Sunday, October 31, 2010

Review of Tariq Ramadan's The Quest for Meaning by John Gray

The Quest for Meaning: Developing a Philosophy of Pluralism

by Tariq Ramadan 224pp, Allen Lane, £14.99
“Time is linear or cyclical. The paths are steep, and sometimes there are mountains, plains and vast expanses of desert or water. We go on, in order to make progress or simply to go and then come back, and we learn to be, to live, to think and to love.” This short passage captures the flavour of much of Tariq Ramadan’s latest book. Before it is anything else, The Quest for Meaning is an exercise in rhetoric – something in which, Ramadan seems to think, clarity should be avoided wherever possible. He tells the reader that time is linear or cyclical, but which is it? Can it be both? Similar questions arise throughout the book, which contains few clear statements of any kind. One can read tens of pages, even whole chapters, and come away without recalling a single straightforward assertion.
Ramadan’s equivocating style has made him the target of fierce attack. Neo-conservatives and some liberals have taken the Swiss Islamic scholar to task for failing to denounce human rights violations, while in his wildly hyperbolic The Flight of the Intellectuals the US writer Paul Berman has accused Ramadan of promoting a new kind of totalitarianism. Criticism of this sort is hard to take seriously. Anyone who sees Islamist movements as posing a threat on the scale of Nazism and communism has forgotten what these regimes were really like, and unless one subscribes to absurd theories of clashing civilisations, dialogue with and among Muslims can only be useful. Engaged in a type of intellectual diplomacy that places him at the most sensitive points of conflict between Islam and the west, Ramadan surely has a part to play.
The danger comes when the inevitable hypocrisies of public dialogue are presented as a coherent philosophy. In politics, compromise is unavoidable and often desirable. In the life of the mind, it is a recipe for a dangerous kind of woolliness. Ramadan claims to be developing a philosophy of pluralism, but that means looking for ways in which rival worldviews can coexist – a goal that cannot be achieved by blurring their differences or seeking an imaginary totality in which their conflicts are conjured away. Part of what is needed is old-fashioned tolerance – the willingness to accept that others be free to hold views you believe are mistaken or abhorrent.
Ramadan is having none of this. In a rare display of unambiguous clarity, he writes: “When it comes to relations between free and equal human beings, autonomous and independent nations, or civilisations, religions and cultures, appeals for the tolerance of others are no longer relevant.” The idea that tolerance is obsolete because it presupposes a position of power or superiority has become a commonplace. But it is also nonsense, because the need for tolerance comes from something deeper than shifting power relations. It comes from the fact that we will always have to put up with ideas and people we loathe.
Ramadan wants to replace this practice with a high-minded attitude of mutual respect. Each of us, he writes, must accept that “the presence of the other within my own conception of the world is both a fact and a necessity”. I am not sure what this means – assuming it means anything and is not just hot air – but if Ramadan is suggesting that in order to tolerate repugnant views one must empathise with those who hold them, he is plainly wrong.There is a conventional view that says we can despise someone’s beliefs while respecting them as individuals, but there are plenty of people who deserve contempt. If we tolerate the hateful views of Holocaust deniers, the reason is not that we think such people have any kind of moral worth. It is because free speech is much too important to be compromised for their sake.
While Ramadan rejects the ideal of toleration, he does espouse a kind of liberalism. The Quest for Meaning draws heavily on the postmodernliberal relativism fashionable some years ago, in which all values were seen as cultural constructions. Aside from its Islamic trappings, there is not much more to Ramadan’s philosophy than this dated relativism; if he adds anything, it is only a greater degree of unreality. His vision of a world that no longer needs tolerance is a postmodern utopia – an indeterminate condition that, if realised, would transcend anything that has ever existed.
Mesmerised by this empty dream, he is scornful of talk of civilisation. “The definition of the term ‘civilisation’, he writes, “is very relative.” But stoning women and gay people is an atrocity no matter how many cultures have sanctioned the practice. Torture is abhorrent whether it is inflicted by the Taliban or by Americans in Guantánamo. Civilisation comes in many forms, but barbarism is always the same.
In a final burst of rhetoric near the end of the book, Ramadan writes: “The deep silence speaks to us and summons us. This is a quest, an initiation, and we have to set off. Really set off . . .” Well, I for one won’t be following him anywhere. The habit of tolerance may not satisfy Ramadan’s utopian yearnings, but for me it is part of anything that can be described as freedom (or civilisation, for that matter). It would be a pity to throw it away in a fit of bad poetry.
John Gray’s Gray’s Anatomy: Selected Writings is published by Penguin. To order The Quest for Meaning for £11.99 with free UK p&p call Guardian book service on 0330 333 6846.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Nothing Seems to Matter by Laila Yaghi

All like dead grass beneath my feet

Suddenly nothing matters anymore
As I sit there looking in the mirror
At my self
Images of the past pass by
A tear drops down for a loved one
Then followed by a stream that seeps onto
A hollowed face

I sit looking there for hours
Remembering the lizard faced guy
Then the wolf faced guy
The raven nosed guy
All trying to scavenge my body
My existence….

I remember the guys that took my son
The dead hearts
The eyes filled with hate and revenge
On women and young men

I remembered my son’s faint voice
The voice of youth and innocence
The voice filled with the wondering why
Did his background foretell?
His outcome in life

A shadow of me jumping from pain
Crippled my performance in life
Is that what my country does?
To people from different backgrounds

The years of repression has to stop
Another tear another year
And things just seem to not change

At the end
Nothing seems to matter
The clothes… the hair… the food
Only one thing in mind
The freedom of my innocent son

A Mother's Pain by Laila Yaghi

It has been over a year since my son has been put in jail for an innocent trip he took overseas with his friend over 3 years ago!

My son and his friend have been friends since childhood and being close and adventurous wanted to go overseas to learn Arabic and see family members and for my son also to look for a bride
Ziyad Yaghi a teen ager no more than 19 was trying to do it the right way, but the FBI decided to use this for their own gain and indicted my son and his friend with charges after almost 3 years from coming back from overseas! 

The charges are; that they went overseas to kill people!

Ziyad now has been in jail for over a year!  His young life ahead of him threatened with life imprisonment if found guilty!  Ziyad was trying to go to College just before they arrested him!

Ziyad Yaghi is a young man who would get mad if I did not feed homeless people and shelter them!  A young man with such a sweet heart, who would not let me kill ants that have crept on to my kitchen sink!

I have written to President Obama pleading with him to end this injustice but he did not respond!  I also wrote to the ACLU, ADC, MFLA and much more, with no sympathy at all!

What can I do?  How can this racial profiling end?  How can this targeting against Muslim people be stopped??

This is our country, yet we are being oppressed in our own country simply because we are Muslims!

On July 27th of 2009, I came home after helping an older lady run her errands and found that my son’s cell phone was on the computer desk.  I got kind of worried and then tried to reassure myself that he just forgot his cell phone.

Few minutes later the same lady I was helping called and told me that my son and his friend have been arrested!

I thought that she was just hallucinating due to her age but then she said call Omar’s dad (Omar is my son’s friend who has also been arrested)!  I called Omar’s dad and he was crying and affirmed the information!
I screamed and ran upstairs and downstairs crying and yelling, “Why God oh why until there was no strength left in me”!

Ziyad called the same day saying that he does not even know why he is in jail and was talking in such a faint voice


The next day, I was visited by two FBI guys questioning me about a certain individual of their interest whom they also arrested.  I told them that I don’t know anything about what they are inquiring and they told me that they “feel” that my son knows something and that they want to pressure him enough so he can tell the “truth”
Neither Ziyad nor I know tell this day what the FBI are looking for!!! All what we know is that they have took an innocent person and put him in jail because of their assumptions.

A young man’s life has been interrupted and mistreated because of an assumption!  My life has been interrupted and filled with depression and tears.  I cannot even hold a professional job neither a full time job because of what is happening to us!

If there is anything any one can do to help us, please do.  Being silent will just make things worse and hurt more innocent lives

Please join me on FB under Laila Yaghi and sign the petitions and NEVER FORGET all these innocent people who are in jail and all these mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters who are crying because of this malicious injustice and tyranny that has happened to them


Friday, October 29, 2010

The wage-Slave Coast

For three centuries, tens of millions of people were captured, kidnapped, and subsequently sold to European traders along the 150 mile slave coast in West Africa. In our contemporary time, the locale and the terms have certainly changed, but to these employed individuals the feeling of being a slave must live in the heart and mind. Bangladesh, like the areas of the Slave Coast between the 1500-1900, is one of the most densely populated nations in the world. Over 156 million people are crammed into a nation slightly larger than New York state in terms of square mileage, with a median age just under 23. Last year according the CIA World Factbook, Bangladesh ran about a five billion dollar budget deficit though its unemployment rate hovers around 4 percent. Although the CIA cites that most Bangladeshi workers are ‘underemployed’, we submit that in truth, they are simply underpaid. And moreover, Bangladesh is a nation on Tier 2 Watch due to its non-compliance with the minimum, international trafficking standards. The CIA World Factbook states:

Bangladesh is a source and transit for men, women, and children for the purposes of forced labor and commercial sex exploitation; a significant share of Bangladesh’s trafficking victims are men recruited for work overseas with fraudulent employment offers who are subsequently exploited under conditions of forced labor or debt bondage; children are trafficked within Bangladesh for commercial sexual exploitation, bonded labor, and forced labor; women and children from Bangladesh are also trafficked to India and Pakistan for sexual exploitation.

