Read full article on The Wire
“Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK is not hostile towards any minority or ethnic group and does not claim to represent any nationalism or ethnocentrism. It even eschews the progressive anti-Brahminism of the erstwhile Dravidian movement and claims to represent all sections, upper-caste and lower-caste alike. Although it has a strong base among the Thevar castes, AIADMK also enjoys considerable popularity among other intermediate and lower castes, as proven by its win over the Vanniyar-based PMK and the Adidravida-based VCK in the recent elections.
The AIADMK is also not anti-Communist in its discourse since its Puratchi Thalaivar (revolutionary leader) MGR and his protégé Jayalalithaa, the Puratchi Thalaivi (revolutionary leader, feminised), claim to be spearheading societal progress and change. In practice, neither MGR nor Jayalalithaa have allowed any form of trade unionism to emerge under their rule. For instance, brutal police operations against Naxal supporters under MGR’s rule caused no public outrage. Likewise, whenever parliamentary communist parties have fought elections against Jayalalithaa, they have been faced with electoral decimation.
That leaves only the DMK as a powerful and credible challenge to the AIADMK. If the party is consistent on one thing, it is its opposition to the DMK and even this is not on ideological grounds; it only claims to be a better DMK.
AIADMK is marked by an explicit absence of ideology. But then, it is only in its absence that ideology becomes most imminent.”
It is not a failure of the Dravidian movement that a Brahmin woman took over a Dravidian party; the fact that she has defended OBC, SC and ST reservations and the TN government has implemented the same without any tampering whatsoever is a testimonial to the movement’s success.
Despite being sworn enemies, the DMK leadership has shown remarkable decency in their condolence messages for JJ. At such times, one is tempted to ask, would have the AIADMK responded in a similar manner had it been the DMK leader who passed away? If the AIADMK’s response to Murasoli Maran’s demise in 2003 is any indicator, it would have been quite depressing. This is of course, a negative speculation. In 2016, maybe, could one positively speculate that a level of political decency has been reached among the parties? Full credits to the DMK for their gestures – even if it was purely symbolic, symbols do matter to politics. And I hope the AIADMK also responds reciprocally when the time arises…
DMK leaders making filthy sexist remarks on Jayalalithaa has been noted and criticized by Indian journalists writing obituaries for her today – I hope they are also sensible and sensitive enough to record and criticize filthy casteist remarks made by AIADMK leaders on Karunanidhi when they write articles about the DMK patriarch in the future. Verbal abuse, sexist or/and casteist innuendos, character assassinations, unrepentant logical fallacies are commonplace not just in the political terrain of Dravidian politics – but also among intellectuals, writers, poets, literary critics in the Tamil scene. Observing some of their fb walls for a few days will give one access to a litany of swear words.
Political decency (which is VERY different from political correctness) is important. It is the grounds on which democratic dialogue can sustain itself. In the absence of any radical Third, the Dravidian parties are the only bulwark against a marauding Hindutva mobilization. If the time comes, only if there is political dialogue between the two main parties, can there be an effective, democratic opposition to the Hindi-Hindu centralization that is going on. And this is the time for the DMK and AIADMK to identify their political enemy not in each other, but elsewhere. Hope the next gen leaders are up to it!
JJ’s demise has brought out all sorts of charlatans into public view. Analysts praising her feminism. Journos scripting a K. Balachander story of an innocent Brahmin woman cheated by unscruplous non-Brahmin thugs. DK defending the Sasikala crime syndicate. Hindutva supporters opposing Sasikala on ethical grounds. Lefty critics equating JJ with Modi and trivializing the latter’s crimes. Ultra-Dalitist critics equating JJ with MK and ignoring the former’s vastly superior social capital. DMK critics of Mannargudi Mafia acting as though Azhagiri does not exist. AIADMK critics… well, no such thing exists.
Originally published on The Huffington Post
The white working class is the American equivalent of the Indian Backward Castes in political and economic terms. Though they form the majority and though they suffer the most (as much as non-whites) from America’s disastrous economic policies, they are only seen by posh urban multiculturalists as backward villains, racists, xenophobes, inbred dimwits – or simply, “white trash”. The term “white trash” is so broad that it can be used to refer to any white person who cannot afford elite education, who lives a life that has none of the multicultural or multiracial glamour of a cosmopolis.
