The War on Dissent

Persisting with selective remembrance, fuzzy logic and contrived debates is what sustains global Terrorism. Let me explain. If suddenly asked to comment on the scourge, most of us would think back to the murder of publisher Dipan and the latest “French 9/11” terror attacks. That’s how it works: we understand abstract concepts in terms of narratives, events, places and personalities. Specifics. Recent attacks rank high on recall; ones from yester-years fade.

As a result, the layman’s understanding of Terrorism is limited by a peculiar historic amnesia and a lack of cultural, social, economical or political context. The amnesia is transformed into Denial by meta-narratives and tribal allegiances. This is why leaders and Media can easily tell us which deaths to mourn and which lives to eulogize, thus sowing the early seeds of Division.

terrorist-freedom-fighter

Terrorism in the present day is a concept that arose and received meaning in the West. The narrative is therefore a one-sided saga of armed barbarians wreaking havoc on civilized, soft targets.

Western intellectual-political-industrial consensus on Terrorism is sustained by two basic tenets: (a) the opposition has no morality or legitimacy and (b) the allied forces can never be stripped of moral high ground or legitimacy.

Terrorists are thus the modern-day Others, opposites who define what First World citizens are not. Even terror suspects are treated as sub-human beings without any basic rights. What this means is that moral judgment is predicated not upon intentions or actions, but upon tribal-religious identities and political affiliations. It is not what but who that elicits labels of Terrorism. Consider the evidence: even the use of White Phosphorus or bombing of orphanages is spared the tag of ‘terrorism’. But the ‘kidnapping’ of a soldier of an invading army is painted as terrorism. Such is the power of interpreting. This meaning-making is neither unorganized, nor is it arbitrary; analysts’ and Media’s eagerness to stick ‘terror’ labels to certain events/persons, while blaming aberrations or disabilities for others, is by design.

A crucial outcome of this distinction, whether intended or otherwise, is the continued refusal to allow adversaries a motive or a voice (unless it is a threat or responsibility-claim). As a result, fantastic ideas like “they hate our Freedom” or “the Quran wills it” can be advanced as the root-cause of Terrorism. Any deeper resentment or grievance thus remains unknown.

Muslim in the West
Muslims, and before them the Jewish, the Black and virtually all ‘others’, have faced violent discrimination in America.

Western academics, analysts and experts have produced heaps of theories on Terrorism, but have lent little credence to Muslim/Eastern interpretations. This creates a monopoly of meaning-making concentrated in the West, enforced by premier think-tanks, international media conglomerates and social media giants. Ask yourself: would the news stories be the same if the apparatus were based in Muslim countries and owned by Muslims? Would we not hear more of the ravages perpetrated by western colonialism and invasions? Would Facebook profile picture campaigns then be about Paris or Beirut?

The Muslim World’s experience of Terrorism is a grotesque reflection of itself as mirrored by western media. It has been divided and rendered incapable of articulating its opinions, values and morality. Though some Gulf States are involved in patronizing Salafist extremism, the Muslim World generally has no interpretive or analytical role in Terrorism discourse. This leaves them with only the symbolic responsibility of routinely conveying condemnation after each terrorist attack.

Significant political power is bestowed through absolute control over ‘meaning’. A discerning reader may notice that Terrorism is often times more useful to western leaders, than they are to terrorists. The French 9/11 alone has allowed President Hollande to invoke ‘acts of war’ and launch airstrikes. In the aftermath, Poland has suggested creating an army out of refugees and sending them back to ‘liberate Syria’. Donald Trump has used it to advocate the need for more guns. Soon, another al-Qaeda offshoot may be funded and armed to engage Assad. It is unkind to say so, but 120 odd European deaths carry enough political capital to justify airstrikes, militant funding, racial profiling and anti-immigrant policies for years.

Yet the deaths will not lead nations to wonder why so many precious lives were taken. The spectrum of Terrorism debate is narrow and protected. Terrorists’ motives are a taboo topic. As are ‘WTC Building-7’ and ‘entrapment’. Take unwritten, social dictums for example: ‘researching the motive of terrorists is the same as trying to justify killing of civilians’ or ‘if you invoke American/European atrocities in the East, the terrorists win’. These civic norms – not unlike religious edicts – are geared to protect precious narratives and symbols. For example, you may not suspect or claim that the official 9/11 story is not factual. You may not theorize that Charlie Hebdo stood for anything but Free Speech. You may not suggest that the Muslim Brotherhood had a democratic power-base. Such secular edicts govern how Terrorism may be spoken about, and to what end.

Selective remembrance, fuzzy logic and contrived debates are what sustain global Terrorism. But then, are the terrorists free of blame? Of course not! Terrorism is evil. Even when carried out by non-Muslims. But our opinion of Terrorism must not be conflated with our study and evaluation of it. This entails treating both the ‘terrorists’ and the western ‘War on Terror bloc’ as rational, rival sides in an unannounced, unauthorized war. Both are guilty of genocide, human rights violations and contravention of International Law. The contrast in methods is merely a reflection of unequal capabilities. Both sides are vying for public support: one by portraying itself as victims of barbarism, the other by painting itself as a force of resistance against imperial forces. There is no compelling reason to unquestioningly accept their war-propaganda or to favor any one over the other. Our sympathy, for either side, only furthers this unholy war.

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8 comments

  1. I struggle with this article. So much of it I agree with – in fact the most important points I certainly agree with. Yet I can’t go with the opening premise of Muslims as ‘others’ – well not entirely.