A dear sister in Islam posted on her Facebook page something that bears examination in relation to Muslims, in general, and Bangladesh in particular. She wrote, While people in this world are becoming slaves to their bosses, slaves to their jobs, slaves to fashion, slaves to money, slaves to fame, slaves to their desires, and obedient slaves to Shaytain, the Muslims are to remains slaves to The One and Only Creator, The Most Beneficent, The Most Merciful, Allah. Alhamdulillah. As I read this, my heart was disturbed and the mind troubled, for we know that some 90 percent of the 156 million people in Bangladesh are Muslim. The dear sister, who offered what should be a practical, universal truth, wrote these words from her home in London, England under the mantle of relative liberty and sound welfare, both personal and communal. This fact is not a reflection on her as a Muslimah or a human being, for we believe she is a good and decent woman. Yet, one must ponder how many countless Bangladeshi Muslimahs, both good and decent, are being forced to work in the most repressive and squalid conditions as these words are read? How many Bangladeshi sisters are forced to perform fellatio on man after man under the penalty of death if they refuse? How many Bangladeshi sisters are forced to watch as their children are given to women and men who will one day make them prostitutes for their own benefit? How many of said children will contract HIV/AIDS due to their being trafficked into the sex trade that they must feel, and probably have been told, is the only reason for their existence? How many Bangladeshi men will pray to Allah (SWT) for jobs that will allow them to escape the prison of their own systemic conditions and receive an opportunity of a better future for their families only to be paid $0.15 cents an hour?

It is arduous to remain a slave to Allah (SWT), Alone and without partner, within the Muslim community, even among the Muslims in the West. The slave to employment and money gains the respect of a potential father and mother-in laws, and is able to marry the sister he wishes. He is a slave to his job and a slave to his boss, which fosters success at his company. The slave to fame earns the respect of the people in the masjid. Muslims who practice the Five Pillars of Islam are so often slaves to gods other than Allah. These modern, contemporary idols of culture, convention, tradition, wealth, inter-Ummah ethnocentrism, racism, misogyny, and local community respect live in the hearts of Muslims more so than Qur’an and Sunna. It is a great tactic of Shaytain for a man to speak of The One True and Living God, though he is deluded into believing his muddled intentions are not directed and focused on the dunya profits and rewards within the Muslim community. He is likened to the man the prophet Muhammad (SAAW) said would recite The Holy Qur’an with such precise, pure beauty, only to find Hell-fire as his reward on the Day of Judgment.

This is why Islamic nationalism and the eventual reconstitution of Dar al-Salaam is so vital to the world, for it would be the State’s role to eradicate these subtle forms of shirk that are based on economic systems and personal finance. Under an Islamic system, there would be a right to work and worker’s rights based on the Economic Theories of Islam. There would be a right to family and Zakat to level the inequity of wealth distribution that is inevitable in the notion of private property and the process of business acquisition. The State’s role would be to set conditions so that a man and a woman could be seen for who they are and not-as it is in the West-because of what they own. These are values that are the antithesis of Globalization, where one is deemed virtuous and Blessed because of what they have.

For make no mistake, capitalism unchecked by moral, human, and Divine ideologies and philosophies, must feed on someone in order to be profitable. It is Globalization that is devouring our brothers, sisters, and their children in Bangladesh. The National Labor Committee, headed by Charles Kernaghan, cites an example of fellow Muslims who feed on the bodies, labor, and Islamic Rights of 181 guest workers, 132 of whom are Bangladeshi:

Upon their arrival at the Musa factory, foreign guest workers are stripped of their passports—they are confiscated and withheld by management. Many of the guest workers have been stripped of their passports for two, three, or more years. Over the course of years, the workers have repeatedly begged management to return their passports or at least provide them with copies, but management ignored the workers’ pleas…According to a Ministry of Labor report (July 9, 2009): “The general conditions in the dormitories are acceptable. Depending on the size of the dormitory room, it is shared between 4-8 workers. The rooms are regularly cleaned and sufficient toilets and showers are available. Water, electricity, and heating are also available.” However, the foreign guest workers who actually live in the dorm provide a very different account. As many as 10 workers are crowded into small rooms (approximately 12 by 14 feet), sleeping on double-level bunk beds. There is no shower. In fact, water is available only one or two hours each night. The workers have to save water, using small plastic buckets in order to take sponge baths in the morning. The water is also not potable. The bathrooms are filthy, give off a strong stench, and they have no doors or lights. The dorm’s roof leaks, and the shoddy electrical system frequently shorts out, burning wires. There is no proper kitchen. The workers cook within their small rooms. Contrary to the Ministry of Labor’s report, there is no heat or hot water available in dorms, despite winter temperatures that reach the freezing point. In fact, the few small portable room heaters in the dorms were purchased by the workers themselves. The workers pooled their money to buy them. There are also bed bugs in the dorm, which at times is so infested that the workers have trouble sleeping. The workers confirm that the primitive, substandard dorm conditions described above have been consistent for at least the last 2 ½ years. When the workers asked for and demanded regular access to water in their dorm, a supervisor warned them that “if they kept talking like that, he would cut off their penises.”… According to the Ministry of Report, “Food is provided three times a day—breakfast and dinner in the dormitories and lunch in the factory. The quality and quantity are considered to be sufficient.” Once again, the workers who actually have to eat the company food have a very different opinion, describing it as too little and tasting terrible. The food, provided by a subcontractor, is often just half-cooked on the outside and raw on the inside. Blood runs from the chicken when they cut it. For breakfast, the workers are fed a piece of pita bread and a cup of tea. As a special treat, three mornings each week, they also receive an egg. Lunch consists of small portions of fish, beef, chicken, or eggs with rice. Any worker daring to ask for a second helping is screamed at. The workers take their supper of vegetables and rice in the dorm. As the food provided is insufficient, the workers had to chip in their own money to purchase the cheapest meats or eggs to cook in their dorm rooms… Again, to quote from the Ministry of Labor report: “Workers indicated that they voluntarily work on public holidays and that payments for such work are correct…workers indicated they voluntarily work overtime almost every day. On average, they work 2-3 hours overtime each day. Payments for overtime are correct. Occasionally, workers work on Friday. If so, they work voluntarily and are paid correctly.” It is unclear what timeframe the Ministry of Labor is referring to, since for the last eight months or so, the workers at Musa have worked very little, if any, overtime. When the worldwide economic recession hit, as of December 2008 all excessive production and overtime work was basically shut down. Today, standard working hours are from 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 or 4:30 p.m. with Friday off. However, prior to December 2008, the routine shift at the Musa factory was 12 ½ to 13 ½ hours a day, from 7:30 a.m. to 8:00 or 9:00 p.m. The workers also toiled on Friday, their supposed holiday, from 7:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. All overtime was strictly obligatory. The workers worked seven days a week. Anyone daring to miss an overtime shift was docked two or even three days’ wages as punishment. It is true, however, as the Ministry of Labor reports, that the workers were paid more or less correctly for both their regular and overtime hours. Prior to the downturn in December 2008, including their excessive mandatory overtime, the workers could earn 150 to 190 Jordanian Dinar ($211 to $268 U.S.) per month. The workers were also required to work on all Jordanian national holidays, but here the workers were cheated, as they were paid straight time and not the overtime premium legally due them. Since Jordanians will not work in their country’s garment factories, tens of thousands of foreign guest workers have had to be recruited. The guest workers come from Bangladesh, China, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and other countries. They all come for one reason only: to earn as much money as they possibly can to pay off the debts they incurred to purchase their three-year work contracts in Jordan, and to send money home to their families. At the Musa factory, prior to the recession and worldwide collapse of the apparel industry, the workers toiled seven days a week, racking up huge amounts of overtime. There were many illegal abuses, such as the excessive overtime, seven-day work weeks, work on national holidays, and so on, but the workers could put up with it all as long as they were supporting their families. This was their sacrifice… It is important to understand how these factories function. As mentioned above, it is believed that the Muse Textiles factory is owned by a Mr. Musa, an Israeli, who rarely visits the factory. The general manager of the plant is Mr. Riad, who is Palestinian. Given the large number of Bangladeshi workers at the factory, four out of five top supervisors are also Bangladeshi. There is actually a term, “head Bengali,” for the senior Bangladeshi supervisor, Mr. Rezaul. Another important supervisor is Mr. Mosharraf, who is in charge of production. These supervisors can earn four times what the workers do. Their job is to drive the workers as hard as they can and to spy on and control the workers.