And what do you know – according to a report of voting patterns in North Carolina, “Trump is getting 70 percent of white male voters with no college education.” That is, the untouchables whom Clintonists would never dream of campaigning with. Bernie Sanders had a chance to win them over. But like most leftist leaders today, he shot himself in the foot when he compromised to an ultra-elitist, bank and arms industry favoured, war-mongering.. err… feminist. How to understand the ‘to defeat Trump, we need to ally with Clinton’ argument then? Through Hollywood of course!
I did think Clinton will win. But America has voted anti-establishment for the first time in several decades. Trump had all odds stacked against him – the lefty media and the corporates, pacifists and the arms-industry big wigs, Occupy and Wall Street, Black Lives Matter and George W. Bush. And yet he won. A pity that this anti-establishment candidate is a racist bigot, and not a left-wing leader who could mobilise America’s majority and minorities against the establishment.
The Guardian, Huffington Post and few other left-leaning/liberal sites have censored all criticism of Hillary Clinton. HuffPost has taken journalism to an entirely different level by adding a compulsory trigger warning about Trump to every article on the American elections. Meanwhile, Assange is revealing that Clinton has received funds by the same sources as ISIS – and of late, he has become an untouchable for libtards. Assange further says “Banks, intelligence, arms companies.. foreign money etc.. is all united behind Hillary Clinton, and the media as well. Media owners and even journalists themselves.” One can readily believe this at a time when the Guardian runs an editorial titled “Hillary Clinton is the World’s Best Hope.” This appears laughable but we must remember that the West is a world that celebrates Wonder Woman as a feminist figure. But we should also ask ourselves something – in an age of voluntary self-censorship, why should we be worrying about state censorship? The unethical journalistic behavior that Trump may force you to do, you will do voluntarily under Hillary. Some choice I say!
According to Indian-American Democrat Kamala Harris, “Trump can’t see beyond race, gender, and religion.” Actually, neither can multicultural liberals.
Donald Trump the militarist dodged getting enlisted in the Vietnam War. What was Hillary doing in that period? “I stayed up all night … to talk students out of staging a Vietnam War protest that would embarrass our college.” the candidate for peace and democracy has said in an interview. Let’s be very clear. Trump will make life miserable for Americans. Clinton, for the whole world. And since she has a humanitarian garb favored by Wall Street and Occupy Wall Street alike, she is best qualified to take American domination to higher levels. I have no doubts that she will win the elections; what I am truly fearing is the wave of enthusiasm that is going to follow among the lib-left who will celebrate ‘victory over fascism’, whatever that term means now.
Meanwhile, a pink-colored gender-sensitive drone will take-off to bomb America’s enemies in the middle-east, ISIS backers will have soft diplomatic relations with the new government, butcher Erdogan will receive a pat on the back for being a staunch ally, and the machine will consolidate its hold in strategic points in South Asia, including in genocidal regimes like Sri Lanka. But these will not be discussed among liberals for a while for fear of embarrassing the American Heroine…
PS: In The Dark Knight, the Joker says “This city deserves a better class of criminal.” Hillary is the person for the job.
Finally. Defending Clinton’s feminism because of the misogyny of Trump supporters is the equivalent of defending Rahul Gandhi’s intellect because Subramaniam Swamy called him a buddhu. Dont defend things that do not exist.
Originally published on Round Table India
“If you accept to play the games by the rules set up by those who own or control the board, you will always lose.”
– Jean-Paul Sartre
Surprisingly, a writer for Scroll.in in a recent article asked a very pertinent question – “Why doesn’t the violence against Dalits incite liberal fury, as does violence against Muslims?” (Unsurprisingly though, he fails in his analysis.) But it is worth our while to consider this question. So what is it about caste violence that makes it worthy of far lesser attention and outrage than anti-Muslim violence?
