Liberal Capitalist Islam & Jihadi Salafism:
End Results of Political Islam r-Evolution
( The following article is derived from an enlarged documented research project, currently undertaken by the author.)
Like any other political movement, Political Islam has multiple spectra, ranging from "moderation" to extremism, according to the prevailing objective conditions, the way color shades are graded from lighter to darker according to the brightness of light.
Yet, many researchers and theorists on salafi movements tend to-limit- political Islam movements to a-limit-ed number ( usually not exceeding five), based on the ideological claims of such movements, not on their concrete policies and agendas. In fact, the evolution of the salafi movements in the Arab( & Muslim) world for nearly a century shows that these movements have been so varied that they are difficult to be categorized into a specific number of types. It also shows that these movements cohabitate and conflict, converge and diverge, split and unite, all through an endless process of reproduction.
A good (bad) example here is provided by the current Syrian situation, with hundreds of ( some would say more than 1000) terrorist islamist groups. These include 2 major groups ( ISIS and Qaeda- once called Nusra, now labeled Fat h el-Sham), a dozen of medium- size ones (specially, Ahrar el-Sham, Jaish el-Islam, the Islamic Front, Zenki, Jaish el-Mujahideen etc.), tens of small "battalions" loosly connected to the straw man, the Syrian Free Army, and hundreds of local groups commanded by warlords. No one single significant opposition armed group (except for the Kurdish PYK) is a "moderate" "democratic" secular one.
The present article provides a general historical background to the emergence of jihadi salafi movements and their evolution up to the present. It is based on the hypothesis that such movements are to be gauged on a terrorism scale much more like the earthquakes Richter scale. Most of the salafi movements fall within two minimum and higher-limit-s, between which the other movements would be graded. They fall between two major poles: one "apparent" , which is the jihadi salafi ( read, the takfiri terrorist), and the second still "inward ", is capitalist liberal Islam. The disclosure of the latter salafi pole is at the center of interest of the present article.
The last quarter century, and the first decade of this century, have witnessed certain fundamental global, regional and Arab transformations (that is., neo-liberal capitalist globalization, privatization, and attendant deepening of imperialist looting, exploitation and arrogance-;-the occupation of Arab lands-;- and relinquishing of the peoples resources and rights). These developments have led to the emergence of crisis situations-;- of urgent demands by the different social segments and classes under such conditions, with the intractability of solutions within the framework of the prevailing socio-economic Regime.
The prime mover of these developments has been embodied in the American and its European sister imperialism, whereas the main "responder" has been the existing Arab regimes, a fraction of Arab businessmen, and scholars of political Islam- of the creed of globalized capitalism.
In such context, the " jihadi salafism" and the "Management of Savagery" led by Daesh (ISIS) have not been a satanic flora in the Arabian desert. Practices of Daesh - capable of dismantling states, yet incapable of state-building- are similar in nature to practices witnessed by the Arab-Muslim and world history (especially the European and American) in periods of major transformations and intractable solutions- to be elaborated bellow.
In parallel, and as a matter of simplification: in the terrorist takfiri discourse of Daesh & Co., the sunni Islamic "race" replaces the distinguished Aryan race, superior in Nazi discourse to all other races. For the terrorist takfiri discourse, all "races" other than sunni Muslims (be them Christians, Jews, Izedis, secular´-or-even Shi i Muslims) are kafirs (infidels) to be fought and subjugated´-or-killed.
The "crisis situation" that arose from the said changes could be described in two words: "dhank al-aish" ("miserable living"). It is the deteriorating socio-economic conditions down to the point of na-dir-, wasting the dignity and rights of the human being and peoples like never before.
And, for the Arab citizen, it is the tight unbearable living! It expresses itself in more than one form and content: widening poverty and unemployment, tyranny and corruption, imperialist and Zionist arrogance, and profanation of personal and national dignity.
The dhank and its correlative fasad (corruption as an establishment) have haunted in essence, though in different shapes, the stages of major transformations in human history.
Major Transformations in the Arab-Muslim History
Such major transformations have been known to the Arab-Islamic history since its rashid (good) governance. Then, occurred "the first fitna ("disorder") and "the Great fitna", during the transition from a Quraish tribebased state – with subsistence on trade for the elite and on livestock for the public- to the Umayyad Empire, based on expanding the trade and on tax returns of the vast new lands taken during the Arab-Muslim Conquest in the 7th century.
