‘Not all Muslims are the same, but all political Muslims are the same’ (we’ll show you solidarity as long as you don’t self-identify politically): On the demonisation of Muslim self-expression

Syria appears to be operating as a test-tab for all types of sociological experiments and discoveries. There is overwhelming rhetoric today on the ‘secular’ nature of the Syrian regime being counterposed to the intolerant nature of the increasingly Islamic-influenced rebels, in a tacit rehabilitation process (generally of course preceded by the seemingly-contradictory phrase ‘I do not support but..’). Contributing to the preponderance of this narrative is an unfortunate tendency of so many people on (both) the Right and Left to ‘deduce’ what they think is going on based on pre-established models, relieving them from the burden of examining actual evidence. Syria is so interesting because it is operating almost as a test-lab, which has revealed so many discoveries of how ultimately such currents think when they are stripped of short-term surface-level ‘objectives’.

To illustrate what I mean by an example, many tendencies or characteristics such as the one I am describing in this article would not have been seen in an ‘Iraq’, where the conversation would not surpass the stage of agreement (opposing the US invasion). For many currents within the Left support is conditional on a) being on an opposing side to Western establishments or b) being socialist in character (where both are present it is a bonus). Where a) appears unclear, due for example to US position appearing muddled ‘from afar’ (at best), and is not compensated by b) (seen in supporting Kurdish forces despite the support of US and historically Israel), the understandings of the actual underlying principles that moves such people and how they actually view the world in the end (that was obscured by common cause) are laid out bare.

In this regards it seems that many on the Left feel discomfort of having a regime professing secularism to be associated with fascism, especially in the absence of point a) highlighted above, and would thus prefer to operate on the basis that while a secular state can be authoritarian it is better to reduce as much as possible a description that it is ‘fascist’ (especially in far-removed (far away) contexts, and/or contexts where socialists aren’t the ones under attack); we are arguing for secular models and unless absolutely necessary let us try and not increase the regimes associated with secularism with the adjunct of ‘fascism’ (especially in a region where an Islamic political programme has lorded it over the left as the main anti-establishment force). Whereas on the other hand it is ‘much more likely’ that Islamic factions be labelled fascist by the sheer fact of who they are (rather than what they have or haven’t done).

Rhetoric of ‘Islamic fighters being fascists’ on both Right and Left entails a simple process of laying out ideologically-biased ‘expectations’ that present themselves as ‘intuitive’ (rather than rooted in actually occurring realities). In a sense it is of course very Orientalist because it projects the European-Christian experience (image of Crusaders etc.) on the Middle East, making it assume that Muslims in the Middle East would act in the same way (regardless of the fact that European-secular experience hasn’t been much more better, but that’s a different matter). Muslims who identify politically by sole virtue of that identification therefore can’t protect Christians (wouldn’t want to), sympathise with their pains, visit them in their festivities, sit and converse with them, understand the common concept of the sanctity of holy sites or even have the basic awareness of a shared history of anti-religious oppression. Their belief, in short, makes them ignorant, ‘savage’ and ‘barbaric’ sub-humans.

Of course there is a sectarian element in the Syrian opposition. Firstly, when you see that the people attacking you are Shia Hezbollah, Shia Iran and Shia Alawite that’s going to obviously exacerbate sectarianism. When communities align themselves with a regime that’s dropping bombs on them on a daily basis, of course there will be ill feeling towards the communities. This is not rocket science and indeed we make the same argument to rebut the implications of ‘Muslims are anti-semitic’. In 2013 in Latakia this ill-feeing was notably acted upon when Alawites were massacred in a rebel offensive, an occurrence that was a stain on the revolution who could not reign in the (often foreign) extremists (even if it was posited as ‘reprisals’ for the sectarian massacres by the regime in Bayda, Baniyas, Houla, etc). Those involved should be brought to account. However this has been by-and-large the exception rather than the rule, and in fact considering the context of the war (and the ongoing attempted annihilation of one sect), attacks on Christians by rebels (non-ISIS) have been surprisingly limited.