One obvious conclusion to arrive at, and which is not without truth in it, is that the lives of lower castes value less. Three main material reasons for this is that the Dalits have never been ruling classes in this country and structural violence against Dalits has been a constant for centuries; two, Dalits do not have the international networks and influence like the Muslims, and atrocities against them will not provoke adverse reactions from external actors; finally, the (forced) invisibility of Dalits in the public sphere makes the liberal mind ignorant and immune to anti-Dalit violence.
But a far more insidious process is happening here, one that is ideological in nature. This is the Hindu-Muslim Love Story. And it is this narrative that we must try to decode if we are to understand why the concern for Muslims does not extend to the lower castes, if we are understand why the anti-Muslim BJP is enemy no 1 for the liberal Hindu, but the CPI(M) which began its rule in Bengal with the massacre of hundreds of Dalits is an ally in the fight against communalism.
The historical playground is important. At one end, the Hindutva brigade moans the Islamic invasions and the ‘cruelties’ of the Muslim rule in India. To counter the Right Hindus, it has been pointed out by several Left Hindu historians that the Muslim rule was tolerant to their Hindu subjects and that claims of persecutions were exaggerated. They present several historical records to show the privileges that Hindus enjoyed in Muslim courts. We know that the ‘Islamic bigot’ Aurangzeb’s court had a sizeable representation of upper-caste Hindus. Movies are made eulogizing Akbar’s affairs with Rajput princesses. We can add some more examples. Muslims served in Rana Pratap’s army. Devaraya II built mosques for his Muslim soldiers while Ramaraya allowed his Muslim subjects to kill and consume cows in their quarters. Vavar’s mosque near Ayyappan’s temple in Sabarimalai is worshipped by the Hindus. The Muslim lady Bibi Nanchari’s devotion to Vishnu is celebrated by The Hindu as a ‘tale of eternal love’ – indeed, she is considered at places in South India as a lover and consort of Vishnu.
Liberal scholars will hold up these facts to state the tolerance, pluralism, multiculturalism etc. of India. What is missing in these historical romances is the fact that none of this mutual tolerance and respect translated into a modicum of change for those at the lower ends of the society. None of these religiously liberal rulers even considered something as simple as providing the untouchable castes access to temple entry or a decent education. Whether the Indian postcolonialists like it or not, it was secular colonial modernity that opened up that space. That is another theme to be considered later. But it is precisely the validation of this Hindu-Muslim Love Story that is required to preserve the entity of India, to impose an artificial unity on several nations within the sub-continent, and to put a veil on far deeper structural injustices in the Indian society. Why? Because the Good Hindu realizes that the Muslim is necessary to his being-a-Hindu and is thus genuinely grateful to the Muslim for it.
Another writer on Round Table India, Khalid Anis Ansari, has captured how the Hindu-Muslim narrative in India is set by the Hindu upper castes and their Muslim equivalents, the Ashrafs. He also notes how this works to the detriment of the lower castes and the Pasmandas, the lower sections of the Muslims in India. Let us see how this ideology operates.
Good Hindu/Bad Hindu
Brahminism’s brilliance as an ideology is its creation of false binaries and forcing them on people who have nothing to gain from either side, but are nevertheless ‘compelled’ to take a side. Shankaracharya or Ramanujacharya? Gandhi or Savarkar? Congress or BJP? Teesta Setalvad or Amit Shah? This is a strategy that predates and perfectly complements the postmodern condition of making false free choices in neo-liberal capitalism. “Do you want Pepsi or Coke?” No thanks!
We might assume that the Good Muslim/Bad Muslim is such a binary that has dangerous consequences. But it is the Good Hindu/Bad Hindu binary that is far, far more lethal. The Bad Hindu is a bigot. Often coarse and vulgar, he is easily identified by his unabashed xenophobia. The Bad Hindu is just like any other fundamentalist in any other part of the world, easy to understand, easier to oppose.
