Andreas Benl: Cultural Relativism and Antisemitism

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Right-wing populist identity politicians and left-liberal multiculturalists seem to agree on one thing: that the chaos in the Middle East and religious-political struggles in Western migration societies are essentially a clash between static cultures. While the former see restrictions on Muslim immigration as a magic cure against Islamist terrorism, the latter confirm the headscarf as a symbol and political Islam as the identity of all Muslims.

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 Since the revolution in Iran in 1979, political Islam has become a global political power factor. It was much more successful than other ethno-religious movements – such as European fascism and National Socialism – in presenting itself as an authentic expression of the values of certain societies – their so-called ‘cultural difference’. Is this difference really based on a deeper rooting of Islamist ideology in the Orient than of fascism and National Socialism in Europe? Or is the difference above all one of the political constellation?

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 This question will be examined here on the basis of an outline of the history of Western cultural relativism on the one hand and Islamism on the other hand.

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 Particularly interesting as a vanishing point is the transformation that took place in this development of traditional antisemitism tabooed in the Cold War and the role played by anti-Zionism as a common denominator of cultural relativism and Islamism.

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 Finally, an outlook should shed light on the current constellation between the West and the Orient as well as Iran, Israel and its Arab neighbors. It depends on answering the above questions, where today’s real conflict lines can be located, where there are pseudo-oppositions – and where possible alliances in the confrontation with Islamism and despotism.

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 A controversy from the late 1970s should serve as a starting point: In 1978 a polemic broke out between Michel Foucault and an Iranian writer living in Paris – the first of many following controversies in which oriental freethinkers were and are criticized by Western liberals or leftists for a supposed hatred of Islam. Foucault had just written a series of articles about the nascent revolution in Iran, in which he strongly favored the Islamist current of the revolutionaries. The Iranian woman with the pseudonym Atoussa H. wrote in response to Foucault’s enthusiasm for the perspective of a future Islamic government in Iran and life under Sharia law:
“It seems that for the Western Left, which lacks humanism, Islam is desirable… for other people. Many Iranians are, like me, distressed and desperate about the thought of an ‘Islamic’ government. … The Western liberal Left needs to know that Islamic law can become a dead weight on societies hungering for change. The Left should not let itself be seduced by a cure that is perhaps worse than the disease.”[1]

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 Foucault wrote in a short reply published in the magazine Nouvel Observateur a week later that the “intolerable” in Atoussa H.’s letter was that it “merges together all the aspects, all the forms, and all the potentialities of Islam within a single expression of contempt“. He concluded by lecturing Atoussa H. that „in order to approach it [Islam] with a minimum of intelligence, the first condition is not to begin by bringing in hatred.”[2]

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 Foucault’s arguments may seem familiar from the current debates on so-called Islamophobia and would hardly produce public outcry today. However, following the revolution in Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s terror campaign against women, homosexuals and political opponents in 1979 mobilized prominent figures such as Simone de Beauvoir against the new regime in Iran and brought harsh criticism from other leftist intellectuals against Foucault.

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 The renowned Marxist orientalist Maxime Rodinson warned of Islamism as a kind of “archaic fascism” and compared Khomeini’s concept of an Islamic government with the Spanish Inquisition. Without mentioning Foucault, he spoke of “Europeans convinced of the vices of Europe and hoping to find elsewhere (why not in Islam?) the means of assuring a more or less radiant future.”[3] Former Maoists Jacques and Claudie Broyelle accused Foucault of honoring a murderous regime.[4]

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 During the remaining years of the Cold War and in part in the following decade, the attitude of many Western intellectuals toward Islamist terror and the Iranian regime remained critical. In 1989, the so-called Rushdie Affair – Khomeini’s Death Fatwa against the British writer for his book Satanic Verses – sent shock waves through European capitals. This event marks a turning point. Initially, many liberal and leftist intellectuals showed their solidarity with Salman Rushdie, while mainstream media and institutions often hesitated and imposed state realpolitik over freedom of speech.[5]

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 But Khomeini’s fatwa also challenged the leftist self-image. During the Cold War, the Western New Left had declared its solidarity even with the most regressive national liberation movements – but always in the name of universal values. The particular should only be the form of universalistic content. Now Khomeini formulated an attack on freedom of expression in the name of Islamic particularism: the form became the content. With the collapse of so-called ‘real socialism’ in Eastern Europe, Islamism began its ideological expansion in the West, fusing a particularist ideology with the remnants of anti-imperialism: anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism.

12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 To understand the connection between cultural relativism and historical and contemporary antisemitism, it is necessary to see them in the context of the history of Islamism in societies shaped by the religion of Islam. In many of these societies, attempts were made in the first decades of the twentieth century to separate religion and state. Especially in Turkey and Iran, secularism was practiced as a state mission from above. In Iran after 1905 there had even been a liberal-bourgeois revolution that demanded the separation of religion and state.

