Archive | December 23, 2011

Reflections on Islam, Liberty and Development IV

Reflections on Islam, Liberty and Development IV


By Hwaa Irfan


From Islam, Liberty and Development by Mohammad Khātamī, written in 1997 *

Tradition, Modernity, and Development


On the cusp of change that is demanding to be heard as people raise their voices around the world, one wonders what kind of change is being born. Far too many uprisings of the past have only served to change roles and not the situation as the oppressed take up the mantle of that which was once the remit of the oppressor. Do we really just want to re-cut the cake, the Earth so that it is to our advantage, ignoring those who are disadvantaged by it, because if that is the case then we have not moved from the position that threatens all lives, and threatens the Earth that sustains us all.

Khatami writes:

“Development, like many other contemporary concepts, has its roots in the West. Here is how I define it: to establish widespread welfare on the basis of the values and criteria of Western civilization. Don’t we divide the world into the two camps of “developed” – meaning built on Western values – and “undeveloped?” Don’t we think of those countries as “developing” that are trying to modernize their way of life by emulating the West? Is here that the relationship between tradition and modernity comes into focus.

“Development is a Western concept, based on Western civilization,… Without knowing it we cannot know development, let alone decisions about it or reject it… So, I believe that debating about development is premature before focusing on its underpinnings.”

It is quite amazing that countries seeking to progress in these recent times, in the midst of a global economic crisis are blind to the basis of that crisis, and the conditions of those countries that are responsible for that crisis. Countries like Ethiopia, are willing to impoverish the fertility of its soil by undertaking an expansive commercial farming program that is a product of land grab – the exploitation of foreign lands for the sustained wealth of developed countries. Ethiopia along with many other countries like Brazil are willing to sacrifice the self sustaining habits and practices of its indigenous population, practices that actually show them the way forward to a sustainable future to the short term unsustainable practices of Western development. This of course ignores the fact that Western development is based on the wealth of the countries that are mainly “underdeveloped” and “developing”. In this context, what is meant by “underdeveloped” and “developing” are countries where their natural wealth benefits most the “developed” countries and benefits least the “underdeveloped” and “developing” countries. There is no logic in this at all except for the illusion of immediate wealth, which will lead to their own “wells” going dry. They think not of tomorrow, and generations to come. They think only in capitalist terms, that are of immediate and self interest, and forget their relationship to God and all creation, and that is those who live are but guardians, stewards, but can never be the owners. Those “underdeveloped” and “developing” countries seeking to reach the summit of Western development remain blind to the injustices that are perpetuated within the countries of the “developed” countries, the growing gap between rich and poor, the conditions of education for those who cannot afford private education, the level of gender-based violence that inflicts even the very young, and the very old, the growing mental health industry, and the environmental, health and social disasters that permeate “developed” societies. In fact what is seen from afar is only the wealth and not the way that wealth is achieved, and the price of that wealth even on the families of the wealthy because that wealth cannot sustain itself without inflicting harm at one level or another!

“First, development is not a mechanical process that can be achieved in the absence of rational human beings. And second, a society that is devoid of rational thinking will lose its balance as soon as it encounters problems…”

A clear cut example of this is France, a country that still maintains its colonial wealth through the blood, sweat and tears of the people of countries like the Ivory Coast. All force is used to sustain that relationship as in recent events that led to the criminalization of a democratically elected leader, Laurent Gbagbo, for the international elite’s preference Alassane Outtara a former IMF CEO, and former Prime Minister of Houphouet-Boigny (where Outtara administered an IMF deal that plunged Ivorians into poverty). Governed by the elite, as France plunges further into a debt crisis, it comes up with a euro-treaty that Germany wants to pull out of, a treaty that would consolidate the U.N moves over the years of unifying all social, health, and education policies, and make a final push towards one government for all the European countries. Lacking the ability to find real solutions, France lashes out at Britain for not agreeing to the treaty, and forces a situation that will worsen its economic situation with Turkey over a humanitarian issue that France is not innocent of in other countries including its own!