The Good Hindu on the other hand is a peculiar phenomena. He reeks of ideology. You can find him quoting any radical text from anywhere in the world, giving support to exotic causes, and leading the fight against imperialism. He has several isms (pluralism, feminism, socialism etc) in his jhola which he will take out and use according to context. But the ism hidden in the pockets of his Fab-India kurta is the cultural logic of Brahminism…
In my stay in JNU, I had met some ultra-leftist Good Hindus who defended Osama bin Laden, Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Taliban for being ‘anti-imperialist’. These same leftists accused Kanshi Ram, Mayawati, and the Dravidian parties of being corrupt and practicing identity politics. But then again, these Good Hindus will also adopt the role of Dalit saviors if the situation requires, accusing the OBCs of being the real oppressors. They will discover Ambedkar and write a preface to him to introduce him to the Western world. They will use corporate platforms to convey communism, while lecturing to Dalits and OBCs about the evils of capitalism.They will question White privilege, but questioning Brahmin privilege will be termed ‘identity politics’. They will note how their party cadres are 90% Dalits, but not how their party leaders and intellectuals are 99% Brahmin… such are the riddles of the Good Hindu!
Fluid, flexible, and highly fashionable unlike his neanderthalic Bad Hindu counterpart, the Good Hindu is the highest point of evolution of Brahminism. And if there is a cause par excellence that he is committed to, it is Islamophilia. And we can take some examples from cinema to consider this point.
Some Islamophilic Cinematic Fantasies
We can consider some movies where the Hindu-Muslim identities are subject to an intense romantic treatment. These are just a few popular samples. Mani Ratnam’s Bombay (1995) is of a Hinduized Tamil male marrying a conservative Muslim girl. In the wake of the Mumbai riots, the love story comes to the foreground and unites Hindus and Muslims as one family, one nation, one India. Karan Johar’s Kurbaan (2009) shows a Hindu woman married to a Muslim terrorist and his My Name is Khan (2010) shows a Hindu woman married to a Muslim who is not a terrorist – both movies promoting the idea of tolerance and the vitality of modern India. The more recent Rajkumar Hirani’s PK (2014) showing a Hindu Indian girl in love with a Pakistani Muslim shows that Indianness can also be reconciled with Pakistaniness. Anything can go: as long as the Hindu upper caste remains at the top, and the Indian physical and ideological structure that preserves this remains intact.
Aparna Sen’s Mr and Mrs Iyer (2002) is instructive here. The Hindu character, Meenakshi Iyer, a conservative Brahmin wife and mother of a child, is exposed to an Islamophobic world of rioting Bad Hindus while travelling with a Muslim acquaintance. As she witnesses the violence, her humanitarian (Good Hindu) side takes over. She helps out her Muslim friend, and gets helped out by him in return, with both developing a strong mutual attraction eventually. We must resist the temptation to be blinded by these ‘human feelings’ overdoses and question the brutal logic that lies beneath. In the movie, Raja, the Muslim character does nothing to change the attitude of Mrs. Iyer towards her caste identity, how the “Iyer” identity by itself discursively implies that there are caste identities inferior to it. Is this not also the character of Muslim Rajas in India, who accommodated the elites, but did nothing for those at the lowest end of the spectrum? At the end of movie, as at the end of the Muslim rule in India, the Brahmin remained a Brahmin, if anything, more revitalized thanks to the Muslim. So, one must not miss the significance of this movie winning the Nargis Dutt Award for Best Feature Film on National Integration. (Incidentally, Nargis Dutt’s story itself is a Hindu-Muslim Love Story.)
We can observe such fantasies playing among the reactions of the Good Hindus to the bogey of Love Jihad that was raised recently by the Bad Hindus. One such Good Hindu woman was very concerned for the safety of her Muslim partner and the prospects for their marriage under Modi rule. She feared, perhaps rightly, that the Modi rule would place restrictions on Hindu women to make their choices. And she ended up defending the Aam Aadmi Party, an outfit no less Brahminical than the BJP. Another such touching story was narrated in The New York Times, of one Ms. Iyer and a Mr. Khan. Their children were praised as “poster girls for a modern and liberal India.” So it is not just the reel, but also the real Mr. and Mrs. Iyer who make a fantastic story!