13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 At that time, religious figures who resisted secularization were clearly in retreat. The Islamic clergy took different positions to preserve its influence. The prominent Shiite cleric Ayatollah Abol Ghasem Kashani first allied with the modernist monarch Reza Shah Pahlavi, was arrested by the British occupying forces in World War II as an enemy of the anti-Hitler coalition, briefly supported the reformist anti-imperialist Mohammad Mossadegh in the early 1950s, then forged an alliance with Reza Pahlavi’s son Mohammed Reza to overthrow Mossadegh. His political foster son Ruhollah Khomeini only broke with Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlevi in the early 1960s, when the monarch introduced a land reform and women’s suffrage.

14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 Khomeini never shared the modernist goals of the Shah’s liberal and left-wing opponents of Persia, but he eventually gained a reputation among the secular anti-imperialists who were frustrated with the failure of Mossadegh. These intellectuals had barely done a thorough and critical analysis of the role of religion in Iranian history and were thus vulnerable to the idea of an Islamic reformulation of their agenda.

15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 Khomeini also introduced anti-Zionism as a religious-political propaganda tool. He speculated whether the Shah was a Jew because of the good relations between Iran and Israel. At that time he did not yet make the later propagandistic distinction between Jews and Zionists. In the introduction to his most important work, The Islamic State from 1970 he presents the Jews as conspirators against Islam.[6]

16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 While Khomeini eventually became the charismatic leader of Islamism, two Iranian intellectuals who died before the 1979 revolution built bridges for the transformation from secular to religious anti-imperialism and cultural relativism in the 1960s and ’70s: the former was the ex-member of the Communist Tudeh Party Jalal Al-e Ahmad with his essay Gharbzadeghi from 1962. Gharbzadeghi has been translated as “Westoxification”, “Occidentosis” or “Plague from the West”.

17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 In this essay, Jalal Al-e Ahmad condemns an alleged cultural colonization of Iranian society by Western capitalism, which he sees as the soulless culture of the machine. Islam is being introduced as a possible means of resisting this development, albeit less at a theological or spiritual level, but rather instrumentally as part of a cultural empowerment for modernizing the East, in concert with other emerging eastern countries to counter Western capitalism.

18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 In the foreword of the book he refers to the German nationalist revolutionary writer Ernst Jünger. Al-e Ahmad apparently saw the German pre-fascist writer as a soulmate for an oriental conservative revolution because of his anti-liberal and anti-Western literature.[7]

19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 0 It may come as a surprise that Al-e Ahmad traveled to Israel in 1963 and wrote an enthusiastic report.[8] The re-release of excerpts in the run-up to the nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic caused quite a stir.[9] On the one hand, the work has been interpreted as the glimpse of a possible understanding between Iranian reformist Islamists and the state of Israel.[10] Others saw in Al-e Ahmads admiration of the state of Israel a symptom of Persian-anti-Arab nationalism and evidence of the similarity of the Israeli state to the Iranian theocracy.[11]

20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 0 In reality, for Al-e Ahmad, Israel was above all an ideological projection surface for a supposed entry into modernity with no or reduced Western influence – a similar fantasy product as Islam as a vehicle for an autonomous development. Supposedly a religious guardian state and at the same time a socialist utopia: this was an image that the real state of Israel could never match, which is why Al-e Ahmad, after the Six-Day War of 1967, changed fronts in favor of the ‘Palestinian cause’ with equal ease as many intellectuals in Western Germany. The travelogue was published in 1984 by Al-e Ahmad’s brother Shams in the Islamic Republic of Iran. At the end of the report stands an anonymous anti-Zionist tirade from 1967, according to Shams a text by Jalal Al-e Ahmad.

21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 Al-e Ahmad’s quest for meaning is in some ways reminiscent of the tourism of revolutions in the Third World of the Western Left. The difference being that it was the forerunner of the Islamist future of Iranian society, not only a reflection of the ‘culture of the Other’ enjoyed from a distance by Western intellectuals. The political price of ideological fantasies in Iran was much higher than in the West.

22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 0 The Sociologist Ali Shariati added anti-imperialist dynamic to the cultural critique of Jalal Al-e Ahmad. Shariati criticized the conservative, quietist tradition of Islam and offered a social-revolutionary reinterpretation of Islamic history. From his studies in Paris he knew Jean-Paul Sartre’s existentialism and the anti-colonial writings of Frantz Fanon. At the same time he was a fierce critic of Marxism, which he saw as the culmination of humanist “Western Fallacies.”[12] While Jalal al-e Ahmad used Islam as a tool for the alleged return to oriental cultural heritage, Shariati, on the other hand, defined the desire for “authentic cultural values” as a bridge to Islam, which he saw as the only possible savior of these values.

