It’s not an easy task to describe how that intricate propaganda machine is unceasingly manipulating the masses. But the methods of recruitment and preparations are as diverse and all-encompassing as to take into account every detail that touch upon the individuals’ real and virtual life. From hard and intense indoctrination materials to frothy, sport and entertainment activities, to social media agitprop—the formidable ideological mobilizations of the masses appears more and more thriving in scope and scale across the board.
In every day and every hour they are shaping minds, gaining hearts and gathering momentum for the Islamic Homeric event yet to come. An Islamic Sunni revolution quest, that has lagged for so long, after its Shiite counterpart had achieved its goals—is riding even higher than at the first wave of the Arab spring. Seizing every action and stimulating every reaction.
The first experimental version of a revived Islamic caliphate, its horrifying atrocities and illustrated digital bestiaries, and its final collapse—didn’t drive the advocates of Islamism nor their hardcore followers among the masses to revisit their beliefs and reverse their path. Instead, it was all forgotten and forgiven like it has never happened and, at any rate, it is very likely that a more mature and robust gory experience of the kind will take place in the near future.
Saying that, my mind goes to the current dynamics of an Islamist Turkey in the region, and how, in a matter of a few years, its influence and popularity stretched away as far as Libya and Tunisia to the west, Mosul to the south—with a military base in Qatar—and Azerbaijan to the east. The hope of the Islamized Arabs is now knotted to the mane of a neo-Ottoman horse. Erdogan is actually encircling the Arabian waistline, but not yet effectively embracing it.
In this crypto-Islamist “democratic” uprisings sweeping the Middle East, the so-called liberals and leftists of the MENA region (though these designations do not always reflect accurately the reality of those assessed broadly as supportive of secular values) as frail and faint as they are, and through their righteous fight against brutal dictatorships—are no more than social media figures, illusory impression, a phony coat to attract international support for a totalitarian sea change. That was quite the job assigned to the secular entourage of the Ayatollah Khomeini when he was still an exiled man in France before he got rid of them after the revolution; jailing, executing and persecuting thousands of secular-minded revolutionaries.
The ideology officers, if we may call them so, comprise several hundreds of high-ranking doctrinaires ranging from intellectuals, academics, clerics and businessmen, celebrities and movie makers, singers, journalists and writers, senior Tv hosts and talk show stars, etc., whose main role is to influence the proletariat in social media and broadly promote the cult. At the top, there are two main arbiters who, each from his side, preside over his respective sect: Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi—the Qatari ruler’s mentor—and his aides from Doha oversee Islamist procedures, and Azmi Bishara, the left hand of the Qatari emir guides—from his high-end offices in London and through the New Arab gazette and the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies—the workings of the pan-Arab “secular” branch, coordinating efforts and mending fences between the two ideologies. But certainly, in disputes over funding or influence, Islamists always have the last word.
Communism, with all its shortcomings and deficiencies was the fruit of a great intellectual work based on observation and experiment, accurate economical analysis, social studies and researches; it had had its time of glory and glow, its own great founding fathers, philosophers and artists, poets and novelists; it had, at least in theory, a noble objective and a tendency to heal the suffering of the poor. By contrast Islamism is an ideology of ignorance and pure hate and discrimination based on pathos and rhetorics of fear and castigation. A totalitarian perspective. A supremacy of the Mohammedian thought and doctrines, demanding total obedience, theoretically and practically.
Nonetheless, it’s a wealthy ideology as its main patrons are the warlords of the energy-rich Gulf Sheikhdoms, and that has given it the ability to substitute its intrinsic barrenness and lack of freedom and creativity with ingenious borrowed minds of a cluster of gold diggers Western scholars and experts. Now in the Education City in Qatar, one can encounter branches of the world top schools and universities like Northwestern and Carnegie Mellon, Virginia Commonwealth, Georgetown, etc., which are tasked with sophisticating ideas and perspectives and equipping the ideology with scientific methods and technological tools required to carry on successfully the ideological work.
As far as Palestine is concerned it has come to represent, in the imagination of the masses, a kind of a never-never land; it’s not simply a land to be freed from its “impure Jewish occupants,” the eternal enemies of Allah, but rather a utopian notion that has been slithered throughout the years to occupy the center of every Muslim and Arab life—every misery or catastrophe, every oppression or oppressor, every major incident in the life of those nations is linked one way or another to the Jews. Hence the popular slogan coined by former Islamic Jihad (PIJ) leader Fathi Chikaki—later adopted by the Arab league—“Palestine is the central cause of the Islamic nation.”
Consequently, it became a magnet to consolidate the unity of the masses (the fascist Ummah) in the Arabsphere to the point that even anti-Islamist but uncompromisingly anti-Jewish leftists find themselves in a downward spiral and eventually swallowed by the vortex of the Islamic will that dominates the scene and dictates the rules.
In 1960-70s Islamists were at the vanguard of a dormant conservative wave, having the attitudes of those coming from the uncivilized countryside but with an ideological consciousness to their existential stance. They were distinguishable in the urban areas of the Arab capital cities, isolated in their bubbles without charm nor resources. Cairo, Damascus, Tunis, Rabat even Tehran were swinging with the Swinging Sixties cultural revolution. Islamists then were easily detectable by their appearances, their social norms, their classic-Arabic style of conversations, their isolationist stance and culture of alienation (ightirab) from a heretic society. And suddenly the oil prices skyrocketed and the Wahhabis of the desert resumed a new era of futūḥ.
Now, half a century on, they have come to be the mainstream majority and found out there is absolutely no need anymore for the use of Islamist terminology or any ideological compartmentalization—the Other simply ceased to exist. In effect the majority have gotten tarred with the same brush, that led a notorious hard-line Islamic Kuwaiti professor, Abdallah Al-Nafisi, to call for non-use of the term Islamic movement anymore, and to even dissolve all the Islamist political organizations including the Muslim Brotherhood. In the end, Who needs a National Socialist party if all the people were members of the party or supporters of its ideology.