The interesting thing about the ‘Islamists = killing minorities’ narrative is that its ‘evidence’ tends to generally consist of repeating the already self-professed description of who these people are rather than a relative and contextual examination of what they have done (i.e. image of bearded religious Muslim fighters ‘expectedly’ being intolerent). The fact that the political programme of the majority of Islamists states that they want a pluralist state, that no main rebel faction has put forward a programme that has claimed that they want to wipe minorities out, and the fact this has been by and large reflected in reality is ignored, regardless of what the presumptuous and removed ‘deducers’ think they could ‘assume’. There is no better nutshell of the falseness of that approach than when Islamic fighters with beards say ‘Allahu Akbar’ in response to a rousing speech declaring that ‘Christians are our brethren who must be protected’, or horror at Christians being attacked.

*Note: I do not generalise to those currents in the Left who go beyond this superficial form of thinking, rather examining the nature of the narratives of those who do. We hope and anticipate that those truly progressives help us in standing up to such narratives.

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Secular confusions – What is the meaning of the Syrian regime’s often-cited “secularism”? [Comment]

The Syrian government is routinely termed ‘secular’ in general media outlets, yet there is generally a very deceptive understanding of what this ‘secular’ nature of the regime entails. The Alawite community is generally distinct amongst Syria’s confessional groups for being markedly non-religious (ironically in fact many mainstream Shia used to see it as almost heretical). The regime in a sense reflects that and is ‘secular’ in the sense that is simply ”non-religious”. However the regime is also simultaneously *sectarian* in the sense that it is overwhelmingly sect-oriented in policy, base and outlook; and indeed this is why Christians have suffered much more than the Alawites in this war. The use of the term ‘secular’ therefore in this context is a misnomer of sorts; in other words, contrary to the implications embedded within the phrase ‘the Syrian regime is secular’, Christians still consider themselves to be ruled over by an alien (unrepresentative) sect overlord.

In a sense therefore, the question to many of them is ‘which sect to rule over us is the lesser evil’, and in such a question this is indeed why Syrian Christians were divided for a long time on the question of the revolution (the rise of ISIS in particular has probably since caused a general shift in favour of Assad). People forget that for possibly the first 2-3 years of the revolution the majority of Christians tended to be neutral (despite all the textbook Middle Eastern postcolonial nationalist-state propaganda about the danger of Islamists, a tactic which has ultimately worked, in Syria as in Egypt), and indeed there were many Syrian Christians in both the political and military oppositions. The fact this was possible was not only because being ‘secular’ (or rather ‘non-Islamic’) alone was not enough to buy their loyalty, but also because to many such folk they understood full well that the regime was not a ‘national’ or ‘pluralist’ party, but merely a choice of overlord, in this case non-religious but highly tribal sect. This is why even amongst supporters and even fighters of the Syrian regime, they often make clear that their preference for the regime is a pragmatic preference, not a foregone conclusion, and why this has routinely caused problems with the regime.

See more:

Christians curse Assad after airforce attacks Christian neighbourhood: https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=57&v=xRj-RKiqQDo

The reality of Christians under Al-Assad’s rule: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZ0gxK-IjSY

Christian Batallion Declaration of War Against Assad: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4oWbd7hW3_0

Assad’s Forces Desecrating Christian Sanctities while the Revolutionists Honor it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=63AgCpCusmQ

SNN | Syria | Idlib | Christian Family’s Home Destroyed by Assad | Apr 5, 2013: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfyNBNjVTqg

Syria – Assad Kills Christian Kid – Mother Curses Dictator 11-26-11 Sari Al Saoud – Bayada: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MdgBe4DYY_g

Collateral Damage? 63 Churches Hit in Syrian Civil War: http://www.crossmap.com/news/collateral-damage-63-churches-hit-in-syrian-civil-war-18480

Assad Slaughtering Syrian Christians: http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/2884/assad-slaughtering-syrian-christians

Syria: Christians take up arms for first time: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/9539244/Syria-Christians-take-up-arms-for-first-time.html