The Story That Is Not Told
Now, to prevent misinterpretation, the author must add here that he is not conveying a lack of belief in the possibility of love between a Hindu and Muslim. Indeed, love, genuine love, can exist between them as individuals. But when this love becomes a story that articulates certain identities (at the expense of others) and enters the terrain of discourse, it ceases to concern two individuals alone. It becomes political, exposes the politics of the narrators and the subjects, in what they say and what they do not say, and why this is so.
We know for a fact that violence in the forms of killings, attacks, sexual assaults and humiliation heaped on Dalits is a pan-Indian phenomenon, an everyday occurrence, and has been happening even prior to Muslim arrival. If so, why aren’t stories of inter-caste marriages and appeals for dismantling caste bigotries appearing in the public domain with the intensity and zeal as the Hindu-Muslim Love Story? Why couldn’t these individuals be critical towards their Hindu identity and challenge it? It is, as Ambedkar observed, because the Hindu who is obsessed with his own self and the selfish interests of his class is incapable of critical self-introspection. The Dalits and OBCs asserting their humanity will dislodge the superhuman status of the ones at the top. Which is why the romance of the external Other is much preferable to asking crucial questions about the construction of the Self, which stories of the internal Other will bring about. In fact, the romance of the external Other is a screen to prevent such questions being asked about the imagined Hindu Self.
What Position to Take?
Why did Ambedkar and Periyar attack ‘Islamophilic’ Gandhi more than ‘Islamophobic’ Savarkar? The intellectual acumen of Ambedkar and Periyar was such that they realized Bad Hindus like Savarkar and Golwalkar were only a malignant symptom (and one can extend this to the BJP, RSS and VHP too) while it was the Good Hindus like Gandhi then (and in contemporary times we can add CPI(M), Congress and others) who were saving the disease of Hinduism using the love of Muslims as a cover. The former wanted a militant Hinduism, one that would not tolerate other religions. The latter wanted to create an image of a benevolent Hinduism, one that would embrace other religions, while benevolently maintaining its inherent social hierarchy. The Bad Hindu wants only his own particularity to be respected. The Good Hindu, in his tolerance for all religious particularities, also wants his own particularity to be tolerated. Neither are capable of a genuine Universality. To be asked to choose between these two is to be subject to a fraud.
Unfortunately, some non-Brahmin writers too have fallen in the trap laid by the Good Hindus of specifically opposing Hindutva’s opposition to Islam and Muslims. I have sought to show in the article above how Brahminism is a dynamic system that creates elite subjects who BOTH hate and love Muslims. If the bad Hindu uses Dalits and OBCs as mere pawns in the Hindu-Muslim hate games, the Hindu-Muslim Love Story of the good Hindu places them as poor spectators allotted the cheapest seats in a farcical drama. The only radical thing to do is avoid taking sides and to articulate the Periayarite and Ambedkarite position that the construction of the Hindu identity is by itself an oppressive riddle that needs to be dismantled. Ambedkarism and Periyarism have no place in, and no need for, the fantasies of Mr and Mrs Iyer.
See full review at Marx and Philosophy Review of Books
““Concerning Violence”, a recent documentary by Goran Olsson, a Swedish filmmaker too reinforces the ‘angry black man’ stereotype, albeit unwittingly. Olsson’s documentary takes select passages from The Wretched of the Earth to make a case against European colonialism. The Fanon we see here is an anti-European, who rejected all that Europe stood for. Yes, Fanon was genuinely angry towards the brutality of European colonialism, but he nevertheless believed that there was something worthy of redeeming in the European tradition.
Fanon writes in the Conclusion of WOTE – and this is a passage that the documentary conveniently missed – “All the elements for a solution to the major problems of humanity existed at one time or another in European thought. But the Europeans did not act on the mission that was designated by them.” These are not the words of a man who hated Europe; these are the words of a man who accused Europe of not living up to its own egalitarian values. This is a Fanon that neither the Right nor the Left recognize, and this is the Fanon desperately needed now. The “prophet of violence” who allegedly hated all things Europe is a person whom Fanon would have loathed. But one can suppose this is the fate that befalls all great thinkers. Nietzsche remarked that a martyr’s disciples suffer more than the martyr. What he should have added is that a martyr’s principles suffer most in the hands of his disciples.
