On how Muslims can offer the world their best qualities

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“ My existential crisis as a Muslim man haunts me to the core of my being. Amid the horrendous nihilism of Isis, the dull orthodoxy of self-proclaimed custodians of Islam and the culture of fear in the west which sees everything Muslim as pure evil, I seek an answer to a simple and unasked question: how does it feel to be Muslim today? Instead, you ask me to denounce – even apologize for – the horrors of Manchester, Nice, Orlando, Paris and Berlin, as if I were a silent accomplice cheering softly behind the garb of my faith. You mistake my silence for duplicity, my shock for deceit, and my choking inability to comprehend for disloyalty. But have you asked me how I feel instead of how you feel about me? (…) How can we reconcile the anarchic savagery of our worst Muslims today with the humanist generosity of our best Muslims of yesterday? What have we to offer the world today? (…) My aim here is not to disparage a civilization, but to diagnose its current malaise, one that inflicts Muslims today and prevents them from thinking themselves into the world, not because they are incapable of doing it, but because of a coordinated campaign to deny them the right to do it. Like many Muslims, I feel the weight of this tension everyday because the distance between our religious leaders and the world in which we live is a gaping hole. The biggest orchestrator of this campaign is not Isis. That is only one of its sad manifestations. It is Saudi Arabia and its rampant Wahhabi religiosity which cripples everything Muslim today. Its literalist theology is suffocating and has no place in the modern world. How can we tolerate a religious system which still flogs its people in public squares, denies its women basic rights like driving and looking out windows and criminalizes any form of dissent? Weighty words fit for a colossal peril that is Saudi Arabia ”

Nabil Echchaibi, ‘Muslims today face a deep malaise. We must confront it’, The Guardian

 

On using a common human nature to counter the alt-right’s discourse

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“ The alt-right’s self-appointed leaders have exploited real economic pressures in service of their ideology. They hype dubious crime statistics, Islamophobia, and general racist and sexist nonsense to channel the real suffering that neoliberal policies have created over the past thirty years. People seduced by the far right experience this economic warfare, but they understand the struggle in racial or civilizational terms. Thus, they cannot perceive their common interest with the oppressed of other races and nationalities. Simply responding to economic pressure obviously does not suffice; we need to comprehend these pressures themselves. Against the alt-right, how do we assert that class struggle is more fundamental than membership in a particular racial or ethnic community? How do we argue that everyone should care about the exploitation and suffering of those from different cultural backgrounds? It is by advancing the one premise that racist and xenophobic ideologues most vehemently reject: a common human nature. Of course, positing a shared human nature will not guarantee political struggle either. Cheerily shouting “we’re all in this together” will not establish peace and harmony among all peoples. Handing a police officer a soft drink will not abolish racism. At best, this manner of thinking belongs to the utopian socialism of the nineteenth century; at worst, it bolsters today’s consumerist liberalism. The Left must both recognize our common humanity and perform a clear-headed analysis of oppressive societies’ historical contradictions. By acknowledging the invariant drives shared by all human beings — drives for physical well-being, education, and community — we can measure society’s relative progress in meeting those demands. At the same time, by understanding existing contradictions and current historical movements, we can chart the course toward greater human flourishing. We need to carefully determine the relationship between human nature — what Marx called “species being” — and its development in time and place. Human nature is not elevated to some heavenly ideal that can never be achieved in the fallen, material world. Instead, by human nature, we mean all the real and still latent capacities of the human species. (…) The Left cannot view these sites of conflict cynically — as mere instruments for class struggle — but recognize the role they play in building class consciousness. By demonstrating how diverse forms of oppression have a common root in capitalism, these struggles reinforce the fact that abolishing capitalism is the necessary condition for overcoming these forms of injustice ”

Harrison Fluss & Landon Frim, ‘Dialectical Enlightenment’, Jacobin Magazine

On how understanding human nature allows socialists to reach for other people

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“ You believe that the average human being should not be forced to live impoverished, stunted lives because you impute to the average human being certain unshakeable interests — being fed when hungry, quenched when thirsty, free when dominated. Consider the glorious socialist invocation, ‘Workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains.’ That’s a universal injunction. And why is that compelling? Because we all know that nobody likes being in chains. The slogan is not, ‘Workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains. Unless, in some cultures, people like being in chains, in which case, we demand that those people be allowed to keep their chains.’ (…)…a good political answer is one which puts you in the shoes of the person you’re trying to account for. What does it mean to put yourself in their shoes? This is the critical point. It means remembering that a Trump voter is a human being animated by the same kinds of interests that animate you. She cares about her livelihood, her dignity, her autonomy, her family in much the same way that you do. Your explanation and practice, in other words, should last a simple litmus test: could it explain why I would have voted Trump, had I been born her? ”

Adaner Usmani, ‘Why Socialists should Believe in Human Nature’, Jacobin Magazine

On the American Indian understanding of land and property

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“ While indigenous values, beliefs and practices are as diverse as indigenous people themselves, they find common roots in a relationship to land and water radically different from the notion of property. For indigenous people, land and water are regarded as sacred, living relatives, ancestors, places of origin or any combination of the above ”

Julian Brave NoseCat, The Western idea of private property is flawed. Indigenous people have it right’, The Guardian

On required contextualization of conscientious objection

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” The very concept of conscientious objection is vague and ambiguous and what it actually means and entails therefore depend on the legislative context in which it was inserted, on how that specific law was designed and written, on the nature of the thing  one subtracts himself and on the conflict created by the different rights of people involved. For all these complications a general and aprioristic defense of the concept of conscientious objection is not very convincing ”

Traduced from Italian.

Giulia Siviero, ‘Conscientious objection is not an objection’, Il Post

On religion and faith

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“ Considering the role that religion so often plays in fueling conflicts abroad and inspiring bigotry at home, it is not always so easy to defend the value of religion in society. And, in a world in which reason and religion seem to be moving further apart, it is certainly understandable why so many people view religious faith as the hallmark of an irrational mind (…) …in the end, faith is nothing more or less than a choice. You either believe there is something beyond the physical world, or you don’t. You either believe you are more than the sum of your material parts, or you don’t. You either believe in the existence of a soul, or you don’t (…) Beyond the doctrines and the dogma, the do’s and the don’t’s, religion is simply a framework for thinking about the existential questions we all struggle with as human beings  ”

Reza Aslan, ‘Why I am a Muslim’, CNN