Facebook paste: Response to Nafeez Ahmed’s idiotic post: ‘EXCLUSIVE: Pentagon confirms ‪#‎ISIS‬ created by Western support for ‪#‎Islamist‬ insurgents in Syria’ – On a Progressive Islamophobia

(Post and comments can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/DrNafeezAhmed/posts/1604641193126303)
This is a deceptive, dishonest and shameful title. I’ll briefly (although its difficult) address the things in the report before speaking of the context in which you say it:

1) The report did not state once that the ‘West’s support for Islamists’ created ISIS, especially seeing that the West was not supporting any rebels; secular, Islamist, or otherwise at the time it was written. This can be verifiably checked by an hour of research. All it literally stated was that there was intelligence that a group called Islamic State in Iraq (as it was then), an Al-Qaeda franchise/ part of Al-Qaeda in Iraq (although it was never actually directly controlled by Al-Qaeda. but was an autonomous affiliate) might take advantage of the vaccum of the Syrian Civil War and establish a state.

Yet this sort of thing happening was a patently obvious prospect, the proof of that being that activists, journalists and fighters in the Syrian rebellion all warned of exactly the sort of rise of such extremist factions long before ISIS came to prominence, because moderates were so poorly supported and extremists weren’t. I remember reading banners by activists (many who would later be killed by ISIS) saying ‘Oh World, your inactivity will produce a thousand new Bin Ladens’. They argued, quite reasonably (and an argument that the left you would expect to be making, rather than sounding like left-sided neo-conservatives), that the extreme situation in Syria was bound to give rise to an extremist reaction. It was so patently obvious that this would happen that in my opinion, it was impossible not to predict it. This wasn’t the benefit of hindsight. By 2013 such an extremist reaction was overwhelmingly in the minority. Even today, they still do not constitute a majority, even though the mainstream majority has potentially been made more conservative.

[I was also one of many who said that you were bound to get something like that – and it wasn’t due to non-existent support of rebels, but the complete non-fulfilment of the bullshit rhetoric of ‘democratic aspirations’ (yet cynics like me said this from day one, that no one should be getting their hopes up of Western support, and that such rhetoric was always going to be vacuous because the result of any successful revolution would either be Islamists or Democracy coming out, neither of which was in Western interest). ]

2) What you completely miss out is a civil war inside a civil war that took place when ISIS was establishing itself in Syria, fighting and killing activists and thousands of rebel fighters, including ‘Islamists’. At the point in time of this report (2012), the AQI cited is actually said to include Jabhat Al-Nusra (mistakenly written as ‘Jaish Al-Nusra’ in the report). Yet Nusra would not become part of ISIS, yet alone an ‘ally’, but an enemy force. As it were, how ISIS would be created was falsely predicted as due to ‘alliances’ with other Islamists. Yet in fact, whilst individual fighters undoubtedly defected to ISIS, not least from Nusra, the vast majority of Islamists did not join ISIS, and remained with groups that would become hostile to ISIS (Islamic Front, Free Syrian Army, Authenticity and Development Front, etc.).

No such alliances occurred; in fact the opposite happened. The main Islamist factions (and there are many) in the rebellion all fought ISIS, and rebel forces were estimated to have lost 7000 fighters doing so by January 2014. This was seen as a battle between what ISIS termed ‘Murtadeen’ (apostates) and what the Islamists termed ‘Khawaraj’ (those who have left the community). The government had not engaged ISIS by this point, neither did ISIS engage the government, preoccupied as it was by fighting the ‘murtadeen’ ‘sahwas’ since, as, they claimed, ‘fighting apostates is more important than fighting infidels’.

Sorry for the complications but life, which is what these things you’re talking about actually are (not a chess game as, politics is often conceived of), and more importantly *wars*, are complicated.

