections to endangering national security in the interests of private corporations. </p> <p>Its ironical rhetoric apart, bin Laden&#146;s speech, like all his pronouncements, was an exercise in intimacy. Unlike the foreign and exotic colours in which al-Qaida is painted in the west, its founder has always spoken of his enemies in the most familiar of terms. </p> <p>Indeed the address from which I have been quoting can even be seen as Osama bin Laden&#146;s contribution to the United States elections in the role of a <a href=http://www.guardian.co.uk/uselections2004/story/0,13918,1340256,00.html target=_blank>candidate from abroad</a>, the only one who recognised that an American election was a global event that required global participation. So bin Laden placed his own organisation alongside the Republicans and Democrats when he concluded his speech by appealing to the American people: &#147;I say to you in truth that your security lies not in the hands of Kerry, Bush or al-Qaida. It lies in your own hands, and whichever state does not encroach upon our security thereby ensures its own.&#148; </p><p class="pullquote-right"><br />Faisal Devji is assistant professor of history at <a href=http://www.newschool.edu/gf/centers/southasia/forum_faculty.htm target=_blank>New School University, New York</a>. <br />His writing includes: <br /><em>Landscapes of the Jihad: Militancy, Morality, Modernity</em> (<a href=http://www.cornellpress.cornell.edu/cup_detail.taf?ti_id=4441 target=_blank>Cornell University Press, 2005</a>)<br /> <br /> &#147;A war fought for impersonal passions&#148; (<em>Financial Times</em>, <a href=http://news.ft.com/cms/s/4e4307b4-fca8-11d9-8386-00000e2511c8,dwp_uuid=764f88b4-eefb-11d9-8b10-00000e2511c8.html target=_blank>25 July 2005</a>) <br />Also by Faisal Devji on openDemocracy: <br />&#147;Spectral voices: al-Qaida&#146;s world wide web&#148; (<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2768">August 2005</a>) <br />If you find this material valuable please consider supporting <b>openDemocracy</b> by sending us a <a href="/registration2/donate.jsp">donation</a> so that we can continue our work for democratic dialogue </p><p>If his sense of familiarity with the west allows Bin Laden to say that &#147;it seems as if we and the White House are on the same team&#148;, and that this &#147;truly shows that al-Qaida has made gains, but on the other hand it also shows that the Bush administration has likewise profited&#148;, this means that the Muslim world and its alleged enemies cannot be seen as autonomous and unified rivals in the manner of the Soviet Union and the United States during the cold war. </p> <p>In fact Osama bin Laden&#146;s Islam is a <a href=http://www.barcelona2004.org/eng/actualidad/noticias/html/f045891.htm target=_blank>global entity</a>, as global as the west itself, both being intertwined with and even internal to each other. This is why bin Laden&#146;s calls for the United States to leave the Muslim world do not entail the return to a cold-war geopolitics of détente, but are conceived rather in terms of a global reciprocity on equal terms. Al-Qaida&#146;s <a href=http://www.word-power.co.uk/catalogue/1862075735 target=_blank>violence</a>, then, is itself a perverse step towards this new intimacy, because it is seen by its perpetrators to be an egalitarian form of global reciprocity beyond national boundaries. </p> <p><b>A fearful cogency</b></p> <p>My quotations from Osama bin Laden are taken from the first published collection of his speeches, interviews and communiqués, which provides a welcome addition to the now almost unmanageably huge and highly repetitive literature on al-Qaida&#146;s founder. The collection&#146;s translator, <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=3031">James Howarth</a>, and editor, Bruce Lawrence, have rendered both students of modern Islam as well as the general reader a signal service in making these pronouncements of the world&#146;s most wanted man available for the first time in a single, authoritative volume. </p> <p>Bin Laden&#146;s statements are presented chronologically and divided into sections like &#147;War in Afghanistan 2001-2002&#148; and &#147;War in Iraq 2003-2004&#148;. In addition, each of his contributions is prefaced by a description that places it within a political context, with all moments of novelty or obscurity being helpfully footnoted. This book makes it absolutely clear that Osama bin Laden possesses coherent if frightening views which he argues with great and even more fearful cogency. Since the particulars of these arguments are well known and easily apprehended in this collection, I will concentrate in this review upon their more general significance.