II. Islam and the War of the Worlds
There is a total war gripping all of humanity.
As techno-industrial civilization fights tirelessly to expand its markets and deepen its control over global society, all alternatives are considered threats and attacked accordingly.
As talus put in the Earth First! Journal, apathy and indifference in the face of atrocity is spiritual death. The EF! Journal recently published an article with the piercing quote, “this is a holy war if ever there was one.”
We glimpse this reality in indigenous communities the world over, from the First Nations of Turtle Island to the Maoists of central India.
These are distinct worlds. The Black boy in the suburbs of Baltimore lives in a different world, as it were, than the Waorani boy raised on the tributaries of the Amazon River. This seems clear.
However, there are worlds in our hearts yet to be born, worlds without roots, worlds that have been buried, uprooted, burned. Not all of the forces in this global war are so stark as the deep-rooted indigenous struggles.
We envision a world in which many worlds fit.
Not all worlds can fit. Any world which refuses to allow the existence of others, such as the dominant order today, must be vanquished. We must learn to agree to disagree or go our separate ways.
Islam is not so much a world as it is a constellation of worlds. When I here write of Islam I am specifically referring to the world of Sunni Islam (that is, orthodox Islam that strictly adheres to the Qur’an and the Sunnah— the traditions of the Prophet, salalahu alaihi ina salam). However, even within Sunni Islam there are warring elements.
Islam is an antidote to the nihilism of this society, a society of trash. This society has no purpose, no meaning to its existence, and therefore cannot offer any to its subjects. It is a society of mere entertainment. We see the heart of this society in the rates of murder, rape, child abuse, ecological devastation, the mindlessness and boredom. The most common killers of the youth are cheap thrills, suicide and drug addiction. The heroin epidemic is but the logical conclusion of a meaningless, utterly alienated society.
More and more, people are collectively experiencing their rage in the streets. There are few experiences I have had in my life as powerful as running in a black bloc and engaging in street clashes and sabotage. Clandestine attacks on the system— any part of the system— can be a source of purpose, of some sense of perspective in this society of complacent death.
We cannot live on fire and rage alone. There are deeper, more enduring answers. In time, I became disillusioned with my solitary strikes against the enemy. Without a broader group to link up with, I began to feel as futile and meaningless as ever. I slipped into a downward spiral of addiction, only briefly overcome during the Occupy Cleveland encampment. The alcohol-fueled nihilism that gripped me largely led to me going to prison.
It was here, in prison, after continuing to struggle with addiction, that I came to understand my state of utter submission. I came to willingly submit to the will of Allah, as a slave to the one true god. Islam is a way of life in every sense of the phrase, and it imbues us with the knowledge of the meaning to our existence, the sole purpose of our lives.
The prophet Muhammad (salalahu alaihi ina salam) said the only reason he was sent was to perfect noble character. The movement towards Islam taking place all over the world, despite all the brutality and onslaught of the dominant order and the tireless lies and distortions of its media, is the movement from darkness into light, from nihilism to honoring the deepest nature of humanity.
I still believe in the importance of collective struggle against this system, but now I have been given knowledge of what to answer this madness with.
Islam is a sophisticated way of life with a complete legal code and an understanding of proper conduct in every circumstance, all based upon our surrender to the will of Allah.
The way of life of the Muslim is codified in Shar’ia law. We cannot put Islam into practice without implementation of Shar’ia. It is incumbent upon Muslims to establish an Islamic society that adheres to Shar’ia. This is the desire, the yearning, of all devout Muslims. It is crucial to understand this because it reveals the fundamental truth that Islam is not compatible with this society, with the capitalist way of life. In truth, Islam and capitalism are mortal enemies.
Just as there are those who call themselves anarchists but defend capitalism, there are hypocrites who call themselves Muslims but defend this society and yearn for assimilation. Hence the complexities and internecine warfare.
Many of the reasons for Islam and capitalism being antithetical are also the same principles Islam and anarchism have in common. Islam values mutual aid, solidarity, charity, justice, social and economic equity, and peace. Usury is strictly forbidden— perhaps the single greatest reason Islam cannot be assimilated into the capitalist order. The stock market and speculation of forbidden. Drug abuse and unprovoked violence are forbidden. Pornography is forbidden. In terms of humanity itself, the hierarchy within Islam is, in essence, that which is based upon one’s knowledge of Islam, and so in this sense it is an earned status, but such positions (such as Imams and Shaykhs) only uphold Islam and have no real power beyond Shar’ia. Islam has a strict moral code concerning how we are to conduct ourselves in this world: in essence, we are to behave like travelers passing through. Therefore, waste and greed are sinful and ecological sustainability is an imperative.
