Thursday, May 19, 2005

"Radical" Islam

by Hakim Bey

Islam has seen itself as the enemy of imperial Christianity & European imperialism almost from the moment of its inception. During the 20th century it functioned as a "third way" against both Communism & Capitalism, & in the context of the new One World it now constitutes by definition one of the very few existing mass movements which cannot be englobed into the unity of any would-be Consensus.

Unfortunately the spearhead of resistance -- "fundamentalism" -- tends to reduce the complexity of Islam into an artificially coherent ideology -- "Islamism" -- which clearly fails to speak to the normal human desire for difference & complexity.

Fundamentalism has already failed to concern itself with "empirical freedoms" which must constitute the minimal demands of the new resistance; for example, its critique of "usury" is obviously an inadequate response to the machinations of the IMF & World Bank. The "gates of Interpretation" of the Shariah must be re-opened -- not slammed shut forever -- and a fully-realized alternative to Capitalism must emerge from within the tradition.

Whatever one may think of the Libyan Revolution of 1969 it has at least the virtue of an attempt to fuse the anarcho-syndicalism of '68 with the neo-Sufi egalitarianism of the North African Orders, & to create a revolutionary Islam -- something similar could be said of Ali Shariati's "Shiite socialism" in Iran, which was crushed by the ulemocracy before it could crystallize into a coherent movement.

The point is that Islam cannot be dismissed as the puritan monolith portrayed in the Capitalist media. If a genuine anti-Capitalist coalition is to appear in the world it cannot happen without Islam.

The goal of all theory capable of any sympathy with Islam, I believe, is now to encourage its radical & egalitarian traditions & to substruct its reactionary & authoritarian modes of discourse. Within Islam there persist such mythic figures as the "Green Prophet" and hidden guide of the mystics, al-Khezr, who could easily become a kind of patron saint of Islamic environmentalism; while history offers such models as the great Algerian Sufi freedom-fighter Emir Abdul Qadir, whose last act (in exile in Damascus) was to protect Syrian Christians against the bigotry of the ulema.

From outside Islam there exists the potential for "interfaith" movements concerned with ideals of peace, toleration, & resistance to the violence of post-secular post-rationalist "neo-liberalism" & its allies. In effect, then, the "revolutionary potential" of Islam is not yet realized -- but it is real.

1 comment:

AJ said...


Based on my travels in a few muslim areas, I agree that Islam is not the monolith of fundamentalism portrayed in the Western media.

And anyone who has read Rumi's poetry knows that Islam has a noble and ancient ecstatic tradition.... finding its strongest form in Sufism (which is as far from fundamentalist Islam as Zen Buddhism is from Baptist Christianity).

But America needs its foreign demons to keep the citizens scared and angry... now that "the commies" are gone, its Islam that falls into America's gunsites.