Moving on, you are a) engaging in extremely (and currently resurgent) Islamophobic rhetoric where any groups that claimed to be Islamic in Syria (hundreds) are seen as ISIS, despite them fighting ISIS long before they ever came on your radar. Any self-identifying ‘Islamic’ group is thus automatically intolerant and extremist. Ironically ISIS calls these groups ‘Sahwat’, and attacks them routinely in their propaganda videos as apostates. The vast majority of its military operations have not been against the government but against these ‘apostates’, since they believe the government to be ‘infidels’ and they believe that it is ordained as a priority ‘to fight apostates before infidels’. Between 2013-2014 ISIS and the Government had a truce in which they did not engage in a single battle, whilst both fought the rebels at the same time. I watched rebels joke that ‘we’re about to get fucked from both ends’ whilst you were still in your hibernation.

In short you have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about and are doing considerable damage, and in fact actually contributing to Islamophobic tendencies with such idiotic generalisations of Muslims who identify politically accordingly. It seems people when they hear the terms ‘Islamic’ and ‘rebels’ seem to immediately think of the Taliban or perhaps African (intentionally generalised) hand-chopping ‘rebels’ (in a sense perhaps this is a failing of the Syrian revolution propaganda machine which clearly has come nothing to the ascending pro-Iranian anglo-phone propaganda lobby, that people do not know who the ‘rebels’ are).

b) You are peddling a fashionable myth based on ostensibly no knowledge/following whatsoever of the path of the Syrian rebellion over the past three years, including those things that the Left love to ignore, and (in their vigorous Western-centric ‘progressive’ orientalism), instead prefer to ‘deduct’ from pre-existing generic models (based on a set of disparate and different contexts). The US has not supported Islamist insurgents in Syria, its bombed them. It bombed them last winter (non-ISIS) which provoked an outrage by all the revolutionary factions at the time and was labelled by the founder of the FSA as ‘a plot against the revolution’. There were protests all over Syria against that bombing that no ‘progressive’ outlets mentioned.

Contrary to the parallel reality myth of those who don’t actually follow the daily reality and coverage from the conflict in the left (I also thankfully have the advantage of speaking Arabic), those overrated *details* of what’s actually happening rather than generic ‘deductions’ of what you think is happening, yet still cannot resist the arrogance to pontificate and establish their chic activist credentials by spouting bullshit of the US supporting the Syrian revolution: the US has *limited* and *stopped* weapons supplies from private donors and governments going to rebels, most importantly heavy weapons The most obvious example of this is that if Western states wanted Assad to collapse they would’ve allowed the supply of MANPADs which rebels have been begging for for the past 4 years which would’ve massively limited civilian casualties by imposing something close to a no-fly zone. The US has however not allowed Arab states to provide them.

It has also massively limited through diplomatic pressure funding for some of the strongest moderate Islamist groups, such as the Tawhid Brigade (which is MB type Islamism) which essentially was the main one that took Aleppo in 2012, and been reduced in capability since. The US has ‘vetted’ *16* brigades in Syria from something like 1000, the ‘support’ that one of those ‘main trusted’ ones amounted to *16 bullets* per fighter, whilst others have not seen any support – and these they vetted just in order to fight ISIS. Those rebels whose prospect of winning Obama called ‘bullshit’ stating that they were just ‘farmers, phramacists and dentists who would never have had a chance against a regime backed by Iran and Hezbollah’.

The US has even refused to give civil defence forces on the ground radar information which would allow them to know when an airstrike is coming and so evacuate families in time. This is nothing to say of the horrible refugee policies that all these Western countries have had regarding Syrian refugees.

Tell any Muslim that the West has supported the Syrian revolution and they will laugh in your face. The Syrian revolution (like all the other revolutions) was meant to die – were you and the left as a whole actually so naive to think that its reality would manifest as you had hoped in your head, that Western governments would come out giving supporting rhetoric to Arab dictatorships?

The US has never said that it wanted the collapse of the regime, since 2012 it said that there was ‘no military solution’ to the conflict, its always said it wanted an Egyptian-style ‘political solution’ where the head collapses and the body remains. This has been the unchanged position since 2012, and the reason why rebels have essentially not won, because supplies have been limited indirectly by US pressure. With the new Saudi King who has a different policy this might now be changing (not praising him just saying that he has a different policy).

