11 February 2007

Anti-imperialism as an Emotional Spasm?

I was taken by a Brendan O'Neill piece on Comment is Free:

"Reading recent reports and media coverage, and trawling through the arguments of the anti-war movement, you could be forgiven for thinking so. Everyone seems obsessed with "Muslim anger" and with British and American foreign policy. Government officials send each other handwringing memos asking what should be done about the Muslim community's distress over Iraq. Self-serving Muslim community groups use "community anger" to politically blackmail officials, warning that if they don't change their foreign policy there could be another 7/7. The leaders of the anti-war movement try to harness "Muslim fury"; they seem to believe that putting some Muslim youth at the head of their marches adds a dash of authentic and raw emotion that is sorely lacking in the ranks of the exhausted old left.

This privileging of "Muslim anger" over other arguments against western military interventionism is a disaster for progressive politics. Making Muslim spokespeople the authoritative critical voice on British foreign policy degrades anti-imperialism. That political tradition was about universalism and solidarity. It took as its starting point the idea that people around the world had common interests, and much to gain by standing shoulder-to-shoulder against western warmongering. Today's "Muslim anger" takes the opposite starting point: that only Muslims understand the pain and suffering of people in Iraq or Palestine, because they have a special religious/emotional connection with them. It represents the triumph of the personal over the political; the particularistic over the universal; the politics of victimhood over the politics of solidarity. It is anti-imperialism reduced to an emotional spasm.

. . ."

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