Muslims enslaving other Muslims, and Allah Will NOT Change this condition until we, as a People and as Muslims, do it. It cannot be that the Bangladeshis are Cursed by their Lord, but rather they are the 21st century wage-Slaves, captured, kidnapped, imprisoned, even by their own brothers and sisters in Islam. How can Jordan, or any Arabs, justify the killings and oppression of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, and yet ignore and never mention what is happening to Muslims in their own nations by the hands and direction of a Palestinian at the textile factory within its own borders. It is not just in Jordan, but throughout the Gulf Coast nations, Lebanon, and Egypt that people are treated as if they were merely beasts of burden. Muslims are erroneously carrying the label of being the best community while ignoring the critical thinking of men like Sayyid Qutb, who correctly wrote: Islam cannot fulfill its role except by taking concrete form in a society, rather, in a nation; for man does not listen, especially in this age, to an abstract theory which is not seen materialized in a living society. From this point of view, we can say that the Muslim community has been extinct for a few centuries, for this Muslim community does not denote a land in which Islam resides, nor is it a people whose forefathers lived under the Islamic system at some earlier time...If Islam is again to play the role of the leader of mankind, then it is necessary that the Muslim community be restored to its original form. 

Inshallah, on this Juma'ah, make du'a for those suffer under the actions and by the hands of those who claim to be Muslim, to love Allah and His messenger (SAAW), but allow, direct, and ignore these human rights atrocities. Make du'a for the 13 year old girl in Dhaka and Lahore that is forced to suck her 45 year old brother's penis on this day and the virgin being broken, vagina bleeding, just so she can ready herself for the next customer with the necessary amount of currency, for after all: IT ALL ABOUT THE BENJAMINS, BABY!! Then hold your children-sons and daughters both-tight to your chest. And then imagine you were a Bangladeshi mother and father. Subhnallah. Allahu Akbar. Alhamduilillah. Do not thank Allah you are who you are and that you do not know their pain. Just prepare to end it. 

Laugh less and weep much.

Isma’il ibn Bilal

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

'The Paralyzing Influence of Imperialism'

In 2003, an event concluded a process just over a century old. When the first weapons of Shock and Awe fell on Baghdad, a new age and a new definition of the United States of America and the political theory that governs it as a nation truly descended. History is now compelled to record the new, and for America, revolutionary definition in its annals. No matter his decree, his desire, or his delusions, this single event and the severely drastic and indeed revolutionary change it has caused, will forever remain the legacy of the forty-third President of the United States of America. Simply stated: our Republic is dead and an Imperial America has risen.

Having been born in one of the oldest cities in New Jersey, with a childhood fascination with the colonial-era, the American Revolution, and its Civil War, the death of the Republic has caused me to mourn. In spite of its cultural and societal flaws, the fact that all of my ancestors were arbitrarily relegated to its lowest tier, and all its imperfections, I loved the Republic. I loved what it was supposed to be and the extremely arduous efforts undertaken by Americans to make it practically so. And yet regardless of my love and that of millions of others, death came to it. I suppose that it is within the natural order of things, that like men, nations cannot escape the inevitability that all things must end. However, that which cannot be denied and is equally true is that within the confines of democratic-republic, a nation only perishes due to the neglect of duty and the absence of vigilance by its citizens.

So many excuses have been offered about the busy lives of The People, cluttered with work, family, and other time constraints thereby making them unable to engage in the work necessary for self-government. Millions of others have simply lost all faith in government and though government is culpable in its lack of providing adequate education, necessary basic resources to those most in need, We, The People-the individual citizen-are to blame that fewer and fewer take the time to vote or to gather the information in order to make informed decisions in electing officials or in the judgment of policy. In recent years, too great a majority of The People, even the educated, have followed the Cult of Punditry and Personality-a select group of individuals-the celebrity actor, singer, band, artist, comedian, and sometimes prominent journalist-it would seem The People accept being told how, and what, and why to think about any given issue or on the contrary, to ignore it completely. Alternatively, and more accurately describing the proponents of the Conservative movement, an individual is selected from among The People in order to utilize a particular group’s ethnic/cultural sentiments of morality to engender and steer the thinking about what issues are important; how issues should be viewed; and who should be elected. Democrat and Republican, conservative and liberal; the great majority of political parties are more concerned with their individual self-interest, accumulating personal fortunes, political legacies, and ruling for the benefit of the few instead of governing for the benefit of the many. Each Party can claim to be moral, just, or correct in regards to the other. With very few exceptions, almost no elected official in the Federal Government, and one would imagine within State governments, can truly be viewed as men and women of conviction and honor. The large majority of our elected officials are the most veracious hypocrites who speak of freedom and liberty, while enacting legislation that makes slaves of their fellow citizens. As God, The Most High, The Most Exalted as my Witness, the vast majority of Americans, including our elected officials themselves, are beholden to masters who control capital, the means of production, and communication. In the early years of the Republic, there was a natural meritocracy that existed, though almost exclusively for white men, but that is not our point here. For the enterprising, the courageous, and the bold who were truly starved for freedom from European monarchs and aristocrats, America provided an opportunity to improve their station in life. So starved were these people for freedom, that theft and murder became virtues. Myths were created that dehumanized their adversaries, thereby making it easier to kill or enslave, while simultaneously elevating the Anglo-Celtic to positions of supposed natural superiority based on culture, language, and religion. For the early American, God had created them to rule and to instruct all others in the method of proper civilization. This myth, which endures today, became The Founding Principle of American Cultural Heritage, laid the foundation, and determined drive towards hegemonic, imperialistic goals. While much of that which was codified in law contradicts it, The Founding Principle of American Cultural Heritage was unique in that it did not require drafting or the need to be spoken. It was manifested in the notions of morality-of right and wrong. After the last hostile Native was forced onto the reservation; after the slave was free to remain unequal; after slavery itself would be defined by wages, and not necessarily skin complexion and bloodlines: a class of individuals began to acquire such immense wealth and political power, thereby becoming masters of People and Government.

While it is true that there have always been wealthy people and families in America with easier access to power, never before did wealth so easily translate into control over the institutions of power as it did at the aftermath of the American Civil War. When the Confederacy had been vanquished, so too had the best remnants of the agrarian, Jeffersonian-Jacksonian theory of American society. The plantation class, either dead or bankrupt, and deprived of their slaves meant that control of capital and the means of production was now to be concentrated in the banks, markets, and families of the North-eastern section of the United States of America. In the antebellum America, there were only a few American corporations. Yet, Kevin Phillips states in his Wealth and Democracy, that with the first shots fired at Fort Sumter, nearly a hundred corporations would be formed and made very profitable prior to Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, and the symbiotic relationship of the War Powers of Government and American Business was born. In order to secure start-up capital from a financial institution during the Civil War, an individual or group would first need to obtain a government contract from the War Department to arm, feed, or clothe the soldiers in the Grand Army of the Republic. Once the contract was obtained, the corporation was formed, and received a loan from a bank for the construction of factories that would produce large quantities of goods with the utmost regard for cost effectiveness. If not the birth, then certainly the maturation of the American Industrial Revolution coincided with the Civil War. At the war’s conclusion and the mechanisms of industry in place, products were marketed to the American public, in particular, those who lived and worked in cities, which grew more crowded, larger, and were havens for the millions of newly arrived immigrants who provided cheap labor. These socio-economic realities, the Founding Principle of American Cultural Heritage, the symbiotic relationship between the War Powers of Government and American Industry were the catalyst of American Imperialism. Cleavaged with the Imperialism, the principles of the Republic continued to thrive in a very practical sense. The ideals and principles under which it stood were being encroached upon and this fact did not go unnoticed.