Further similar transformations have been witnessed during the 12th and 13th centuries, with the decline of the Abbasid state and the concurrent foreign invasions: the European Crusades, and the Mongol and Seljuk Turk invasion. once more, history witnessed new transformations during the era of the colonial expansion of European capitalism and the disintegration of the feudal system in the Levant and other Arab countries under Ottoman rule starting the early nineteenth century.
The periods of crisis and major transformations in the Islamic-Arab history have been the historical context ripe for the phenomena of violence and extremism of all kinds: beliefs and practices of the band al-Khawarij and of the symbol of Umayyad tyranny Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf, who resorted, in the fitna period, to crucifixion and Alkhawzaqah (impalement) rather than applying shari a laws-;- through the salafism of Ibn Taymiyyah following the collapse of the Abbasid state-;- then the salafi Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab in the period of colonial expansion and the transition from feudalism to vassal/ subservient capitalism, down to the "salafi jihadi" terrorist takfiri current of all shades in the present day.
The capitalist West, in turn, has witnessed major transformations at different periods of its development, accompanied with bloody savagery: the founding of the United States on the bodies of "Red Indians" and black Africans-;- "the bloody religious wars" between Protestants and Catholics in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries, which took the lives of some 5-15 millions civilians and soldiers-;- the atrocities witnessed during the first half of the 20th century on the hands of the Fascist and Nazi movements, two thievery world wars and predatory crimes of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Zionist colonial occupation of Palestine.
The Current Context
Now, the region ( and the whole world) is passing through a new phase of transformation, that of the savage neo-liberal capitalist globalization, with all its troubled situations. To make matters worse, major "pre-script-ions" of the world s dominant institutions to the disease turned to be the disease itself. On the one hand, the IMF "recommendations" on structural economic reforms have exacerbated the previous "shortcomings" (unemployment rates have increased, especially among university graduates, so have the public debt and budget deficits..etc.
On the other hand, the failure of "Arab Spring" ( be it fabricated, betrayed, aborted´-or-stuck) have contributed to the decline in confidence of the popular classes in the hope for change, to attracting further imperialist intervention, and to promoting Takfiri terrorism (albeit temporarily). As to poverty in particular, it became no longer true to talk about the existence of isolated "pockets of poverty" that need treatment, but rather to say there are "pockets of wealth" in overwhelmingly impoverished societies.
As in previous stages of transition, the current phase is an incubator for various extremist salafi ideologies and movements. But the impact of the neo-liberal capitalist globalization did not stop at this point-;- it rather has impacted the "traditional" salafi currents themselves, so giving birth to a new category of political Islam: " liberal capitalist Islam."
This spectrum of political Islam found its "successful" model and ideological reference primarily in the Turkey s salafi Party for Justice and Development arriving to power through "democratic means", and also in the "Malaysian experience" of economic development along "Islamic" lines. Without hostility to capitalism, but also with a willingness to deal with the capitalist West, this breed of Islam raises "wasati" moderate slogans and demands, of contents that are in fact compatible with the "values" of Western capitalist democracy, the ballot-boxes democracy, where "political money" is the primary voter in the interest of businessmen : pluralism, modern civil state, sustainable development, good governance, social justice, gender equality, human rights etc. These are loose slogans, raised seemingly as a response to popular demands, while in fact seaking to realize the objectives of global neo-liberal capitalism and its local affiliates. Thus, we find new movements of this Turkish/ Malaysian model being born out of the wombs of the traditional salafi movements (especially the Muslim Brotherhood) in Egypt, Morocco, Jordan and other Arab and muslim countrys.
Muslim Brotherhood in Syria constitute a special case that combined both "salafi jihadi" and liberal capitalist Islam. The leaders and cadres of the Brotherhood have been positioned at each of the opposision "National Coalition", the Nusra ( Fat h el-Sham)Front, Ahrar el-Sham, jund el-aqsa,the Islamic Front etc. Some ex- leaders of the the group (e.g., Abu Mus ab el-Suri) had participated in the establishment of "Al Qaeda" , along with former Muslim Brotherhood leaders from Egypt and elsewhere.
