Friday, 15 February 2008


Samir Amin Frustrated:
Which Political Islam is allied with imperialism?

Dear Friends,

I have received many e-mails from those of you who do not
speak Arabic asking for a summary of my latest article. I
usually provide it out of my own initiative but I must
admit that the assassination of Commander Moghniyeh is
weighing heavy upon our spirits, so my apology for
forgetting it this time. but here you have it:

This summary is related to my Arabic language piece in
reply to an article published by Samir Amin the famous Arab
leftist thinker, which he published in the Monthly Review
under the tittle "Political Islam in the service of
. I try to refute some of his arguments and the
tittle of my reply is : Samir Amin Frustrated: which
political Islam is allied with imperialism?"

My arguments in short:

While the left in the world is regrouping and regenerating
itself under various forms (anti-globalisation, Zapatista,
Bolivarian, etc) and it has reviewed several of its
former premises and abandoned in many ways some futile
dogmas; the Arab Left (whether Marxist, or Nationalist) is
still routed and unable of doing the same.

Samir Amin attacks the alliance between sections of the
Left and Political Islam claiming that political Islam can
only be in service of imperialism for the following

1- Political Islam is not secular. This is a strange
argument of Amin, because what antagonism does secularism
and imperialism have? Most imperialist states are secular
so how can being secular or not play a role in determining
the position of any political movement towards imperialism?
Just like being secular is no guarantee for
anti-imperialist positioning, being non-secular is not
related to a pro-imperialist positioning. Add to that the
fact that Amin opts for a restrictive definition of
secularism as being separation of religious thinking and
politics while I define it as separation between religious
institutions and the State. According to my understanding
it is totally conceivable to have an Islamic ideology and
adhere to secularism at the same time, Just like the
Christian Democratic parties in Europe are secular.

2- Amin considers Political Islam to be the carrier of
culturalist policies of belonging and he claims that it
focuses too much upon identity and group loyalty. First of
all again this does not define any relationship whether
positive or negative towards imperialism. Second this is a
common feature among all national liberation movements in
the Third World and not only Political Islam. Why does Amin
not criticize the Zapatistas or the Chavistas, who also
adhere to a cultural version of nationalism along with
socialism. The fact that Islamist movements are developing
a nationalist discourse should be considered a step in the
right direction and not the opposite. This allows Islamist
movements to build bonds of citizenship with their
countrymen even those who do not adhere to the same
religious views, or to the same religion for that matter.
Add to that the fact that denying the peoples of the world
their right to cultural emancipation and identity is a
frightening idea and is more aligned with the imperialist
project of globalization. The fact that Amin considers the
diversity-friendly left to be a retreating left is a matter
of concern to me. It reflects an ancient reflex of the time
when the left oppressed diversity and capitalism was
striving on it. Today it is the left in the world (and the
left in the world today is centered in the South and not in
the West) that is striving on diversity and it is
capitalism that is promoting the unique thought, in that
regard Amin is reactionary just like many segments of the
European left.

3- Amin claims that the Islamists approach the conflict
from an angle of clash of civilization, nothing is less
true. Whether it is Hezbollah, or Hamas, or even Al Qaeda
one thing they have in common and that is linking the
linking of their struggle to the act of aggression by
imperialism against their countries and peoples. The clash
of civilization discourse is much underrepresented in
Islamist circles and is often expressed by marginal figures
and streams, while it is more dominant in the West and it
find its way to the highest ranks in politics and

4- Amin considers Political Islam to be allied to
capitalism. It is true that Islamists don't have yet a
completely formed economic theory. But one can not claim
that they are left or right. Both tendencies are
represented in the Islamist camp when it comes to
economics. However, some Islamic principals like Al-Zakat
(tax on capital roots) and rentless economy can be meeting
points with a leftist vision of economy that is also yet to
be reinvented and still being debated. The Islamists are
not less leftist than the social democrats and one can work
towards deepening their awareness of the nature of

5- Amin claims that the governing classes in some pro
imperialist countries like Saudi and Pakistan belong to
Political Islam. Nothing is less true, these classes belong
to Islam and use it to depolitise the masses and not to
politicise them. The Saudi's used Islam in the sixties
against Abdel Nasser and then exiled the Islamists in the
eighties to the Afghani Jihad but eventually clashed with
them in the nineties in both their moderate and Salafi
Jihadi versions. In Pakistan the power circles are formed
by feudal leaders and the Islamist movement in all its
factions have always been in cold or open conflict with the

My conclusion is that Amin is frustrated because of the
fact that Islamism is today leading the struggle in the
Arab world against imperialism. It is not easy to belong to
the Arab Left in our days and we share a lot of Amin' s
frustration. We also share the belief that the best
scenario would be to organize resistance around national
tittles and not sectarian ones because we see our enemy
using sectarianism to weaken resistance. Nevertheless we
should not act upon frustration and wishes but upon facts,
and the facts on the ground are clear. Our task as the Arab
Left is to organize ourselves and claim our role in the
struggle for freedom and change in our countries. The wrong
reaction would be to enclose ourselves in a ghetto and not
to face facts. Islamism can produce resistance and it can
produce collaboration ( Hezbollah and Badr corps are both
belonging to the same ideological school yet one is
resisting and the other collaborating) and the same goes
for a secular ideology or any other ideology. We must ally
ourselves with Political Islam on clear basis of dialogue
and mutual respect and in order to defend our people and
Nation, and we should agree on resolving our differences
through the democratic choice of the people.


Malabei said...
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jason said...
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jason said...
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Ivan said...
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Sukant Chandan said...

comments have been deleted because they are smap carrying viruses.

Sukant Chandan said...

"smap" should be "spam", of course.

Renegade Eye said...


Get rid of word spam, go to, and turn on word verification.

I think Islamism is anti-imperialist. That doesn't make it progressive. One of the biggest mistakes some on the left make, is that my enemie's enemy is my friend. It leads to reaction.

Imperialism only oppose Islamism expansion, not Islamism. Yes it's compatible with capitalism.