Prominent men and elected officials who truly believed in their duty as citizens were compelled, perhaps for the first time in the nation’s history, to defend the Republic on the basis of the very theory of its politics. These individuals, and the millions of citizens that rallied at their call, knew of the violent determinism of American Cultural Heritage. They had seen the awesome economic power of American industrialization, the corporations, and the financial markets. They’d witness the rise of a particular group of their fellow citizens who, simply based on their wealth, the access it allowed to political power, and the control it granted over political institutions truly made them first among equals; a kind of untitled nobility or American Aristocracy. In 1898, these citizens realized that their nation was mobilizing for an unprecedented military engagement and spoke of the affects it would bring to the validity, claims, and principles of American Political Theory in the practical reality of their time. Their collective voice has echoed for decades, yet has been ignored, or worst, simply forgotten. With the conclusion of the Spanish-American War, the concept of what we now term National Security had so drastically been altered than previously perceived by men of law and politics. The United States of America had engaged in its first military conflict to seize land-colonial land-from another world power. For our purposes, it is of the utmost importance to highlight that it was not merely the land or its conquest for American Pride that was at stake, but rather the geo-political position of said land and its relation to global commercial markets. Carl Schurz, a U.S. Senator and Secretary of the Interior in the Hayes Administration explained it so provocatively at the Twenty-Seventh Convocation of the University of Chicago on January 4, 1899. He said:

The University of Chicago has done me an honor for which I am profoundly grateful. I can prove that gratitude in no better way than by uttering with entire frankness my honest convictions on the great subject…a subject fraught with more momentous consequence than ever submitted to the judgment of the American people since the foundation of our constitutional government. It is proposed to embark this republic in a course of imperialistic policy permanently annexing to it certain islands taken, or partly taken, from Spain in the late war…If ever, it behooves the American people to think and act with calm deliberation, for the character and future of the republic and the welfare of its people now living and yet to be born are in unprecedented jeopardy. To form a candid judgment of what this republic has been, what it may become, and what it ought to be, let us first recall to our minds its condition before the recent Spanish War. Our government was, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, ‘the government of the people, by the people, and for the people’. It was the noblest ambition of all true Americans to carry this democratic government to the highest degree of perfection and justice, in probity, in assured peace, in the security of human rights, in progressive civilization, to solve the problem of popular self-government on the grandest scale, and thus make this republic the example and guiding star of mankind…indeed, we were not without difficulties and embarrassments, but only one of them, the race antagonisms between the negroes and the whites, especially where the negroes live in mass, presents a problem which so far has baffled all efforts at practical solution in harmony with the spirit of our population, wealth, power, and civilization, and incalculable richness of the resources of our country, capable of harboring three times our present population, and of immeasurable further material development. Our commerce with the world abroad, although we had colonies, and but a small navy, spread unprecedented rapidity, capturing one foreign market after another, not only for the products of our farms, but also for many of those of our manufacturing industries, with prospect of indefinite extension. Peace reigned within our borders, and there was not the faintest shadow of danger of foreign attack…We look down the pitying sympathy on other nations which submissively groaned under the burden of constantly increasing armaments, and we praised our good fortune for having saved us from so wretched a fate…then came the Spanish War…According to the solemn proclamation of our government, the war had been undertaken solely for the purpose of liberation of Cuba, as a war of humanity and not of conquest. But our easy victories had out conquest within our reach, and when are ours arms occupied foreign territory, a loud demand arose, that pledge or no pledge to the contrary, the conquests should be kept, even the Philippines on the other side of the globe, and that as to Cuba herself, independence would be a provisional formality…Thus we observe now that business men with plenty of means are casting their eyes upon our ‘new possessions’ to establish mercantile houses there, or manufactories to be worked with native labor; and moneyed syndicates and ‘improvement companies’ to exploit the resources of those countries, and speculators and promoters to take advantage of what may turn up-the franchise grabber, as reported, is already there-many having perfectly legitimate ends in view, others ends not so legitimate, and all expecting to be more or less favored by the power of our government; in short, the capitalist is thinking of going there, or to send his agents, his enterprises in most cases to be directed from these more congenial shores…if we are true believers in democratic government, it is our duty to move in the direction towards full realization of that principle and not in the direction away from it. If you tell me that we cannot govern the people of those new possessions in accordance with that principle, then I answer that this is a good reason why this democracy should not attempt to govern them at all. If we do, we shall transform the government of the people, for the people, and by the people, for which Abraham Lincoln lived, into a government of one part of the people, the strong, over another part, the weak. Such an abandonment of a fundamental as a permanent policy may at first seem to bear only upon more or less dependencies, but it can hardly fail in its ultimate effects to disturb the rule of the same principle in the conduct of democratic government at home. And I warn the American people that a democracy cannot so deny its faith as to the vital conditions of its being-it cannot long play the king over subject populations without creating itself ways of thinking and habits of action most dangerous to its own vitality-most dangerous to those classes of society which are the least powerful in the assertion, and the most helpless in the defense of their rights. Let the poor and the men who earn their bread by the labor of their hands pause and consider well before they give their assent to a policy so deliberately forgetful of the equality of rights.

In another example, William Jennings Bryan, a Congressman, three-time Democratic candidate for the Presidency, Secretary of State in the Wilson Administration, concurred with Schurz’s conclusions. Speaking at the 1900 Democratic National Convention, Bryan delivered The Paralyzing Influence of Imperialism:

If it is right for the United States to hold the Philippine Islands permanently and imitate European empires in the government of colonies, the Republican Party ought to state its position and defend it, but it must expect the subject races to protest against such a policy and to resist it to the extent of their ability…someone has said that a truth spoken can never be recalled. It goes on and on, and no one can set a limit to its ever widening influence. But if it were possible to obliterate every word written or spoken in defense of the principles set forth in the Declaration of Independence, a war of conquest would still leave its legacy of perpetual hatred, for it was God Himself who placed in every human heart the love of liberty. He never made a race of people so low in the scale of civilization or intelligence that it would welcome a foreign master. Those who would have this nation enter upon a career of empire must consider not only the effect of imperialism on the Filipinos but they must also calculate the effects upon our own nation. We cannot repudiate the principle of self-government in the Philippines without weakening the principle here. Lincoln said that the safety of this nation was not in its fleets, its armies, its forts, but in the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands, everywhere, and he warned his countrymen that they could not destroy this spirit without planting seeds of despotism at their own doors. Even now we are beginning to see the paralyzing influence of imperialism…A colonial policy means that we shall send to the Philippine Islands a few traders, a few taskmasters, a few officeholders, and an army large enough to support the authority of a small fraction of the people while they rule the natives. If we have an imperial policy, we must have a great standing as its natural and necessary complement. The spirit which will justify the forcible annexation of the Philippine Islands will justify the seizure of other islands and the domination of other people, and with wars of conquest we can expect a certain, if not rapid, growth of our military establishment…A large standing army is not only a pecuniary burden to the people and, if accompanied by compulsory service, a constant source of irritation but it is even a menace to a republican form of government. The army is the personification of force, and militarism will inevitably change the ideals of the people and turn the thoughts of young men from the arts of peace to the science of war. The government which relies for its defense upon its citizens is more likely to be just than one which has at call a large body of professional soldiers. A small standing army and a well-equipped and well-disciplined state militia are sufficient at ordinary times, and in an emergency the nation should in the future as in the past place its dependence upon the volunteers who come from all occupations at their country’s call and return to productive labor when their services are no longer required-men who fight when the country needs fighters and work when the country needs workers…The principal arguments, however, advanced by those who enter upon a defense of imperialism are: First, that we must improve the present opportunity to become a world power and enter into international politics; Second, that our commercial interests in the Philippine Islands and in the Orient make it necessary for us to hold the islands permanently; Third, that the spread of the Christian religion will be facilitated by a colonial policy; Fourth, that there is no honorable retreat from the position which the nation has taken. The first argument is addressed to the nation’s pride and the second to the nation’s pocketbook. The third is intended for the church member and the fourth for the partisan…The growth of the principle of self-government, planted on American soil, has been the overshadowing political fact of the 19th century. It has made this nation conspicuous among the nations and given it a place in history, such as no other nation has ever enjoyed. Nothing has been able to check the onward march of this idea. I am not willing that this nation shall cast aside the omnipotent weapon of truth to seize again the weapons of physical warfare. I would not exchange the glory of all empires that have risen and fallen since time began. The permanent chairman of the last Republican National Convention presented a pecuniary argument in all its baldness when he said: ‘We make no hypocritical pretense of being interested in the Philippines solely on the account of others. While we regard the welfare of those people as a sacred trust, we regard the welfare of the American people first. We see our duty to ourselves as well as to others. We believe in trade expansion. By every legitimate means within the province of government and constitution we mean to stimulate the expansion of our trade and open markets.’ This is the commercial argument. It is based upon theory that war can be rightly waged for pecuniary advantage and that it is profitable to purchase trade by force and violence. [Benjamin] Franklin denied both of these propositions. When Lord Howe asserted that the acts of Parliament which brought on the Revolution were necessary to prevent American trade from passing into foreign channels, Franklin replied: ‘To me it seems that neither the obtaining nor retaining of any trade, howsoever valuable, is an object for which men may justly spill each other’s blood; that the true and sure means of extending and securing commerce are the goodness and cheapness of commodities, and that the profits of no trade can ever equal to the expense of compelling it and holding it by fleets and armies. I consider this war against us, therefore, as both unjust and unwise’. I place the philosophy of Franklin against the sordid doctrine of those who would put a price upon the head of an American soldier and justify a war of conquest upon the ground that it will pay…It is not necessary to own people in order to trade with them…Trade cannot be permanently profitable unless it is voluntary. When trade is secured by force, the cost of securing it and retaining it must be taken out of profits, and the profits are never large enough to cover the expense. Such a system would never be defended but for the fact that the expense is borne by all while, the profits are enjoyed by the few. Imperialism would be profitable to the Army contractors; it would be profitable to the ship-owners, who would carry live soldiers to the Philippines and bring dead soldiers back; it would be profitable to those who would seize upon the franchises, and it would be profitable to the officials whose salaries would be fired here and paid over there; but to the farmer, to the laboring man will be the first to suffer if Oriental subjects seek work in the United States; the first to suffer if American capital leaves our shores to employ Oriental labor in the Philippines to supply trade of China and Japan; the first to suffer from the violence which the military spirit arouses, and the first to suffer when the methods of imperialism are applied to our government. It is not strange, therefore, that the labor organizations have been quick to note the approach of these dangers and prompt to protest against militarism and imperialism. The pecuniary argument, though more effective with certain classes, is not likely to be used so often or presented with so much enthusiasm as the religious argument…The religious argument varies in positiveness from a passive belief that Providence delivered the Filipinos into our hands for their good and the glory to the exultation of the minister who said that we ought to ‘thrash the natives until they understand who we are’, and that ‘every bullet sent, every cannon shot, and every flag waved mean righteousness’. We cannot approve of this doctrine in one place unless we are willing to apply it everywhere. If there is poison in the blood of that hand, it will ultimately reach the heart. It is equally true that forcible Christianity, if planted under the American flag in the far-away Orient, will sooner or later be transplanted upon American soil…When our opponents are unable to defend their position by argument, they fall back upon the assertion that it is destiny and insist that we must submit to it no matter how much it violates our moral precepts and our principles of government. This is a complacent philosophy. It obliterates the distinction between right and wrong and makes individuals and nations helpless victims of circumstances. Destiny is the subterfuge of the invertebrate, who lacking the courage to oppose error, seeks some plausible excuse for supporting it. Washington said that the destiny of the republican form of government was deeply, if not finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the American people.