Businessmen with a Neo-Liberal Capitalist Islam Creed
The liberal capitalist Islam version expresses ideas and interests of the emerging trans-sects segment of religious businessmen. The Gulf "Oil boom" has played, especially during the "Saudi era" of the 1970s, the main role in the rise of the said segment of Arab expatriate businessmen. They served as "subcontractors" to oil companies and government institutions in the GCC coutries. This was evidently so with the Lebanese businessmen (Al-Hariri and the "Hariri phenomenon" as a whole, for example), and the Palestinian groups (e.g., the Consolidated Contractors Company,CCC)), and the role of these groups in the economic and political life. (not to forget here the most famous Saudi businessman, Osama bin Laden, who had stepped the example of a businessman on the doctrine of the capitalist liberal Islam toward jihadi Salfism".)
The ranks of this segment of businessmen were joined by supreme professionals (especially in engineering) who have turned to owners of engineering consulting companies and ifrastructure- construction subcontractors, and senior civil servants who have benefited from the "corruption" to accumulate the financial & PR "yeast" necessary to enter the business world.
Besides immigration to oil-rich countries, there was another source to the formation of the Arab new business segment-;- that is the privatization process since the 1990s, and the accompanying processes of corruption in an unprecedented manner. The privatization involved government companies and institutions, most notably in the communication sector - this "default oil" discovered and oligopolized since the beginning of the present century. An intense competition on grabbing the privatized assets broke out between old businessmen descendant of the ruling bourgeois bureaucracy ( both civil & military) on one hand, and new private entrepreneurs, especially the expatriates among them, on the other.
"Scandals", political in essence, accompanying the rise of the new businessman segment reflect the greed and brutality of the imperialism-affiliated "national" capital. Among these: the Egyptian cement deal, mediated by a prominent high- ranking Palestinian official, with the objective of building Israeli colonies and "separation wall" in Palestinian occupied land-;- the sale of Egyptian gas to Israel at amazingly cheap price-;- the sale of large tracts of Egyptian lands to influential Egyptian businessmen and to the Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal at trivial prices.
Yet, by the turn of century, the State lands, comprising the majority of land in the Arab countries, were to be the "assets" subject to a more fierce conflict between businessmen & bureaucrats. Attention up till the last century was focused on the acquisition of agricultural land, followed by arable land. But for several reasons the demand for land has been increasing progressively to include "waste" land. These reasons include:
- Capitalist expansion in the era of imperialism and of neo-liberal capitalist globalization: the global expansion of goods & capital markets-;-
- Progress of agricultural technology (tools, machinery and agricultural methods) enabled the reclamation of large tracts of "waste lands"-;-
- Increasing demand for agricultural products on the background of growing population-;-
- Urbanization for the purposes of housing, tourism, factories and company locations, in periods of economic "boom" accompanying measures of economic restructuring imposed by the IMF & other international financial agencies-;-
- Expansion of the demand for land even into desert territories, with their potential natural resources of oil, gas and metals.
There is no room here to go into the details of the newly escalating conflict over land appropriation and use. This conflict came out into the open only recently, comprising the bulk of the Arab countries, specially Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Syria. It culminated, in Jordan for example, in violent collisions about "tribal wajihat" lands between the Government and a number of large tribes in recent years (Bani Hassan in Al-Zarqa city, and Bani Sakhr in the vacinity of Jordan s international airport). In Egypt, it was unveiled in May 2016 that over 300 thousand acres of State land designated for "development" have been acquisitioned by inflential officials. Syria and Iraq have witnessed a similar process.
The Syrian model
In Syria, along with the ongoing privatization process so far, there have been encroachments on State lands in various areas of Syria. (For example, the site Syria News website published a detailed report in 2007 in this regard under the title: "Some influential figures and incumbents are taking advantage of the law to acquire State lands even if they were mountains." Another site, Syria Steps, published in 2012 a report entitled: "State Property subject to encroachments and illegal actions ! ".). Prominent in this context is the Jazira area of the Hasaka province, which provides about one-third of Syria s total production of wheat and cotton.
The Hasaka province and the rest of the northeastern region of Syria in general (as well as the countryside and the desert in general) have witnessed waves of fierce clashes between the Syrian army and armed groups, especially Daesh, and among the armed groups themselves (Daesh, Kurdish Popular Protection Units, the Syrian Free army, and the Qaeda branch (Nusra Front) at different periods of the Syrian crisis.
