Islamo-Nationalism: Somalia Edition

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Chris Dierkes

Chris Dierkes (aka CJ Smith). 29 years old, happily married, adroit purveyor and voracious student of all kinds of information, theories, methods of inquiry, and forms of practice. Studying to be a priest in the Anglican Church in Canada. Main interests: military theory, diplomacy, foreign affairs, medieval history, religion & politics (esp. Islam and Christianity), and political grand bargains of all shapes and sizes.

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  1. Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

    We are fighting an ideology that is represented by a series of non-state actors: these groups challenge the authority of states, challenge the rule of law, operate across state boundaries, use indiscriminate violence in an asymmetric fight to achieve their aims and so forth. If we don’t understand the enemy, we’re doomed from the start. This “islamo-nationalism” idea doesn’t help and that the only support you have for it is Oliver Roy just makes it worse. Why do you rely on him? Of all the scholars of Islam I can think of, he’s the least reliable. In 2004, he said that Hamas was cooperating with Fatah in the interests of “islamo-nationalism.” His ideas lead to such egregious errors.

    If nationalism was an important part of Arab or Islamic ideology, then what was stopping them from negotiating in 1937/1947/2000 with respect to Palestine/Israel? In contrast, Zionism is a nationalist ideology and they had no qualms in those years of accepting an offer of a nation-state, even if the offer didn’t fullfil all their desires. Arabs, in contrast, accept no compromise, in part because they do not accept the idea of the nation-state if it isn’t somehow Islamic–which means that it isn’t based on nationalism in the first place. If they won’t compromise, then they must be defeated. To preempt my being called a racist neo imperialist warmonger, this defeat does not have to be a genocidal bloodbath. It can happen through diplomacy, if people in the West agree that it should happen. Unfortunately, this is not happening today so the bloodshed will go on.

    “Islamo-nationalism” will appeal to people who lack an understanding of the Arab/Islamic world because it appeals to a founding principle of the Western political world-view. It’s a “given.” But it isn’t a given in the Arab/Islamic world, where people’s primary loyalties go to the family, tribe, region, sect, and ultimately, religion. Even more so, it’s anathema to the Islamist ideology. Of course, everyone today lives in a nation-state even if they want to overthrow it. That’s because the West has succeeded in imposing this idea on the whole world. It’s part of the idea of globalization. But that hardly implies that everyone wants to preserve the western model, even if they want to overthrow a particular nation-state and replace it with another (their own). Islamists reject the Western model in its entirety, and this includes nationalism. They want to impose an Islamic model of globalization on the world, not just tweak the Western model so as to get more “rights” and “freedom.” These ideas are not even part of their world view to begin with. By trying to understand today’s Islamists as nationalists, we’re distorting reality in unacceptable ways. Roy’s intention is to oppose the US-led backlash against the Islamist attacks, not to provide an analysis that will be useful for us in this fight.

    If there’s any place on earth that shows the folly of imposing nationalism on the Arab/Islamic world view, that place is Somalia. There has never been a nation-state there. It is wholly a creation of European colonialism and did not make the transition to post colonialism. This imposition of the Western worldview has generated crisis after crisis in Somalia. For a contrast, just look at Djibouti. The West has never cared about it, so they have been able to organize things in their own way, which means that Djibouti is controlled by clans.

    The Bush administration’s policy of rejecting any Islamist group is the correct one and it will be followed by the Obama administration as well. This policy did not cause any bloodshed whatsoever. The bloodshed was and is caused by the Islamist’s attacks on us, which we responded to correctly by putting ourselves on a war footing. That’s because Islamism has the goal of replacing the Western world order with an Islamist world order. At this level, no negotiations are possible, and never will be until either we or the Islamists are defeated. I want our side to win. What about you?Report

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