All rationale has gone out of the window, as former imperial powers returns with brute force to reclaim their imperial past using “development” of “underdeveloped” and “developing” countries to do so!

“Each civilization has encountered great crises, and by relying on its natural strengths, it has been able to pass through them beginning in the nineteenth century and culminating in the two world wars of this century. But the liberal and capitalist West managed to confront and outlive its socialist opponent through adjusting its institutions. Precipitated by its own internal weaknesses, socialism’s demise dazzled the world. It is nonetheless clear that the West is faced with other deep crises, that have arisen out of questioning the core values of the West evident in a decrease in confidence in its capabilities and permanence. These questions are now more pressing and pertinent than ever. Thus, objections to the moral and philosophical bases of the West are more common today…”

European establishments, in a bid to “save’ themselves have taken steps pertaining to sovereignty – steps that in a democratic society requires the people be heard. The only country to have taken this all crucial step is Iceland in the forming of a new Constitution. The establishments of the West have forgotten one important key, a key that is exampled by the struggle that permeates the Arab Spring” and that is the voice, and the needs of the people. The governing body, Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, Egypt, have forgotten that their legitimacy came about as a result of the 25th January Revolutionists, and the Muslim Brotherhood which appears at this point in time to be the ones who will constitute the next government, have forgotten that their bid for power has only been made possible by the 25th January Revolutionists. Both SCAF and Muslims Brotherhood will make and have made the same mistakes of the previous regime. Equally, the establishments of the West have forgotten that their legitimacy has come about as a result of the people, as well as their wealth, all of which speaks of underdevelopment, not development.

Related Topics:

Reflections on Islam, Liberty and Development

Reflections on Islam, Liberty and Development II

The International Elite vs. Communal Democracy of Ivory Coast

From Liberation to Re-enslavement

What’s Really Going on in Syria!

The Right to Life and Mother Earth

C0P17: People’s Statement on the Durban Climate Talks

Reoccupying Egypt

The Sermon of Mina

Reflection on Islamic Work Ethics

Reflection on Islamic Work Ethics II

Reflection on Islamic Work Ethics III

Reflection on Islamic Work Ethics IV

Reflection on Islamic Work Ethics V

Capitalist Democracy

But Iraqi’s Will Still Pay the Price!

From Infowar.comBut the Iraqi’s Will Still Pay the Price!*

Every effort must be made to thwart those who seek to embellish and distort America’s lamentable legacy in Iraq.


By Gary Younge


December 19, 2011 “The Guardian” —  On 19 November 2005 a US marine squad was struck by a roadside bomb in Haditha, in Iraq’s Anbar province, killing one soldier and seriously injuring two others. According to civilians they then went on the rampage, slaughtering 24 people. They included a 76-year-old man in a wheelchair and a three-year-old child. It was a massacre. “I think they were just blinded by hate … and they just lost control,” said James Crossan, one of the injured marines.

When he heard the news, Major General Steve Johnson, the American commander in Anbar province at the time, saw no cause for further examination. “It happened all the time … throughout the whole country. So you know, maybe, if I was sitting here [in Virginia] and heard that 15 civilians were killed I would have been surprised and shocked and done more to look into it. But at that point in time I felt that it was just a cost of doing business on that particular engagement.”

Eight soldiers were originally charged with the atrocity. Charges against six were dropped, one was acquitted and the other is awaiting trial. We know this because a New York Times reporter found documents from the US military’s internal investigation in a rubbish dump near Baghdad. An attendant was using them to make a fire to cook smoked carp for dinner.

The article ran on the same day that Barack Obama announced the withdrawal of American troops last week, hailing the almost nine-year war a “success”, resulting in “an extraordinary achievement” that the troops can look on “with their heads held high”. And so it is that America moves on, casting evidence of its war crimes in the trash, holding nobody accountable and choosing to understand defeat as victory and failure as success.

