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The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity

Tariq Ali dissects both Islamic and Western fundamentalism.

The aerial attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, a global spectacle of unprecedented dimensions, generated an enormous volume of commentary. The inviolability of the American mainland, breached for the first time since 1812, led to extravagant proclamations by the pundits. It was a new world-historical turning point. The 21st century, once greeted triumphantly as marking the dawn of a worldwide neo-liberal civilization, suddenly became menaced. The choice presented from the White House and its supporters was to stand shoulder-to-shoulder against terrorism or be damned.

Tariq Ali challenges these assumptions, arguing instead that what we have experienced is the return of History in a horrific form, with religious symbols playing a part on both sides: 'Allah's revenge,' 'God is on Our Side' and 'God Bless America.' The visible violence of September 11 was the response to the invisible violence that has been inflicted on countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Palestine and Chechnya. Some of this has been the direct responsibility of the United States and Russia. In this wide-ranging book that provides an explanation for both the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and new forms of Western colonialism, Tariq Ali argues that many of the values proclaimed by the Enlightenment retain their relevance, while portrayals of the American Empire as a new emancipatory project are misguided.

Reviews

  • “Ali’s style is vigorous, his narrative compelling, showing that the short-term, self-interested and oil-greedy policies of the British and Americans in such countries as Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Iran must make our much-vaunted ideals of democracy and equity seem like a bad joke.”
  • The Clash of Fundamentalisms is well worth reading ... it shows that the harshest critics of fundamentalism are often exponents of a rival fundamentalism.”
  • “In this timely and important book, Tariq Ali puts the events of September 11 into sweeping historical perspective. As we have come to expect from him, he is lucid, eloquent, literary, and painfully honest, as he dissects both Islamic and Western fundamentalism.”
  • “It will not open doors at the White House because it makes for uncomfortable reading ... a wide-ranging and powerfully argued critique, that gives pause for thought.”
  • “... urbane, highly intelligent and vividly written.”
  • “The book is an outstanding contribution to our understanding of the nightmare of history from which so many people are struggling to awake, and deserves serious engagement and consideration. Ali broadens our horizons, geographically, historically, intellectually and politically. ... His mode of history telling is lyrical and engaging, humane and passionate.”
  • “[Ali] finds little to distinguish between the organised violence of the United States  and that of those who oppose it ...”

Blog

  • Catholic Sharia, or the state within the state

    This post first appeared on Christine Delphy's blog. Translated by David Broder.

    Philippe Barbarin, Archbishop of Lyon.

    Neither Jean-Luc Mélenchon nor Emmanuel Macron know what laïcité [French state secularism] is. So Mélenchon believes that "schooling" is subject to "laïcité." No: the teachers are, because they are state employees; but not the service users, the students themselves. Which is why the 2004 law banning the headscarf does not conform to the 1905 laïcité law. Macron seems to be unaware that the State Council declared the "anti-burkini" decrees issued by certain mayors last summer to be invalid; he claims that "some of these decrees are justified" since they "target not any cultural issue, but a matter of public order." What "public order" is this? Do the women who wear a burkini disturb public order? No. Rather, the men and women who insult them are disturbing public order; it is not the victims who ought to be penalised.

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  • After Chilcot: A Reading List on Iraq and the “War on Terror”

    “We have concluded that the UK chose to join the invasion of Iraq before the peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted. Military action at that time was not a last resort.” — John Chilcot.

    The long-awaited Chilcot Report, spanning almost a decade of UK government policy decisions between 2001 and 2009, was released today. The report finds that there was no “imminent threat” from Saddam Hussein, and that Tony Blair had gone to war before “peaceful options for disarmament” had been exhausted — the UK's invasion of Iraq in 2003 was not a “last resort”.

    Verso presents a reading list of books that contextualize the disaster resulting from the "War on Terror" and the refugee crisis rooted in its violence. After the invasion by coalition forces in 2003, Iraq began fracturing along sectarian lines, unleashing years of violence and displacement. With the outbreak of war in Syria in 2011, ISIS exploited the chaos and societal tensions of the region to sweep to power on a brutal campaign that has displaced millions of civilians. The Iraq War, too, led to increased risk of terrorism in Europe as well as within the Middle East. 


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  • Post Orlando / Post Brexit Anti-Islamophobia Reading List

    Following the tragic Orlando massacre at a gay nightclub, both New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton called for a return to “the spirit of 9/12,” a reference to a dark period of racism, surveillance, and state sanctioned Islamophobia after the September 11th attacks. In the United Kingdom, instances of xenophobia and Islamophobia have reportedly surged following the EU referendum, leaving migrants and minorities, particularly Muslim women, vulnerable to attack and discrimination. As events unfold and the "Brexit" debates continue, we present a reading list of key titles that shed light on the origins of Islamophobia and ways we can organize to fight it. 

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Other books by Tariq Ali