Illiberalism and the Deluded Left

A good friend of mine sent me an article from The Guardian last week with the note, “sound familiar?” Unfortunately, it rang too true too quickly. The article, by Peter Bracken, criticises the left – or what Bracken calls ‘the deluded left’ – who, in their constant efforts to purify the faithful, end up sliding down a slippery slope towards brutal dictatorship and theocracy.

This ‘deluded left’ in the West refers to the people who can find any excuse in the book to criticise democracies but gives a free pass to terrorists. Often this is the result of the members of the ‘deluded left’ being completely out of touch with reality as they live lives of luxury and convenience that are not threatened by such monsters as Taliban suicide bombers or would-be

Were this a fringe constituency flailing in the kingdom of crankdom we might airily dismiss it. But only the other day Alex Callinicos, professor of European studies at King’s College London, was referring approvingly to Slavoj Žižek, another respectable mainstream professor, who can yet write pernicious guff like this:

“[We] hear today a politician or an ideologist offering us a choice between liberal freedom and fundamentalist oppression … The problem is that such a simplistic liberal universalism long ago lost its innocence. This is why, for a true leftist, the conflict between liberal permissiveness and fundamentalism is ultimately a false conflict.”

Well, no. Iranian Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, who faces being stoned to death because she allegedly had sex outside of marriage, is not the victim of a “false conflict”. She is the victim of a theocratic regime that executes women who stray from the scriptural, patriarchal dogma they are otherwise compelled to observe. As Norman Geras says:

“The distinction between liberal freedom and fundamentalist oppression about which Žižek goes on to wax ironic is likewise as real they come, and if this is ‘self-evident’, then so be it. It’s self-evident because it’s true. One can then affirm it, rather than hinting darkly, as he does, that because liberalism has lost its innocence the distinction is somehow less real or important.

Let’s not overlook, either, that Alex Callinicos himself is a member of Socialist Workers’ party, which implores Iraqi insurgents to “use whatever means necessary” to defeat the western coalition. He is a supporter of an organisation, in other words, that apparently condones the use of terror to destabilise a fledgling democracy. An honourable opposition to the war in Iraq is one thing; an express wish to see Islamist insurgents prevail is quite another.

Does this not sound familiar?

Already we have media that are promoting these pro-Taliban narratives such that some American bogey man is responsible for everything under the sun as if Talibani militants murdered Ahmadis and Sufis because of drone attacks. Not only does it make no sense – no Ahmadis or Sufis were making drone attacks – it actually strengthens the efforts of those who favor dictatorship over democracy.

All of these conspiracy theories and ‘blame foreigners’ stories are nothing more than the public relations campaigns of militant Talibs. It is a ‘suckers game’ for supposed liberals. Do you think this is not true? Watch how these jihadi sympathizers do it.

Today in Jasarat (JI newspaper ) Moulna Aslam Shaikhopuri, a well known Deobandi Aalim in Karachi (graduated from Jamia Binoria) justified suicide bombings because of not having “Khilafah ”

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However the next day you will find him blaming Blackwater (or CIA or RAW) and the next day he will be calling suicide attack as a “reaction” to unjust policies of the Pakistan and other governments. If the Khilafah was established till 1924 (in Turkey), why and how were the British able to rule the subcontinent for almost 300 years?

Good job to Let Us Build Pakistan for exposing this strategy! Sarah Khan blogging for LUBP wrote a rejection of pseudo-liberals of Pakistan that echoes many of the the points made by Peter Bracken.

The pseudo-liberal is essentially a bigot who parades under the illusion of being a liberal while pursuing a non-liberal agenda. Pseudo-liberals of Pakistan are no less dangerous than terrorists, activists and supporters of the Taliban, Sipah-e-Sahaba, Jamaat-e-Islami and Hizbut Tahrir. In a way, pseudo-liberals are more harmful because while extremist Islamists are visibly despicable because of their hate ideology, pseudo-liberals are eating Pakistan and its civil society and institutions from inside in the guise of their ostensible commitment to liberal values (while providing unflinching support to institutions of power (army, bureaucracy, feudals and industrialists) of Pakistan).

Already The Nation tries to blame USA for the blast in Mohmand. They say if only we will stop working with the Americans, then Taliban will stop bombing us. Which is precisely the message of the militants, is it not? Surrender and accept our rule or we will keep bombing. To think this has something to do with America is utter delusion.

Besides, why is it that so many of these Illiberals from the ‘deluded left’ have no end of criticism for drone attacks, but cannot be bothered to ever condemn the attacks on civilians? Yes, there are civilians killed by drone attacks, but these are not the direct targets. Rather, the drones are targeting people like Hakimullah Mehsud.

Taliban suicide bombers, though, are intentionally targeting innocents.

Contrary to what the militants may claim, civilians are a prime target for the Taliban. One of the deadliest attacks in recent months took place in a Mohmand Agency bazaar on Friday, killing dozens of children, women and civilian men.

The local Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack which they said was directed against a peace jirga that the suicide bombers failed to penetrate. That is hardly a distinction as the jirga members were civilian too, not members of a military force engaged in combat with the Taliban. No further proof was needed really but this latest assault confirms that the Taliban lie when they say, as they did following the Data Darbar carnage, that they do not target ordinary citizens. We repeat: hitting civilians who do not subscribe to the Taliban ideology now heads the agenda of the hydra-headed insurgency that is quelled in one area only to break out in another.

This is not to support drone attacks, but to make the obvious point that these Illiberals do not really care about civilian deaths as long as they are killed by militants. Certainly if you ask them they will deny this, but if you follow their words in the newspapers and on TV you will find something that speaks a very different message.

Sarah Khan continues her blog post with some telling observation:

There are a number of common features of this despicable group: aloofness from the working class, pride in English proficiency and accent, superiority complex, hegemonic ambitions, intolerance and autocratic ideas, benevolent sympathy for the disempowered, imitation of the west, hypocritical views, aimless lives and fake activism.

There has been something bothering me about the ‘fake degrees’ issue and I had not been able to identify it until now, but for all their claim to supporting ‘liberalism’ and ‘democracy’ over the old ways of ‘feudalism’, what you find lurking just under the surface of all their complaints is a new feudalism of their own.

And this is where it becomes quite clear. If you call them pseudo-liberals or ‘deluded Left’ or Illiberals or what have you, the point is the same. There is a growing cabal of people who may have had liberal credentials at one time, but have become so out of touch with the common people that they are now moved all the way around the political spectrum so that they are promoting right wing views.

Just as hot water is not enough to make a cup of tea, so it is not enough to claim the label of ‘liberal’ if what you are speaking is illiberal.


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