The foundation of the Imperial America, though cleavaged with the Republic, was formally constructed with the first shots fired in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines; moreover, those in positions of power were well aware of that which they were embarking. The Republic remained due only to the millions of its citizens who still believed in its spirit and honored the hundreds of thousands of their fathers, grandfathers, uncles, brothers, and countrymen who lay dead in graves in Shiloh, Antietam, and Gettysburg. The warnings of Schurz and Bryan reflected the ideals that were still very much alive and robust in the hearts of the vast majority of ordinary Americans at that time. While the First World War only increased the lands and dominion of Great Britain and France, it also solidified an alliance with the aforementioned nations with the United States, thereby thrusting the American Republic into the forefront of international affairs. Wilson’s vision of the League of Nations, the edifice on which the United Nations would later rest; the birth of a new nation that would prove to be a great adversary to the United States; the financial center of the Western world shifting from London to New York: all followed the horror of World War I. The Second World War would prove to the event that mobilized the United States to a position of prominence and leadership among the nations that followed the model and theory of free market capitalism. This was unimaginable just ten years prior when the nation struggled to find a political-economic policy that would lift it out of the Great Depression. By the end of 1945, the United States of America emerged as one of the only two of the world’s most powerful nations. As the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics began to acquire ‘satellite-protectorate’ nations in Eastern Europe and the Communist political ideology began to the Third World and simultaneously, the hold of the British and French empires began to collapse, the United States of America felt compelled to ignore the warnings of Schurz and Bryan and began to fulfill its Destiny. The theoretical argument offered to the American people by their government was as follows: in order to protect the very idea of Freedom, the elected official, policy advisers, intellectuals, and business removed the destiny of the Republic out of the hands of the People and allowed exterior force to disturb the Republic and foreign influence be permitted to change its course. The mission of the United States of America had begun its second greatest and revolutionarily altering course towards abandonment of democratic-republicanism, the primacy of the welfare of the average American citizen, and guarding the principle of the People being sovereign; and increasingly, speedily, became more concerned with maintaining American influence and prestige in the eyes of the world and possessing a superior level of military strength as compared to the Soviets. It was precisely the ability of the Soviet Union to gain allies, particularly in the Third World, which if unchecked, could prove calamitous to the economies of the United States and Western Europe that posed a threat to American interests. In relation to several commodities, in particular importing petroleum and exporting arms and technology, the United States needed the capacity to extract natural resources cheaply and control trade markets in foreign nations. Since 1945, there is no doubt that the foreign policy of the United States began the next phase in the culminating process that would propel the Imperial America experiment. Chalmers Johnson cites in his The Sorrows of Empire, that the United States of America currently has military installations of considerable size and cost on nearly continent of the globe. The Expeditionary Force of the United States Marine Corps boasts that it can place approximately 2,500 men and their essential material and equipment anywhere in the world in 48-72 hours, under the strategic caveat that a larger force of Marine and U.S. Army personnel would follow. These are military policies born in the Cold War (and even after the collapse of the Soviet Union, said policies remain in effect and existence in our contemporary time). While it is unnecessary for the vitality of any democratic-republic to hold such policies, any empire must utilize military force to impose its will on other nations. The Imperial America experiment is no different than any other empire in history, and as von Clausewitz wrote, ‘war is merely the most extreme form of politics’. Under the precepts of American realpolitik, any subordinate nation can be sacrificed for any reason that is politically and commercially expedient, therefore making war a necessary form of politics.

Consider this: in 1978, Baghdad was the wealthiest city in the world. A year later its neighbor, Iran, revolted in the spirit of democracy against its ruler, the Shah of Iran. The Shah enjoyed enormous political support and military aid from the United States. Iran’s ruler was just as, and perhaps even more, brutal than Sadaam Hussein has been portrayed in recent years. Politically-motivated executions, rape, and torture; a draconian secret police force; all were societal realities in the Shah’s Iran. These governmental violations of human rights were completely ignored by Washington. After the 1953 CIA-supported coup d’état that supplanted Iran’s democratically-elected Prime Minister, Mohammed Mossadegh, any action taken by the Shah’s government that would eliminate threats to the strategic, geo-political position Iran held for the United States and its closest ally, the United Kingdom, were welcome by American officials and business interests. In 1977 the people of Iran, reminiscent of the French Revolution, seized they streets and in 1979, their government. The People of Iran had forced the Shah out of the country, and in October of 1979, the Shah was granted permission to receive medical treatment in the United States. The Iranian people demanded his return in order that he could stand trial for crimes against humanity against his own former subjects. President Carter refused, and in response, the Iranian people stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and held its staff hostage. The only demand made by the Iranian people to the United States of America, was the return of the Shah who ordered the murder, rape, torture, and imprisonment of their relatives and fellow citizens. The inability of the Carter administration to successfully secure the release of the hostages, both militarily and diplomatically, along with a failing domestic economy, led to the election of Ronald Reagan to the American Presidency. Simultaneously, the Iranian Revolution shifted to an Islamic Revolution, with the ascension of the Ayatollah Khomeini gaining power in Iran. In the minds of policymakers and the new, Reagan administration, this had to be contained, Israel protected, the Carter Doctrine upheld, or could otherwise spread over the region into Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and other Gulf Coast states thereby creating huge disruptions to the American economy. It was decided that a proxy war would be the best option to preserve American interests in the Middle East. The United States would support the Sadaam Hussein’s Iraqi government in a war against the Islamic Republic of Iran, first clandestinely, and then in 1986, publicly. It was in 1986 that President Reagan had Iraq removed from the State-Sponsored Terrorism List at the State Department and began sending hundreds of billions of dollars in military aid, including biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction to Baghdad and under the control of Iraqi dictator Sadaam Hussein. The Iran-Iraq War ended in a stalemate with some estimated two million dean, among them thousands of Iraqi Kurds who has revolted against Sadaam and were killed with the use of biological and chemical weapons provided by the United States of America.

