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Thursday, August 04, 2005


al-zawahiri and the birth of a new islamic chivalry

in the aftermath of the london bombings, a new message from al-qaeda authored by ayman al-zawahiri has surfaced, pointing the finger of cause that provoked that response directly at tony blair and his involvement of britain in the quagmire of iraq.

needless to say, the message also strikes yet again on several tenets of al-qaeda's manifesto which are widely denied -- much to our peril -- in the west. al-jazeera prominently notes that al-zawahiri again questions why the west is not accepting the offer of truce put forward by osama bin laden some month's ago.

"To the people of the crusader coalition ... our blessed Shaikh Osama has offered you a truce so that you leave Muslim land. As he said, you will not dream of security until we live it as a reality in Palestine, and until all your infidel armies leave Prophet Mohammad's lands," he said.

"Our message to you is clear, strong, and final: There will be no salvation until you withdraw from our land, stop stealing our oil and resources, and end support for infidel (Arab) rulers," al-Zawahri added.
again, to those who believe that these people who oppose the west do not have a rational capacity, that they do not have worldly goals, that they cannot be engaged in a productive dialogue because they are mindless killing machines: i encourage you to read those words, and bin laden's words, very carefully. they are articulating what is at least a starting point to negotiations that would center of very material and pragmatic concerns which center on american and british foreign policy and can be addressed by our governments.

what is more, we have no choice. iraq should show us quite clearly that the method in which we have engaged the problem of terrorism -- by fomenting a global democratic revolution with our armies and spies -- is utter madness, not a solution to the problem at all but rather the most terrifying possible aggravation of it. continue on this path of obtuse mismanagement and bludgeoning where only creativity and engagement will suffice, and these people will, in time, become the hoardes rampaging over our frontiers to sack and burn our cities.

i found moreover al-zawahiri's abasement of western freedom to present a simple but devastating critique, offering an alternative picture of morality and law that very much resembles what once was western christian morality.

Liberty as construed by the Americans, he said, was based on "usurious banks, giant companies, misleading media outlets and the destruction of others for material gain".

Real freedom was "not the liberty of homosexual marriages and the abuse of women as a commodity to gain clients, win deals or attract tourists," al-Zawahiri added.

"It is not the freedom of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib," it said, referring to US-run prisons in Cuba and Iraq where serious allegations of torture have been levelled.

"Our freedom ... and the reform that we are seeking depends on three concepts - the rule of Sharia [Islamic law] ... freeing Islam from any aggressor ... and liberating the human being."
there can be little doubt that the civilization of islam, now dissolved into its successor-states and facing a nadir after four centuries of contraction, is mired in its own apathy and chaotic confusion, searching for a direction under a blinding wave of western influence that threatens to drown it -- much the same as the dead, cultureless, blinded roman world of western europe faced the eighth century under nordic, saracen and scandinavian invasion. this was the age of heroic epics in a nascent west -- the sagas of beowulf and roland, king arthur and the volsungs and the cid, of the original romance of which the romaticism of the western corruption would be an archaistic echo.

zawahiri here articulates something that could be construed as a nascent chivalric ethic, centered on a higher plane of nobility in the islamic character.

Likewise according to catalan Ramon Llull a long time ago there was an age when "loyalty, solidarity, truth and justice disappeared in the world", thus "disloyalty, enmity, outrage and falsity spread, causing error and perturbation among the people of God". So it was necessary to restore the lost justice "through fear". For this purpose "people was divided into thousands, and from every thousand one was selected who distinguished himself from others for his kindness, loyalty, wisdom, strength". This man, characterized for nobility, courage, tenacity and devotedness to his own principles of unlimited generosity, was named knight. *
as hard as it may be for some western minds to comprehend, from an islamic perspective, men like bin laden and al-zawahiri may represent to an islamic culture in collapse nothing so much as barbarian knights, a roland or an achilles -- and i would not be surprised to see epic poetry spring to life even in my lifetime recounting their exploits as though from an mythological age when heroes walked the earth. in this, they may represent the birth of a new culture, a new civilization, which now asserts itself for the first time as charles martel first asserted western christendom at tours in 732.

the senescence of many a civilization has come before us; there is much we could choose to learn from the history of the world. that we don't -- or can't -- is the bleakest condemnation of western apathy, rottenness and decadence.

What course of action would you suggest?

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regarding islamic chivalry -- nothing. that of course isn't a problem to be solved.

regarding our role in th east -- instead of technical, managerial solutions, i would suggest a moral one.

first, withdraw. we don't belong in the east and never have. imposing empire upon people is morally debasing for both us and them. there is no economic problem that arises out of leaving which we can't thrive despite.

second, promote republicanism from home, by example and not subterfuge. there is much to value in republican government as a technique -- and we need to rediscover it.

but, more than that, we need a renaissance of moral government. i mean by this nothing of what vicious "christian" zealots and xenophobes would do -- but rather the rediscovery of the state not as a weapon of vengeful action or as an idol to be slavishly prayed to or as an economic and social lever to manifest ideology, but as a flawed but useful tool for the improvement of people's lives.

lastly -- and this most difficult of all -- these changes must come from the ground up. it is not enough to come up with ideas and impose them, as though mere management could mend men's hearts. a fundamental change in the outlook of western man must arrive -- one that sees himself not as a shallow, scientific, abstracted, economic monad of unaccountable will ready to be entertained -- but as a creature whose worth is realized in teh health of the society and tradition he emerges from and remains within.

that's quite a lot, i know -- justifying my pessimism, perhaps.

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Regarding our role in the east:

When do you feel it is "moral" to intervene militarily or with physical force?

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never, anon -- if you've been backed into resorting to force, you've already made incorrect moral decisions earlier up the line; you're simply compounding that immorality by engaging in slaughter.

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Violence is the last resort of the incompetent. The competent don't wait so long to bring it on. Great to know if I'm being mugged, you won't resort to force to help me, because you made a bad decision up the line.

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