Friday, 17 September 2010

Double surrender

I recently read a brief piece written by Taj El Sir Osman, the political education commissar of the Communist Party (Sudan), and a member of its Central Committee titled “On the Concept of Political Islam”. In his cursory note Osman argued that history has long transcended ‘theocracy’ as a state form, a form that movements of political Islam promise and aspire to. He then threw in examples of theocracies, namely Sudan, Iran, and Afghanistan, that have aborted human rights and civil liberties, and to add leftist pepper, cashed in economic resources in favour of the few parasitic capitalists. In his take on Sudanese political Islam, Osman made the point that Sudan’s Islamist state constitutes an obstacle to the nation’s unity, standing to the test in the coming plebiscite on the future of Southern Sudan. He added grievances of imperialist penetration, namely loss of national sovereignty and susceptibility to foreign intervention. To conclude Osman argued for a secular state that guarantees democratic rights and freedoms, as opposed to vile theocracy, on the grounds that only a secular state provides the structure for peaceful transition of power amongst competing political parties and classes.
I guess its fatigue, comrade. You must be terribly tired. Instead of analysis, the concrete analysis of the concrete situation, Osman has given in to the easy trek of liberal preaching; political Islam as a ‘genetic’ illness rather than a political discourse embedded in a socio-economic reality over which the ghost of colonialism ever hovers. In this sense it is the liberal reflex that deserves the term reactionary rather than the visceral pro-Islam twitching of the masses. Earlier insights of Sudanese communists into the attraction of political Islam certainly outweigh the current surrender. In an article from 1965 Abdel Khalig Mahjoub, the late Secretary of the Communist Party, acknowledged the egalitarian ideal of early Islam however rightfully argued from the history of Islamic statehood that this ideal was defeated to a no come-back. Using the concepts of political economy he explained how a rift of inequality came to separate merchant kings from their subjects, to inevitably override the crude communitarian form of the Medina. Leaping into current dilemmas, Mahjoub stressed that an investigation of the slogan of an ‘Islamic constitution’ and its genesis necessitates an analysis of the emergent constellation following the October 1964 Revolution in Sudan, a tumultuous period that seriously endangered the powers of the sectarian alliance. In an allegorical climax and with great sensitivity towards the egalitarian concept inherent in the mass appeal of an Islamic revival Mahjoub declared that Socialism is the Islam of the twentieth century. In so doing Mahjoub’s concern was not so much a cultural attestation of the archaic nature of political Islam but a positive approbation of egalitarian ideals in favour of his progressive project.    
In choosing an essentialist argument against political Islam Osman defeats himself twice. He sides with the imperial fantasia of political Islam as indigenous madness thus surrendering to his imperialist enemy. On the wrong side of the colonial schism he no less surrenders to political Islam itself left out as an ‘authentic’ claimant of mass protest against the imperialist entrapment.    

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This work by Magdi El Gizouli is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.