By 1989, the Iraqi government was operating under huge budget deficits, and its southern neighbors, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates exceeded OPEC-mandated production quotas, increasing supply, thereby driving the price of the barrel lower. Both nations chief customer was the oil companies of the United States. The Iraqis complained to then U.S. Ambassador, Ms. April Gallespie, who informed Baghdad that Washington preferred that a negotiated settlement be reached with Kuwait, but that officially the United States had no opinion in a dispute among Arab states. Sadaam complied with the United States government’s request, and called a summit between his representatives and that of the al-Sabah family who rules Kuwait. The chief complaint of the Iraqis was that Kuwait was drilling in the Rumaila oilfield, which both nations claimed as their own. Kuwait offered $500,000 dollars in restitution for drilling along the disputed border, which the Iraqis naturally refused.  The Kuwaitis left the meeting and soon after Iraq invaded and conquered all of Kuwait. After a strong public relations campaign designed to foster support of the American people, the United States attacked Iraqi positions in Kuwait in order to liberate the tiny nation. Yet, as these events were taken place, neither Sadaam nor anyone in his government was focused on the situation within the United States, nor of course no one could read the mind of President George H.W. Bush. William Blum writes in his daunting Killing Hope:

It’s the first half of 1990. The dismantling of the Berlin wall is being carried out a daily basis. Euphoria about the end of the cold war and the optimism about the beginning of a new era of peace and prosperity are hard to contain. The Bush administration is under pressure to cut the monster military budget and institute a ‘peace dividend’. But George Bush, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, former Texas oil man, and former Director of the CIA, is not about to turn his back on his many cronies in the military-industrial-intelligence complex. He rails against those who would ‘naively cut the muscle out of our defense posture’, and insists that we must take a cautious attitude towards reform in the USSR. In February, it’s reported that the ‘administration and Congress are expecting the most acrimonious hard-fought defense budget battle in recent history’; and in June that ‘tensions have escalated’ between Congress and the Pentagon as ‘Congress prepares to draft one of the most pivotal defense budgets in the past two decades’. A month later, a Senate Armed Services subcommittee votes to cut military manpower by nearly three times than recommended by the Bush administration…’The size and direction of the cuts indicate the President Bush is losing his battle on how to manage reductions in military spending’ During the same period Bush’s popularity was plummeting: from an approval rating of 80 percent in January-as he rode the wave of public support for his invasion of Panama the previous month-to 73 percent in February, down to the mid-60s in May and June, 63 percent of 11 July, 60 two weeks later. George Herbert Walker Bush needed something dramatic to capture the headlines and the public, and to convince Congress that a powerful military was needed as much as ever because it was still a scary and dangerous world out there. Although the official Washington version of events presented Iraq’s occupation of neighboring Kuwait as an arbitrary and unwarranted aggression…the current conflict had its origin in the brutal 1980-1988 war between Iraq and Iran. Iraq charged that while it was locked in battle, Kuwait was engaged in stealing $2.4 billion of oil from the Rumaila oil field that ran beneath the vaguely defined Iraq-Kuwait border and was claimed in its entirety by Iraq; that Kuwait had built military and other structures on Iraqi territory; and worst of all, that immediately after the war ended, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates began to exceed the production quotas established by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), flooding the oil market, and driving prices down. Iraq was heavily strapped and deeply in debt because of the long war, and Iraqi President Sadaam Hussein declared this policy was an increasing threat to his country-‘economic war’, he called it, pointing out that Iraq lost a billion dollars a year for each drop of one dollar in the oil price. Besides compensation for these losses, Hussein insisted on possession of the two Gulf islands which blocked Iraq’s access to the Gulf as well as undisputed ownership of the Rumaila oilfield. In the latter part of July 1990, after Kuwait had continued to scorn Iraq’s financial and territorial demands, and to ignore OPEC’s request to stick to its assigned quota, Iraq began to mass large numbers of troops along the Kuwaiti border…31 July…Iraqi troops led by tanks charged across the Kuwaiti border, and the United States instantly threw itself into unmitigated opposition…[George Bush] now took full advantage of this window of opportunity. Within hours, if not minutes, of the border crossing, the United States began mobilizing, the White House condemned Iraq’s action…and announced that it was ‘considering all options’; while George Bush was declaring that the invasion ‘underscores the need to go slowly in restructuring U.S. defense forces’…Bush was seeking to enlist world leaders for collective action against Iraq, all trade with Iraq had been embargoed, all Iraqi and Kuwaiti assets in the United States had been frozen; and the Senate had ‘decisively defeated efforts to end or freeze production of the B-2 Stealth bomber after proponents seized on Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait to bolster their case for the radar-eluding weapons’...Within days, thousands of American troops and an armored brigade were stationed in Saudi Arabia. It was given the grand name of Operation Desert Shield, and a heightened appreciation for America’s military needs was the prevailing order of the day…’Less than a year after political changes in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union sent the defense industry reeling under the threat of dramatic cutbacks, executives and analysts say the crisis in the Persian Gulf has provided military companies with a tiny glimmer of hope. If Iraq does not withdraw and things get messy, it will be good for the industry. You will hear less rhetoric from Washington about the peace dividend,’ said Michael Lauer, an analyst with Kidder, Peabody & Co. in New York. ‘The possible beneficiaries’ of the crisis, added the Washington Post , ‘cover the spectrum of companies in the defense industry’…meanwhile, George Bush’s approval rating had recovered. The first poll taken in August after the US engagement in the Gulf showed a jump to 74 percent, up from 60 percent in late July.

Sadaam Hussein was the immoral equivalent of the Shah of Iran, both of whom were allies to the United States of America for a significant period of time. Both killed and brutalized at the behest of the United States of America. Indeed, Sadaam was just as brutal, just as undemocratic; but his vision of himself in 1990 was in direct conflict with the economic and geo-political interests, both domestically and internationally, of George Herbert Walker Bush’s vision of the post-Cold War America. In the final analysis, like most leaders in the Muslim world, Sadaam had no conceptual understanding of the depth of Washington’s commitment to American realpolitik.

As a technical citizen of the United States of America, I, like Dr. King, had a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. And yet, in all truth, it is my elected officials, policymakers, Supreme Court justices, Defense secretaries, Secretaries of State, and all other holders of position of power who claim to be serving me and the rest of the American People; it is their commitment to American Realpolitik, and thus abandoning the political principle of democratic-republicanism, that has created, fostered, and maintained the State of Imperial America that destroys all dreams: that of Dr. King’s, that of my own, and the notion of an American dream.

Yet it is the moral coward that asks the question 'why', without asking the more important question of: what shall be done. And thus, having provided the why to the best of my capacity, I ask my people, my Ummah: what shall be done?

Isma'il ibn Bilal







Written by sister Aishah Kash Khan of London, England

Monday, October 25, 2010

There Shall be a Great Cry in all of Egypt...

For the very few, the imagination claims, who have been paying attention to political developments within the Arab Republic of Egypt, we offer some lines in the hope of providing clarity and healing. For it is inconceivable and horrible how in the 21st century, an entire nation of some 75 million people can be denied their Inalienable Rights Endowed by the Lord of All, with complicity of a Western government which claims said Inalienable Rights as its Ethos. Let there be no mistake, there is another ‘Great Cry in all of Egypt’ and like the times of Pharoah, so many ignore the Truth. In towns like Mansoura, Daqahleya, Sharqiya, and Qalyubiya: government security forces are breaking into the private homes and businesses of candidates of the Muslim Brotherhood and Wafd parties, beating, humiliating, and arresting said individuals for committing the crime of offering competition within the political framework of democractic-republicanism. Moreover, what pains me is that while the United States and Great Britain engaged in a seven-year war to engender similar type of political action within Iraq, and continues to do so within Afghanistan, it allies itself with a man and regime who I wish to named the Modern Pharoah of Egypt, in Hosni Mubarak. The United States sent so-called person of high interest and enemy combatants to Egypt via the CIA, in order that these people could be tortured, which includes beatings, electrocutions, sexual acts committed by dogs, during the Bush administration. And even our change President Obama invited Mubarak to the White House earlier this year, with full knowledge of his barring true democratic movements with the type of actions we see in Mansoura, Alexandria, and all other cities and towns within the Arab Republic of Egypt. Mubarak, the relic held over from the Nasserist era of Arab politics, beats, tortures, maims, kills, and so often radicalizes a people who are not afraid to bleed, in the words of Malcolm; and it is with shame and cowardice that I cite that so few American and British Muslims seem to care enough even to pay attention. One is content that The Most Merciful Allowed the death of Malcolm X, for after a life of struggle, calamity, and ultimately betrayal coupled with the sincere faith and hope he’d placed in Islam and in Muslims, he surely would have been heartbroken to learn, not only of the color-conscious racism that exist within the non-white Islamic world, but that in spite of being the fastest growing religion and creed throughout the globe, those whose ancestors have been Muslim for generations in historically Muslim homelands have chosen and prefer servitude to freedom. It is the moral coward who merely asks the question: why; without asking the all-vital question of what shall be done. The father of the modern Islamic Nationalism movement, Sayyid Qutb, provided us with a direction that must be traveled for the Muslim. Qutb wrote in his Milestones, Islam cannot fulfill its role except by taking concrete form in a society, rather, in a nation; for man does not listen, especially in this age, to an abstract theory which is not seen materialized in a living society…If Islam is again to play the role of the leader of mankind, then it is necessary that the Muslim community be restored to its original form.

