Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Dr Ali Shariati

A few posts back, I mentioned my excitement at having discovered the works of Dr. Ali Shariati. I didn't elaborate, however I guess now I can discuss a bit more about what I saw as relevant in the thought of this very intelligent man. Described as the intellectual mind behind the Iranian revolution, he died before it was ever realised yet. You can read more about him here. The reason why I thought his work was so phenomenal was because, like a blind man feeling his way in the dark, I was feeling my way to something which, to my delight, he had already articulated wonderfully and clearly. One thing which has continuously annoyed me was the disdain with which 'intellectuals' would view the Islamic religion and it's history. There has always been a tendency to assume that societies should secularise along largely Western models of government and that anything else was viewed with suspicion and ridicule.

While I don't believe any existing forms of government are truly Islamic at the moment, I was not that prepared to discount it entirely as improbable simply because I knew enough of it to realise that it did have everything within it to govern a confident, strong and contemporary nation. Writers such as Muhammad Asad were particularly interesting but it was only while researching for my dissertation on Hezbullah and reading some of the works of Khomeini that I began to realise the scale of what was being proposed. Anyhow, Shariati is well worth a read for those who believe there is a way out of the Western influenced secular/modernising trend of government and society, shaped by enlightenment based materialist thought whether Liberal or Socialist. Below is an excerpt which I thought particularly interesting as it highlights how many of those who subscribe to the notion that Western political thought and notions of governance are the end all and be all of societies around the world. The arguments they present to undermine various cases against occupation, oppression or Israel are quite familiar in this extract:

From Shariati's Where shall We Begin?

In Algeria in the 1950s, in order to divide and fractionalize the people and in turn to inflict a great disaster in North Africa, the colonial powers propagated the progressive views of thinkers such as Rousseau, Voltaire, and Morris Dubare, which are scientific and emphasize nationalism. The central thesis of nationalism that each nation should have its own state was used to divide the Arabs and Berbers, who had until then been united by their belief in Islam- thus they became victims of French colonialism. Now, in place of fighting the common enemy, Arab and Berber nationalists were facing and fighting one another. In short, when presented with a social theory, before evaluating its positive or negative contribution, one should understand the context and consequences of its presentation. Another example in my discussion is what I call "false bonds" or "fake common denominators." Just as it is possible to create animosity between two related groups, it is equally possible to establish spurious or false links between two enemies. This is a tactic, which has been used in Africa, Latin America and the Islamic East, by misusing the theses of common religion, nationalism, and humanism. These three schools of thought are legitimate ways of thinking, but if utilized in the wrong time and place they can easily turn into the tools of creating unity among people who should be fighting one another. Humanism is a school of thought, which is used to combat nationalism, because today the latter has become a progressive anti-colonialism front in African Asia, and Latin America. In the Third World, particularly African it is even more progressive than Marxism. It has taken the leadership away from official Marxism in the struggle fur independence.

No comments: