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Watching the radicals

August 23, 2010

Take the time to go through all the Arabic satelite channels and you will be appaled by the huge number of religious ones. Giving the micro for hours to a “respected theologist” is becoming the only media offer. People call to ask about the Islamic answer to various questions that range from ” what kind of music can I listen to?” to ” what is the length of  the stick I can beat my wife with?”. And he takes hours to give generic answers full of warnings and orders. Needless to say how conservative, outdated, ambiguous and misogynous his answers are.
Three points are really worrying about these religious programs:

– They convey a passive and negative vision of life, during which you should be obssessed by what is allowed and what is not, without any creative or critical mind;
– They are becoming more and more popular and gurus like Amr Khaled have millions of fans on Facebook;
–  The theologists are never contradicted. There is only one micro, and no one is here to discuss their ideas, interpretations and “advice”. They present their speech as the only truth without any attention to the consequences of their words. And I can tell you that their ideas are not very liberal…

So what does one do to deal with the encroachment of these channels? What can we do as citizens to blow the whistle?   Anyone can ascertain the multiplication of veiled women on the Arab streets and the radicalization of a big part of the society, and something should be done to counterbalance that.

One option is to really put these TV Religious Showmen in front of their responsibility and to make them aware that any of their words count, so tthat hey really think before conveying obscurantist ideas. I believe  it is possible to create a sort of “observatory” form of liberal religion experts and jurists. They will be in charge of monitoring these programs, writing reports and suing the religious presenters for juridic reasons such as human/woman rights undermining and for any other judicial purpose (I am sure it is always possible to find one) that may help in making them less extreme. The goal is not to win the case, but some media spotlights on these actions can convince these guys that someone is watching them, that they are responsible for their sayings,  and that presenting  art and women as the devil is not tolerable in some countries!


Hatem Mahbouli

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Rihab permalink
    August 23, 2010 12:49 pm

    I do believe that the multiplication of religious channels has huge impacts on Muslims and their behaviours.
    But, before examining that, why do Muslims everywhere in western or Arabic countries watch these channels? Why do people (with Islamic origins) turn to religion? Why we observe regular attendance at mosques and religious services?

    For me, two major reasons can explain that.
    The first one is the correlation between poverty and religion (or as explained in many studies “the positive consequences that come from the practice of religion, from the attendance of a church, synagogue or a mosque”).
    In Arabic or Islamic countries, many people live below poverty line. This desperate situation push them to adhere to some religion (Islam in our case) by believing on a better life after their death and why not a miracle (because God is big and in god we trust) which can change their lives. “Desperation could be a good reason to turn back to a religion”. And then people practice their religion by reading religious text if they had the chance to go to school; but as they are poor, they usually lack good education so they’d rather watching TV, religious channel to be informed about their religion and how to practice it (scarf, “burqua”, “hallal”, women-men relations…).

    The second reason is more observed in western countries and concerns an identity crisis; culture and religious identity crisis. The appeal to religion here is used as a rejection of Western imperialism or any form of assimilation. Teenagers with Arabic Islamic origins are usually lost and enduring an internal conflict of values and interests; they end up by embracing the same religion of their parents and manifesting visible signs, once again by watching Islamic channels to identify those signs.

    So why don’t we start by eradicating poverty and offering a better education? 😀

  2. August 23, 2010 5:01 pm

    Thank you Rihab, you are completely right. Many reasons are behind this religious “revival”:poverty, ignorance.. , and even the international politics.
    I am just suggesting one very small part of the solution, that of course cannot solve the problem by itself. I was just asking myself “what can we do now, right now, by ourselves?”
    Fighting poverty is a very long process and often lead to a feeling of helplessness, or a desperate wish for a far political change. This issue is also about personal responsibility of the presenters…and of us. What immediate and precise actions can we take now ?

  3. August 23, 2010 6:29 pm

    No one could deny the OBSERVATIONS you made Hatem. But let me comment some points.
    The central idea of your post, is to put these theologists in front of their responsability, and remember them that they have an audience. But, do you really think, they ignore that fact? Why are they proliferating so? Don’t neither forget, that people are giving them credit…Controlling the speakers via a sort of CSA, is just useless, in my sense. Who would be responsible of this? Because the main question, for me, is who are giving money? And what for?
    There is a global project, and it is question of interests, in one hand Wahabite people are trying to recover an hegemony they’ve lost, and in the other, they serve a wider project, of radicalism, and ignorance! (Yes ignorance is a project, and hard to achieve…)
    Liberalism and radicalism are not in conflict, the people you’re talking about use technology, talk about money, and use the banking system with no shame, and are a big part of the post-modernism, they buy!
    I would like, to take the case of Tunisian people. Let start by the assumption, that for me, the radicalism, is spreading over the society, and whereas no physical apperances can confirm or deny this observation, but the simple fact of understanding the messages, behind the ideas. Islamism, have always been, the solution for the State/Goverment, to eradicate socialism, and what we call “courant de gauche”, not only by advancing the idea of struggling against radicalist and using it to eradicate violently all the other movements, but by helping it, to enter the homes, the minds, and giving him the tools to do that. Enforcing the wide idea of paternalism, and let me say that Bourguiba, contributed (to not say instaured, but not his creation) this methodology. Don’t think, obey…you don’t understand, we explain…
    The “correlation” between, poverty and radicalism, is a wrong idea for me. To not enter in some demagogy, like saying, when we use quantitative words like correlation we have to be able, to quantify…But, let me recall, that there is no correlation between them, at least in Tunisia, and in the Magreb (North Africa), and the first people that are spreading such religious ideas have always been the rich ones, “La petite et Grande Bourgeoisie”, and unlike what the series and the films show, the rural people are not as much religious, neither the woman condition is worse than the one of urban women, but in opposite, it is better, because, women there are working, and are reliable source of productivity…And if you consider the urban places, you’ll see that people living in the ghettos, are less religious, than the ones living in rich neighborhoods. The Islam has always served the rich people, and history prove that, but also the ideas of this religion. (the other monotheism too…)
    Last but not least, education doesn’t mean the eradication of ignorance, and in some cases, I could quantify to you the correlation tending to 1, between them. Just think about the people you know, educated, and so narrow minded, proliferating the religious radicalist ideas, or at least tolerating or understanding them.
    Let me, expose a final idea: the point of view, in which you want by a way or another, to justify radical ideas, starting by the fact, that the problem is poverty and poor people, and because they are poor they are an ideal target to religious fascists, is just wrong, and dangerous. The radical are maybe around you, people you know, rich and well educated. The beginning of fascism, is to declare that people cannot understand your liberal thoughts, and you have to explain to them and save them from their “ignorance” and poverty.
    By the way very nice blog, if I have to create a blog I’ll definetely use this CMS, wordpress, is just classy. 🙂

  4. August 25, 2010 9:10 pm

    Thank you Habiba Messika for this great comment!
    I agree with you that there are so many reasons beyond poverty that may explain the radicalism among muslims in societies like Tunisia. I dont think that the idea of islamism as a tool to fight the left wing really applies in Tunisia, especially now.
    In general I believe strongly in personal responsability and I am not trying to “teach” poors, but to think about personal initiative we could take in order to fight what we think is wrong. One of them is to to target directly the main protagonists, in my opinion, and make them think twice. Other plans and actions have to be taken in parallel of course, but it is not the pupose of this little article. Let’s forget abou political change or revolution, what can we do now right NOW ?
    And yes you should use wordpress 🙂

  5. Habiba Msika permalink
    August 30, 2010 6:34 pm

    Thanks for the reply my friend.
    I’ll try to answer just the last question, which is the unique question by the way 🙂 “what can we do now right NOW ? ”
    I think the answer to this question couldn’t be “apolitical”, but let’s forget about politic, indeed…
    First of all, I would suggest people talking together, specifically in Tunisia which is hard to achieve for many reasons, but let’s dream…By talking together I mean debating, can a Tunisian person tell me about a social goal? Indeed, this country has been through several colonialism, Arabs, Turkish, and French, we have never decided what do we want.
    Do we want islamism? What kind Turkish sauce or Saudi one? What for? When?
    Have we discussed why are we under developed? Do we realize that? WHat do Tunisian think about Tunisian and why?
    But to be realistic, I do believe more in interests than in a sort of patriotic sense or belief, so to be short, what to do we expect, what are the problems, if your interest and mine converge, let’s think about a common solution, let’s talk, beyond hysteria (which is very hard to achieve since, the atmosphere is too stifling…)
    The second idea, is just to respond the “NOW” part, I think, please understand the meaning, there is no “emergency”, in the sense, that I don’t see the relevancy of subversive actions right now, but hardly believe in the power of discussion, analysis, and construction.
    It seems very hard even to me, to discuss when I see my dignity flouted, my integrity injured, every day, and what matters the place (France or Tunisia…), but I think I don’t have other choices, except constructing every day…
    Habiba Msika

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