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April 29, 2010


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Noticing this, maybe your views on Islam are not as "black and white" as I thought.
Which only makes your views on Palestine/Israel all the more perplexing.
Of course, you do say it's "self evident" that "punk and Islam, and anarchism and Islam do not sit together. At all." So you're not really that open minded then. Who defines "islam" to say what it's compatible or incompatible with - you, or Muslims? I know loads - loads! - of Muslims who smoke weed and many who drink alcohol (and also some back home in Guyana who drink very copious amounts of very potent alcohol, smuggle cocaine in frozen fish, bottles of pepper sauce etc., and virulently hate black people because we are supposedly all "criminals"... but that's a different story.)
Ali Khalid Abdullah, a former political prisoner in the U.S. is an anarchist muslim and I'm sure he's not the only one. You can find a powerful speech by him if you google for a minute (a speech which mentions neither anarchism nor Islam by name, by the way).
And the very fact that these bands exist shows that Islam and punk do indeed sit together.
You're a bit of an enigma Paul. I thought I had you pegged but I'm not sure now. Maybe I'll have to dig up that comment about immigrants and students and your wages that anarcho purist quoted in full, in the original context, to finally make up my mind.

Dr Paul Stott

Rasta - I take the view that Anarchism is incompatible with Islam. Put very simply, Islam is translated as submission to God, whilst Anarchism has always been characterised as the exact opposite - the rejection of authority and hierarchy.

I'm perfectly happy with an Islam that allows its adherents to declare their faith and at the same time smoke weed and drink alcohol - the problem is that it has usually only been in either colonial society or liberal democracies that Muslims have been able to conduct themselves in such a manner. Any such choice has usually been removed in states declaring themselves Islamic - Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, even now Malaysia. I could go on.

I am not familiar with the US prisoner you mention. I would however be dubious of any anarcho-Islam emerging from the US prison system, where historically the dominant form of Islam was that of the Nation of Islam. The NoI has little if anything to do with Islam as it is practised anywhere else. It is instead characterised by a bizarre veneration of its own leaders (Elijah Muhammad, Farrakhan etc) and ridiculous theories on the origin of man that read more like science fiction or a L Ron Hubbard style cult than Islam.

Much of this can probably be blamed on Wallace Fard, who FBI records suggest was not even black, but a con-man from New Zealand, that and traditional US religious hucksterism.

When I was up to speed on US Anarchist Black Cross literature (in the 90s) there was certainly a lot of black prisoners on their lists who were in contact with Anarchist groups, and had changed their names to reflect the vogue at the time for African consciousness and/or the NoI. How many were actually Anarchists, rather than simply guys who were happy to receive the support of Anarchists, was never that clear to me. It could be there is a current there, I don't know.

Certainly in the UK prison system a rather unpleasant strand of Islam has developed post 9/11 - it could be that has begun to outstrip the NoI in the US now?


Just wrote a long reply to the above that the blog wouldn't let me post - I guess cos it was too long. I'll try to shorten it and put it up in the next couple days. Briefly: Ali Khalid Abdullah is not in the NOI and I don't think he ever has been. There have been Black anarchists in the U.S. since at least the early 70s (people like Kuwasi Balagoon) and many would argue that groups like SNCC had many anarchistic elements whilst obviously not being explicitly anarchist. In my experience orthodox islam is more influential than the NOI in Black america as a whole - as far as the prison system, I dunno, I'll have to ask my cousin when they release him from the said system. Well, gotta go, will adress your idea of the incompatibility of anarchism and islam later.