Obama’s administration had spent years building ties with the regime as did the UK (Blair wanted to knight Assad), and did not want to throw all that away especially seeing that before the revolution broke out a Syrian-Israeli peace treaty was imminent (go back and look up articles before 2011), which would be Obama’s legacy (every Democratic president since Carter has had a ‘Mid-East peace’ legacy in the form of a treaty and Obama wanted to carry that on)

For the past three years I have watched and been only one amongst the many, many, MANY who were ignored when we said that the limitation of weapons supplies to rebels will lead to the rise of extremists. I watched consistently reports, videos, banners of activists and revolutionary fighters saying that ‘our abandonment will lead to something ugly being created’ – and yet you now repeat the same quasi-Islamophobic *BULLSHIT* that ‘Islamic militants’ are the cause of Syria’s problems rather than a secular dictator with Western complicity for the past 4 years. Your idiotic analysis does not extend beyond thinking that because Western politicians privileged us with their usual expected ‘we support democracy’ bullshit that that meant that you became blind to all else. Idiots and no wonder the left’s in such a shit state, a parallel reality where you treat these things like a chess board.

You people who have been asleep for the past four years, the last 2 in which we were fighting ISIS and the regime both at the same time alone long before they ever came on your radar and saying ‘we’re getting fucked from both sides’, now have the audacity to suddenly wake up and use Syria as a project to strengthen your bullshit faux-progressive credentials. You’ve all scabbed on the Syrian revolution so at best you should keep your mouth shut.

The Left’s 21st Century Spain test (Syria) shows how far lost it is from its principles of internationalism

… amidst the perceived ‘muddleness’ of (anti) Western-establishment position on the subject, and in the absence of ideological bedfellows on the ground who could act as representatives (for example socialist movements), what was left to convince leftists to take a stand in supporting Arab/Muslim freedom in that sensitive part of the world was an investment in actually what freedom means, when its stripped away from considerations of anti-establishment politics and ideological affiliation …

In the last two years, I have dedicated a specific focus in my writing and ‘activism’ on Syria. While I have always been a supporter of the Syrian revolution, previously issues which had taken my priorities were Palestine and Egypt, the latter is where I’m from. The trigger point which caused me to shift my focus was a conversation two years ago when I realised just how far off I was from other ‘activists’ on the Syria issue, when things I assumed to be a given were anything but. This was in 2013, even before ISIS was preponderant. I also later met many who shared my disillusionment, in many cases I felt for them as they were ‘white’ and hence their opinions were easily discounted amongst their peers (in the sense of ‘what makes your opinion on what’s going on there more accurate than ours’, and by extension, who are you to have the moral authority to criticise us).

I am a Muslim who has been born and raised in the Middle East, and came to the UK to study for my undergraduate degree. As an Egyptian born and raised in ghorba, or ‘estrangement’ in Kuwait, part of a large expat Egyptian community, I tasted from my very early days the daily racism and discrimination that expats experience there and elsewhere in the Arabian Gulf, and which Egyptians are particularly well-versed for (although faring better than those from Asian backgrounds). I do not seek to dwell on those experiences here, suffice to say that I understood from my experiences and that of my family, the meaning of ‘dignity’, having to fight for it, and having it abused.

During my University years, I made a concerted effort not to restrict myself to my natural social group (Muslims), indeed my main social circle (in terms of politics as well as leisure) was composed of Anglo-European leftists (rather than ‘Islamist’ ISOC type circles). I learnt a great deal from them, in terms of organisation, admirable progressive ideals (going into substance and not just perception), inclusivism and generally ways of thinking, and indeed it is many of their principles that I internalised that I tried to later hold as a standard.

However, I have recently arrived at the sad conclusion that we cannot rely on this alliance for all our issues, or perhaps, just our issues in general (for if you can’t rely on them in important issues, how can you rely on them as a permanent standby?). It may perhaps be better to look ‘inwards’ to one’s own community.

Why?