</p> <p>While <em>Messages to the World</em> arranges and presents Bin Laden&#146;s words in a lucid and comprehensive way, the nature of the material often militates against its own readability. But this has nothing to do with anything particularly foreign or exotic about Osama bin Laden&#146;s words; indeed the contrary, since it is the sheer familiarity of his rhetoric that might permit readers to pass by what is of interest in it. This has a great deal to do with the repetitive character of Bin Laden&#146;s pronouncements, though this is to be expected of what are in effect a series of exhortations, provocations and explanations. Readers therefore run the risk of seeing in these texts only what they want to. So those concerned with al-Qaida&#146;s anti-imperialism will find plenty of evidence to support their views, while those for whom its leader&#146;s anti-semitism is important will find an equal amount of evidence to support this view as well.</p> <p>The risk of simply reading one&#146;s own concerns into Osama bin Laden&#146;s words is, needless to say, made many times more likely by the controversy he generates in all walks of life from politics and economics to philosophy and <a href=http://www.barcelona2004.org/eng/actualidad/noticias/html/f045891.htm target=_blank>religion</a>. Even the collection&#146;s editor does not escape this risk, for in the book&#146;s introduction <a href=http://www.duke.edu/religion/home/lawrence/lawrence.html target=_blank>Bruce Lawrence</a> is determined to locate his hero squarely within the politics of the middle east, or even better, the Arab world. Professor Lawrence confines al-Qaida to regional issues like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, America&#146;s support of repressive and undemocratic local regimes or the struggle for oil and its wealth, and in doing so finds himself in agreement with the very concerns that he claims animate American or Israeli policy in the middle east. This is surely an embarrassing position for a <a href=http://www.versobooks.com/verso_info/about.shtml target=_blank>Verso</a> author to find himself in, since to agree with the terms of a debate while disagreeing with its details is already to hold a politics in common. </p> <p>On the face of it this may seem an extravagant judgment, especially given the amount of verbiage Osama bin Laden strews along the same paths as his editor, but a little reflection should make my position clear. Professor Lawrence quite discounts the global character of al-Qaida&#146;s <em>jihad</em> by condemning all the Pakistanis, Afghans, Uzbeks, Malaysians, Chechens and others who work for it to bit roles as mutes in a piece of Arabic theatre. This is to subordinate the very places in which al-Qaida operates, and which make up the vast majority of the Muslim world, to a middle east defined in the most <a href=http://www.penguinputnam.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,0_1594200084,00.html target=_blank>Occidental</a> fashion. Naturally such an approach presupposes the insignificance of Osama bin Laden&#146;s own location somewhere between Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as the irrelevance of everything he says about the Muslim world in general. </p> <p>The war in Iraq, of course, has brought the Arab world back into prominence, though not at all as a <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2904">unified category</a>. Iraq&#146;s <em>Shi&#146;a</em> majority, after all, is connected in distinct ways to non-Arab <em>Shi&#146;a</em> populations in places like Iran, so that Iraq&#146;s pre-eminent religious authority, the Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, is himself an Iranian. Al-Sistani, moreover, serves as the spiritual leader of millions of Indians and Pakistanis, who contribute substantial sums as well as pilgrims and seminarians to Iraq&#146;s <em>Shi&#146;a</em> centres. It is not Iraq, however, that is a peculiarity here, but rather the middle east itself, which did not exist until the second decade of the last century. Before that it was a part of the Ottoman Empire, like the Balkans, and ruled from Istanbul, which was by rights the capital of <em>Sunni</em> Islam. </p> <p>Even today the middle east possesses little commonality. The states of the Persian Gulf, from which Osama bin Laden himself comes, have more economic ties with south and southeast Asia, as well as with Europe and America, than they do with rest of the Arab world. In any case many of them have large foreign populations, sometimes forming demographic majorities, from places like India, Pakistan and Bangladesh as well as the Philippines, Russia and Iran. </p> <p>This means that the most common language spoken in a city like Dubai might be Urdu, not Arabic. This is a place where Arab aristocrats themselves sometimes speak obscure south Asian languages learnt from the nursemaids who brought them up. In other words the middle east and its Islam are thoroughly fragmented entities, and it is perhaps out of this fragmentation that Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida have emerged as necessarily <a href=http://www.fpa.org/pubs_inventory2418/pubs_inventory_show.htm?doc_id=289256 target=_blank>global actors</a>. </p><p class="pullquote-right"><br /><b>Also in openDemocracy on political Islam: <br />Malise Ruthven, &#147;Cultural schizophrenia&#148; (<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=103">September 