[Marxism] Political Islam and other considerations about religion and politics

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Thu Dec 28 10:14:16 MST 2006

Louis is entirely correct to point to the recent uprising of
anti-Islamic sentiment by Washington and the western regimes.

Before I continue, let me remind people that I'm still very
much an atheist and, God willing, I always will be...<g>

Walter Lippmann
Los Angeles, California

What is it that's so troubling to some people about the Islamic
religion? Why is there so much focus on Islam and not on such
other faiths as Christianity and Judaism? Why the emphasis here
on "political" Islam, as if there was some other kind than a
"political?" Even if a religion claims to be non-political and
thinks it's non-political, it's political anyway. And why not any
big emphasis on the other religions? It wasn't so long ago that
Washington was using political Islam in the form of the Taliban
against the Soviet-backed government of Afghanistan. In those
days, no one was all bent out of shape about "political Islam."

One look at Malcolm X and the informed readers should quickly see
Islam can provides a vehicle for those who want it to serve as a
vehicle for the struggle for liberation. Before he even set up the
Organization of Afro-American Unity, he created an Islamic temple
within which to practice the faith which guided his thinking, a
faith he never waivered in.

Of course, Islam, like Christianity, like nationalism and like
atheism, and empty vessel which can be, and which is, filled with
different content depending on time, place, circumstance and
political inclination. The Islam of Malcolm X let him to be a better
fighter, while the Islam of Elijah Muhammad both drew Malcolm out of
his individual and criminal world and into a broader world than he'd
known in his years as a petty criminal. The Wall Street Journal seems
to grasp this without difficulty:

"Religion, excoriated by Karl Marx as the "opiate of the masses," has
become a great mobilizing force -- even for zealous atheists. The
phenomenon extends beyond the Middle East to Europe, Latin America
and Africa, too. Causes that a few years ago seemed moribund or at
least passé -- socialism, Third World solidarity, strident
anti-Americanism -- have been injected with the fervor, though rarely
the actual faith, of Islamic radicalism

"We are all here to fight American hegemony," Naim Qassem,
Hezbollah's deputy chief, told hundreds of secular activists from
around the world who gathered last month in a Beirut conference
center. They were there to celebrate his Islamic movement's "divine
victory" over Israel this summer and cheer a broader battle against
America's vision for the world. Mr. Qassem was dressed in flowing
robes and a cleric's turban. Many in his audience wore T-shirts or
badges featuring portraits of Che Guevara, clenched fists and other
emblems of secular radical chic." FULL:

The same Christianity which teaches some to subordinate themselves to
the rule of the existing society, has provided others with tools to
fight for social justice: From Camilo Torres to Jose Antonio
Echevarria, from Malcolm X to Ernesto and Fernando Cardenal. In the
United States we have those like Jerry Farwell and James Dobson, who
use religion as a tool to divide the people against one another, or
we have Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and others active in today's

Here's some of the best appeals to Christian sentiment today, from
Pastor Hugo Chavez Frias. Should we lecture him about how badly he
is teaching his people when he spoke at his victory celebration:

Over there is Christ with his open arms, I see him illuminated on
this victorious night and I recall one of his words: “Everything is
completed”. Thus I repeat today, like Christ, “Everything is
completed”: the great victory of the Bolivarian revolution.
It’s the victory of love, its the victory of the new, it’s the
victory of the future. And when I recall Christ I say, “Our father
who is in Heaven and Earth, Your kingdom come”, and the kingdom of
Christ is the kingdom of love, the kingdom of peace, the kingdom of
justice, of solidarity, of brotherhood. That is to say, the kingdom
of socialism. That is the kingdom of Venezuela’s future.
Let no one fear socialism. Socialism is fundamentally humane,
socialism is love, socialism is humanity, socialism is solidarity.
The new socialism is an original, indigenous, Christian and
Bolivarian socialism. That is our socialism. Let’s build it! Today
begins then that new era, today begins then that new epoch. To the
people, to all the nation, this message: We have shown that Venezuela
is red.
>From here I repeat what I said two or three days ago: we also
dedicate this victory to the Cuban people and to president Fidel
Castro, brother, comrade, companion. From here an embrace, Fidel. 
And to our brother people of Cuba, so mistreated by the Venezuelan
oligarchy, so badly treated by the oligarchy’s international sectors.
Hasta la Victoria siempre! Patria o muerte!

If revolutionary-minded people don't learn how to talk with and work
with those who practice one or another religous or other faith, we
won't be able to see any progress in any progressive struggle, and
if we invest much energy in religion-fighting, we won't be able to
achieve much in alliance-building. That's my reading in any event.

Further reading:
by Nelson Valdes: 

by Aasim Sajjad Akhtar

Intriguingly, in the western world, and even in countries like India
where Muslim politics is on the margins, Islamic groups would appear
to have a far more progressive slant than in the Muslim world itself.
It may be postulated that this is because Muslim groups in non-Muslim
majority countries are often on the socio-economic margins and the
political demands of Muslim groups relate to secular concerns about
the social and economic deprivation of first or second generation
immigrants. In comparison, the established Islamic parties and
movements in much of the Muslim world remain unwilling to engage with
fundamental questions about the configuration of power and the larger
structures of their societies, and instead spend much more time
rhetoricising about ‘heretical’ imperialism and the threat that it
poses to Islam.

The stunning and decisive defeat of Israel by a Hezbollah-led
resistance in Lebanon including the Lebanese Communist Party should
reignite the debate over the possibility of a progressive current
within political and social movements that associate themselves with
Islam. Time will tell whether Hezbollah does articulate a progressive
politics that does indeed challenge status quo. In any case, one
cannot expect the American empire and its henchmen to stop
terrorising Muslim populations in the near future, and therefore it
is up to progressive forces around the world to take seriously the
question of how to regenerate the left in the Muslim world amidst a
wave of anti-imperialist sentiment. The astonishing resurrection of
the left in Latin America is evidence enough that the third world is
ready to pose another defining challenge to capitalist imperialism,
and there can be no question that working people in the Muslim world
have a key role to play in the coming struggles.

The points above are very well-taken. 
Here's one example of the points 
which the author is driving at:

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