23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 His work Hajj defines sacrifice and martyrdom as central values of a revolutionary Islam that is opposed to the “alienation of mankind” through consumption and worldly rationalist thinking.[13] In his essay Fatima is Fatima from 1971, he criticizes the traditional role of women at home and hearth on the one hand, feminist, individual, “western” emancipation on the other hand. Instead, women should have the opportunity to be active members of society – but only if they are willing to do so as female soldiers of Islam and join the fight against an imagined Western cultural invasion.[14]

24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 Khomeini had more specific problems as the practitioner of the Islamic Revolution, since he had to prove that an Islamic state based on the religious laws of the Koran was a possibility of the 20th century. He mocked the idea of secular Iranians that Islamists are opposed to the technological achievements of modernity – on the contrary, they should rather be used for the establishment of Islamic theocracy.

25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 0 While the Nazis re-enacted the dynamics of capital as a social Darwinist racial war and antisemitic rage, Islamism at first sight seems to mean a total stagnation and rejection of history since the era of Muhammad. But with the concept of Velayat-e faqih, the guardianship of the Islamic jurist, Khomeini introduced a major innovation: centrality shifts from sacred texts to religious leaders as mediators between God and the masses. In a Machiavellian turn, Khomeini said that in the event of a state of emergency, the religious leader could even suspend religious tradition and Sharia law.[15]

26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0 Here Islam is less a term of religious and more political theology, reminiscent of the terms of the Crown Jurist of the Third Reich Carl Schmitt. Schmitt had defined the political sphere as a distinction between friend and enemy and sovereign power as the authority that decides on the state of emergency.[16] In the Islamic Republic, this is the religious leader commissioned by God. Even more important than the religious laws or the definition of the content of a particular religious orthodoxy is the identification of metaphysical enemies – on top of the list are Jews, Zionism and the State of Israel.

27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 0 Only a few months after taking power in the summer of 1979, Khomeini introduced the Quds / Jerusalem Day as a global Muslim duty to gather against Israel and the West, merging anti-imperialist oppressor versus oppressed rhetoric with Islamist anti-Zionism. In this way, he tried to create a clear-cut separation between the ‘true Muslims’ who rise up against Israel and those who have been denounced as infidels and traitors in the Muslim world:

28 Leave a comment on paragraph 28 0 “Quds Day is an international day, it is not a day devoted to Quds alone. It is the day for the weak and oppressed to confront the arrogant powers, the day for those nations suffering under the pressure of American oppression and oppression by other powers to confront the superpowers; it is the day when the oppressed should arm themselves against the oppressors and rub their noses in the dirt; it is the day when the hypocrites will be distinguished from the true believers. For the true believers acknowledge this day as Quds Day and do what they must do. The hypocrites, however, those who are secretly affiliated with the superpowers and are friends of Israel, are either indifferent on this day or do not allow the people to hold demonstrations.”[17]

29 Leave a comment on paragraph 29 0 Cultural relativism is the antithesis to ethical, political and sociological universalism, cultures are, according to it, to be understood only from their own values and their own history. After the Second World War, this relativistic approach was defined as opposed to German and European ethnocentrism and racism. In 1952, Claude Levi-Strauss wrote the book Race and History for the UNESCO. In this book he rejected the idea of different races but at the same time condemned the self-understanding of the European Enlightenment, which in his eyes looked down on other cultures:
“Modern man […] tries to account for the diversity of cultures while seeking, at the same time, to eradicate what still shocks and offends him in that diversity.”[18]

30 Leave a comment on paragraph 30 0 Thinkers of anti-colonialism, such as Frantz Fanon, picked up the criticism in the 1960s and attempted to create a revolutionary culture of the oppressed against the colonial oppressors. In his essay The Defeat of the Mind in 1987, the French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut criticized Fanon, claiming that his attempt to escape European philosophy had failed and had only led him to German national romanticism, as advocated by Johann Gottfried Herder, who thought in closed, unchanging national-cultural units.[19]

31 Leave a comment on paragraph 31 0 It is important to note that these discussions remained ambivalent during the Cold War. Edward Said introduced the ‘linguistic turn’ to anti-imperialism in 1978 with his book Orientalism.[20] When he condemned Marx’s writings on the Orient as part of Western imperialist ‘Orientalism’, he was, for example, criticized by the left-wing Syrian thinker Sadik al-Azm for a “reverse orientalism”. Al-Azm accused Said of turning negative Western stereotypes about the Orient into an affirmed entity of ‘the Other’.[21]

32 Leave a comment on paragraph 32 0 Since the attacks of 9/11, the panorama has changed: we are hardly anymore talking about a plurality of cultures seen as static entities but of a dualism – the West against Islam or Islamism. While it was possible to try to mix ethnology and Marxism in the anti-colonial and anti-imperialist movements during the cold war, this was no more conceivable after 1989 and even less after 9/11.

