Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Empire's New Suit

Guest Blog By Hajj Ali Jafri

As a child I read H. C. Andersen's tale “The Emperor’s New Suit,” in which two swindlers offer to stitch an Emperor a new outfit they claim will be invisible to those lacking intelligence. After the Emperor accepts, he and his advisors pretend to see the suit so as not to appear unintelligent and incompetent.

At an ensuing parade spectators share the same fear and maintain their silence until a young boy brazenly points out the obvious, “He has nothing on at all!” Thereafter, the crowd gradually gains courage to express what their eyes see: the Emperor is naked. The tale ends with the Emperor attempting to maintain his charade before a sneering crowd.

Eight years of neo-conservatives serving imperial and corporate interests led Americans to select a seemingly favorable alternative in 2008. Four years of Obama serving the same imperial and corporate interests leaves Americans at least considering the alternative in 2012. Thus, voters are seemingly vindicated by a series of logical choices. Even those who acknowledge the repulsive conduct of the involved actors assert the “lesser of two evils” affirmative defense.

Yet, the Obama presidency significantly undermines the lesser evil defense so proudly promulgated in 2008, and continues to be relied upon today. The destructive conduct of this administration mirrors, and perhaps exceeds, that of his predecessor.

As predicted by the Islamic Leadership in Iran, “change” gave way to deceitful politics, similar to what Muslims witnessed after the Ummayad Dynasty ascended power in early Islamic history.

Forty-six million of us live in poverty but we are told that our money is needed to bail-out banks and corporations. Obama accepted a Nobel Peace Prize but then authorized assassinations of Americans and the bombing of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Somalia. Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic correctly opined that Obama made policies formally viewed as radical post-9/11 excesses staples of American life.

According to scholar Murtada Mutahhari, pious Islamic scholars advised their followers to avoid engaging the tyrannical systems of the Umayyads and Abbasids. When excuses to participate were brought forth, such as “If we don’t, someone else will,” the scholars had a powerful response: “When no one does it, the system will cripple.”

Conversely, Mutahhari says the scholars advised those followers who would use the system, and not be used by the system, to engage the system in a manner that would improve conditions for Muslims and all the oppressed. It is well accepted that from a jurisprudential perspective there are avenues by which Muslims may engage this system, such as voting in a presidential election. Notwithstanding, I pose the normative question: are we using the system, or is the system using us?

Just as the Emperor exposed himself before the crowd, the American Empire has exposed itself before its own citizenry as corrupt to its core. Americans cannot observe the Empire’s drones decapitating Pakistani children, phosphorus bombs incinerating Palestinian refugees, loans enslaving Africans or mercenaries gang-raping and murdering 14-year-old Abeer Hamza in Iraq. But it has been enough for Americans to observe U.S. Army whistleblower Bradley Manning, tent-cities they now call home, compounding interest payments and a culture of deceit.

Malcolm X once compared this system to a vulture, sucking the blood of the helpless. He hypothesized it would naturally collapse when there was no more blood to suck. Nations of the world and many citizens of the United States are running out of blood and have recognized that the Empire and its captains are unqualified to rule by any human standard. This recognition manifests itself and festers daily, in American universities, barber shops, cubicles, and wherever consciences are still alive. It manifested itself in the early days of the Occupy movement, when an ideologically diverse group took to the streets in major cities after reaching the same conclusion: systemic change is required.

Perhaps each ballot cast this week at the 2012 U.S. presidential elections provides the establishment a mandate to continue their rule. Thomas Jefferson once said, “When…a republic is corrupted, there is no possibility of remedying any of the growing evils but by removing the corruption…every other correction is either useless or a new evil.” If we are to accept that the Republic is corrupted, then in pure Jeffersonian terms, Obama, Romney, and the like must be characterized as either useless or evil. Thus, our ballots neither serve Muslims nor the oppressed. Rather, they serve as a crutch to support the rotting carcass of what was once a Republic.

In 2012, Americans are awakening from a deep, propaganda induced slumber. Today the Empire parades through the street naked. The young boy, a small but growing segment of the American people, has recognized this and is pointing out the exposed Empire. Much of the crowd remains silent. The Empire will continue its arrogant charade, as long as we allow it to use us. The boy will continue to speak.

On his journey to Kerbala, where he, his family and his companions were killed for standing up to the oppressive Ummayad regime, Hussain (son of Fatima, one of the four perfect women of all times) asked poet Al-Farazdaq how he found the people of Iraq. Al-Farazdaq replied, “The hearts of the people are with you, but their swords are against you.” That is, they recognized the leadership position of Hussain but their conduct displayed affection for his enemies. If you disagree with my characterization of this election, ask yourself the following: Will you rejoice if your preferred candidate achieves victory? Or, will you let out a sigh of relief that the marginally less evil tyrant assumed power? Perhaps that makes a difference. Perhaps it won’t.

In the words of rapper Lupe Fiasco: “That’s why I ain’t vote for him, next one either; I’m a part of the problem, my problem is I’m peaceful…And I believe in the people.”


Anonymous said...

Excellent. I love your blog, sis.

Salina Khan said...

Thanks, Anonymous! Brother Hajj Ali Jafri gets all the credit on this one :)

Ali said...

Great article! So then what are we Muslims suppose to do?

Salina Khan said...

Salaam, Ali, I've asked the author to give his response but my advice would be for us to start speaking the truth to counter all the lies out there and wake people up!

Anonymous said...

Bismillah. Salaamun Alaykum. Thank you to sr. Salina for allowing me this platform. In response to your question, a great Islamic thinker once said that to enact true reform in society there are three steps: ideological reform, social reform, then political reform. I would say that to begin we should focus on the ideological reform of our minds. For example, the many Muslims that have entered the system are of little or no use to the oppressed masses bc those Muslims often conform rather than maintain their islamic identity, which is an identity that does not compromise with oppression. In accordance with the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (s), we should focus on our duty and Allah (swt) will provide the results once we have done our duty. In America a primary duty is to educate others, as sr. Salina pointed out. wsalaam.

Salina Khan said...

Thanks, Anonymous! You said it better than I could. As for voting for the "lesser of two evils" argument, I want to remind people of this verse in the Quran:

God said,"Behold, I make you [Abraham] an imam (leader) of the people', he asked: 'And what about my offspring?' God replied: 'My covenant will not go to evildoers.'" (2:124)

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