Like many of us I try and keep up with the news on a daily basis. As each day goes by this endeavor feels more and more futile for two main reasons. Firstly, there is a huge amount of information that is constantly pumped into the digital atmosphere. Keeping up with it all is nigh on impossible. Secondly, there is a lack of genuine objective quality in most of the writing that I come across. It is therefore a real delight when I read an article that really shows things in a completely different perspective.
With that in mind I would like to bring to your attention 4 articles that I hope are well worth reading. The first is from the brilliant documentary maker Adam Curtis who provides his expert analysis about Trump and American politics. The next is from journalist Hiba Khan who describes who and what ISIS really are. Following this is an intense article from Samira Shackle about ambulance driving in Karachi. Finally we have American academic Nazir Harb Michel who criticises anyone who feels they can interpret Islamic scripture without a proper understanding of the nuances of the text itself.
Links are provided to all 4 articles, each one well worth reading in full, but in case you are unable to do that then I have selected the best and most relevant quotes from each. Enjoy!
Adam Curtis, Apr 2017, salon.com
The truth is that no-one in America who is pushing for something to be done about Syria—the liberal humanitarians, the neoconservatives, the globalists in the military—has any real answer about who to support.
The truth is that we in the West have so simplified our vision of the world, into a battle between good and evil, that we now find it impossible to understand the reality. It was a process that started in the 1990s under Clinton and Blair, but both Trump and his enemies, the liberal interventionists, have inherited that one-dimensional view. It is dangerous because it ignores the realities of power in societies. And Trump may find he is opening the door to something very complicated, not just Syria but the forces that surround it—Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel, all of whom are deeply involved in the conflict.
Basically, a right-wing president has been elected, and he’s created a brilliant machine that captures liberals and keeps them completely preoccupied. What he does is he wakes up in the morning, tweets something that he knows isn’t true, they get very upset and spend the whole day writing in big capital letters on social media, “This is outrageous. This is bad. This is fascism.” What they’re not facing up to is the real question, which is why did Donald Trump win the election? What other forces in the country had they, the liberals, not seen?
What Trump is doing is playing with the fakery. It may be instinctive. He’s saying things that he knows that we know aren’t true, at which point everyone gets locked into a game of what’s true and what’s not true.
Russia has been the Other ever since about 1951 for America, and then everyone tried to make it be Islamists. By about 2007 that wasn’t working, and everyone now seems to have switched back to Russia.
There are only two ways of changing the world. One is if you’ve got large amounts of money. The other is to use collective action, the collective power that politics allows you.
Hiba Khan, 16 Apr 2017, independent.co.uk
Isis and al-Qaeda are little more than glorified drug cartels, and their motivation is money not religion.
Purported faith is just an excuse for terrorist organisations to take over the territory they need to monopolise the illegal drugs trade.
The black flags of Isis have become the latest symbols of Islamic extremism. Their savagery has come to represent what we believe to be a vulgar distortion of an Abrahamic faith. We’ve grown exhausted in our infuriation at the commitment of these people to sadistic interpretations of scripture, supposedly leading them through beheadings and slaughter, all the way to paradise. But what if I told you that their fury has nothing to do with faith? Terror is very big business. And I mean that in the literal sense.
Islam is a convenient label hiding the joining of two bloodied hands: trafficking and terrorism. Global gang violence has been “Islamised”.
Replace ideology with big bucks and a sense of belonging, Godly devotion with a disturbed, thuggish lack of morality and the conquered “caliphate” territory with a narcotic-fuelled gangland, and your picture of todays “Islamism” is a whole lot more accurate.
Samira Shackle, 21 Mar 2017, mosaicscience.com
For decades, Karachi has been troubled by violence. This is the country’s economic epicentre, where Pakistan’s different ethnic groups come in search of work. Ethnic conflicts have been simmering since the 1950s, ramping up as conflict and natural disasters elsewhere in Pakistan pushed more people into the city. For years, a brutal gang war raged in the slum of Lyari, and as terrorism drastically increased in Pakistan after 2001, Karachi became a key militant operating ground. Since 2014, a bloody crackdown led by the army has brought a semblance of calm, but tensions bubble under the surface.
Pakistan can sometimes be a cruel environment, its residents caught between the dual pressures of poverty and violence. Yet it is also a place of great kindness, with a strong culture of charitable giving. Donations from what Edhi called “the common man” still power the foundation. It refuses state money, and has politely turned away donations from businessmen it deems “unethical”. It fills many gaps left by the state, operating a dizzying array of services, from homes for victims of domestic violence to food banks to a shelter for stray animals.
Nazir Harb Michel, 14 Mar 2017, huffingtonpost.com
There’s a lot of upsetting stuff online about Islam and Muslims…I, like many Muslims, have grown used to the unceasing stream of vitriol directed at Islam, Muslims, our scripture, and our prophet. What got to me was the audacity of this individual.
We Can’t Reduce Complexity to Absurd Simplicity…If you hate something, keep it to yourself. Talk to a therapist. Don’t fool yourself into thinking Islam is fair game – hate is hate and it’s always wrong. Equating Islam, a religion, with ISIS, a terrorist organization that targets Muslims more than any other group, and everything it does is offensive and simply, factually wrong. It’s entirely incoherent, actually. It’s as absurd as saying “the KKK is Christianity” or “the Lord’s Army is Christianity” or “colonialism is Christianity”, “slavery is Christianity”, “the holocaust is Christianity”, etc. People’s claims to a faith tradition are not sufficient grounds for validation – all claims must be verified and ISIS’s claims to Islam do not check out. Every Islamic council, jurist, judge, and scholar, and Imam I’ve ever encountered has denounced ISIS’s actions as against Islam and abominable. If you find yourself saying you “hate Islam” and/or Muslims, and trying to justify that hate by claiming Islam is a “political ideology” or “an idea” rather than a religion, not only are you dramatically and emphatically wrong on all accounts, but you’re also reconstituting the exact same arguments that were used to dehumanize and then abuse and kill other minority groups in the past. Everything you’re saying about Islam and/or Muslims, literally everything, was said about Jews and Black people in the recent past. That hate was used to fuel and justify slavery and the holocaust. Europeans also attempted a genocide on Albanian Muslims in the 90s. What do you want to happen when you say these nasty things about Islam and Muslims?
You can’t possibly think that you’re right about Islam, can you? Of course you’re wrong. You have to know that deep down inside…You read the Quran? Which one? How many commentaries did you read with it? From which of the 77 [or more] schools of thought? Which contextualizing compendia of history did you read with them? Which of the top tier programs in Islamic Studies at Harvard, Oxford, Georgetown, and Cambridge did you earn your Ph.D.(s) in?
For ISIS, there are either Muslims who join them or there are Muslims who are inauthentic. Their argument is transparently self-serving and has no basis in any Islamic tradition. You anti-Muslim internet bullies, like the professional network of paid Islamophobic extortionists, operate on the same illogic: Muslims are either part of ISIS or they’re lying. A “moderate Muslim” is a secular one who doesn’t practice the faith and renounces the scripture and the law. Less than 1/1000th of 1% of Muslims ever get involved in militarism. Given the history of the (Re)conquista, the Inquisition, the Crusades, colonization, and the Global War on Terror, which has itself killed 1.3 million innocent civilians, it would be a wonder how more Muslims aren’t militants.