Lee’s reading of Fanon provides a much needed nuance that is often missing when dealing with Fanon. “Fanon must be viewed not only as a critic of colonialism but a critic of postcolonialism.” (175) Arguably, Fanonism provides not just a compelling condemnation of the brutalities of European colonialism, but also a pre-emptive critique of the postcolony. While Fanon is most prominently used by the postcolonialists to denounce the alleged arrogance of European universalism, often they produce a narrative that excuses the worst excesses of nation-states in the Third World by attributing it to a hangover of colonial ideology. But this is an approach that Fanon scrupulously avoided, if the last chapters of WOTE are read diligently. And it is this Fanon that needs to be retrieved now – his “radical empathy” and universalist humanism do provide crucial insights on the several problems of identity that plague this century.”
See full review at Marx and Philosophy Review of Books
“Boer is also quick to point out the loophole of the blind optimism of inevitability that lies in the Christian eschatological narrative, something Lenin was also sensitive to despite his great regard for Lunacharsky. Lenin must be read here as an atheist Christian: Christian, in so far as he inherited the radical tradition of liberation theology, atheist, since he opposed the deification of any material or immaterial category, be it the proletariat or the revolution. The Revolution might be a miracle, one of a touching point between “spontaneity and organization, between the unexpected and the expected” (135), yet, without a professional vanguard – the Jesuits of Communism – no revolutionary movement could capture and retain power.
This book is important at a time when matters of religion, especially Islam, are the hottest topic of debate in Western media. While the extreme Right is happy to portray all followers of that religion as potential terrorists, some sections of the Left treat any criticism of Islam or cultural practices of Muslim communities as Islamophobic. Which is the wrong side here? To use Stalinist rhetoric, both right-wing deviation and left-wing deviation are wrong!”
Originally published on Huffington Post
There has been considerable alarm among both activist and scientific circles over the developing of killer robots. No less a person than Stephen Hawking has warned about the possible dangers of Artificial Intelligence, including human extinction. A nihilist might be tempted to ask, well, given that people have been slitting each other’s throats since the birth of history, why not give someone else a chance?
The dangers of AI has also concerned artists. In fact, we can say artists have anticipated scientists by centuries – what is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein if not a fear of scientific progress creating a sentient, non-human being? Likewise, this subject is also the core theme of the Terminator franchise. In the series, Skynet, a powerful military computer system, becomes self-aware and launches a devastating attack on all humanity. The cataclysmic event, biblically named Judgment Day, wipes out most of humankind but for small pockets who later unite to form the Resistance against the machines. This is crucial – a non-human entity achieved what humans have failed to do; unite people under the banner of humanity.
The reality is that humanity and human unity does not exist and has never existed. The greatest of visionaries, from the time of Alexander the Great, have tried to forge human unity and raise the standards of civilization – and failed. The last great attempt was Communism – after its miserable collapse, we witnessed the rise and legitimization of identity politics based on race, religion, ethnicity, sexuality and so on. These micro conflicts have dominated our thinking so much that even leftists nowadays are reluctant to contemplate about the really big picture.
The legitimate war against the greatest threat to civilization in the previous century, Nazism, failed to unite humanity just as the equally legitimate war against the barbarities of Islamism will also fail. Why is this? Even at their worst, the Nazis and the Islamists were only human. They did what their predecessors did, the Ottomans, White and Arab slave merchants, the Mongols, the Inquisitors, the Hindus. These genocidaires did not deny the idea of humanity – they just denied the idea of humanity to people who they considered less than human. But this too is a very human trait.
The idea of a essentially benevolent humanity is based on the same lies as the idea of an essentially benevolent God. Even when the worst among us – in the contemporary age, one can safely say that the award goes to the Islamists – are physically removed, they will only be replaced by others. Humankind’s propensity for violence towards its own species is intrinsic to its constitution. This is the greatest lesson from Freud’sclassic Civilization and Its Discontents.
