In his recent address he noted, with more than hints of the liberal internationalism that we should generally come to expect from his foreign policy, that in distant lands people were still risking their lives in order to argue about substantive policy issues (or at least pretend to do so in incredibly extravagant and intolerably lengthy shows of orchestrated posturing every bit as fake and emotionally manipulative as pro-wrestling, the way we do).
This certainly is true, but the big question to be asked is who exactly these people are and what the substantive expressions of that argument will end up being. The nations most closely affected by the Arab Spring were doubtless at the forefront of his mind when he said this – it remains a reasonable question what course of action the newly-elected governments and coups which have taken place in the region will set their countries on. Of course, the role of religion vis-à-vis the state will be, there as much as here if not more so, a most prominent issue. Islam – in various forms – will be the religion in question.
Generally, there is a lot to admire in Islam: their hard-nosed stance against usury – something which much of Christianity, to its detriment, has lost; their emphasis on daily devotion and practice as a central component of faith; their requirement that faithful believers donate a small portion of their income (zakat) directly to the poor. The cultural achievements of near Eastern countries like Iraq and Iran are practically unparalleled anywhere in the world. But then I look at places like Syria and Libya, like East Turkestan and Albania and Yugoslavia, like Russia and Pakistan – and I think: is this the same religion?
Ultimately, Ali was assassinated by his political rivals, and his son Husayn was killed and mutilated by his militarily-superior rivals when he revolted at Karbala… but that a righteous king would return in the form of the Mahdi to end all forms of oppression and usher in a reign of peace and equality. The Shiite tradition combined with the social-justice, righteous kingship and scholastic traditions of Zoroastrianism in Iran to create a highly-cultured and -scholastic, but at the same time egalitarian-trending theological tradition which has lasted in that nation to this day – and whose colourful history includes the Abbasids, the Qarmatians and the Iranian democratic and nationalist movements.
However, both the fundamentalist Sunnis who always show up to fight neoconservative wars, and the Islamophobes who repeatedly show up at the ballot box to vote for neoconservative candidates both in the United States and Europe, consistently demonstrate their useful idiocy to that same movement: a Trotskyist tendency which may have gleefully abandoned its former concern for the global working poor, but which has not abandoned its former tactics and tricks.
On which John sagely comments: