In the Heart of Darkness
We have been asked to comment on a televised discussion involving principally Tariq Ramadan on one side and a few other British figures on the other,conducted at the Oxford Union Hall, over the issue of the fall of the government of Ikhwan al-Muslimoon (Muslim brotherhood) and the question raised was, “Has Political Islam Failed?” We have been asked by one of our readers to comment and state whether we agree or disagree with the analysis and opinions that were aired there.
The discussion can be viewed on the following address: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cpmsqABAmCo&list=UUNye-wNBqNL5ZzHSJj3l8Bg
To answer one way or the other, or make a comment, we have to point out that so many issues were raised and discussed that to comment upon even the important ones would blacken several pages. To complicate the issue, several important things that happened in Egypt and around, before and after the establishment of the Ikhwani government there, were not stated during the discussion. The truly relevant points were laid down into the grave to rest there in peace. Many other issues were brought up which were only remotely connected with the fall of the government. And many issues were discussed which are of politically and socially transient nature of some meaning to the Western world alone. Any comment upon comments then would be like describing, from the earth’s gravitational point of view, the waves as they hit the shore in moonlight. Each follows its own course; and every analysis can take only one vantage point.
As it stands, and away from the debate, but into the topic of the fall of the Brotherhood government, its causes, and the role played by the believers, unbelievers and, never to forget, the graceful presence of the honorable hypocrites, we hold quite different opinions from those that are being spewed out by the scholars on pay, or those – in the West – who find their peace, prosperity, and tranquility threatened, if they – both the classes – do not appease their true masters: the governments of their host or native, free or slave,countries. While voicing their opinions they have to also take into account how agents of the secret service agencies in the audience of their host or native countries would make note of them. Would they be, by the next morning, on the terrorist list in their host country? What’s the expected jail-term? Would they be allowed to visit their mother country once again? They must neither open the doors of the prisons of their host countries, nor close the doors of their native countries to themselves.
These constraints constrain the tongue of any who speaks up in public in the East or West and, more importantly, a vast geological terrain in between. Fascist governments are saddled in some places, and a few countries are being driven to the same end by the politicians, evoking voices of alarm and disgust by the intellectuals, but with little effect.
It is easy to thus describe others. But, to admit (quite heroically), we as the staff of this magazine could also be bracketed among them except that we have been weighing on how to voice our opinions, readings, and analysis, without axing at our own feet or doing damage to the organization that affords us a platform. We could decide to speak out loudly, and, in consequence, limp for rest of the life, but to risk the organization would amount to betrayal.
Thus constrained, what’s left to say, except in hidden insinuations, as parenthetical remarks, which remain enigmatic anyhow, for a large number of public, as enigmatic as to how the Pyramids were built at all? At the Pyramid you take a picture, but what do you do here? Picturize? Perhaps yes.
As for the debate, a general comment would not be out of place, though the last will come last. It concerns seminars and debates on public platforms. However sincere the organizers and conductors of such seminars and debates, in their efforts to understand and explain issues (sometimes to sell), the participating speakers make use of the occasion to influence and generate the opinions of the audience, instead of presenting the facts (Carlyle-like) and allow the audience form their own opinions and make their own judgments. For example, and true to the genre, not a single Qur’anic verse or hadith was quoted during the entire session during which no Islamic issue was left undiscussed – so to say. It results in further confusion of the issues, for which the audience is as much to blame, for their failure to know the facts first, and then listen to their analysis. They assume the analysis to be the facts. Consequently, they are overburdened with a mountain of information, underneath which facts are few and crushed to non-existence.
As to the topic, for one thing, we cannot see the logic in the failure of a group of people to run a government, responsibly and successfully (granted 6 months right at the start) as the failure of the system itself by which they swore. Can failure of democracy in great many countries, e.g. in America, (as the Americans admit) or even India (as the Indians don’t admit), the largest democracy in the world, which has failed – for decades after decades – to give the great number of its citizen their basic rights and dignity … could that failure, be said to be the failure of the institution of democracy itself? Can the failure of a political party – obtaining power in the name of Islam – be assumed as failure of the Islamic political system – if there was one?
Coming to this issue, namely,the Islamic system of government, we may also ask ourselves: does Islam have a political system, a part that can be severed from its whole and imposed (or, if one doesn’t like the word) implemented on a unit of the Ummah – willing or unwilling? Was Madinah the headquarters of a political movement during the time of the Prophet, or was it a spiritual hub, that confronted the leading lights of Kufr and Kufrdom forcefully, forcibly and spiritedly? Is politics at the core of Islamic religion, or is it a contingent activity becoming a necessity at a certain point? Does Islam provide a matrix for spiritual, moral, intellectual, social and economic activities, or do the directives of political nature determine the nature of these activities, as is the case, for example, with democratic, communistic, or monarchic systems? Are there in Islam, well-defined boundaries of any communal activity, clearly visible, in an aerial view, as different from, and apart from the rest? Or the truth is that the map that emerges in the mind is of waves overlapping each other and currents running throughout the web?
Seeking the answer to the above through talks, debates, seminars etc. is as good as trying to learn a game from the talks and discussions of the umpires, trainers, and retired players. The effort explains in full the power of the media in deflecting the minds away from the truths, and blunting the power of intellect, giving birth to a generation which is as ignorant of the events of its surroundings as the animals of Darwin, Dawkins, Gould and their ilk could be.
But rather, it is from a systematic and thorough going study of the divine-bestowed, and divine-inspired sources, conducted over years, in complete sincerity and devotion, that a mural-like image is likely to appear at the horizon, spanning over the whole of it, in which every little colorful detail is found occupying a place from where, while it explains itself, its role and its activities, in full clarity, it also displays its varying functions and intricate relationship with every other part of the whole.
What emerges in consequence, that is, after such a study, would be, depending on the size of the canvas and the depth of the colors in it, a finding that is good enough for oneself, or for those who have drawn on such canvases, on their own, but of little use to others, especially, if they are averse to the very basic painting tools: belief in Divinity in all its full description.
After the above general comment, we may say in reference to the debate in the Oxford Hall that the Hall itself sounded creaking, not for its oldness, but for the disappearance of the true intellectual class it would have hosted a century ago, and for the fact that a few recognized ones remained out, unaware. Accordingly, the question raised, “Has Political Islam Failed?” was not answered; or, to be precise, was not addressed. A point of fluorescent note is that the Heart of Darkness had quite some audience in Hijab. The jittery attitude of the Western intellectual leaders, which listens less during such debates and observes more, is understandable.
Missing the class that the world has begun to bemoan, debates can only be for pastime – if you have enough time.Conducted in high places, they can end, for those who are not jittery, with a yawn.