But What Kind of Muslim President?

Within the past week, Republican Presidential candidates Ben Carson and Donald Trump have expressed a repellent form of bigotry regarding Muslims that is generating a great deal of reaction. However, this line of discussion simply lacks the nuance and historical insight necessary to properly turn this instance of publicly-praised prejudice into a teachable moment.

Carson’s words are especially interesting and deserve far more effort than those of Mr. Trump. He recently told Chuck Todd that he would oppose the selection of a Muslim as Chief Executive. The fact is that Carson would not be in the position he is now if it were not for Muslims.

The first Africans to come to America, held in bondage under the decks of slave ships, were both sub-Nilotic animists and Islamic religionists. There is no doubt that Carson carries within him at least some parentage that, at some point or another, prayed facing Mecca and recited Quranic verses in worship of Allah. The failure of the mainstream media to point out that basic historical fact is blatantly indicative of their own culpability in the continued demonization of Islam and Muslims, necessitated by our imperial adventures in Muslim lands.

It would also behoove Carson to remember he only got to where he is today in part because of a Muslim, el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, Malcolm X. The gains made for African Americans in the last century included the contribution of he and many other Muslims who opposed northern bigotry while Martin Luther King, Jr. took on southern Jim Crow. This gap speaks to Carson’s lack of seriousness when he talks about ‘Biblical values’, such as respecting one’s elders.

The New Atheist crowd, when challenged for their anti-Muslim bigotry, lamely argues that one cannot be racist against Muslims because Islam is not an ethnicity. That is true, but when a major section of the American Muslim population is African and either converted to the faith through the Nation of Islam or migrated to these shores from the continent as practitioners, it does not take long for the racial animus to take form. When we hear typical New Atheist arguments about Islam and its abuse of women, the dominant image is not one of a white man from France, it is a brown person from Africa or Asia. That kind of thinking plays directly to the fear of black and brown male sexuality, triggering a series of reactions within the population.

But besides these points, one is forced to ask just what kind of Muslim would potentially be a serious Presidential contender. Would the American power structure and its farcical two-party system allow for a Malcolm X, someone dedicated to genuine liberation theology? Would a Muslim who follows the model of Islamic socialism so beautifully described in Andre Vltchek’s recent piece Iran is Standing (https://www.counterpunch.org/2015/09/18/iran-is-standing/) or even the Baathist model of governance in Syria be allowed near the nuclear football?

Perhaps the current President, who has falsely been accused of being a Muslim, offers some instruction. Has Obama made things better for African and Asian Muslims? Did he do Libya, Palestine, and Syria any favors? Has he challenged the Saudis for their lunatic Wahabbi praxis? Did he support the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt? Has he cut back on the state-sponsored surveillance and persecution of Muslims that have birthed ISIS and similar ideologies of despair? No, he has done the opposite. Despite the fact that he too only got to where he is because of Muslims, including his father, President Obama has been no friend of Muslims unless they are reactionary, petty, and capitalist stooges willing to bow before the whims of the empire. The Muslims America accepts are the ones who pray towards the American mint, not Mecca. Their jihad is one carried out in the name of petro-dollar hegemony. When they refuse to follow this blasphemous strain of Islam, they are knocked off, as was the case with Ghadaffi. Even if they are able to avoid violence, as in the case of Iran’s nuclear deal, they still must submit not to Allah but to capital. In the recent interview with CBS’s 60 Minutes, Iranian President Rouhani did not fail to mention that part of the nuclear agreement regarding soon-to-be-unfrozen assets will require they privatized. That is a clue to the real issue at stake, it has never been about Israel’s safety, it was always about subverting Iranian state assets to Western capital.

I have recently come across a 1988 paper by one William Pietz titled THE “POST-COLONIALISM” OF COLD WAR DISCOURSE (https://archive.org/details/pdfy-llWfc0Y5NKFMfEtO). Pietz makes a compelling argument that borrows from both the scholarship of the late Edward Said, comparative literature, and the praxis, the challenging Orientalism in its various demented forms. He opens the paper with the following:

The idea of totalitarianism and the discourse of the cold war would seem to bear at most a negative relation to colonial discourse. By translating all political events and social struggle anywhere in the world into the master code of U.S./Soviet confrontation, there remains neither room nor need for the sort of colonial discourse so heavily relied on by Western states during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. While I am overstating the case-obviously colonial dis- course did not vanish after 1940-the function of cold war language as a substitute for the language of colonialism raises the question of the comparability and actual continuity of colonial and cold war discursive structures. Can the almost immediate recognition and acceptance of cold war discourse after the war be explained in part by its appropriation of ideologically familiar elements from the earlier discourse of Western colonialism? An examination of four of the most important contributors to the intellectual legitimacy of cold war thinking-George Kennan, George Orwell, Arthur Koestler, and Hannah Arendt-suggests that this is the case.

There you have it plainly. For years, Leftists have described the so-called “War on Terror” an eerie mirror of the Cold War in both pathos and discourse. Now we can say with certainty that this was not an accident, it was a calculated and logical extension of a monologue dating back not to 1945 and Potsdam but the beginning of the European colonial epoch. And throughout that epoch, the quislings in various Muslim countries have collaborated with the Western hegemonic project in order to preserve their own status at the expense of their subjects.

Ben Carson and Donald Trump are both foolish men who speak from places of fear and calculated bigotry intended to cater to American xenophobia. They have done damage with their statements and set backwards progress to some degree. But on the same token, one must contemplate what they are saying with some seriousness. The Tea Party has made a field day out of accusations that Obama became a Muslim while attending a school in Indonesia. They forget to mention why Suharto was allowing for such a culture in the first place

Andrew Stewart is a documentary film maker and reporter who lives outside Providence.  His film, AARON BRIGGS AND THE HMS GASPEE, about the historical role of Brown University in the slave trade, is available for purchase on Amazon Instant Video or on DVD.