33 Leave a comment on paragraph 33 0 The competition is no more between two secular, universalist alliances competing around the worldly terms of the French Revolution: freedom on the one hand, equality on the other. There is no alternative economic system like the former Eastern bloc but only remaining oil rent states like Iran, Russia and Venezuela challenging Europe and the United States. Political competition has shifted away from Latin America and Asia to the Middle East. In the past, it was the Soviet Union which supported nationalist or religious anti-Western movements in the Third World on a tactical basis. Venezuelas ‘Socialism of the 21st century’, on the contrary, is maintained with counter-insurgency assistance by Iranian revolutionary guards, not the other way round.[22]

34 Leave a comment on paragraph 34 0 Within this political-ideological dynamic, anti-Zionism gets to the center of the stage. For the radical left, it is what has remained from the former global contention between western capitalism and so-called real socialism. For liberal multi-culturalists, the conflict between Israel and Palestine embodies all the perceived injustices committed by the West against the oriental ‘Other’. A closer look makes it possible to identify a history in the history dating back to before the Cold War. The solidarity with the Palestinian struggle in Western European societies is formulated in relation to the colonial or fascist past of the respective countries.

35 Leave a comment on paragraph 35 0 While in France, and especially in Britain, anti-Zionism is associated with anti-imperialist and post-colonial concepts, in Germany and Austria it is regularly associated with the German past: Nazi atrocities are seen as an obligation – but not for solidarity with the Jewish state, but with the Palestinian anti-Zionism of the alleged ‘victims of the victims’.[23]

36 Leave a comment on paragraph 36 0 It seems easy to refute the absurdity of the anti-colonialist, anti-racist and anti-fascist attitudes of academics or politicians who are trying to whitewash Islamism and anti-Zionism. In fact, the godfather of Palestinian anti-Zionism, the Mufti of Jerusalem, was not a classic anti-colonialist, much less an antifascist. Amin el-Husseini was first appointed by the British Mandate for Palestine, and later on, he lived in Nazi Germany, where he was a fanatic supporter of Nazi antisemitism. After 1945 there was Western cooperation with Islamists in the Cold War.[24] But these facts, superseded by post-fascist and post-colonial anti-Zionism, lead to another question: what has changed in antisemitic articulations since the pre-nazi era, and why?

37 Leave a comment on paragraph 37 0 Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno in the Dialectic of the Enlightenment, analyzed antisemitism as a blind and murderous ritual of the masses, a psychological compensation for the deprivations suffered by the underprivileged in a class society and as a tool of cynical manipulation in the interest the ruler.[25] But the genocide committed by the Nazi national community transcends the traditional political and class boundaries. After Auschwitz, antisemitism in the West had lost its ‘good reputation’. At the same time, however, the political panorama that had formed in the Dreyfus Affair and in which the dichotomy of right-wing extremist antisemites and liberal and left-wing enemies of antisemitism had developed was put into question.

38 Leave a comment on paragraph 38 0 After 1945, when it became clear that antisemitism was a destructive force without borders, it became a taboo at least in Western Europe and the US to affirm eliminationist antisemitism. A complicated political-ideological division of labor emerged. Anti-Jewish Western intellectuals and politicians expressed understanding of genocidal ideologies as expressions of Palestinian or Muslim victims. Such an approach poses a much smaller political risk to its protagonists than if they had presented these ideologies and the inherent antisemitism in their own name. For decades, the idea that Israel-Palestine is the mother of all conflicts has been so engrained, that the desasters in Syria and Iraq came as a surprise to many.

39 Leave a comment on paragraph 39 0 Barak Obama’s Cairo speech of June 2009[26] can serve as the culmination of a cultural relativism that has finally become a state program. In this speech, he lamented headscarf bans, but not the compulsion to wear the headscarf, he emphasized the freedom of religion, but nowhere the right to be left in peace by religion. In addition, he defined American interventions and Israeli settlements as the main problems of the so-called Islamic world.

40 Leave a comment on paragraph 40 0 It is therefore logical that Obama’s dialogue with the Islamic world has narrowed to one with the Islamic Republic of Iran in the following years – to the profound horror of almost all of their neighbors. Because the Islamic Republic is the only relevant state actor, which ideologically accelerates as well as violently enforces anti-civilizational resentment, antisemitism and religious community terror on a global level as state doctrine. These are the main components, that until recently defined the common denominator beyond all the divisions of an Islamic world, that Obama wanted to see acknowledged in its supposed cultural essence.

41 Leave a comment on paragraph 41 0 The speech from Cairo was put to the test just a week later, when the uprising in Iran started against the rulers of the Islamic Republic, the defenders of the duty of the headscarf. The American president had equated the Iranian people and the leadership. A conflict of life and death between the two was not foreseen. Against this background, both the US government and the governments of the European Union denied any substantial political or even moral support for the democratic protest movement in Iran, which brought millions to the streets. It appeared as a threat to the envisioned nuclear deal with the mullahs.[27]

42 Leave a comment on paragraph 42 0 In the Middle East, modernist political movements after World war II and Israel’s War of Independence almost immediately had shown a hybrid character that crossed left-wing anti-imperialism with an antisemitism, which was formerly associated with the extreme Right. Anti-Zionism and antisemitism became the common denominator and power instrument for Oriental despotisms of all kinds. The destruction of Israel was a central success parameter of pan-Arabism and other post-colonial movements in the region. When this goal was not achieved, the rise of the Islamists was logical: they accused even the most inadequate and poorly organized advocacy of secular revolutionaries for social progress as a distraction from the war against the Jews and the West. The result was the preservation of the backwardness and devastation of the whole region.[28]

43 Leave a comment on paragraph 43 0 But this constellation has become precarious. For years, the most explicit and loudest critics of Islamism have been intellectuals in the Middle East or immigrants with an oriental family background who had first-hand experience of Islamism.

44 Leave a comment on paragraph 44 0 On the other hand, Islamism, which fused Islamic history with Western technology and elements of the anti-modern modernity of fascism and Nazism, has made the passage to Europe. There is no geographical separation between what is politically associated with the Orient and what is associated with the West anymore. The “War of Ideas” no longer runs along, but on both sides of the borders.[29]

45 Leave a comment on paragraph 45 0 The catastrophic consequences of Western collaboration with the Iranian regime in recent years, the war in Syria and the rise of the ‘Islamic State’ have led to a new situation. Abandoned by the West, things stand not good for Democrats and real moderates in the region, to say the least. However, this situation has increased enormously the pressure to challenge old dogmas on those who do not share the goals of the Islamists. While in the past anti-Zionism was treated as a regional folklore independent of all other political differences, its centrality is now clearly linked to the Iranian regime and its Sunni-Islamist counterparts. Unfortunately, they have enough economic and military resources to continue their expansion. But their ideological hegemony over the region under the flag of a Muslim-Arab struggle against Israel has been put into question.

46 Leave a comment on paragraph 46 0 To understand this, we must bear in mind: In order to preserve the reign of the ‘Axis of Resistance’ against Israel between Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria, half a Million of Syrians had to die, millions have been displaced. In the Middle East, therefore, there are even moments in which the self-destructive character of anti-Zionism comes to consciousness. Be it among Syrian or Iraqi Opposition figures, Middle Eastern free thinkers or even within the leadership of Saudi-Arabia. As an Iraqi TV presenter put it in a furious exchange with a Shiite militiaman: “Palestine is not the cause of the Iraqis, we don’t want that Iranian rhetoric”.[30]

47 Leave a comment on paragraph 47 0 Today one must decide whether one wants to help the Islamists to accomplish their work of destruction in the Middle East or whether one wants to preserve what remains of the civilizational remnants of the societies in the region. Making Israel responsible for upheavals, with which the Jewish state obviously has nothing to do, is more difficult now than ever before.

48 Leave a comment on paragraph 48 0 This development has culminated in the recent uprisings in Iran since New Year’s Eve 2017/2018: Its slogans against all the currents of the regime have been much more radical than in 2009. While at that time apologists of the regime claimed that the Iranian countryside is with the rulers, the protest against the regime’s terrorist expansion has now been all over with chants like “No to Gaza, no to Lebanon, my life only for Iran”[31] or “Let go of Syria, think of us”[32]. The religious cities of Mashad and Qom[33] became the focus of demonstrations against the Islamic Republic. Even the most holy slogans of the Iranian theocracy against the United States and Israel have been countered in the protests.[34]

49 Leave a comment on paragraph 49 0 In summary: The political frontlines have become much clearer in the last five to ten years., and what Marx and Engels once described as a result of the historical-ideological triumph of the European bourgeoisie now applies to a very different, dramatic context – the disillusionment created by the chaos in the Middle East: “All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.”[35] Thus the category of interest as a heroic driving force of the theory of revolution of Marx and Engels has been transformed into something else – a categorical imperative to prevent the worst.

50 Leave a comment on paragraph 50 0 In the Middle East, the abyss between Islamists and other political forces is growing, but resources are lacking to successfully fight the Islamists. The paradoxical complement is the constellation in Germany, Europe and to a certain degree also in the USA. The technologically most advanced societies of the Western world seem unable or unwilling to consider their own situation and their relationship with their southern neighbors soberly.

51 Leave a comment on paragraph 51 0 It is increasingly difficult for Europeans to maintain the phantasm of the centrality of the Israel-Palestine conflict. But there is still no significant awareness of the fatal consequences to democracy and security in Europe of the creation of an oriental fantasy world for the purpose of delegating antisemitic resentment.

52 Leave a comment on paragraph 52 0 Against this background it is possible to come back to the initial question – how to explain the perseverance and sustainable cultural appeal of Islamism in comparison to European fascism and Nazism before the end of the Second World War. Between 1922 and 1945 bourgeois liberalism, socialism/communism and fascism/Nazism constituted three political currents in changing mutual alliance constellations, which, however, ideologically represented only themselves. The identitarian self-image of the right-wing extremists to represent Europe’s cultural heritage was only put forward by themselves. Attempts to forge alliances with them from the left and from the political center were easily identifiable as political opportunism.

53 Leave a comment on paragraph 53 0 But the transformation of the cold war confrontation into the masquerade ball of identities of recent decades has fundamentally changed traditional ideological constellations. While tough anti-imperialists defend Islamists as long as they serve their own anti-American and anti-Zionist needs, the academic left in particular has devised huge theoretical constructs in order to prove what the radical right also claims to know: That it is the cultural fate of the Muslim ‘Other’ to feel offended by the West and to sympathize with the Islamists. Anyone from a Muslim family background who thinks differently, even vehemently opposes Islamic fascism, is seen as a traitor to his or her culture – not only by Islamists, but also by identity politics in the West.

54 Leave a comment on paragraph 54 0 Such positions are represented by intellectuals who themselves do not live under Sharia law or want to wear the headscarf. They do not even receive praise from the Islamists for their ideological advocacy. Western advertising for religious coercion appears as a free gift to the Jihadists. When Judith Butler honored Hamas and Hezbollah in 2006 as part of the progressive left[36], there was no jubilation to be heard in Beirut and Gaza. Of course Hamas and Hezbollah are happy about any propagandistic support, but who loves the betrayal, does not necessarily love the traitor.

55 Leave a comment on paragraph 55 0 For the societies of the Middle East from Tel Aviv to Tehran, between Tunis and Islamabad, the appropriate political positioning today means a matter of life and death, at least on this many people in the region would certainly agree. Nobody can afford a policy ‘in the name of the other’, as it is advanced by Western cultural relativism.

56 Leave a comment on paragraph 56 0 Western democracies in the twentieth century have only once relatively spontaneously formed an alliance in a joint ideological opposition: in the dispute with the Soviet Union about the heritage of secular enlightenment. Hitler, on the other hand, forced the West into an anti-fascist alliance, which Europe would have liked to avoid as it does today concerning a confrontation with Islamism.

57 Leave a comment on paragraph 57 0 The biggest question marks lay therefore today in Europe. If a reversal of the so-called cultural dialogue and collaboration with Islamism should be possible, the question of alliances is almost self-evident: it is not about a struggle between ethnoreligiously defined cultures, but about a confrontation with identity politics. And that is why the first and most experienced partners of any willing political forces in the West for an alliance against barbarism are not politicians who want to contain Islamism only within its supposedly ancestral region, but the dissidents of Islamist identity politics on the one hand, and the Jews and Israelis affected by their anti-Semitic consequences on the other hand.


58 Leave a comment on paragraph 58 0 [1] Atoussa H., “An Iranian Woman Writes”, in Foucault and the Iranian Revolution: Gender and the Seductions of Islamism, ed. Janet Afary and Kevin B. Anderson (Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 209f

59 Leave a comment on paragraph 59 0 [2] Michel Foucault, “Foucault’s Response to Atoussa H.,” in Foucault and the Iranian Revolution: Gender and the Seductions of Islamism, ed. Janet Afary and Kevin B. Anderson (Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 210

60 Leave a comment on paragraph 60 0 [3] Maxime Rodinson, “Islam resurgent?”, in Foucault and the Iranian Revolution: Gender and the Seductions of Islamism, ed. Janet Afary and Kevin B. Anderson (Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 233, 236