In the past few months I have been asking myself the question ‘why the Left has been so bad on Syria’. I came to the increased conclusion that, amidst the perceived ‘muddleness’ of (anti) Western-establishment position on the subject, and in the absence of ideological bedfellows on the ground who could act as representatives (for example socialist movements), what was left to convince leftists to take a stand in supporting Arab/Muslim freedom in that sensitive part of the world was an investment in actually what freedom means, when its stripped away from considerations of anti-establishment politics and ideological affiliation.

Within this reality I have wondered whether focus should be turned towards the Muslim community. For the reality of having overlords is one that is common to Muslims, it is the overlord of statist elites that enslaves its population, holds them to ransom, controls their destinies, insults them in everyday encounters. This context is absent from many of our ‘comrades’. I have become increasingly unsure whether those who have not actually experienced what it is to live without dignity and what it is to live with constant insult could understand why we care about Syria so much, for the word ‘dignity’ is simply an abstraction of sorts, a vacuous cliché so to speak – and when that abstraction happens to line up with (‘surprising’) Western effemations for ‘democracy’ that abstraction becomes even more tainted. In the absence of relatable experience, a strong sense of justice must be present, otherwise other categories must be ticked: ideological affiliation, anti-establishment feeling (another form of ideological affiliation), binary politics, etc.

This feeling of despair is perhaps is an interesting microcosm of why many Muslim communities in general become inverted and ‘look to their own’.

(Note: The potential irony of me arriving at this point now is that as increased coordination between the Syrian regime and Western governments comes out in the open, I might have actually arrived at this point at the very time when noises start to emerge against this coordination, being now a (re)fashionable topic and another ‘opportunity’ for partisan interests (using it as a tool to ’embarass’ Western establishments, rather than actually caring about the ‘others’ dying over there – there was still Western complicity all throughout this time of course screamed by everyone in that country and their supporters abroad, but unfortunately there was still the all-important bluff of being ‘pro’ these people which made it unfashionable).

In opposing the Iraq war, there was a common cause between British Muslims and the British Left, but it appears that’s all it was, a political alliance of convenience (Richard Phillips highlighted this alliance in detail in his ‘Standing together: The Muslim Association of Britain and the anti-war Movement’ – in the wake of Syria, perhaps a new title should be explored: ‘Breaking apart? British Muslims and the anti-war movement in the wake of Syria’). It was about Western involvement, not Iraqi persecution. If it was a non-Western force that had occupied Iraq and done all the crimes there, then there would not be concern about it (even if it were the primary conflict of our day, as Syria today is).

Yet this is not internationalism, this is Western-centricism of a perverse (reactionary – literally) nature. For causes that go beyond those with commonalities (Iraq, Israel-Palestine), I increasingly see why people of a certain background rely on the support of their own, as we can tell from the amount of ‘backing up’ that we got from the left against the establishment barrage of hate against our brothers (and by extension the Muslim community that ‘allowed them’) who have gone to fight for Syria against the government (i.e. not ideologically for ISIS). The trouncing of George Galloway (see his ‘Rigby moment‘ here) in Bradford West is merely one reaction to this.

Yet on the other hand, is it not perhaps understandable how concern in a region (albeit one so traditionally interesting) to the Western left is not a constant where ‘the parties it is concerned with’ (Western establishments) are not involved? After all, am I to deny that as a Muslim I have natural affinity to the causes of Muslim/Arabs?

There are two points to make here:

Firstly, regarding the latter point; whilst it is true that I might indeed not devote the same attention to causes further outside my ‘orbit’, I nonetheless do try and stay on the correct side of the oppressed in ‘external’ conflicts, regardless of ideological affiliation. I have no issue with supporting socialist self-determination, so why is it the case that so many Leftists find it so easy to state gross statements such as ‘both sides are the same’, or generally have an issue with supporting ‘Islamist’ (today’s reinvigorated, exotically-politicised word-turned-pc-weapon to target ‘politically-active Muslims’) self-determination?