While the departure of American troops should be greeted with guarded relief (guarded because the US will maintain its largest embassy in the world there along with thousands of armed private contractors), every effort must be made to thwart those who seek to embellish and distort their lamentable legacy. You’d think that would be easy. The case against this war has been prosecuted extensively both in this column and elsewhere. (The argument that the removal of Saddam Hussein somehow compensates for the lies, torture, displacement, carnage, instability and humans rights abuses is perverse. They used a daisy cutter to crack a walnut.)

This war started out with many parents but has ended its days an orphan, tarnishing the reputations of those who launched it and the useful idiots who gave them intellectual cover. Nobody has been held accountable; few accept responsibility.

In any case, they could not have done it alone. It was only possible thanks to the systemic collusion of a supine political class and a jingoistic political culture, not to mention a blank cheque from the British government. When the war started, almost three-quarters of Americans supported it. Only politicians of principle opposed it – and there were precious few of those. When Nancy Pelosi was asked why she had not pushed for impeachment of Bush when she became speaker in 2006 she said: “What about these other people who voted for that war with no evidence … Where are these Democrats going to be? Are they going to be voting for us to impeach a president who took us to war on information that they had also?”

Today, withdrawing the troops is about the only truly popular thing Obama has done in the last two years. Polls show more than 70% support withdrawal, roughly two-thirds oppose the war, and more than half believe it was a mistake. But there is a difference between regretting something and learning from it. And while there is ample evidence of the former, there is little to suggest the latter.

According to Christopher Gelpi, a political science professor at Duke University who specialises in public attitudes to foreign policy, the most important single factor shaping Americans’ opinions about any war is whether they think America will win. This solipsistic worldview is hardly conducive to the kind of introspection that might translate remorse into redemption.

It’s a mindset that understands the war in Vietnam as being wrong not because an independent country was invaded, flattened, millions murdered and thousands tortured. It was wrong because the US lost.

And it pervades the political spectrum. Even when the war’s critics slam the blood and treasure squandered, they usually refer only to American lives and American money. This is also the way pollsters frame it. A recent CBS poll asked: “Do you think removing Saddam Hussein from power was worth the loss of American life and other costs of attacking Iraq, or not?” (50% no, 41% yes), and “Do you think the result of the war with Iraq was worth the loss of American lives and other costs of attacking Iraq, or not?” (67% no, 24% yes). The cost to Iraqis simply does not feature.

“It is the end for the Americans only,” wrote Emad Risn, argued an Iraqi columnist in a government-funded newspaper. “Nobody knows if the war will end for Iraqis too.” And few Americans seem to care. It’s been some time since Iraq featured at all on the nation’s priorities, let alone high. Rightly Americans fret about the fate of veterans returning to a depressed economy with a range of both physical and mental disabilities. But Iraqi civilians barely get a look-in.

According to the New York Times report, among the discarded testimony was an interview with Sergeant Major Edward Sax. “I had marines shoot children in cars, and deal with the marines individually, one on one, about it because they have a hard time dealing with that.” When they told him they didn’t know there were children on board he told them they were not to blame, claiming killing would impose a lifelong burden on them.

Progressives, seeking to link the economic collapse to military misadventure, often argue that nation building should begin at home, not in Iraq, thereby – wittingly or not – transforming Iraqis in the public imagination from victims of illegal warfare to recipients of illicit welfare. Without any apparent irony, Obama marked the end of the occupation by calling on others not to meddle in Iraq’s internal affairs.

The combined effect of all of this is like breaking someone’s jaw with your fist only to bemoan the excruciating pain that has been visited on your hand.

America is not alone in this. Amnesia and indifference are the privileges of the powerful. It is for the Kenyans and Algerians to recall the atrocities committed by the British and French under colonialism while the colonisers remain in flight from their history. “The essential characteristic of a nation is that all its individuals must have many things in common,” wrote the 19th-century French philosopher Ernest Renan, “and must have forgotten many things as well.”

No wonder then that a recent Pew poll found that despite all the evidence to the contrary 56% of Americans said they thought the invasion had succeeded in its goals while the number of those who think the invasion was the right decision stands at its highest in five years. The cost of doing business always seems more reasonable when someone else is paying the price.


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The Might of Ignorance Directed at Iran

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Open Letter to Barack Obama