Right, I'll post this in parts - sorry if I sound long winded, I'm trying to address various things that I have an issue with you about:
Islam is indeed generally translated as you say (although a lot of my Muslim friends prefer to say it means "peace" rather than "submission" - the words "salaam" and "islam" come from the same etymological root, which meant "peace"). But what is meant by "submission"? What is meant by "god"? What if you believe (as I do) that so-called "god" is indwelling in your self, that you have to "go within or go without" as some of the Rasta elders say? To I the "voice of god" is the voice inside I that tells I right from wrong. What if you take "submission" to mean more like "alignment" - so that "submission to God", rather than meaning bowing down to some external anthropomorphic deity who is going to give you instructions that are to be followed without question, means simply being in alignment with your own natural self? In any properly balanced human being such an alignment will indeed have elements of "submission". Our natural impulses have to be controlled to an extent or we'd be going around trying to rape every attractive woman we laid eyes on.
I am not a Muslim myself and I have not read the Quran in full in Arabic (as you're supposed to to actually get the full message of it) so I couldn't say how much that loose interpretation of "submission to god" might be supported or proscribed by the scripture that orthodox muslims say is the direct word of "god", but it sounds fair enough to me, and quite similar to the position people like Michael Muhammad Knight and others seem to be taking (by the way, a quick google search for muslim anarchists results in a number of hits where people who do consider themselves to be such explain themselves.)
As far as oppressive Islamic states - states that do not brand themselves Islamic also prohibit and punish people's individual behaviours that should be no one's concern but theirs. Guyana is not an Islamic state but the fucking police can shoot 15-year old kids in the back and leave them to bleed to death for the high crime of smoking a joint. The U.S.A. is not an Islamic state but Rastafarian prisoners can be put into solitary confinement for decades on end simply because they refuse to cut their hair (in some states). States that have declared themselves to be "Christian", "Mormon", "Jewish" etc. have not, in my view, proven themselves to be any more tolerant than those that have declared themselves "Islamic". What difference do you see between the "mad mullahs" of Saudi Arabia or Afgahnistan, and the Christian religious right in the U.S.? Or the people who were born and brought up in Brooklyn who think that an ancient holy book gives them the right to kick Palestinina farmers off their land and take it over with an Uzi in one hand and a Torah in the other? What about the right wing Hindu nationalists of India?
Any state is inherently oppressive; I would think as an anarchist you would agree; any explicitly religious state tends to be even more oppressive than the average state. I fail to see how this applies to Islam alone. Maybe it might seem to especially apply to it because there are more states in the present day world that call themselves Islamic than there are that call themselves Christian, etc.
My problem with you has never been that you criticize Islam. I criticize Islam. My problem with you is that you seem to criticize it above and beyond the extent to which you criticize other religions. Take your comment in response to my point about the Bible and the Torah containing passages inciting people to mass murder and infanticide. You said "not all religions take their books so literally" or something of the sort. Well, it might be news to you as a 40-something (I gather) living in a society where religion hasn't had a very strong hold since the end of the world wars - but in the rest of the world, a great many Christians etc. do indeed take ever word of the Bible absolutely literally. And conversely, there are definitely Muslims who "pick and choose" which parts of the Quran they follow and which they don't, regardless of whether they're "supposed" to according to the "orthodoxy".


Now as far as your comment about Ali Khalid Muhammad and the NOI... you said that you are not familiar with Bro. Ali (who is an ex-prisoner, not a current prisoner). Perhaps it might behoove you to familiarise yourself with people before making comments about them... this is the information age after all... he even has an email address so you could ask him yourself what he means by "Islam" and "anarchism" if you wanted... but anyway... no he is not an NOI member and to my knowledge never has been. It's fair enough to be "dubious" about whatever, I suppose - I'm "dubious" about some of the things you say on this board, as you would have noticed. I am trying not to let my "dubiousness" cloud my judgment and to find out what you actually think, rather than what I think you think, though - you might want to do the same before leaping to conclusions about "anarcho-islam emerging from the U.S. prison system."
"Historically the dominant form of Islam [in the US prison system] was the Nation of Islam": this might have been true in the 50s and 60s, I doubt if it is true today. My cousin is unfortunately in the clutches of the U.S. federal prison system, so maybe I'll get my auntie to ask him next time she visits.
I used to live in and have lots of family connections to a town called East Orange, New Jersey, which is both one of the Blackest towns in the U.S. and one of the most Muslim (at least the blocks around where I used to stay were). Certainly the majority of Muslims there are orthodox muslims, not NOI. NOI has never had that huge a membership. They have always had a lot more general support from non-members who appreciated their stance on various issues, than they have had actual members.
I've met a fair few people who are either NOI members or who were born into it. While I don't have a lot good to say about the organisation - other than that they have a good recipe for beanpies - most of the people who I've met who are in it or influenced by it are decent people who I could get along with fine, at least to an extent. More people have been attracted to NOI because they do things like drive crack dealers out of projects (u.s. equivalent of a council estate) than for their admittedly rather strange and objectionable theological cocktail. They're in it because they love their fellow Black people, not because they hate the jews or believe spaceships are coming to rescue them (although some might of course believe both those things, it's not the main motivation for people to join).
The bizarre beliefs of the NOI are actually no more bizarre than the stories in longer-established religions. I could see how their philosophy would make more sense to a sharecropper's son/slave's grandson than the christian church. White people as devils rang true for a lot of Blacks because that's been a lot of Blacks' experience of white people. In the absence of a decent scientific education, how were people supposed to know the patent ridiculousness of some of the NOI's stories? Anyway, the NOI pales (no pun intended) in comparison to more new-fangled African-American sects like the "Israeli Church of Universal Practical Knowledge" who dress up as Klingons (looks like that to me) and harangue passersby in NYC(especially Black women, who they seem to hate more than the white people who are their "official" enemies), or the always entertaining Nuwaubians (entertaining unless your child is getting molested by their leader, that is).
In my view, NOI was, while objectionable, at one point more of a good thing than a bad thing for Black people. It served a purpose. I don't believe it serves much good purpose any more as the positive things it does do can be done by other groups without its rigidly authoritarian structure, sexism, bizarre beliefs etc. I think the U.S. government deliberately allowed Farrakhan to go ahead and do his thing without too much harrasment because they knew that ultimately he was taking potentially revolutionary people down a dead end. The great self taught historian John Henrik Clarke had a good analysis of Farrakhan, I think - it's online if you look for it.
There is and has been an anarchist current in Black american politics for some time and it was not all due to receiving literature from the ABC. People like Kuwasi Balagoon of the BPP/Black Liberation Army declared themselves to be anarchists long, long ago, and a fair amount of former Panthers now identify as such - Ashanti Alston (who I've met - a great guy) is one of the better known of these.


