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The historical Alliance Between European leftists and Islamists

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A few years ago when Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, travelled to Gaza, an Israeli media outlet called her a “Communist” and an “Islamophile” - writes Erfan Kasraie

The part of the statement about her being a Communist is factually accurate given her past membership in the Italian Communist Youth Federation. What about the claim of her Islamophilia? First, it is not uncommon for a leftist politician to sympathise with the Islamist worldview.

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Mogherini would not be the only western politician with a leftist past to harbour Islamist sympathies. Throughout the Western world, left-wing politicians are often accused of appeasement, sympathy and alignment with Islamists even those of a radical nature. This unwritten alliance goes beyond leftist politicians in the democratic nations and includes Cold War communist hold-overs as the governments of Cuba and North Korea and the 21st-century socialist movements such as the one in power in Venezuela. The friendship between such entities and the regime in Iran is a prime example of their ties to the broader Islamist ideology.

Iran’s contemporary history is rife with an alliance between various hues of the ruby red revolutionary left and the pitch black reactionary Islamists. Barely months into the reign of the Islamic Republic, the leaders of the Tudeh Party, one of the oldest communist political parties in Iran, declared Khomeini appointed cleric Sadeq Khalkhali, who was known as the butcher of Tehran for ordering countless executions, their preferred candidate for the presidency. At the same time, the first secretary of the Central Committee of the Tudeh Party of Iran, Nour Al-Din Kianuri, praised Ayatollah Khalkhali for his courage to hand the agents and mercenaries of Imperialism to the firing squad.

The leftist-Islamist alliance is not limited to just one or a few historical accounts but is rather deep-rooted in history with strong ideological and philosophical underpinnings. About half a century ago, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi astutely identified this lurking alliance against his rule and coined the epithet “Red and Black Reactionaries” to refer to its followers. A few years later, the alliance spilt out into the open as leftists and Islamists marched hand-in-hand and fought should-to-shoulder to depose the Shah and bring Ayatollah Khomeini to power.

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Cultural Marxism

Although much has been said and written about Marxism and its various historical interpretations, it is hard to find a single definition of this ideological school of many students. Classical Marxism builds upon the class struggle with the bourgeoisie on one side and the proletariat on the other. In the 1960s, more than a century after Marx and Engels published the Manifesto of the Communist Party, a new version of Marxism that came to be known as Cultural Marxism emerged.

Cultural Marxism is historically rooted in the Frankfurt School which refers to a period between World War I and World War II when thinkers such as Theodor Adorno developed the Critical Theory. This view of the sixties has grown popular among the left-wingers in Europe and North America, becoming the dominant discourse of the humanities and social sciences, especially in European universities.

The influence of Critical Theory was so monumental that more than half a century later, it dominates European institutions of higher education. Contrary to classical Marxism, cultural Marxism sees the society as the battleground between the “exploited” and the “exploiter”. In other words, the conflict is no longer class based but between the majority and the socially marginalised groups. Followers of cultural Marxism generally advocate LGBT rights, the foundations of feminism, ethnic minorities, and so on, but they also have a point of attachment to the Islamists.

While Christianity is in their view an exploiting force to be looked down upon, the adherents of Islamism are generally seen as belonging to the ‘exploited” camp and hence deserving of leftist support. Although theoretically, such reconciliation between cultural Marxism and Islamism must be a logical impossibility, in practice, and in spite of their fundamental differences and diametrically opposing views on a vast range of issues from women rights to transsexuals, homosexuals, and so on, the two worldviews have managed to forge a deep connection to each other.

As difficult as it is to understand this strange marriage at first glance, a second look at the origins of Cultural Marxism sheds some light. Cultural Marxism was developed in a period when the blossoming artistic and philosophical movement of postmodernism in France was gaining popularity by the day. Strange works of art without aesthetic elements were introduced. Avant-garde art, surrealism, and postmodern thought based on epistemological relativism all boomed in the same period.

Perhaps one will have as much difficulty (or ease) explaining the friendship between Islam and Cultural Marxism as one would have revealed why Robert Rauschenberg’s completely blank whiteboard, which appears at the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco, is considered a work of art.

Moreover, it is perhaps the same sum-of-contradictions that takes the founder of the Pink Code Feminist Group, Medea Benjamin to Tehran not to join Iranian women in their fight against oppression and discrimination but to support the anti-woman regime of Iran’s Ayatollahs and receive an award from them as well.

Beyond that, if we put together the pieces of this complex puzzle, we will find out how and under what conditions the link between cultural Marxism, postmodernism and Islamic radicalism was established and understand among others the intellectual basis for Michel Foucault’s support of the Islamic Revolution. It's enough to see that Foucault, a postmodernist theorist, joined the Communist Party of France in 1950 and was influenced by Marxism and the Frankfurt School. During the Islamic Revolution, he strongly supported it and twice travelled to Iran during the same period.

Reverse Orientalism

Three years ago, when French philosopher François Burgat travelled to Qom, he told one of the clerics of the Islamic Republic, “We are all your students, and we know that Shi'a political and religious thought has much richness and, therefore, we are interested in learning more from you.” Burgat, a French left-wing orientalist, is called the “Reverse Orientalist” by Sadiq Jalal al-Azm, the Syrian thinker.

In a paper entitled, “The European Left Who Loves Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Despises Taha Hussein,” Yemeni lawyer, Hussein Alwadei, writes, “The European Left believes that the true voice of the Middle East is the voice of Ruhollah Khomeini, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists. According to him, the European leftist sees concepts such as democracy or human rights as colonial values ​​of the West, and believe that these concepts do not correspond to the reality of the Middle East.”

