Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Reason a woman is brutally murdered by a mob in Kabul

An angry mob lynched a woman in Kabul on Thursday, beating her to death and then setting her body on fire.  The incident happened in the centre of Kabul and under the watch of Afghan police. At the time she was accused of burning the Quran but it is unclear whether she had actually burned it or not. A government statement from ministry of Haj and religious affairs dismissed the account and added she was an attendant at the shrine, according to Tolo News. It has also become apparent that the victim later identified as Farkhunda suffered mental illness, “Farkhunda had a mental malady, and we have been seeing many mullahs and doctors to seek a cure for her mental illness,” her mother told reporters.The last couple of days I have been thinking why such a barbaric and anti-Islamic travesty happens yet a large number, but not all, Afghans support it. The New york times in a story reflects on Afghans Reaction reporting approval. Reuters Report of support from cleric who in a sermon broadcast by loudspeaker told devotees that the crowd had a right to defend their Muslim beliefs at all costs.

Before we lose perspective and infer bile stereotypes of Afghans and slash any hope for this nation where a mob of angry men bludgeon to death an innocent woman, lets remind ourselves of murder and death in the state of nature. No other word depicts the human condition than the visionary masterwork of Flemish artist Pieter Bruegel, The Triumph of Death, it is not of course a work of realism, but Breugel certainly did not have to rely entirely on his imagination to depict a scene of stomach wrenching death and destruction. In a land ruled by an army of skeletons, a king lies dying, his treasure of no avail, while a dog gnaws on a nearby corpse. In the background two hanged men on gibbets, four men broken on wheels, a man about to be beheaded. Armies clash, houses burn, men and women young and old soldier and civilians are all driven pell-mell into a narrow tunnel. No one is spared. The artist himself died in his early forties. The portray.

Much of human history is some version of agony depicted by Bruegel in the state of nature. Islam as cultural framework lifts the state of nature by creating an individual value system conducive to peaceful coexistence and as subjects of a legitimate Islamic state that is tasked to be a vessel of collective decision-making and enforcement. The laws of Islamic State of Afghanistan is based on Islamic values and principles. The basis for a judgment in Islamic law is the jurist’s ability to carefully apply knowledge to theory and practice. In order to be qualified to interpret the sources of law, a jurist should master many branches of knowledge such as logic, Quran, Hadith, history and general knowledge as well as specialised areas like commerce or international relations. This approach adopted by Islamic law to reach judgement through Fiqh, Ijma, Qiyas, Urf and Istisahan is to ensure due processes and streamline justice. Mob justice undermines due process of Islamic justice and is a manifestation of Jaliyat, it undermines Islamic foundations of Afghan society. It also shows obsession and compulsion with icons and symbols of religion that is only valued for its physical material. From the onset Islam opposed Icons and Statues in Kaba that were worshiped by the pagans. Islam is world-affirming by construing the created world as fundamentally a good place and placing responsibility on individual action. For such a system of belief conduct and laws are fundamental than icons and symbols.

I believe for such barbarism is a failure of state policy and structures. The state should create a monopoly on the means of violence. In practice, this criterion has often been reduced; first to a simple monopoly on violence and then to little more than control of capital city. However, it is the legitimacy of the state’s monopoly on violence as perceived by the citizens of the state that is the key to using this monopoly as a criterion of statehood. If the polity rejects the legitimacy of the state’s monopoly on violence, then that monopoly is inherently unstable. Hence the state’s monopoly on the means of violence must be balanced by the presence or creation of credible institutions that provide checks and balances on the use of force; that the state itself must be constituted through, and accountable under, the rule of law. The rule of law is undermined by the very same leaders and clerics who are high-level functionaries of the state. The powerful men and the current patronage system of state power distribution are impediments to rule of law and the real reason for the troubles that ravage Afghanistan. The violence of gangs and mobs are unnerving but they are nothing more than symptoms of an ailing system.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

The Lesson From Afghanistan

Western military presence in Afghanistan was dominated by an ideological paradigm with the mission to establish democracy and spread freedom. The insurgency was labelled as terrorism and to be militarily defeated, until the very end of the military mission little effort was made to understand the nature and context of the war in Afghanistan. The development industry, media, the Afghan state and western political and military institutions broadly subscribed to some version of such mission, not necessarily following the same narrative but the same general framework. The failure of the west in stabilising Afghanistan is not an Afghan specific issue but points to a general shortcoming of Western conduct in international relations.