    I think unlike the Jewish and Blacks and other ‘others’ and despite the background noise of terrorism prior to 9/11 the big difference is that 9/11 was so massive, so terrifying and so publicly declared by a group claiming to be Muslim and for Islam that Islamic Terrorism was put on the map. Prior to that, the majority of non-Muslims had no thoughts about Muslims at all.

    Unfortunately, despite the fact that most terrorism in the world today is non-Muslim in origin, the worst atrocities that have happened around the world since and including 9/11 have been perpetrated by groups claiming Islam as their raison d’etre. If the West has made Muslims the new ‘other’ it is because of these terrorist groups and not because of a prejudged position – albeit that such a position is now well and truly entrenched as a reault and so making life hell for too many innocent Muslims today.

    Please do not read my comments however, as major criticism of the article. I’m in much agreement with what you say.

    • Hello Ken bhai …thank you for reading. I am glad we have similar perspectives. Of course, we will always have disagreements and that’s fine. In fact, disagreements are brilliant! That’s how we must go forward. I will think on your point about the ‘other’.

      I will however, argue that anti-Muslim sentiments were simmering in the proverbial West long before 9/11 – not in homes, but certainly in the War Rooms. A relatively recent context can be drawn from the end of the Ottoman Empire, the Balfour Declaration and reckless regime-engineering / funding / arming in the so-called Muslim World. There is a reason why Huntington wrote the Clash of Civilizations. Perhaps, you will read my sister-piece on antiterrorism?

      I take issue with your ‘raison d’etre’ argument, because it essentially restarts the cycle of blame. Both sides kill. Some do it in the name of ‘Islam’. Others do it in the name of ‘Free Speech’ or ‘Democracy in Libya’. Their killing and destruction never benefit that which they invoked. It’s like recognizing that the crusades had nothing to do with “God’s Will.” To take at face value the stated reasons for War, is to feign ignorance about the underlying politico-economic wisdom that spawns conflicts (especially, during global downturns).

      Statutory condemnation: I hope ISIS / Al Qaeda / Boko Haram and their ilk burn in hell and their perverse ideologies return to dust. They are our tormentors too.

      • Absolutely Adnan bhai! Debate is always good. I have no issue with your response other than the need to clarify my position. I agree with your anti-Muslim sentiments prior to 9/11 but I stand by my point of ‘the majority of non-Muslims’. The difference is now that I would say a large minority (and only just minority I would guess) now see Muslims as ‘other’ and this is fuelled by media propaganda. Prior to 9/11 however, there was no such vehicle.

        I agree with your points on the ‘raison d’etre’ argument but want to emphasise not that there is a blame here but merely a case of a public tag. Most people still do not realise the history behind why 9/11 happened because for most Westerners at least, what happens far away (ie. not in their own country) has little impact. Why would we care what happened in Israel and Palestine? That’s how people think. 9/11 changed that – and it did so with a VERY big tagline – we do this in the name of Allah. Now I don’t for one minute agree that this was true – of course these groups are far removed from traditional/true(?) Islam and the name of Allah is a political ploy and justification for atrocious acts – but nevertheless it put Islam on the map in a most terrible way. What would, in the past, have been a slight suspicion of these strange people who do things differently to us (the British view) became and out and out hatred because, after all, what one Muslim does all Muslims do – isn’t that so how we think of ‘others’?
        If it had been the Ku Klux Klan who had committed the equivalent of 9/11 and was committing heinous acts in the name of Jesus we would now be having this conversation the other way around. I would be defending #notinjesusname and explaining why the KKK are not representative of Christian thinking. But nevertheless, it would still be the case that they would have made Christians ‘other’ because of the use of a tagline which promoted just one religion. It’s not a case of the truth, but of presentation.

        I hope that makes sense! It’s a confusing and complicated subject and one which is, as you must know, close to my heart as I stand in solidarity with all my Muslim friends and hold my head in despair by how much the West is taken in by all of this.

        • There’s nothing left to say: I am with you a 100 percent.

          Perhaps, it is your exposure to the East and the noble nature of your work that have enabled you to form a nuanced position on the matter. Either way, you and I have no real disagreements. The discrimination is political, media-fueled and also REAL. It elicits real bombs and missiles, but no real understanding of motives. Eurocentric morality is forcefully imposed upon events and narratives, giving one warring side a saint-like glow, and the other horns. The imposition of Western worldviews and morality obfuscates the true nature of what will probably become WWIII.

          As you say, there’s no reason for Westerners to care about what happenned in Palestine or Syria. Easterners likewise have no reason to be overly concerned with the blowback e.g. 9/11. This mutual disregard fuels the global conflict. We only break out once we engage at a personal level …as we have done here.

          May we always keep things civil and may peace be upon you.

          P.S. your KKK example is not the best analogy, because the Clan was pro-establishment and tacitly supported by law-enforcement in their tormenting of an underprivileged minority. Had the KKK been comprised of black slaves, their reception and legacy would’ve been completely different. But this is a peripheral issue.

          • Ha ha no analogy is ever perfect – the KKK are often chosen because of the religious nature of extremism and are quite analogous from that point of view but only from that respect. Yes I think you’re completely right. What’s lacking I think is a global view. I don’t align myself with the UK, with West or, indeed, with any peoples. I see myself as human and belonging to one people and personally think this is a view which needs to spread. When we have a heart for all people then we stop seeing some as ‘other’.

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