61 Leave a comment on paragraph 61 0 [4] Claudie and Jacques Broyelle, “What Are the Philosophers Dreaming About? Was Foucault Mistaken about the Iranian Revolution?”, in Foucault and the Iranian Revolution: Gender and the Seductions of Islamism, ed. Janet Afary and Kevin B. Anderson (Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 247-249.
For a defense of Foucault’s writings on Iran see: Thomas Lemke: “’Die verrückteste Form der Revolte’ – Michel Foucault und die Iranische Revolution”, accessed August 25, 2018, http://www.thomaslemkeweb.de/publikationen/Iran%20II.pdf and Banu Bargu: “Foucault and Iran”, accessed August 25, 2018, http://blogs.law.columbia.edu/uprising1313/banu-bargu-on-behrooz-ghamari-tabrizis-foucault-in-iran/

62 Leave a comment on paragraph 62 0 [5] Kenan Malik: From Fatwa to Jihad: The Rushdie Affair and Its Legacy (London: Atlantic Books, 2009)

63 Leave a comment on paragraph 63 0 [6] Ruhollah Khomeini, Islam and revolution: writings and declarations of Imam Khomeini, trans. Hamid Algar (Berkeley: Mizan Press, 1981), 180, 27

64 Leave a comment on paragraph 64 0 [7] Jalal Al-e-Ahmad, Occidentosis: A Plague from the West, trans. R. Campbell (Berkeley: Mizan Press, 1983), 25

65 Leave a comment on paragraph 65 0 [8] Jalal Al-e Ahmad: The Israeli Republic: An Iranian Revolutionary’s Journey to the Jewish State (New York: Restless Books, 2017)

66 Leave a comment on paragraph 66 0 [9] See for example: Bernard Avishai, “Among the Believers: What Jalal Al-e Ahmad Thought Iranian Islamism Could Learn From Zionism”, accessed August 25, 2018, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/iran/2014-02-12/among-believers

67 Leave a comment on paragraph 67 0 [10] Ellis Shuman, “The Israeli Republic of Iran: On a book by a Persian writer who viewed the Jewish State as entirely harmonious with the Islamic Republic”, accessed August 25, 2018, http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/the-israeli-republic-of-iran/

68 Leave a comment on paragraph 68 0 [11] Alex Shams, “Next Year in Tehran: An Iranian intellectual’s trip to Israel in the 1960s revealed the strange appeal of secular republicanism to religious ethno-supremacists”, accessed August 25, 2018, http://thenewinquiry.com/essays/next-year-in-tehran/

69 Leave a comment on paragraph 69 0 [12] Ali Shariati: “Marxism and Other Western Fallacies. An Islamic Critique”, accessed August 25, 2018, https://rosswolfe.files.wordpress.com/2015/09/ali-shariati-marxism-and-other-western-fallacies.pdf

70 Leave a comment on paragraph 70 0 [13] Ali Shariati, “Hajj”, accessed August 25, 2018, http://www.al-islam.org/printpdf/book/export/html/28463

71 Leave a comment on paragraph 71 0 [14] Ali Shariati, “Fatima Is Fatima”, accessed August 25, 2018, http://www.iranchamber.com/personalities/ashariati/works/fatima_is_fatima1.php

72 Leave a comment on paragraph 72 0 [15] „In a letter to then president Khamenei, Khomeini stated, ‘the government has the right to unilaterally terminate its religious contracts with the people, if those contracts are against the interests of the country and Islam. The government has the right to prevent anything, whether related to religious rituals or not, as long as it is against the interests of Islam. The hajj [pilgrimage], which is one of the important religious tasks, can be prevented temporally by the government if it regards it against the expediency of the Islamic Republic.’ He emphasized that if a ruling jurist had to make decisions based only on Islamic law, the religious government and his absolute authority would be meaningless. Therefore, the ruling jurist is not necessarily the jurist who understands Islamic law better than others, but he is the jurist who has the ability and authority to understand the interests of Islam and the Islamic Republic beyond the sacred text of Islamic law.”
Mehdi Khalaji, “Apocalyptic Politics: On the Rationality of Iranian Policy”, January 2008, 27f, accessed August 25, 2018, http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/apocalyptic-politics-on-the-rationality-of-iranian-policy

73 Leave a comment on paragraph 73 0 [16] Carl Schmitt: Der Begriff Des Politischen: Text von 1932. Mit einem Vorwort und drei Corollarien (Berlin. Duncker & Humblot; 1963) 26ff and Carl Schmitt: Politische Theologie. Vier Kapitel zur Lehre von der Souveränität (1922/1970 –Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 2004, 13

74 Leave a comment on paragraph 74 0 [17] Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, “Quds Day is the Day for the Weak and Oppressed to Confront the Oppressors”, accessed August 25, 2018, http://english.almaaref.org/essaydetails.php?eid=5077&cid=388