More importantly however, regarding the first point; the important problem here lies in the fact that these actors cited are involved, even if that involvement is different in nature from a brazen Iraq-style invasion. The reality is not as if the Western forces have departed the arena never to return, as you act it to be the case. They are literally in the arena right now. They are in the arena as they refuse to give civil defence forces radar warning of incoming airstrikes, allowing massive casualties in lives. They are in the arena whilst they control the funding and weaponry that is allowed to Syrian revolutionaries, through pressure on domestic allies, allowing the situation of mutual destruction to drag on. The difference between me and you, therefore, is my appraisal of that reality: I accept that the West is playing a role, currently, in that arena. You meanwhile, for all intents and purposes try to deny the role it is playing (by ostensibly making it appear that the only role it can play is by full-scale invasions), and try and pretend that as long as its not invading, it is – for all practical implications – not ‘intervening’.

Nor is it as if it were the case that the West had left the arena for good, never to return – if this was the case then perhaps this would be a different discussion. Seeing however that we do not live in that parallel reality, what possible guarantee can you give me that your ‘refraining’ from manipulating your governments (which you of course do when it comes to domestic politics, that is to say you do try and get socio-economic concessions from your governments through pressure in domestic politics – you don’t pretend it doesn’t exist), because you are trying to ‘get it out of the arena’, will set a precedent of ‘non-intervention’ in the future? What (forgive my bluntness) ‘silly’ guarantee will you give me that your policy of ‘isolating us’ at this moment in time, costly as it may be ‘right now’, will set a precedent for welcome ‘isolation’ in the future? Was the resounding success of failing to stop an intervention in 2014 a year after ‘succeeding’ in 2013 evidence of that?

In all this, the West is a rational actor. However it is not an infallible actor, for like any constructed human system the narratives used to construct that system are not single-edged. No politically proscriptive narratives exist that have only one edge to them. Change is very often made based on what you take from those (sharp) double edges of the narratives/rhetoric that system uses to legitimise itself (e.g. change to get universal suffrage: claimed from rhetoric of UK being a democracy). That narrative is used very often to legitimise unjust systems and commit evil, but like any narrative it is impossible – even for the powerful – to construct narratives with no double edges, with no room for potential downfalls (if they are seized upon).

Everything, in short, has a cost-benefit ratio. And this is where *forced mistakes* can be made, and this is what we try and seize upon. The US or UK launching strikes against Assad would have potentially been a long-term strategic mistake in terms of its interests (short-term might have offered some perks). The Western establishments, though the notion of military action and intervention is very much in their DNA and a massive temptation by its very nature (particularly in nostalgic post-empires such as Britain and France), ultimately knew this and were able to reign that temptation in. In this case however, there was no one to force that mistake (there was more faith in them ‘fucking us over’ in the future then us saying that actually, ‘they are fucking us over now’, and trust our ability that we might be the ones who will ‘fuck them over’ in the future if we actually succeed in proving people wrong and effectively achieve self-government). They have continued to reign it in since with dozens of certified chemical attacks – confirmed as having been committed by an airforce (and hence only one possible party) – providing them with ‘unquestioned justification’.

Now your role as an internationalist, is – similarly to how you keep that cost-benefit analysis in mind when you engage (unhappily as it may be) with the political system domestically, you should do the same in those other spheres where the political system acts. That, is what is true internationalism.

(Note: Interestingly enough, some might confuse the debate here about being surrounding the question of Western intervention, yet that question is literally completely irrelevant. I am (merely one) from amongst the many who ‘conspiratorially’ said from day one, who said when the chemical attacks at Ghouta took place, and who says today that the West will not intervene against the Syrian government. The point of this is the wider (mis)conceptions that have been at play by wide swathes of the confused left and the often complete misunderstandings of what anti-imperialism and internationalism mean)

Digging everyone a hole: The absence of a counter-narrative when it matters

In the aftermath of the rise of ISIS Muslim communities have faced an onslaught from Western media and state establishments. Yet in the absence of a counter-narrative to the what is in essence ‘Oh see the Muslims never really wanted democracy, this is the democracy they want finally showing its true colours’, and the rise of a series of draconian ‘anti-extremism’ measures that target the Muslim community, the left is impotent to challenge the second phase of the War on Terror; for its not presented any narratives to explain the ‘radicalisation’ of Muslim youth, the reasons many have gone to Syria (and the distinctions between those who went out of good intentions and not), the rise of ISIS or the context from which it emerged. More importantly, it has been reluctant to stop its ideological rival (‘Islamism’) getting its beating.