Hamid Algar, who revised John Hardie’s translation of Qutb’s Social Justice in Islam, provides the most comprehensively accurate depiction of who Sayyid Qutb was, and what his life meant to the Islamic Nationalism movement. Algar tells us that Qutb was born in 1906, in the Upper Egyptian village of Qaha. As young man, Qutb had a passion for learning, education, and literary work. At just twenty-seven years of age, he published his first book, which was then followed by a plethora of other works, all of an artistic nature, which made him well known within Egypt’s literary scene. Qutb was mentored by a fellow Egyptian writer, Abbas Mahmud al-Aqqad, who introduced Qutb to a political party that was critical of the Egyptian monarchy and its complicity in the larger context of British Neo-Colonialism. It is in 1947, according to Algar, that Qutb became the editor-in-chief of two political journals, The Arab World and New Thought. Qutb ‘lost his position with [The Arab World] as a result of editorial disagreements’ and New Thought ‘was proscribed after only six issues’. Qutb had been in the employ of Egypt’s Ministry of Education, while simultaneously engaging in political activities that were oppositional and highly critical of Egypt’s King. Algar writes:

In 1948, the ministry sent him on a study mission to the United States, doubtless with the assumption that direct acquaintance with America would incline him more favorably to official policies and to induce him to abandon the oppositional activities that were increasingly taking on an Islamic aspect. Sayyid Qutb’s impressions of America were, however, largely negative…while noting American achievements in production and social organization, [he] laid heavy emphasis on materialism, racism, and sexual permissiveness as dominant features of American life. His sojourn in the United States coincided, moreover, with the first Palestine war, and he noted with dismay the uncritical acceptance of Zionist theses by American public opinion and the ubiquity of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim prejudice.

While studying in the United States, Qutb witnessed the American public’s elation at the news of the death of Hasan al-Banna, founder of the Egyptian political party, the Muslim Brotherhood in 1949. It is also in 1949 that Qutb’s Social Justice in Islam was published in Egypt. It was his first work dedicated to the Islamic Nationalist political theory, and upon returning to Egypt in 1951, he began to collaborate with the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, formerly joining them in 1953. Algar quite correctly surmises that Qutb’s entry in the Muslim Brotherhood provided the organization with its first true ideologue, but we differ with him about Qutb’s political philosophy leading to ‘a radicalization of the whole Islamic movement in Egypt’. It was not Qutb or the Muslim Brotherhood that became more radical, but more so presented a greater threat to the power structure of the Arab Republic of Egypt under Nasser. Algar writes:

[What drew Qutb to the Muslim Brotherhood] as defenders of Islam was further strengthened after his return to Egypt when a British official, James Heyworth-Dunne, told him that [the Brotherhood] represented the only barrier to the establishment of ‘Western civilization’ in the Middle East…On July 23, 1952 the Egyptian monarchy had been overthrown in a coup d’état mounted by a group of soldiers who styled themselves the Free Officers; they were formally led by General Muhammad Najib, but it soon become apparent that Jamal Abd’al-Nasser was the driving force behind the group. Although the coup was widely popular and its authors grandiloquently dubbed it a revolution despite the absence of mass participation, the Free Officers lacked any organized political base of their own. They therefore turned to the [Muslim Brotherhood]…for the effective mobilization of popular support…Before long, however, differences arose between the [Muslim Brotherhood] and the military rulers of Egypt. As a prelude to eliminating the [Brotherhood] as an autonomous force capable of challenging him, Nasser sought to first co-opt the organization by offering cabinet posts to some of its leading members…Qutb refused all such offers, and most of his colleagues in the [Brotherhood] also had the good sense to resist full-scale absorption into the emerging structures of the Nasserist state…[The most shocking policy decision for the Brotherhood] was the intention of [Nasser’s] Revolutionary Council-carried out in July, 1954-to conclude a new treaty with Britain providing for the retention of a British garrison in the Suez Canal zone and posting of British troops elsewhere in Egypt whenever Britain deemed its interests in the Middle East to be under attack

The history Algar relays is truly tragic. Nasser and the Free Officers could not have ousted the Egyptian king, who owed his crown to the policies of the British government. The king was, for all purposes, a mere vassal-lord of an Arab land within the British Empire. Had it not been for the popular support and political organization of the Muslim Brotherhood, it is perfectly conceivable that Egypt would still be ruled by a king. Yet, the words of James Heyworth-Dunne and the reporting of William Blum in his Killing Hope provide a great deal of circumstantial evidence that perhaps, Nasser had assistance from forces other than the Brotherhood. Blum writes that Kermit Roosevelt and the CIA have traditionally been given credit for somehow engineering the Free Officers coup in 1952, though Blum admits he is uncertain about the truth of this claim. He challenges the claims made by Miles Copeland in his The Game of Nations, which goes into Kermit Roosevelt’s involvement in the overthrow of Egypt’s King Farouk. However, we submit that if the British government has lost some confidence in Farouk’s ability to curtail the activities and influence of the Muslim Brotherhood, as the movement began to spread to Palestine, Jordan, and Syria, it inviting the American CIA to aid and assist in a military government takeover of Egypt would be plausible. Indeed, Blum makes it quite clear that the CIA was certainly involved in an attempted coup d’état of the Syrian government and thwarted one in Jordan. When we read what Heyworth-Dunne said to Qutb upon his return to Egypt, and Kermit Roosevelt’s involvement in the overthrow of the Mossadegh regime in Iran at the behest of the British government, we can certainly deduce that the Muslim Brotherhood posed a threat to a vision of the Middle East held by individuals in London and Washington. Furthermore, this would provide some insight into the dastardly decisions made by Nasser’s Revolutionary Council who had previously succeeded in overthrowing the ‘British puppet-king’ Farouk, only to enter into an agreement that so favored British interests in Egypt after the coup. God Knows Best, but one fact remains that Nasser used the Brotherhood, and despite the lives risked and lost in securing the coup d’état, Nasser would permit the very colonial master Qutb and the Brotherhood believed they were to rid from Egypt, to control the geo-politically important Suez Canal. Moreover, since the rise of the Nasser regime, Algar tells us that ‘the exhortations of the [Brotherhood were] either to return to civilian rule based on elections or to call a constitutional referendum’.

For the Islamic Nationalist this must serve as a stark example of our true, modern tradition. It is in 1952 and 1953 that the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood-the founders of the Islamic Nationalist movement-called for what they believed to be their transition government to engage in the political principles of democratic-republicanism; thereby allowing the Egyptian people to chose their destiny in their nation. As previously alluded, there are sound, circumstantial reasons as to why the Egyptian people were never afforded that opportunity, which would end in Nasser banning the Brotherhood as a party and throwing its leading members, including Qutb into prison. However, it is now we must examine the relationship between democracy, more specifically democratic-republicanism, and Islamic Political Theory and Philosophy.
First and foremost, it is necessary to have an accurate and clear definition of what democratic-republicanism is on a purely theoretical basis. The Muslim world has a tendency to confuse the theory of democratic –republicanism with the practices of the United States and the Western world in general. There is no doubt that America is my homeland, and it is my countrymen who created this new system of government in the eighteenth century. Yet, that which is equally true is there is a stark demarcation between the theory of America and the practice of America. Nonetheless, the theory and principles of democratic-republicanism are not only sound, but also were called for by the first Islamic Nationalists in our contemporary times. Millions of Muslims yearn for the restoration of the Caliphate, but unwisely look to the seventh century model for the methodology of its administration. These same countless millions ignore the most simple of prophetic traditions, when our beloved Muhammad (SAAW) told us to take what is good and leave what is bad, and verily the political theory of the United States of America is good and worthwhile in its duplication, so long as said duplication is done within an Islamic framework. Although, admittedly Qutb would disagree with this claim, another Muslim scholar, al-Sayed would concur. If Aristotle is correct, which we believe he is, that man is a political animal then in actuality democratic-republicanism is simply another method by which he organizes himself without monarchy.

The greatest political theorist, the primary author of the United States Constitution, and the nation’s fourth President wrote in the tenth Federalist Paper:

It may be concluded that a pure democracy, by which I mean a society, consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole…hence it is, that such democracies have even been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever found incompatible with personal security, or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives, as they have been violent in their deaths. Theoretic politicians, who have patronized this species of government, have erroneously supposed that by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would, at the same time, be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions. A republic, by which I mean a government in which the scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect, and promises the cure for which we are seeking…The two great points of difference between a democracy and a republic, are first, the delegation of the government, in the latter, to a small number of citizens elected by the rest; secondly, the greater the number of citizens, and greater sphere of country, over which the latter may be extended. The effect of the first difference is, on the one hand, to refine and enlarge the public views, by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country, and whose patriotism and love of justice, will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations.

