Saturday, June 04, 2005

ISLAM: A Bold Voice From Indonesia

The issue of Islamist radicalism is often seen in a sociological vacuum, as if it comes out of nowhere. The fact, however, is that Islamist radicalism cannot be understood without situating it in the context of the broader political economy, and as resulting from certain local and global social, economic, cultural and political structures and processes of domination and exclusion. There can be no smoke without fire. So, unless these structures and processes are tackled, how can you expect radicalism to disappear? Focusing only on the phenomenon of radicalism and ignoring its underlying structural causes will only exacerbate the problem and delay and further complicate its solution. Of course, dominant elites, both in Indonesia and in the West, do not want to recognize this as they themselves are deeply implicated in these structures that give rise to the phenomenon of radicalism as a reaction or response, and that is why you will find that many among them would insist that Islamist radicalism is a result simply a deviant understanding of Islam and that it has nothing to do with exploitation, predatory capitalism, western consumerist culture, or imperialism and so on. And then one must also remember that extremism and terrorism are not easily defined, and it all depends on who does the defining and why. So, one must ask, how and why does Saddam Hussain come to be defined as a 'terrorist', while America's brutal invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan (where I just spent six months), which has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people, does not qualify to be called an act of terror?

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