75 Leave a comment on paragraph 75 0 [18] Claude Levi-Strauss, “Race and History”, UNESCO 1952, accessed August 25, 2018, https://archive.org/details/racehistory00levi

76 Leave a comment on paragraph 76 0 [19] Alain Finkielkraut, The Defeat of the Mind. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995)

77 Leave a comment on paragraph 77 0 [20] Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Random House, 1979)

78 Leave a comment on paragraph 78 0 [21] Sadik Jalal Al-‘Azm, “Orientalism and Orientalism in Reverse” , accessed August 25, 2018, https://libcom.org/library/orientalism-orientalism-reverse-sadik-jalal-al-%E2%80%99azm

79 Leave a comment on paragraph 79 0 [22] Joseph Humire, “Iran Propping up Venezuela’s Repressive Militias“, Washington Times, March 17, 2014, accessed August 25, 2018, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/mar/17/humire-irans-basij-props-up-venezuelas-repressive-/?page=all#pagebreak.

80 Leave a comment on paragraph 80 0 [23] Josef Joffe: „Wir Wiedergutgewordenen: Auf die Wortwahl kommt es an: Wenn Deutsche Israel kritisieren, schwingt oft Entlastungswille mit. Ein Auszug aus dem neuen Buch “Der gute Deutsche”, accessed August 25, 2018, https://www.zeit.de/2018/35/gute-deutsche-josef-joffe-israel/komplettansicht

81 Leave a comment on paragraph 81 0 [24] David Motadel, Islam and Nazi Germanys War (Harvard University Press, 2017); Klaus Gensicke, Der Mufti von Jerusalem und die Nationalsozialisten: Eine politische Biographie Amin El-Husseinis (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2007)

82 Leave a comment on paragraph 82 0 [25] Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments, (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2002), 137-172

83 Leave a comment on paragraph 83 0 [26] Text: Obama’s Speech in Cairo, June 4, 2009 , accessed August 25, 2018, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/04/us/politics/04obama.text.html

84 Leave a comment on paragraph 84 0 [27] Eli Lake: “Why Obama Let Iran’s Green Revolution Fail. The president wanted a nuclear deal, not regime change”, accessed August 25, 2018 https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2016-08-24/why-obama-let-iran-s-green-revolution-fail

85 Leave a comment on paragraph 85 0 [28] Hisham Melhem, Washington bureau chief of Al Arabiya News writes: “My generation of Arabs was told by both the Arab nationalists and the Islamists that we should man the proverbial ramparts to defend the ‘Arab World’ against the numerous barbarians (imperialists, Zionists, Soviets) massing at the gates. Little did we know that the barbarians were already inside the gates, that they spoke our language and were already very well entrenched in the city.” Hisham Melhem, “The Barbarians Within Our Gates: Arab civilization has collapsed. It won’t recover in my lifetime”, accessed August 25, 2018, https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/09/the-barbarians-within-our-gates-111116_full.html

86 Leave a comment on paragraph 86 0 [29] Sam Harris, “Winning the War of Ideas”, accessed August 25, 2018, Real Time with Bill Maher, https://www.youtube.com/shared?ci=FpNwlcePwug

87 Leave a comment on paragraph 87 0 [30] Memri TV, “Sunni and Shiite Commentators Clash on TV over Military Campaign in Tikrit”, accessed August 25, 2018, https://www.memri.org/tv/sunni-and-shiite-commentators-clash-tv-over-military-campaign-tikrit (Min. 14:15

88 Leave a comment on paragraph 88 0 [31] https://twitter.com/AlirezaNader/status/1025017775331442689, accessed August 25, 2018

89 Leave a comment on paragraph 89 0 [32] https://twitter.com/AlirezaNader/status/1010893744944701440, accessed August 25, 2018

90 Leave a comment on paragraph 90 0 [33] https://twitter.com/hdagres/status/946824612238823424, accessed August 25, 2018

91 Leave a comment on paragraph 91 0 [34] https://twitter.com/HeshmatAlavi/status/987319639389753345, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ukhrobSFnUA&feature=youtu.be, accessed August 25, 2018

92 Leave a comment on paragraph 92 0 [35] Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party, accessed August 25, 2018, https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/communist-manifesto/ch01.htm#007

93 Leave a comment on paragraph 93 0 [36] “Judith Butler on Hamas, Hezbollah & the Israel Lobby (2006)”, accessed August 25, 2018, https://radicalarchives.org/2010/03/28/jbutler-on-hamas-hezbollah-israel-Lobby/

Source: https://opr.degruyter.com/confronting-antisemitism-in-modern-media-the-legal-and-political-worlds/andreas-benl-cultural-relativism-and-antisemitism/