The shortcoming of the Western governments that has contributed to global instability and violence is the fragility of its international discourse, while Western institutions are robust for national governance the foreign policy is not conducted in accordance with the same scrutiny, accountability, oversight and rule based approach. Instead the media and elites have created a myth about the role of the Western democracy in the world that they have now fallen for it themselves. Western diplomacy is spearheaded strongly by a subjective moral approach at the cost of consistency in international law, which has contributed to problems from tension with Russia, spread of violent religious extremism and instability in the Middle East, Africa, south and east Europe. 

Many Westerners, particularly the elites, are convinced that Western democracy is moral and superior and should actively be spread around the world; all who oppose it are evil. A narrative reinforced by retrospective view after collapse of Soviet Block as well as massive economic developments of the last few decades. Western diplomacy is conducted from the position that the future belonged to them as a result those who resist are not (and were not) just rivals, but reactionary forces resisting progress and freedom, even evil. Working from this position of righteousness Western governments shape international relationship in whatever way they deem fit because by virtue of their nature it is only going to be moral and just. As a result we have seen a spate of military interventions in the last few decades that in most cases overruled national sovereignty and/or international law.  

There is a good reason for the international democracy mission that could be explained by understanding the current state of modern Western nations. Nation states are cultural and political entities that have successfully unified the population for progress, unconstrained by their class, race or religion. When governments are unable to exploit all human resources it will result in social fragmentation and reduced social solidarity the symptoms of which are the strengthening of regional identity and anti-political far right or far left movements. This is obvious in the debate around immigration where natives and the government respond to them are anxious about the allegiance of new comers. The crisis of the Nation State in the post-industrial information age is the diversification of culture, the total liberation of individual from traditional bonds, globalisation and market powers resulting in the erosion of the role of the nation state and its legitimacy. The leaders of nation states have been reduced to mere Managers of public life jiggling regulations and clauses that are laid out in the big rulebook, which is scientifically proven to work.

The only area of real decision-making is the international arena where western leaders are effectively members of a club. The short term and direct outcome of aggressive international military intervention is to demonstrate leadership toughness to the voters which incidental is very important. Secondly and more importantly it gives the nation a sense of purpose and solidarity by emphasising a cultural framework that is distinct and superior.

Lets take France for an example where polls show it’s becoming ever more socially fragmented, pessimistic, xenophobic and economically under pressure and experiencing a rise in far-right politics where Marine Le Pen has emerged as a key figure for the 2017 presidential election race. In 2013 France launched Operation Serval in Northern Mali to uproot Islamists threatening the region. President Hollande’s approval ratings doubled, which had plummeted for several reasons since he was elected to office in May 2012. A poll in January 2013 showed that 75 percent of people questioned in France supported the intervention in Mali, there is not a single other issue that can command that kind of public support hence legitimacy.

Western leadership is nurturing a religiously belief in the gods of liberty and democracy, worshipped in flag rituals, national days and a godly mission to save the less fortunate by bombing them to civilisation. The soldiers of the nation are for the sacred duty, but unlike the religious duty of dying for God they are to kill for the nation, what Benedict Anderson called the “imagined community”, inadvertently nevertheless very well depicted in the Hollywood movie American Sniper. The problem with such an ideological approach to international problem in the modern day is that it exacerbates the situation for which it purports to be the cure.  A qualified argument can be made that western military action in Afghanistan intensified extremism, the same is true for Iraq, Libya and Syria.

The ideology of international democracy mission produces a perverse solidary that gives the nation its purpose at the cost of capacity to reason and apply rational solutions to international relations. The NATO military mission had little respect for Afghan life or decision-making, most key decisions were made by Westerners; some of this can be attributed to lack of sound Afghan leadership. The argument still holds by studying the dysfunctional relation of NATO members who were preoccupied by pity squabbles and showed little appetite for collaboration and coordination.