Well that's been a long ramble, I hope it didn't also come across as a pompous or irrelevant ramble... but anyway, one more thing, about the work people do, another topic that has come up on here:
My auntie who I mentioned above is what I suppose you would call a "social worker" [though I hope without the sneering contempt implied when you used that phrase regarding something I said in another thread]. She is about as working class as you could get by the way, she ain't got a bougie bone in her body so kindly dispel whatever notions of middle class do gooders that might come into your mind when you see the phrase "social worker". She counsels young offenders in the New York prison system - 13 year olds who are locked up for prostitution and murder, things like that. I do not take the view that New York City is any "better" a place for those kids to grow up in, than an Islamic state is for the kids who end up in prison in Islamic states. They are both fucked up. They may be fucked up in different ways but one is not more fucked up than the other.
I still feel that, whatever you might feel about any contradiction between professing to be a Muslim (or Christian or Jewish or Hindu or Sikh) and an anarchist, it is a much greater contradiction to profess to be an anarchist whilst implying support for, not just any state, but one of the most vicious, unfair, rapacious, piratical gangster states that exists in a world of gangster states - i.e. "Israel".
If you don't intend to imply support for Israel, then you should take care using language that suggests that you do.
One final thing before I stop running off at the mouth. It may well be that there are links between terrorism in the name of Islam and actual passages in the Koran. However it is blatantly obvious to me that the MAIN thing fuelling "islamic terrorism" is the fact that Muslims anywhere in the world can look at the TV, read the paper and see that their fellow Muslims all over the world are getting blown to kingdom come by western powers (and their allies, including "islamic states" such as pakistan). That's the MAIN thing. Various shadowy imams and mad mullahs may be whispering sinister koranic passages into the ears of impressionable youngsters but the reason the youngsters are listening is that they've seen the massacre of Gaza, they've seen the annihilation of a million plus people in Iraq, etc. etc. Maybe the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam found some quotes from the Bhagavad Gita or something to justify suicide bombing (invented in its modern form by this group of Hindus and secular nationalists, not by any Islamic cleric) - but they wouldn't have had a ready supply of "black widows" if the Sri Lankan military hadn't murdered their husbands. That's just common sense to me



I would think UK folks would see this crackpot for what he is. Hanif Kureishi, your own UK muslim punk author, was doing this back in the '80s. The argument is not about Islam and Anarchism, its about Mike Knight stealing from real Muslims, creating a vulgar fantasy and selling it back to them. The fact that UK muslims and US muslims are moved by his work shows an extreme lack of self-esteem. Rather then pump up existing Muslim authors and/or marginalize this work horse hack we put Lawrence of the Arabia on a f*cking pedestal. Again moved by white charm. The only question he brings up is the question of why he still is standing.

Yassin Merrigan

@laura-- Lawrence of Arabia? Does Muslim equate for you to being some shade of brown? Can you tell me what color a Catholic should be then, or a buddhist?
Islam is a religion, not a race, and what about the over 3 million white Bosnian Muslims, or Chechnya?

Yassin Merrigan

As to Islam and Anarchism, Anarchism is a rejection of STATE and GOVERNMENT and MANS LAW, of men holding power over their fellow human beings. Just because Atheism is the current trend among Anarchists, belief in god doesn't mean belief in state, "Islamic" or otherwise. There are Ismaili's and sufi's who dismiss all formalism completely and focus on their personal awareness and God consciousness, nothing to do with state-ism. If Atheism is force fed as part of Anarchism, then its really not Anarchy is it? No more than if it were religion they were pushing. Anarchism, whether Syndicalist, Socialist, Communist, whatever, is about freedom, equality, and rejection of the nation state and the greed based economics it represents and serves. That goes fine with MY interpretation of Islam, in which all the customs and teachings and rules really boil down to one thing- Do no harm, and if unavoidable, limit the harm you do as much as possible, out of love for God, real God, not the anthropomorphic president in the sky imagined by the ignorant.


Exactly Yassin - I actually feel I have more in common with atheists than I do with mainstream religion, but I feel like both are incomplete pictures of the world. A lot of atheists seems to think it's a black and white either/or world where you are either a brainwashed robotic worshipper of ancient texts, or have no spiritual side whatsoever.
I'm 100% concerned with this world here and now, not some imagined afterlife, but at the same time I know that I am an immortal being who has been here before and will be here again. I have zero interest in convincing anyone else of that or converting anyone to anything, that's just something I know within myself.

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