Enlightened Moderation or Intelligent Deception: New Tools for Imperial Goals

If the shoddy analysis on Pakistani madaris is a taste of Greg Mills’ forthcoming book dealing with security and terrorism, I shudder to think about the potential rise in Islamophobia likely to result from his fixation with “Islamic fundamentalism”.

In his article “War on terror begins in Pakistan’s schools” [Sunday Independent, July 25 2004], Mills’ offensive on madaris reveals support for a long standing neo-colonial inspired project to disrupt and ultimately destroy Muslim religious schools.

In pointing out Pakistan’s attempts to “confront Islamic militants”, he identifies two problem areas:

– Self governing systems &

– 1,7million students in 10430 madaris.

In his hostile castigation of madaris, he recklessly and without any shred of evidence maligns these institutions by suggesting that “they provide a bountiful supply of recruits for militant causes …..”

Having dealt with the danger to democracy and western liberal values posed by “lawless tribal frontiers” and “anti-modern” madaris, Mills leaps to more “fundamental problems” with Arab educational systems. Apart from a brief reference to “language”, he leaps yet again to endorse the bigotry of unnamed “regional conflict specialists” who view the ideological content of radicalism as “spiritual poverty”.

Superficially such clichés have a certain plausibility, but in the context of Mills’ argument has one objective only: support for his faulty thesis!

There is no doubt that by invoking fear and alarm around a deep-rooted tradition of imparting education, he has succeeded in becoming the first South African academic to justify Israeli inspired campaigns whereby the support of countries such as the United States are enlisted to crush madaris.in Pakistan and elsewhere.

Not only is his piece filled with paper-thin generalizations and assumptions, Mills relies almost entirely on faceless intelligence sources which further erodes any credence. This appalling failure is disturbing for it feeds a narrative routinely used by US and Israeli agents hell bent on seeking legitimacy for the “War on terror”.

Indeed the failure to acknowledge a corrupt political elite which came to power via a military coup and instead depending on the views of this group’s “high-ranking officer” in Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence Bureau [ISI], Mills does not inspire any confidence in his critique of madaris.

But what did the ISI officer reveal to him? That “most terrorists are Islamic fundamentalists”. The arrogance of this claim is breathtaking. It suggests that Mills is either naïve enough to underpin his so-called “informed analysis” with the “informed opinion” of Musharraf’s ISI agents or completely comfortable with sensationalist notions that reek of anti-Muslim bias.

After all such quotes abound in essays by many discredited analysts on the Israeli payroll.

Among them are:

– David Ben Gurion –” “We fear nothing but Islam”

– Yitzhak Rabin –” “The religion of Islam is our only enemy”

– Shimon Peres –” “We will not feel secure until Islam puts away its sword”

His clamor for “change” in Islamic societies is equally over simplified and emotionally charged. In fact by displaying his frustration over the slow pace of “changes”, Mills sounds no different from the likes of notorious Orientalist Scholars bent on “modernizing” Islam.

By charging that Arab states did not and were unlikely to intervene to remove Saddam Hussein, he yet again errs on a number of counts.

Firstly he disregards the fact that these Arab regimes are not representative of their people or Islam. As surrogates for America, none of them are capable to pursue policies independent of the US/Israeli axis. Hence the period of Saddam’s brutal reign and invasion of Iran was not only supported by the West, it was underwritten through an elaborate network of support by fellow Arab countries which included finance as well as security. Has Mills not heard of the Gulf Co-operation Council [GCC] and its pact with Iraq?

Secondly and perhaps more importantly is the fact that growing pressure for change in the political character of these regimes which represent shameful imitations of failed models of tyranny and dependency has been and is being crushed under the umbrella of the “War on terror”.

Hence it is misplaced and inaccurate to conflate the legitimate aspirations of people desirous to rid themselves of the burden of severe oppression with dictators and client-states. It is also unjustified to conflate the Arab world with the world of Islam. Not only does the resultant confusion heighten alarm and fear, it also adds to an atmosphere of intolerance which in turn begets bigotry.

Such questionable analysis suggests that the fault lies with the victim not the aggressor.

If we are to accept this logic it would sanction democracy imposed at the barrel of a gun as the new standard for enlightened moderation.