'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Angry Arab: Islamic Extremist? 

If you want an insight as to why US and UK forces have done so poorly in Iraq and Afghanistan, and why so many civilians have been killed, consider this from Britain:

Government names most influential 'pro-Islamic' bloggers was the headline on yesterday's story about a new report from the Home Office's counter-terrorism information unit, RICU. So, they've been rumbled at last, you might think.

But look more closely and you'll find that the man identified in the report as Britain's third most influential pro-Islamic blogger is actually an atheist based in the United States. As'ad AbuKhalil, a Lebanese-American professor of political science at California State University who blogs as The Angry Arab is furious about it. How ignorant are the researchers of the Home Office? he writes. How many times does one have to espouse atheist, anarchist, and secular principles before they realise that their categorisation is screwed up?

He suspects that his blog was included because of its name. He rarely talks about religion on his blog, except when mocking the fatwas issued by reactionary clerics.

In this instance, Abukhalil is being uncharacteristically naive. A more plausible explanation is that one of the primary reasons for the placement of a blog on the Home Office list is his vehement espousal of anti-Zionism. So, if the blog appears to be written by someone from the Middle East, and rejects Zionism, then it must be pro-Islamic. One wonders how Electronic Intifada evaded discovery.

Anyone who has read Abukhalil's blog over the years immediately recognizes the absurdity of this designation. For example, look at this post from 2005:

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Angry Candidate? No way. I had made a cryptic reference to this. Peter Camejo of the Green Party asked me 2 weeks ago to consider running for the US Senate in 2006 against Sen. Diane Feinstein. Today, I sent him this letter:

"Dear Peter: I owed it to you, and to the progressive movement that you are a strong part of, to give the most serious consideration to a very flattering offer, although I never ever thought of running for any office, not even for the local district Commissioner of Potatoes. There were undeniable temptations, especially on a ticket of the party that is closest to my views and ideas. There would have been a great platform, and an opportunity to go against a demagogic and highly ambitious establishment senator, whose views on domestic and foreign policies are anathema to mine. I also would have liked to have contributed to the progressive movement in California that the Green Party, and you personally, has energized especially in recent years. But then there were the negatives: I have had an aversion, since childhood--if not before--to any signs of outside influences, control, and management of my person and my views--particularly in the way that I express them--even from a party that is as progressive as the Green Party. And this control and management are inevitable in a campaign--small or big. I also could not with a clear conscience go around the state asking people for their votes knowing that I myself would not vote for myself, or for anybody for that matter. I probably at some level also feared that appealing to people's support may change me, or moderate me. That would be scary, for me. Furthermore, I do not, as an anarchist, believe in the American political and electoral systems, and thus do not harbor hopes, or illusions, of change "from within" so to say, although I remain optimistic of the prospects for progressive change on a global scale, affecting us here in the US. For this reason, and others, I will kindly decline the offer but hope that we manage to maintain contact and dialogue, and to cooperate on future projects. Greetings to all, and I express my gratitude for thinking of my name. I shall continue to play my small and modest role, from the very outside of the system, as an angry contrarian and counter-contrarian and counter-counter-contrarian.

And, of course, there are the numerous posts ridiculing the Saudi royal family and various Islamic religious figures, especially those associated with Lebanon.

Humorously enough, turns out one blogger did acknowledge that his blog was, in fact, pro-Islamic, but didn't find the designation very useful:

So, this is not a very useful piece of research. Its main flaw is that it’s out of date, and blogs are usually individual efforts which come and go as the author sees fit. The most successful are the group blogs such as Muslim Matters, but that site (which has commented on British political and community matters on a number of occasions) isn’t mentioned on the report. While it’s nice to get recognition and to get my blog mentioned in the Guardian, the ranking really doesn’t mean anything given the lack of valid and current data to back it up.

Shoddy research displeases everyone, apparently.

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