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The World After September 11
Part Three: The Demise of Political Islam

Outside today's two opposing reactionary poles - the militarism of US and Western governments on the one hand and the camp of political Islam and Islamic terrorist groups on the other - the prevailing climate for the majority of the world's humanitarians and peace-lovers is one of apprehension and trepidation. It is a climate of despair. Everyone is anxious about the deteriorating situation - the escalation of an insane, terrorist race, the killing and flight of hundreds of thousands of innocent Afghan people, chemical and biological attacks in the west, a political eruption in Pakistan, 'laptop' atomic bombs falling into the hands of political adventurers, religious fanatics and international criminals, 'the USA's new war' and a new phase in global bloodletting on a scale that only the USA has been and is capable of. The slogans and protests of the world's decent people has been mainly focused on maintaining the status quo (stopping the US attack on Afghanistan or returning to the pre-September 11 situation). This is a humanity, which has no hope for a better future. At best, it calls for calm. It wishes to avoid bombs, war and violence. A humanity that despite its na´ve, duped and docile daily image knows the brutal and heinous nature of the monsters that have entered this war - political Islam and US militarism. A humanity that simply wants to avoid the next catastrophe at any cost. The dominant policy within the wide spectrum of forces that oppose the war (and this includes relics of marginal Left groups in Europe, which prior to September 11, would not agree to anything less than a 'world revolution') is to call for calm, to attempt to halt the current trends and to return to before September 11. Pacifism is the dominant tendency in the resistance movement. And this is an extremely harmful policy that not only does not prevent the next disasters and its consequences, but actually guarantees their taking place.

The pacifist policy and concentrating on the military and armed aspects of the confrontation and the ensuing physical violence actually does harm since it causes political paralysis in people. The condition for preventing this terrorist race and this wave of explosions, destruction and mass murder that they have in store for us is people's intervention in Europe, America, the Middle East and the so-called Third World in the real political processes behind these events - a participation based on an active and positive agenda. If this happens, the future does not have to be bleak.

It is necessary to unearth these political trends and facts from beneath the war propaganda.

Behind the Official Propaganda: Terrorism and Political Islam

I do not think that anyone, even in the US army, believes the story that the September 11 atrocity was the work of a fanatical group taking orders from someone called Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan who has a personal and blind enmity with the USA, 'democracy' and the American 'way of life'. The western media are insistent that this incident was not 'the work of Moslems' and has not emerged from 'the teachings of the Koran'. Seasoned journalists are careful not to make any reference to Israel and the Palestinian question. They say linking the Palestinian question to this terrorist attack would mean conceding that this action has been instrumental in making the West pay attention to the Palestinian question. Consequently, instead of political Islam and Israel, they point us to Bin Laden and Afghanistan. The USA's war with Taliban in Afghanistan is an important event with long lasting consequences for the region and the world. This war will definitely affect the future of political Islam and even the Palestinian question. It has nothing to do, however, with capturing and punishing the perpetrators of September 11 and will even increase the possibility of terrorist actions against the West (I will return to this issue).

Islamic terrorism is a fact of our times. This terrorism is one of the main pillars of political Islam's strategy. Political Islam is a reactionary regional, and now global, movement that is nourished by the West and Israel's historical injustice toward Arabs and specifically the people of Palestine. The statelessness of Palestinians and the oppression of the Palestinian people by Israel and its Western allies are a main source of hatred for the West and the USA in the Middle East. More importantly, the Palestinian question and the USA and West's continued unwavering support for Israel against the Arabs both during and after the Cold War have created a huge economic, cultural and psychological rift between the people of the Middle East and the West. But the ability of political Islam to shift from the margins of Middle Eastern societies into the mainstream and to capitalise on this discontent in its endeavour for political power is all directly owed to the West and USA. Political Islam as a criminal movement with a widespread power base is the creation of the West and USA. They have created this monster and unleashed it on the people of the Middle East and now the world. Political Islam was the West's tool during the Cold War against Russia and against the emerging labour and Left movements and revolutions in many countries of the region. It was a means of preventing the Left from taking power in the region after nationalist governments reached an impasse during the '70s and '80s. The Palestinian question and the existence of Islamic governments in the Middle East are the pillars and foundations of Islamic terrorism. Any popular progressive and active policy must begin from this very point:

1) Resolving the Palestinian question. This historical problem must be resolved. The Palestinian people must have their own independent state. We must force Western governments and the USA to end their one-sided support for Israel. Israel must be compelled to accept peace and Palestinian independence. The resolution of the Palestinian question is the most important element in confronting political Islam and Islamic terrorism and is one of the main aspects of a progressive and active agenda in the current situation.

