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OP-ED: Extremism, Islamophobia, and the way forward

  • Published at 06:44 pm November 19th, 2020
france boycott protests bangladesh
Supporters of Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh protesting France and denouncing President Emmanuel Macron REUTERS

What is at the root of modern conflicts?

Recently, there have been three separate attacks in France carried out by religious extremists. The whole nation has been on its toes since the initial attack, and the following incidents have only pushed them to a state of panic. 

The tension in expat and/or secular Muslim households have been palpable as well, since the crackdown that can result due to incidents like this might even end up echoing the situation following the 9/11 attacks. 

As usual, there have been the usual justifications flying in from the hardline, extremist camp of Muslims. From the justifications of killings to the call for jihad across Europe, the response has been truly frightening. And, as always, the moderate camp has only seen fit to distance themselves and their ideology from extremism like this, even though acknowledging the problems within one’s own community is the first step to fixing it. 

False flags

Amidst all these, an interesting narrative is beginning to emerge as well. Conspiracy theories are nothing new, and conspiracy theories about major events have been the staple of internet discussions, jokes, and memes for years. I myself enjoy some of the better theories under the extra-terrestrial or supernatural umbrella. 

But when a theory attempts to make light of something as heinous as murder, and when it attempts to fan the flames so that more murder is committed and more enmity is cast between Muslims and other sects, the situationsbecomes more complicated. 

Of course, the theory in question claims that the attacks in France are false flag operations perpetrated by the government to justify a purge of Muslims across the world. As France is a secular, that is, an infidel country, they fear the truth. 

While false flag operations have happened, and there is evidence about more false flag operations that were cancelled at the last moment, there is very little reason to believe that the current events are false flag operations as well. 

First things first, there is no motive for such an operation. Abrahamic religions, like all superstructures, claim to be the absolute truth, and as such, other ideologies become their enemies. Through a seed like this and subsequent interpretations throughout the Crusades, it is understandable that people would think that people are trying to eradicate their religion. 

And this is not something that is confined to Abrahamic religions. When communism began to take hold of the world during the last century, communist leaders around the world feared that the imperialists would try to run subterfuge and ruin their empires. 

And looking at the history of leftist nations in South America and such, it looks like their predictions were spot on. Then why is that when communists talk about external threats, they are in the right; and when Muslims talk about external threats, they are spewing conspiracy theories? 

A new religion

A false flag operation is only one part of a greater strategy to fight an opposing ideology, and the fight only happens when the opposing ideology is a direct threat. Back in medieval times, religion was the dominant superstructure, and it was both the source of power and the source of motivation for expansion in the sense that medieval people would put more emphasis on the spiritual, as the materialistic world was largely unreachable and scorned upon. 

And through avenues like the divine right to rule and such, spirituality was the source of materialistic gains as well. As such, whenever another spiritual ideology would try to replace that source, there would be conflict. 

But in the current world, religion has lost its foothold. In the globalist supply chain, the dominant ideology is capitalist liberalism, and the opposing idea here is something that aims to replace the socio-cultural system. 

Sure, religions like Islam are not compatible with it, and states with an Islamic power structure would be a thorn in that system. But even in Islamic states like the UAE, the dominant power structure is still capitalism. 

And a new threat

As the global system is capitalistic, unless you integrate yourself into that system, the state cannot survive. At the end of the day, you need to trade with other people to survive. As such, even Islamic states have integrated into the capitalist system, and they pose no threat to the capitalist order. 

Socialist states, however, do pose a threat, and through the cases of countries like Bolivia, they are causing major disruptions to the world order. They still have to be integrated into the larger supply chain, but through the support of similar states and the offering of minerals that are needed in the global supply chain, they have become a part of the global value chain while still working against it. 

That is why in Western media, news attacks places like Cuba and China, while Islamic countries like Brunei seldom makes the cut. And when one looks at the conflicts in which countries like the US have taken part in, it quickly becomes clear that these conflicts are a result of monetary gains, not spiritual ones. 

For example, Middle Eastern nations were invaded for oil, not to uproot Islam. Even in places like Syria, where the current conflicts are being taken as a sign of the apocalypse, the conflict centres around minerals and power, not Islam. 

There have been recent activities in places like Korea and China as well, and those countries don’t even follow Islam. So, it quickly becomes apparent that modern conflicts take place due to money and power. And while religions like Islam were a part of that conversation, they aren’t anymore.

Still, Abrahamic religions conflict with secular traditions, and the religious zealots living in countries like England and France who try to impose their will do pose a threat to that world. But this is a known fact, and while the false flag operations in the US that were supposed to take place were meant to instigate fear against communism, the threat of radicalism is already known, and secular states are actually trying to combat the negative stereotypes, not enhance it (a look at US senators like Ilhan Omar and the current discourse within the popular media would corroborate this fact). 

As such, false flag operations aren’t even needed here, and secular states don’t stand to gain anything here. 

The root of the problem

So yes, the conspiracy theories are baseless. And they do have their roots in the very notion of ideological structures, and the course of history itself. In order to fight it, we will have to get to the root of the problem. 

I think it is safe to say that a large portion of religious leaders of the country are extremist, and they have denounced the more level-headed, intelligent leaders that live abroad. 

Almost the entirety of the population follows them, and as such, even teachers in schools who are supposed to be enlightening the children, instead fill their brains with hateful, extremist garbage. 

Strengthening our education system is a no-brainer, and people that get into the educational sector must go through extensive training, screening, and vetting. But at the same time, our economic system needs to be made more humane and sustainable. 

It is academically supported discourse that there is a link between poverty and extremism, and it goes along the lines of theorists like Marx, Zizek, and other notable philosophers, theorists, and academicians as well. The internal contradictions of liberal capitalism turn people into commodities and empower those who have money and power by dehumanizing those who don’t. 

For example, when we want to eat from our favourite restaurants during the rain, we can just get on Pathao. But people who don’t have money are actually the ones who have to get the food to make ends meet. 

Through this process of dehumanization, their life loses meaning. But a spiritual ideology like Islam not only restores that meaning, but also makes the service to such an ideology the ultimate goal of their life. This makes them susceptible to religious extremism, and this makes them commit extremist acts as well. 

So yes, there needs to be reforms to education, but only focusing on education will be like putting a tape on a water leak. And as can be seen with the rise of the far right in places like the US, a tape can only last for so long.

Nafis Shahriar is a freelance contributor.

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