2001</a>) <br />Murat Belge, &#147;Inside the fundamentalist mind&#148; (<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=75">October 2001</a>) <br />Navid Kermani, &#147;Roots of terror: suicide, martyrdom, self-redemption and Islam&#148; (<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=88">February 2002</a>) <br />Omar al-Qattan, &#147;Disneyland Islam&#148; (<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=69">October 2002</a>) <br /> &#147;Tightrope walks and chessboards: an interview with Gilles Kepel&#148; (<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=1152">April 2003</a>) <br />Gilles Kepel, &#147;The war for Muslim minds&#148; (<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2216">November 2004</a>)</b> </p><p><b>A new global currency</b></p> <p>Two elements of bin Laden&#146;s wordy imprecations gathered in this fine volume make this clear. First, he repeatedly expresses his regret at the dissolution of the <a href=http://www.ottomansouvenir.com/img/Maps/Ottoman_Empire_Map_1359-1856.jpg target=_blank>Ottoman empire</a> and the emergence of an Arab world dominated by the west. Being under the suzerainty of Turkey does not seem to pose a problem for this most Arab of Muslims. </p> <p>Second, he refers favourably to Iran several times, even taking its side against Iraq during the 1980-88 war. More than this Osama bin Laden makes not one anti-<em>Shi&#146;a</em> comment and goes so far as to claim that it is only unbelief and not sins like alcoholism, murder or heresy that put someone beyond the pale of Islam. This already places him much closer to a <em>Shi&#146;a</em> thinker like Aytollah Khomeini than a <em>Sunni</em> one like <a href=http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/?020204fa_FACT target=_blank>Sayyid Qutb</a>, a proximity that is only compounded by bin Laden&#146;s glorification of martyrdom in very <em>Shi&#146;a</em> and even Iranian ways. </p> <p>This social and religious fragmentation has resulted in the globalisation of Islam, making possible the combination of all sorts of disparate traits. So it is striking how much Osama bin Laden invokes <a href=http://www.muslimhope.com/Sufis.htm target=_blank>Sufi</a> or mystical practices relating to dreams, visions and divine intercession, all supposedly frowned upon by the Wahhabi branch of <em>Sunni</em> Islam he is meant to follow.</p> <p>The fragmentation and <a href=http://religion.info/english/interviews/article_117.shtml target=_blank>globalisation of Islam</a> does more than send British citizens of Pakistani descent to blow themselves up in <a href=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/3039671.stm target=_blank>Israel</a>, for such an act poses a problem much larger than itself. </p> <p>Movements like al-Qaida represent our global interrelatedness by such acts, in which any one person can be related to any other through schemes of violence or virtue. Indeed these acts function like shadows of our global interrelatedness, which possesses as yet no political form of its own. </p> <p>Osama bin Laden&#146;s Islam represents this global predicament in the fragmentation of its own <a href=http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog/RUTHIS.html target=_blank>history</a>, geography and doctrine. His war against the west represents the same global predicament by making possible a universal reciprocity of violence, which has replaced failed forms of freedom or democracy as the new currency of global equality. </p> Conflict democracy & terror conflicts middle east Faisal Devji Creative Commons normal Wed, 21 Dec 2005 00:00:00 +0000 Faisal Devji 3140 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Spectral brothers: al-Qaida's world wide web https://www.opendemocracy.net/conflict-terrorism/jihad_2768.jsp The global <em>jihad</em> <a href=http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/front/ target=_blank>retailed by al-Qaida</a> has obscured the old-fashioned Islamic fundamentalism which dominated Muslim politics during the cold war, adopting from it categories such as ideology and revolution in the quest for an Islamic state. With the end of the <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2753">cold war</a> and the emergence of global networks in which goods, ideas and people circulate outside the language of citizenship, the fundamentalist fight for ideological states has lost influence. <p>Islamic fundamentalism is even becoming politically moderate, for despite struggling from Algeria to Afghanistan it stands defeated everywhere but in <a href="/content/iran.jsp">Iran</a>, and even there it is not in the best of health. </p> <p>Muslim radicalism, by contrast, has moved beyond the language of citizenship to assume a global countenance, joining movements as different as environmentalism and pacifism in its pursuit of justice on a worldwide scale. Such movements are ethical rather than political in nature: they can neither predict nor control the global consequences of their actions. The acts of those involved in <a href=http://library.nps.navy.mil/home/tgp/qaida.htm target=_blank>global networks such as al-Qaida</a> are free from politics of a traditional sort, which demands collective agreement on certain theses, plans and goals.