In the course of Afghan war we came to witness Westerners committing torture, illegal detentions, killing civilians and in some cases targeting civilians, large scale corruption, propping up warlords and drug lords and general abuse of power. This does not reconcile with the high moral stance the West take and only comes to show not only that the assessment and solution applied to Afghanistan was ill-suited but also the moral principles that the west pride to is conditional and only applies to some people. This is while the conflict was of low intensity in comparison to other wars fought in the last three decades that means the destruction and distress caused by the war should have been manageable especially given the tremendous military and economic capacity of the west. Afghanistan and any other country have its own context and challenges that are unique to it.  The structural injustice of agrarian state and the impediments to intellectual and political liberty created by poverty will not allow the creation of an environment in Afghanistan that is free and democratic but as experience showed it can neither be created by the military and economic power of the west unless structural issues are addressed. This includes promoting international law, funding for education, promoting regional collaboration and facilitation of free trade.   

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Centre Left is losing vision in the West

On 1st of March BBC broadcasted the 17 edition of Storyville 2014-2015 titled The Great European Disaster Movie. The program was created by Bill Emmott and Annalisa Piras, two liberals whose centre left politics are known in previous programs such as Coma and their work in The Economist.

The program discusses the threat from the rise of the anti-establishment parties in Europe and the producers express their interest in highlighting the dangers of the movement and the real possibility of disintegration of the EU.

They argue for the European project in order to create a supranational institution that can project power in the world by emphasizing on collective security at 01:03:00 Philppe Legrain Author of European spring comments that “Europe is not a postmodern Lalaland, we have real security threats and need to cooperate much more in order to guarantee our security.” Security is a very common reason given by the centre-left to justify intervention in other countries and advocate EU expansion. This expansionist vision in itself is a manifestation of the Neo-European quasi imperialism. The EU and its member states use military and economic tools to undermine or influence sovereign states in the periphery of the EU. I believe this is a departure from the traditional left approach that emphasized on collaboration and dialogue to resolve conflicts and security challenges. 

The Program continues with 01:03:40 Radek Sikorski, Former foreign minister of Poland who commented, “We have security challenges and actually civilisational challenges all around Europe, from Mali to … Syria to … Caucasus...”

This Huntington style approach is fundamentally flawed since it attributes traits qualities that are actually determined by context. There are no civilisational challenges, people do not live in distinct blocks of civilisation but are simply responding to their predicament in order to survive. People in Muslim countries are living under regimes that rule by fear. In these circumstances, most people share the conspiracy mongering and political passivity that has been cultivated for hundreds of years. This is intermittently marked by populist outrage in the form of revolution that in turn is suppressed and reinforces the view that political oppression is the only answer for stability.

People whether they are Protestant, Buddhist, Orthodox, Jewish or Muslim have multiple authentic selves. In some circumstances, one set of identities manifests itself, but when those circumstances change, other equally authentic identities and desires get activated. Its wrong to perceive people as enemies because they have a different religion, this again is contrary to traditional left views which emphasised on solidarity and equality.

The most troubling of all is at 51:40:00 the scene on the plane where a man tells his daughter that the beard he holds belongs to Conchita Wurst, he continues  “when some homophobic Russians try to kick her out of the euro vision song content, the whole of Europe was outraged so they deliberately voted for her so she won.” This is racial profiling; this line of reasoning portrays Russians as homophobic that need to be confronted by the superior Europeans.

Understanding people of particular nation, religion, colour, race and gender by a set of attributes is lazy and backward.  Any of these attributes are important, but underneath cultural differences there are universal aspirations for dignity and respect. Each of us is like every person on earth; in some ways, each of us is like the members of our culture and group; and, in some ways, each of us is unique. This is where programs like this waltz on the margins of legality. The Hate Crime Act sets out to protect people from hostility and prejudice based on a personal character.  Although the program appends the word “some” to stop it from outright statement of hatred, as far as racial social discourse is concerned comments of this nature has detrimental impact on public perception of minority group.

The Elites have become so invested in their projects and discourse that they cannot gain a perspective on the wider issues.  Their rhetoric has sunk into racism in order to further their ideological aims. The EU expansion has degenerated from a tool for furthering European values and objectives to a policy on its own right.  Instead of addressing the democratic deficit created by the EU and mass immigration from the poor to rich countries, the elites have been too busy brewing tension with Russia in a ploy to divert attention. This is not an isolated view but signified by the popularity of anti establishment parties in the far right and left. 

Its ironic that the progressive politics of creating the European Union to facilitated regional integration is also the main reason for the rise of anti political movement whose main ethos is nationalism quite often bordering xenophobia.