And while in many situations the Left certainly has reason to feel aggrieved from ‘Islamist’ betrayal (in Egypt historically for example), the term ‘Islamist’ is currently used to essentially denote in wide and disparate contexts Muslims who are ‘political’ in their sphere; whilst the usage of the term ‘Islamist’ in this way goes back to the early 90s and neoconservatives such as Samuel Huntington and Bernard Lewis, its ‘mainstreamising’ today is a dangerous trend that essentially seeks to depoliticise young Muslims, taking ISIS (which was allowed to rise, prophesised, and fought without help whilst in a weaker stage) as the golden opportunity to achieve this identity crackdown. ‘Islamists’ has thus replaced ‘Muslims’ as a ‘politically correct’ tool to attacking politically minded self-identifying Muslims (with the advantage of having the escape clause from being blamed for Islamophobia, since you’re now not criticising ‘Muslims’ per se; indeed, I even recently came across a Freudian slip where the term was used ‘mistakenly’ to say that Europe is facing an impending demographic ‘Islamist’ problem (rather than a Muslim one), although most of this trend will likely be more subtle), and its not unlikely that we see its usage in politicised ways to be expanded even further in scope.

Why the SNP should trigger another election, and reject Labour’s blackmail

The below is a Facebook post which I wrote re the event of a hung parliament, and Labour carrying out Miliband’s vow not to do any deals (coalition or otherwise) with the SNP (and relying on challenging the SNP to vote down a Labour Queen’s speech):

‘SNP (and its voters) being blackmailed to support a Labour Queen Speech (with no deal) or risk another election in which the Tories win. I think they should stand firm – meaning that if Labour refuse to compromise they should strike their speech down, even if it means triggering another election (and Brits get peed off). They would however have to make that absolutely clear beforehand (unfortunately time’s almost run out) and put the argument across efficiently, that they would not sell out their manifesto (which is to ‘stand up for Scotland’) if Labour does not want to listen to them. They should state, in no uncertain terms, that their concern is Scotland, not Labour vs Conservative. And if people do not agree with that, then they should not vote SNP.

In a trigger election two scenarios can occur: If the SNP look set again to win the same number of seats (or thereabouts), then a) this will show the resistance nature of the Scottish electorate to British blackmail and b) Labour will have a choice: to make a deal with the SNP, risk a Conservative majority or, if neither are again able to form a government by themselves even go into ‘grand coalition’ (they would have nothing in principle against doing that since they’re intrinsic sell outs, though it would destroy them electorally). This would likely destroy beyond any shred of hope Labour’s position North of the border and offer a boost to independence.

Meanwhile if the other scenario takes place (unfortunately the more likely one I expect) that the SNP loses seats to Labour in another election, then the SNP would have nothing to lose (it did what it could and what it promised to do, and the rejection of its massive vote would serve its argument well: ‘see? they told us Scotland has a say in running the UK, and yet they literally threw away more than half [potentially] of Scotland’s votes’). Incidentally people changing their votes in that case would not mean that they were angry at the SNP, to the contrary, they would probably do so ‘apologetically’ simply because they did not want to risk a Conservative government – nonetheless you can still expect the SNP’s local popularity to rise (like it did when they lost the independence referendum) for staying true to their principles. The potential downside of a shift to Conservative in England in such a scenario, meanwhile, will simply be a massive boost to independence.

SNP letting Labour in with no compromises may not be quite the same as doing a 2010 Lib-Dem, but they should stay firm to their manifesto/promises nonetheless, otherwise they lose what makes them different.’