<div><div class="pull_quote_article"><p><b>Also in <b>openDemocracy</b> on political Islam: </b></p> <p><b>Malise Ruthven, &#147;<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=103">Cultural schizophrenia</a>&#148; (September 2001) </b></p> <p><b>Murat Belge, &#147;<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=75">Inside the fundamentalist mind</a>&#148; (October 2001) </b></p> <p><b>Navid Kermani, &#147;<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=88">Roots of terror: suicide, martyrdom, self-redemption and Islam</a>&#148; (February 2002) </b></p> <p><b>Omar al-Qattan, &#147;<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=69">Disneyland Islam</a>&#148; (October 2002) </b></p> <p><b>&#147;<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=1152">Tightrope walks and chessboards: an interview with Gilles Kepel</a>&#148; (April 2003) </b></p> <p><b>Gilles Kepel, &#147;<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2216">The war for Muslim minds</a>&#148; (November 2004) </b></p> <p><b>If you find this material valuable please consider supporting <b>openDemocracy<b> by sending us a <a href="/registration2/donate.jsp">donation</a> so that we can continue our work and keep it free for all</b></b></b></p> </div><p><b>Democratising Islam</b></p> <p>The <a href=http://religion.info/english/interviews/article_117.shtml target=_blank>global jihad</a> has no coherent vision for the future and thus no plan of action to bring it about. Its acolytes possess no ideological or doctrinal unity, coming together only in the execution of specific operations, perhaps for very different reasons. They hail from the most diverse backgrounds and each fights his <em>jihad</em> in the most individual of ways. They are neither recruited nor indoctrinated into al-Qaida but simply franchise the skills and connections it makes available. </p> <p>The diversity of al-Qaida&#146;s soldiers is illustrated by their practices, which run the gamut from praying in mosques to drinking in bars. Their religious beliefs, too, are individualistic, drawing from the whole range of the Islamic tradition, especially its mystical and heretical forms. Unlike fundamentalism, in other words, which makes use of Islam&#146;s juridical tradition for the building of an ideological state, al-Qaida&#146;s ostensibly <em>Sunni</em> minions turn to its <a href=http://www.muslimhope.com/Sufis.htm target=_blank><em>Sufi</em></a> and <em>Shi&#146;a</em> forms, particularly in their espousal of practices such as <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=88">martyrdom</a> operations. Indeed their conception of holy war as a moral duty derives from the mystical tradition: Sufis having led all the great <em>jihad</em> movements from the <a href=http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog/RUTHIS.html target=_blank>18th to the 20th centuries</a>. </p> <p>The prophetic dreams and charismatic practices that often underpin the jihad paradoxically illustrate its secular credentials as well. The Islam espoused by al-Qaida is given over to the individual conscience, becoming a spiritual force far stronger than the <a href=http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog/ROYFAI.html target=_blank>merely political force exercised by Islamic fundamentalists</a>. Even the most extreme of these manifestations, such as the <a href=http://www.hazara.net/taliban/taliban.html target=_blank>Taliban</a>, could be dealt with on the basis of <em>Realpolitik</em>. But with individuals becoming personally responsible for the fate of Islam, such purely political dealings lose significance. </p> <p>All these developments suggest that the <em>jihad</em> has democratised Islamic authority by dispersing it among individuals with little regard to the tradition&#146;s <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=421">various divisions and boundaries</a>, to say nothing of the clerics and seminaries associated with them. </p> <p>This does not mean that al-Qaida&#146;s advocates have adopted a tolerant or pluralistic attitude towards this tradition, only that they have broken its sectarian borders to constitute an Islam made up of constantly shifting fragments, as if it were some enormous spiritual kaleidoscope. And in this the <em>jihad</em> resembles the &#147;new age&#148; religions of our time, which plunder from the old orthodoxies without assuming a like form. </p> <p>The extraordinary <a href=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/3618762.stm target=_blank>violence that marks al-Qaida</a> should not blind us to the fact that it belongs to the world in which we all live, indeed this violence might only represent one point in a trajectory. We have seen, for example, that even at its most foreign the behaviour of soldiers fighting the <em>jihad</em> approaches territory that is disconcertingly