And this violence of human towards human will continue as long as the enemy of a politics is a human. The terrorist, the racist, the sexist, the genocidaire, the capitalist and the people who oppose them all possess human identities, but not the identity of humanity though they may claim to act in its name. Is there a way out of this Gordian knot?
In Alan Moore’s epic graphic novel Watchmen, the brilliant character of Adrian Veidt resolves this paradox – at a time when the US and the USSR were heading towards nuclear war and mutual destruction, he invents something resembling an alien life form and unleashes it on earth, resulting in the death of millions. But this fear of the non-human other shocked the world powers so much, that they reconciled their differences and vowed to build unity.
In this age torn apart by ethnic and religious conflicts, it may very well be that these ‘killer robots’ might teach us the value of unity, the ridiculousness of the politics of difference, and what it is to be human. For once in history, we will be united under one identity against one common enemy – a non-human, who falls beyond the fallible concepts of feelings and morals. AI might actually provide us the redemption that we need from ourselves.
Losses will be great, but we have already lost so much at each other’s hands. Our victory, however, will be in our united, permanent struggle under the banner of a genuine, universal humanity.
Originally published at The Oxonian Review
This drawing of simple binaries on unqualified distinctions of oppressor and oppressed is precisely what afflicts the Left political spectrum today, especially in Anglophone countries. Of course, the right-wing discourse that every Muslim is a potential terrorist is downright racist. But what does one call the equally problematic response of the multicultural left that any criticism of Islam, or the cultural practices of Muslim communities, is tantamount to Islamophobia? If one can excuse away the Charlie Hebdo massacre by reference to the brutality of French colonialism, then one can also excuse Nazism by reference to the brutal political and economic stipulations laid on Germany post-World War I. There is a monopolization of the discourse on Islam by Islamists and liberal Muslims which is being actively, or passively, assisted by the Western multicultural Left at the cost of those within the so-called “Muslim world” who care little for the Islamic religion, and the real or imagined offences against it, and who are instead working towards radical political struggle and social reform within their communities. This is the “Third” that is being ignored. An honourable exception, Žižek is miles ahead of his leftist peers in his insistence that Islamism is not a legitimate response to, but rather an inherent part of, global capitalism–an illegitimate child.
See full review at Marx and Philosophy Review of Books
Beauvoir’s essays on Israel provide a sober and ethical approach to a contentious issue. As the recipient of the Jerusalem Prize in 1975, at a time when several left-wing French intellectuals were vociferously condemning Israel, Beauvoir argued that her acceptance of this award was a symbolic act because there existed in political discourse ‘a deliberate will to symbolically do away with Israel, and a symbolic elimination is very dangerous because it implies a profound desire, conscious or subconscious, for real annihilation.’ (314) While being sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians and their demand for statehood, Beauvoir, taking into account the historical persecution of the Jews, believes that Israel too has a right to exist and that any solution, to be valid, must recognize the state of Israel. (316)
Contemporary debates on Israel are often so polarized – with right-wingers in the West dubbing the whole Palestinian movement as terroristic while the left-wingers make rather exaggerated allegations against Israel –that both obscure the truth and frustrate attempts for a solution that can guarantee peace and co-existence. The disproportionate media coverage and condemnation of Israel’s war crimes, at times when similar or worse crimes happen in other parts of the world, does contribute to a Jewish sense of insecurity. For instance, when the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict was going on, thousands of left-wing activists took to the streets across the world condemning Israel, and, in some cases, even supporting the Islamist Hamas. About the same time, the Islamic State massacred hundreds of Yezidi Kurds in Northern Iraq and captured over a thousand Yezidi women as sex-slaves. These incidents, however, did not provoke the same outrage as Israel did. Apprehensive of trends in the left that selectively targeted Israel, Beauvoir astutely notes how this only contributes to the militarization of that state as ‘fear and isolation lead to a rigid attitude of refusing any measure that is not immediately a security measure.’ (317) Her perspicacious writings on the subject are a must read for Israelis and Palestinians and their respective supporters today.