The goal of the struggle over this region involves the cotrol of its fertile agricultural lands at the first place, and of the oil and gas fields there. However, such conflict reveals an essential aspect of of the conflict in Syria: the attempt at formulating a class coalition with the aim of overthrowing the present Regime and monopolizing the political power in Syria. The population composition of this area is dominantly tribal-rural, with tribal and rural chiefs playing a prominent role in the Syrian Opposition Coalition leadership (e.g: "sheikh of the sheikhs of Al-Jbur tribes" Salim Al-Mislit, sheikh Ahmad al-Jarba of the Shummar tribe). The tribal sheikhs also occupy leading positions in the different salafi jihadi groups(in Daesh for example: Abu Luqman of the Ijail clan, Abu Abd al-Rahman "the Security Man" and Abu Ali "the Shari a Man" from the Raqqa coutryside).
Hence, the tribal aristocracy in the Syrian desert and the rural chiefs in the countryside have emerged as a third component of of the Syrian "opposition and the revolution" leadership, along with the salafi groups, led by the Muslim Brotherhood, and the expatriate businessmen. The Brotherhood group constitutes the collocater of this unholy triple alliance-;- it is the only opposition party with widespread historical roots, and the its members within the business community is the hard core of the new businessmen segment.
Some of the tribal aristocracy new generation obtained a liberal Western higher education, whereas some sons of the rural chiefs obtained a religious education (noticeably in Saudi Arabia). Both have vast influence on "reserve" fighters of their kinship, suffering unemployment in their new migration places in the slum suburbs Syria s major towns. The new generation of tribal and rural chiefs also have ambitions to take over State lands, not to cultivate them, but to use their acquisition as a jumping platform to the new businessmen club, and eventually to political power.
In the grinding war taking place in Syria, a unique "division of labor" has developed between the leadership of the said tripartite alliance, the salafi jihadi factions, and their social bases:
- The Muslim Brotherhood holds the role of conductor: apart from the dominant presence of the group at the leading "Coalition" positions, its cadres occupy prominent positions at the "Coalition" organizational structure, while its members form a fundamental part of the "Coalition" base together with some tribal and rural families.
(About the role of the Muslim Brothehood, one of its leaders, Omar Mashuh, says-;-" it is not an exaggeration to say that if one raised any stone in Syria, he would find beneath it the Brotherhood in act´-or-thought, but it is not necessary to announce everything we do." Indeed, another Brotherhood leader, Mulham Droubi, a businessman who lives in Saudi Arabia , has acknowledged in an interview that his group was planning for the "Revolution" since 01.13.2011, i.e., two months before it broke out. He added that the group "has supported many of the battalions and factions," "and subsequently formed the" Armor Body "and has coordinated and participated in several initiatives to coordinate factions and battalions.")
- The militarily fragile oppsision "Coalition" derives strength from several jihadi groups, including Daesh and Nusra Front classified as terrorists (and can be classified as "fascists"´-or-"Nazis" in the precise historical sense), in order to fight the Regime. The Nusra Front, in turn, camouflage itself behind the armed factions not internationally classified terrorist so far.
At the same time, the waring local "warlords" hold the helm of local administrations, and make up the actual reference of the multiple remote secondary references, of supposedly one salafi origin. These warlords bloodily vie for spheres of influence, "spoils" of war and funds of external support ... thus drowning their own "incubator" environments with destruction and bloodshed.
- The businessmen handle the coordination of political and financial ties with the Gulf states of expatriation (their second home) and with "free and democratic" countries (their idial)-;- their employed liberal intellectuals and academics hambly assume the secretarial jobs.
- The tribal and rural chiefs serve as "con-script-ion contractors" (perhaps, subcontractors)-;- they mobilize the unemployed, marginalized and sexually frustrated young men of their kinship. The Daesh sheikhs recruit followers in the West from among the Arab/ Muslim youth who have tasted the bitterness of capitalist racism, and who demand a fallacious badawi revenge, and in anticipation of a " jihad marriage" to the paradise and Sham nymphs.
Waiting for the resurrection of the popular classes
Under such circumstances, the dhank (the "miserable existence") would last. So would the comprehensive structural crisis of the various aspects of society. The "great transformation", the overall radical change, would remain to be the major article on the agenda of the popular classes ... till these classes take their affairs in their own hands, independently of the various subservient bourgeois segments, and of various salafi movements, be they takfiri terrorist´-or-liberal capitalist Islamist.
May 18, 2016