familiar. Indeed, the more distant such behaviour seems, the closer to us it often is. Thus the relations I have posited between the holy war and our quotidian practices of secularism, democracy and individual ethics are not in any sense accidental. They derive instead from the global nature of holy war. </p> <p><b>The world wide web of war</b></p> <p>Like <a href=http://www.fpa.org/pubs_inventory2418/pubs_inventory_show.htm?doc_id=289256 target=_blank>environmentalism, pacifism and other global movements</a>, al-Qaida&#146;s jihad is concerned with the world as a whole. In the same way that climatic warming or nuclear holocaust are not problems that can be dealt with regionally, the <em>jihad&#146;s</em> task of <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2216">gaining justice for Muslims</a> has meaning only at a global level. This is why the whole world must be brought within al-Qaida&#146;s purview. Al-Qaida&#146;s violence links all the world&#146;s people together in a web of mutual obligation and responsibility, allowing American or <a href=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/uk/2005/london_explosions/default.stm target=_blank>British civilians</a>, for example, to be killed in recompense for the killing of Muslims in Iraq. </p> <p>The worldwide web of war spun by al-Qaida thus exists as a kind of spectre of our global interrelatedness, and the same web of responsibilities and obligations linking the holy war to its enemies also links them together as a community, even as a community of possible brothers. Is it the possibility of such a community that makes <a href=http://www.word-power.co.uk/catalogue/1862075735 target=_blank>al-Qaida rage</a> for equality with its enemies, even if this is nothing more than the equality of death? </p> <p>This potential brotherhood allows many among al-Qaida&#146;s operatives to participate fully and with evident relish in the lives of their enemies, for both belong to the <a href=http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20050101fareviewessay84113b/mahmood-mamdani/whither-political-islam.html target=_blank>same world</a> and form a single global community, whether this be defined in ecological or ethical terms. </p> <p>Perhaps this is why the <a href=http://beliefnet.com/story/87/story_8753_1.html target=_blank>violence of holy war</a> tends to be so impersonal and dutiful, why its warriors express no real hatred for their civilian victims. For are not these victims said to be merely the counterparts of innocent Muslims killed elsewhere? They are therefore in some perverse way brothers at one remove, made even more like brothers by dying alongside al-Qaida&#146;s suicide-bombers and mingling blood. </p> <p>In the global perspective adopted by the <em>jihad</em>, the peoples of the world are bound together in a web of mutual relations and complicities. For the moment this intimacy expresses itself in the most murderous way, though even here it represents what I have referred to as the dark side of another, more benign kind of relationship, like that of universal brotherhood. Indeed al-Qaida&#146;s actions and rhetoric continuously invoke the <a href=http://news.ft.com/cms/s/4e4307b4-fca8-11d9-8386-00000e2511c8,dwp_uuid=764f88b4-eefb-11d9-8b10-00000e2511c8.html target=_blank>spectre of a global community</a>, drawing upon the forms and even the vocabulary of other global movements such as environmental and pacifist ones, all of which bear a family resemblance to one another. </p></div><div><div class="pull_quote_article"><p><b>Faisal Devji is assistant professor of history at <a href=http://www.newschool.edu/gf/centers/southasia/forum_faculty.htm target=_blank>New School University, New York</a>. His writing includes: </b></p> <p><b><a href=http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/Hurst-Catalog.pdf target=_blank><em>Landscapes of the Jihad: Militancy, Morality, Modernity </em></a> (Hurst, 2005) </b></p> <p><b>&#147;<a href=http://news.ft.com/cms/s/4e4307b4-fca8-11d9-8386-00000e2511c8,dwp_uuid=764f88b4-eefb-11d9-8b10-00000e2511c8.html target=_blank>A war fought for impersonal passions</a>&#148; (<em>Financial Times</em>, 25 July 2005) </b></p> </div><p>As an explicitly ethical enterprise, therefore, the holy war is a highly unstable phenomenon because its violence derives from the same source as the non-violence of other global networks. Perhaps al-Qaida is murderous because it is so unstable, since it is at any moment capable of shifting its practices into those of non-violence. </p> <p>This hasn&#146;t happened yet, and is unlikely to in the near future. But the possibility of a non-violent <em>jihad</em> is discernible in the blameless private lives led by many of its warriors. Non-violence is in fact the shadow that dogs this holy war, just as violence shadows even the environmental and other movements for global social justice. </p> </div></p> Conflict democracy & terror conflicts middle east Faisal Devji Creative Commons normal Thu, 18 Aug 2005 23:00:00 +0000 Faisal Devji 2768 at https://www.opendemocracy.net