After deposing the British-supported King of Egypt, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood called for elections to ascertain the views of the public as to who was best able to discern the true interest of their country. Unlike the Taliban and its al-Qaeda cohorts in Afghanistan, the Muslim Brotherhood did not trample on the rights of their sisters in Islam, compelling pseudo-Islamic practices under the threat of death by the AK-47. Nor did Qutb and the Muslim Brotherhood call for the destruction of the ancient statues of Ramses and the Pyramids of Giza, or destroy the Valley of Kings. Nor did Qutb call for brothers to slaughter zoo animals for human consumption. Twelve and thirteen year old girls were not wed to men thirty and forty years their senior, nor were boys of equal age convinced that killing themselves was an acceptable tactic of a mujahid. Qutb being the chief political ideologue of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in 1952 and 1953 did not call for the establishment of a caliph, but elections within the democratic-republican process. This is a human sign for those who reflect. Sayyid Qutb has unfairly and erroneously been characterized as the ideological father of al-Qaeda and the entire Islamic extremist movement. Despite what many of my countrymen believe, a Qutb to 9/11 direct culmination is pure idiocy. It is just as preposterous as direct culmination from William F. Buckley, Jr. to Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombings. Qutb was the greatest voice for Islamic Nationalism in the twentieth century, who in a period of social transition in the Middle East would not remain silent. It is because he used the voice of a citizen that he is demonized, and referred to with the undeserving term of radical. Islam is both religion/creed and politics. It was Created in such a fashion by The One True and Living God, and as Allah is Eternal, so is His Law. Al-Qaeda and all extremists are violators, criminals, before His Laws. The evidence of their guilt lies, both prior and after, September 11, 2001. Yet none of their actions can be used to indict Sayyid Qutb. Indeed, it is the state initiated murder of scholars and oppression of masses that creates the climate for extremists. History has revealed that any line of culmination to al-Qaeda ironically must begin with Jamal Abd’ al-Nasser. It was after all, Nasser who disbanded and outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood from the arena of Egyptian politics. He ordered the arrest and subsequent torture of its leading members, including Qutb, his brother, and two sisters. It is with Nasser that Qutb’s life as a political prisoner begins in 1954 and ends with his execution in 1966. Imprisoned, tortured, and living under the constant fear of his death, Qutb being the writer he had been created, educated, and trained to be, used the pen with which to strike back to regime who labeled him a criminal, a radical, and a terrorist.
Social Justice in Islam was written during better, and certainly freer, days in Qutb’s life. The work is of vital importance to the Islamic Nationalist for it portrays our mission and ultimate goal within the modern, contemporary context of our lives. While it does provide some areas of debate, Qutb was the first to challenge us to think and to govern for ourselves, using our Deen wa Dawalt as The Criterion, because we are Muslims. He reminds us of Allah’s Message, of which, we have been entrusted. He reminds us of we are. Qutb writes:

Such was the birth of Islam and such its task; so it was not liable to be isolated in human idealism far removed from practical worldly life; nor was it compelled to narrow the circle of its action out of fear of an empire or a monarch. For the center of its being and the field of its action is human life in its entirety, spiritual and material, religious and worldly. Such a religion cannot continue to exist in isolation from society, nor can its adherents be true Muslims unless they practice their faith in their social, legal, and economic relationships. And a society cannot be Islamic if it expels the civil and religious Laws of Islam from its codes and customs, so that nothing of Islam is left except rites and ceremonials.

When al-Farabi writes of Plato and Aristotle in Attainment of Happiness inquiring as to the certainty of the noble, virtuous, beautiful life that is derived from the human, voluntary science-the science specific to mankind alone- it is Qutb that answers with one word: Islam. Furthermore, it is Islam that is within his natural, fitra, possession. Simply stated: man knows that God, indeed, Exist. Qutb was a political theoretician who rejected all of al-Farabi’s notions and respect for the philosophy of the Greeks. Yet nonetheless, Qutb answer is simple, direct, and true for the Muslim who seeks to build a society and practice Islam beyond the Five Pillars. Qutb, again adds to the argument of the democratic-republican necessity of modern Islamic Nationalism, and unwittingly makes al-Farabi, Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle relevant for us. He states:

Furthermore, in Islam, there is no priesthood, and no intermediary between the creature and The Creator; but every Muslim from the ends of earth or in the paths of the sea has the ability of himself to approach his Lord without priest or minister. Nor again can the Muslim administrator derive his authority from any papacy, or from Heaven; but he derives it solely from the Muslim community. Similarly, he derives his principles of administration from the religious law, which is universal in its understanding and application and before which all men come everywhere as equals. So, the man of religion has no right to oppress Muslims; nor has the administrator any power other than that of implementing the law, which derives its authority from the faith.

The government of the Ummah derives its authority from the Muslim People, but unlike the American model of a democratic-republic, Allah is The Sovereign. There exist Laws Commanded by Allah (SWT) and His messenger (SAAW) that cannot be altered, negotiated, or ignored. It is from These Holy, Sacred Laws that individual human beings, both Muslims and non-Muslims derive their Inalienable and Islamic Political Rights. In his all-important text, Western Muslims and The Future of Islam, Tariq Ramadan has enumerated a list of seven of these rights, to which we have added another eight, which are essential to a viable, Islamic state and society. We will examine each of these rights at a later point, but highlight them now to juxtapose the actions and societal norms of the nation of Muslims who will received our highest criticism. It is this house that currently engages in the basest, degeneration within our Ummah. We submit their laws have degenerated a vast number of our brothers and sisters to an animalistic level, based on the denial of The Fifteen Rights Granted by The One True and Living God. However so there is no confusion, this house is not unique in the treatment of its citizens; yet for who these people are, the language they speak, and the sites inside of their borders makes them deserving of our highest criticism.

Ramadan identifies these seven rights that must be present within an Islamic State, to which we add the remaining: (1) The right to life and the minimum necessary to sustain it; (2) The right to family; (3) The right to housing; (4) The right to education; (5) The right to work; (6) The right to justice; (7) The right to solidarity; (8) The right to free speech; (9) The right to free press and media; (10) The right to vote; (11) The right of the citizen to petition and criticize his government, without fear of retaliation or reprisal; (12) The right to privacy; (13) The right to individual ownership of property; (14) The right of a woman to enjoy her rights as Granted and Derived from The One True and Living God; (15) In accordance with The Laws of The Holy Qur’an and Sunna of the prophet Muhammad (SAAW), The right of the free exercise of one’s conscience in religion and creed.

The Fifteen Rights of the Citizen of an Islamic Democratic-Republic represent the practical application of Islamic Theories of social justice. They are, paraphrasing the prophet (SAAW), the middle of the road between two bipolar extremes of American Liberalism/Laissez-Faire Capitalism and the literalism/violent determinism of the ultra-right wing Wahhabi/Salafi/Sahwah movement that has led countless millions of our brothers and sisters to their doom in this world and in the Next. Moreover, all Muslims throughout the Ummah who live under the tyranny and oppression of dictators and hereditary monarchs beseech their Guardian Lord for these Fifteen Rights and Liberty; for it is Liberty that is derived from Allah (SWT). In all places, on all continents, the Muslim is compelled to pay homage, and often to bow both literally and figuratively, to his fellow man. In Riyadh, in Amman, Casablanca, Kuwait City, and Muscat: his life, his ability to sustain it, and his dignity is all due to the whims, fancies, religious temperament of a fellow Muslim and that Muslim’s respective family. Whether al-Saud or al-Sabah, he must pay homage or risk political persecution, imprisonment, and ruin. He does not belong to himself, but to the family that controls his, and his nation’s, destiny. In Cairo, Algiers, Tripoli, Tehran, Damascus, and Islamabad, he must never speak of his oppression, do that which is expected of him, and be thankful for that which he has been given, or risk imprisonment, torture of himself and that of his family, or death. While several Muslim governments receive wide-ranging support from the West, in particular the United States and Great Britain, the deprivation of the Muslims’ their Inalienable Rights, derived from their Creator, The Lord of The Worlds, is a heinous sin and disease of the Ummah itself. No Muslim can lay blame on the West for the denial of his Fifteen Rights, for it is his governments sin, his people’s disease, and ultimately only his efforts that can, indeed, must discover the appropriate remedy.

There is a Great Cry in Egypt, and it shames me that falls on deaf ears. Ya Rab!

-Isma'il ibn Bilal