The establishment of an authentic Islamic society is vehemently opposed by the dominant order— and surely it would be a dangerous precedent (especially considering that there are nearly two billion Muslims in the world and counting, although this number drops significantly if we only consider devout Muslims who desire to live under Shar’ia). However, such an establishment is incumbent upon Muslims, as ordered in the holy Qur’an. [See, for instance, Surah At-Taubah, the ninth “chapter” in the Qur’an, translated as “Repentance,” often alternately called Al-Bara’at, translated as “The Immunity.”]
So long as this caliphate tolerates those outside its boundaries who are not hostile to it, there seems to be no reason why it cannot fit within the many worlds we envision. We have a right to exist.
III. Hushed whispers gently tossed in the dark
It is obviously prudent to speak as though in hushed whispers. The terrain upon which are conversing is clearly enemy territory. While it is important to be bold, it is also important to pick up our battles wisely. Many will no doubt say I have already transgressed the bounds, but we must be forthright about certain matters if a dialogue between Islam and anarchism is to contain substance. Overcoming fear of the enemy, we must weigh matters strategically.
Within anarchist circles there is a reprehensible tendency to oversimplify, and, what’s worse, to actually adopt the analysis of the dominant order— in a phrase, to lose the battle before the first shot is fired. In numerous publications across the anarchist continuum there have appeared seriously flawed commentaries on events transpiring overseas.
The dominant narrative has simply been regurgitated through the lens of anti-colonialism, as if what is currently unfolding is nothing more than the by-product of a system that arose almost a millennia after Islam. The term “fascist” has been widely deployed (typically in the form of “Islamo-fascism”), as though any system that offends anarchistic sensibilities is, de facto, a fascist system. This is indicative of some of the vital flaws existing in anarchist praxis. Despite all the anti-liberal rhetoric, anarchists often suffer from nascent liberal tendencies. This can be seen in the patronizing positions of many anarchists regarding Muslims in the West, and it can be seen in the shallow analysis of events in the Middle East. While anarchists have, on the whole, a rather sophisticated constellation of visions for the world they desire, they become mired in hypocrisy if they extend those visions beyond their own lives and spaces. Anarchists have no right to condemn another way of life simply because it does not adhere to their own whims.
Many indigenous societies practice ways of life that do not adhere to anarchist principles, and yet anarchist solidarity is still, by and large, extended. Yet it seems that, when it comes to Islam, that solidarity is only extended concerning a neutered form of Islam prevalent in the West, and even then only in part, and often begrudgingly.
The same people who shed their blood to defeat the U.S. empire’s ambitions in Iraq and the region more broadly are today condemned in their attempt to assert their autonomy and their right to exist on their own terms, in accordance with Shar’ia. What right do anarchists have to condemn those engaged in such life and death struggle with empire? Where is the anarchist solidarity with the oppressed of Iraq and Syria? Why are anarchists so quick to accept the dominant narrative of what is transpiring on the ground there?
There is a total war raging there, not merely academic debates in endless publications.
This hypocrisy within anarchist circles goes a long way towards explaining how it came to be that anarchists are directly and indirectly fighting alongside the empire’s military, to the benefit of U.S. foreign policy. Since when is anarchism supported by the empire’s air force? Have anarchists forgotten all the bloody history lessons so easily?
However archaic and authoritarian anarchists consider Islam to be, these are serious matters that ought not be brushed off lightly. Whether or not we will ever agree to disagree and respect one another’s right to autonomy and struggle within this global war, it is in all our interests to earnestly engage in dialogue and reflection.
Any time anarchists are fighting on the front lines of U.S. foreign policy as in the emerging Kurdish territory or the case of Anonymous, that should give us pause.
Anarchists typically put a great deal of importance on ends and means, and, the corollary to that, in whom they choose as accomplices. If most anarchists agree it is foolish to approach right wing anti-government militias in this country as allies, much less the government itself, why then do the terms change overseas? Do so many miles degrade our ability to think critically?
This double standard is typical of liberalism and must be seriously examined.
The purpose of this letter is to sketch a rough outline of some of the major areas of any meaningful dialogue between Islam and anarchism. Insha’Allah, my voice will be able to add substance to such a dialogue.
This is only a sketch.
Insha’Allah, I will be putting forth more writings along these lines in the not too distant future.
I trust that readers will engage this letter and one another with an open mind. In part, my intent is to stimulate meaningful debate.
Please feel free to write me.
Seek the truth in earnest and you will find yourself among the best of companions.
May Allah guide you and set your affairs in order.
A potential accomplice,
an obedient slave to Allah,
formerly known as Connor Stevens (Cleveland 4)
P.S. I am currently in solitary confinement, awaiting a transfer, so please stay posted as to my change of mailing address in the coming weeks.
May my love for the oppressed and downtrodden become tangible.