2) The West must end its reactionary support for Islamic and backward governments and various parties in the Islamic movement in the Middle East. Without Western backing, the Islamic regime of Iran would not have come to power or remained in power. Without the West's support, the assorted sheikhs in Saudi Arabia and large and small emirates would not maintain their brutal and reactionary rule and their system of slavery. Without the West's support, not only Taliban but also the preceding groups of Moslem Mujahedin could not have turned Afghanistan into an immense human tragedy. If the West's military, diplomatic and political support for Islamic movements were to end, the people of the region would quickly overthrow these governments. The demand to overthrow Islamic governments and to prevent dealing and wheeling between Western governments and USA with these reactionary governments must be another important aspect of the anti-terrorist platform of any progressive and popular movement.

3) The economic sanctions against the people of Iraq must end. The suffering of the people of Iraq has turned this into the 2nd Palestinian question in the minds of the people of the region. It is a living proof of Western and US terrorism in the Middle East. The economic sanctions have helped perpetuate the reactionary Iraqi government and pushed back the people of Iraq away from politics to a daily battle for physical survival. The struggle for an end to economic sanctions against Iraq is another vital element in a progressive platform against Islamic terrorism.

4) We must actively defend secularism in Moslem-inhabited countries and in Islamic and Islam-ridden communities in Western countries themselves. The shameful idea of cultural relativism (leaving people at the mercy of 'their own culture') and the systematic and theorised failure to defend people's, particularly women's, civil and human rights in these countries and communities, have given a free hand to political Islam to intimidate people and incite the youth. Universal human and civil rights must be the standard and any compromise with religion and reactionary religious rule to the detriment of human rights must be condemned.

Islamic terrorism is a reality. Terrorism is not the work of Moslems, but it is the official policy of the Islamic movement. This is a phoney movement created by the West in the context of the Cold War and amidst an anti-communist confrontation with workers and freedom-lovers in the Middle East. It is a weak and frail movement. It does not enjoy serious moral and political support in the region's major countries. It is out of step with the region's social realities. Without the West's support, political Islam would be defeated by socialism and secularism in the region. In Iran, which like Palestine is one of the main scenes where the fate of political Islam shall be sealed, the demise and downfall of political Islam has already began.

In the Next Part

The US war in the region, which has started in Afghanistan is not a war against terrorism, since it not only does not address any of the conditions necessary to fight terrorism (which I referred to earlier), but it even relies on sections of that very Islamic movement. Nonetheless, in my opinion, the USA has entered into a confrontation with political Islam. This is a power struggle. This conflict will logically lead to the weakening of political Islam. But the objective of the West is not the elimination of political Islam. It rather seeks to weaken it, tame it and remould its ranks in order to create a new equilibrium. The war in Afghanistan is about redefining the West's relationship with political Islam. We must break this framework and thwart this new reactionary alliance. We must pursue our own independent policy for ridding the region of this reactionary force much more rigorously under the new conditions.

* The pacifist position does not see this new conflict between the West and political Islam, does not recognise its importance for the people of Middle East who have been victims of this reactionary movement and for future political developments. The pacifist rank shirks its responsibility towards these realities. We must take our criticism of this pacifist and cautious position into the popular movement against terrorism and militarism.

* Because of the global and historical dimensions of this confrontation, the ideological and psychological characteristics of the people of world today, particularly in the West, are very different from the period of the attack on Iraq and even Yugoslavia. With people's mass participation in politics and civil struggles, US militarism will come out of this conflict politically weakened. With the active intervention of progressive forces, the current conflict which is itself about aspects of the new world order after the fall of the Soviet Union, can turn into a mass critique of this entire notion, re-examining the USA superpower status and its continued military intimidation of the world. From the point of view of freedom and equality, this is a much more important debate than the future of political Islam.

Mansoor Hekmat

The English version is a reprint from WPI Briefing.

Translators: Maryam Namazie and Fariborz Pooya #2020en