In Orientalism, there is even a humiliating view of the people of the Middle East. From this perspective, the people of the Middle East are people who want to be superstitious and avoid modernity and despise progress and science. From the viewpoint of Reverse Orientalists; the repression, torture and murder of intellectuals and critics in the Middle East are the dominant and real values ​​of these countries.

Concepts such as secularism, liberalism, and democracy are hodgepodges of inconsistency, void of the cultural context of the Middle East, and that the peoples of the Middle East, the Islamic Republic and the Islamic State want an Islamic Caliphate, not a modern government.

The European left, under the shadow of cultural Marxism, does not consider human rights abuses in these countries as brutal. Instead, they consider these brutal acts as part of those countries’ culture, and existential reality of those nations to be simply ignored and disregarded.

The European Left adheres to the concepts and values ​​of freedom of speech and democracy and secularism, but only endorses and expects them for the European societies, and not the Middle East.

It is for these reasons that the left wing of the European Union's foreign policy condemns the violation of democracy and human rights in Myanmar, but not when visiting Tehran, despite the many requests and demands from human rights activists.

Economy

Issuance of green bonds will strengthen the international role of the euro

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Eurogroup ministers discussed the international role of the euro (15 February), following the publication of the European Commission's communication of (19 January), ‘The European economic and financial system: fostering strength and resilience’.

President of the Eurogroup, Paschal Donohoe said: “The aim is to reduce our dependence on other currencies, and to strengthen our autonomy in various situations. At the same time, increased international use of our currency also implies potential trade-offs, which we will continue to monitor. During the discussion, ministers emphasized the potential of green bond issuance to enhance the use of the euro by the markets while also contributing to achieving our climate transition objective.”

The Eurogroup has discussed the issue several times in recent years since the December 2018 Euro Summit. Klaus Regling, the managing director of the European Stability Mechanism said that overreliance on the dollar contained risks, giving Latin America and the Asian crisis of the 90s as examples. He also referred obliquely to “more recent episodes” where the dollar’s dominance meant that EU companies could not continue to work with Iran in the face of US sanctions. Regling believes that the international monetary system is slowly moving towards a multi-polar system where three or four currencies will be important, including the dollar, euro and renminbi. 

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European Commissioner for the Economy, Paolo Gentiloni, agreed that the euro’s role could be strengthened through the issuance of green bonds enhancing the use of the euro by the markets while also contributing to achieving our climate objectives of the Next Generation EU funds.

Ministers agreed that broad action to support the international role of the euro, encompassing progress on amongst other things, Economic and Monetary Union, Banking Union and Capital Markets Union were needed to secure the euros international role.

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EU

European human rights court backs Germany over Kunduz airstrike case

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An investigation by Germany into a deadly 2009 airstrike near the Afghan city of Kunduz that was ordered by a German commander complied with its right-to-life obligations, the European Court of Human Rights ruled on Tuesday (16 February), writes .

The ruling by the Strasbourg-based court rejects a complaint by Afghan citizen Abdul Hanan, who lost two sons in the attack, that Germany did not fulfil its obligation to effectively investigate the incident.

In September 2009, the German commander of NATO troops in Kunduz called in a U.S. fighter jet to strike two fuel trucks near the city which NATO believed had been hijacked by Taliban insurgents.

The Afghan government said at the time 99 people, including 30 civilians, were killed. Independent rights groups estimated between 60 and 70 civilians were killed.

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The death toll shocked Germans and ultimately forced its defence minister to resign over accusations of covering up the number of civilian casualties in the run-up to Germany’s 2009 election.

Germany’s federal prosecutor general had found that the commander did not incur criminal liability, mainly because he was convinced when he ordered the airstrike that no civilians were present.

For him to be liable under international law, he would have had to be found to have acted with intent to cause excessive civilian casualties.

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The European Court of Human Rights considered the effectiveness of Germany’s investigation, including whether it established a justification for lethal use of force. It did not consider the legality of the airstrike.

Of 9,600 NATO troops in Afghanistan, Germany has the second-largest contingent behind the United States.

A 2020 peace agreement between the Taliban and Washington calls for foreign troops to withdraw by May 1, but U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration is reviewing the deal after a deterioration in the security situation in Afghanistan.

Germany is preparing to extend the mandate for its military mission in Afghanistan from March 31 until the end of this year, with troop levels remaining at up to 1,300, according to a draft document seen by Reuters.

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EU

Digitalization of EU justice systems: Commission launches public consultation on cross-border judicial co-operation

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On 16 February, the European Commission launched a public consultation on the modernization of EU justice systems. The EU aims to support member states in their efforts to adapt their justice systems to the digital age and improve EU cross-border judicial co-operation. Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders (pictured) said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the importance of digitalization, including in the field of justice. Judges and lawyers need digital tools to be able to work together faster and more efficiently.

At the same time, citizens and businesses need online tools for an easier and more transparent access to justice at a lower cost. The Commission strives to push this process forward and support member states in their efforts, including as regards facilitating their cooperation in cross-border judicial procedures by using digital channels.” In December 2020, the Commission adopted a communication outlining the actions and initiatives intended to advance the digitalization of justice systems across the EU.

The public consultation will gather views on the digitalization of EU cross-border civil, commercial and criminal procedures. The results of the public consultation, in which a broad range of groups and individuals can participate and which is available here until 8 May 2021, will feed into an initiative on digitalisation of cross-border judicial cooperation expected at the end of this year as announced in the 2021 Commission's Work Programme.

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