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If Islam follows a Marxist trajectory, what kind of Islam will it be?


I've long held that Marxism, despite its protestations, was a secular religion. Like any deity-based religion, it had a teleology and metaphysics, prophets and saints, a potent means of proselytization and assimilation, and to my mind operated very much like the Holy See at its zenith of power.

While Islam appears to have succeeded Marxism as Europe's "ideology of contestation" its practitioners hale from very different roots. As Marxism then and Islam now:

  • Working class political voice, immigrants included
  • Voice of idealism amid disillusionment (that "transnational ideology" leading to Utopia)
  • Similar working-class political districts (moving from Communist to Communist-led and Muslim-populated to Muslim administrations)
  • Pragmatic, law-abiding mainstream but with an extremist element

Initial Marxist outreach to Muslims replacing working-class populations withered as Communists failed to promote Muslims within their organization and disillusioned Muslims dropped political action as a means to improve their lot. Many, but not all, Muslims predictably turned to religion and the solace of self-reinforcing group increasingly isolated from European society. The danger of painting with too broad a brush is shown in Holland's aftermath of Theo van Gogh’s murder:

The Turkish immigrants live mainly quiet and increasingly prosperous lives. The most problematic minority in terms of [crime and maladjustment] are Moroccans. [In a recent conference to identify extremists while protecting innocent Muslims] The Turkish representative spoke perfect Dutch, wore a business suit, and agreed with the proposal. The Moroccan representative spoke broken Dutch, and still needed "to consult" with his mosque.

Those Muslims opposed to cooperation are only isolated physically within European society as they are vibrantly and instantly connected by satellite TV and internet to the most fundamental Imams and the most vitriolic cant.

It is not at all clear to me that the broader Muslim population of Europe will follow Communism's shedding its revolutionary extremism, shifting to assimilation within European democratic political life:

Disowned by the pragmatic left, Europe's militant Marxist fringe was isolated and repressed, while governments pursued social policies that to some measure addressed the grievances of the poor and dispossessed, which had animated the radicals.

It is also not obvious to me that "Islam's role as a beacon for the downtrodden may wane, in part because of its very success" when that success is described in Anglo-European terms as the "necessary compromises with the surrounding community that are inherent in economic and political participation could dull its edge and sap its momentum, as they did for Marxism." Given the open resentment and ostracism showered on Muslims even in formerly tolerant Netherlands (and excepting the remarkable strides made by Turks), I find it hard to accept Kepel's view that:

Once the more mainstream, upwardly mobile Arab or African young people move out of their working-class neighborhoods, "they aren't perceived as Muslim any more, and the vast majority aren't interested in using their religion as a social and political marker."

While I do agree with his comment that "Beyond the militant minority, the inward-looking fundamentalists are by definition politically insignificant," it is not their political insignificance that concerns me but rather their militancy, their willingness to unilaterally enforce a Borg-like assimilation on their terms, and without notice, put another Theo van Gogh in the street for affronting them.

Part 2 of Islam's trajectory

Europe's Muslims May Be Headed Where the Marxists Went Before
New York Times
December 26, 2004

Muslim Scholars Increasingly Debate Unholy War
New York Times
December 10, 2004

Gordon Housworth

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