Monday, February 18, 2008

kosovo, "pope" rowan, islam, tolerance and coexistence

cut me a little slack for resorting to postmodernist terminology but kosovo's (rather belated) independence should be "read" (1) not as a discreet political happening but in complementary contrast with two other recent incidents that give clues to the new formations within the modern universe: archbishop rowan williams's call to explore the possibilities of plural jurisdiction in british society and the resurgence of islamist hooliganism in denmark over the rehashed cartoon crisis.

although it is a step in an obviously opposite direction, kosovo independence could as well be pointing out to another step in the gradual bankruptcy of the exclusive centrality and power afforded to the nation state in preserving and sustaining social cohesion. kosovo is, after all, another mini (2) state of peasantly origin. its integrity with serbia is less a significant material loss to beograd than its loss of delusions of imperial grandeur, highly inflated by using russian gas.

kosovo's independence is, effectively, less the establishment of a new "centrality" that states signify than the disintegration of serbia's yugoslavian inheritance. kosovo cannot hope to stand on its own without the physical and moral support of global social forces that endorse a loosening of centralized political power into local autonomies and more freedoms for the individual - a modern revival of the greek polis, united within a worldwide network of communication would be the ideal global political system to replace the westfalia born organization of nation states.

dr. rowan' s rather far-fetched call for the recognition of islamic "requirements" in the workings of the british-cum-western juridicial/social system is another indicator that the political cohesion personified in the nation-state system has begun to fail in fulfilling its historical functions of a forced and pretended "national" homogeny within a given geography.

capitalism, the social and economic motivator of modernity, has evolved to a stage where functions of productivity (3) have become definable more in reference to merit, capability and efficiency, rather than the imperatives of belonging to any politically identified geography. even within the same city block, it matters less whether your neighbor is a sikh, a muslim, a protestant, a turk, a tutu or a finn etc., than how well (s)he can drive a truck, design a building, cook hamburgers or street brawl. more and more, groups that are formed of individuals who feel threatened by those "new" references:
i) hide into such false categories called "identity", in search of various ex-machina centralities that supposedly privilege them against those assumed to be more advantageous in terms of merit, capability and efficiency;
ii) cling to previously established such imaginary "identities", nation, class, parish etc., in an effort to safeguard vested interests, real or assumed - the french farmers, german neo-nazis, trade unions that eventually drive industries out to the third world from europe are among examples.

the archbishop of canterbury's suggestion that some sort of legally propped up pluralism based on religious variagation might merit consideration, comes as another sign that previous criteria of collective cohesion, highly regarded for the maintenance of the nation state system, such as the universality of the "law of the land" are slowly sliding into non-functionality, if not downtright dis-functionality (4). archbishop dr. rowan is in practice, the pope of (the church of) england. by historic definition, he is the headman of the queen's religion. in other words, he is the chief priest of a state religion.

however, the archbishop's call sounds far fetched because the "sharia" law he claims the muslims of britain desire and covet, represents just the opposite of what kosovo's independence signifies: just as kosovo's emergence as a state is a step away from the system of states supposedly begun in westfalia, dr. rowan's kind of "religious" multiculturalism instates a new centrality inherently incompatible with the globality of capitalist modernity. it institutes not the individualized plurality of merit, capability and efficiency but the constricting, collectiv-izing centrality of sharia that purports to bind 1.5 billion people as a quasi-nation dispersed everywhere in the modern world. it underwrites islam's essential claim to ecumenic, monolithic legitimacy by reducing myriad cultural differences of 1.5 billion people to an all-subsuming religion; thus subjecting it gto ultimate political abuse, too.

in a world where geography has become more relevant in reference to a variety of experiences of social/global temoporality, rather than mere cartographic coordinates, such miscegenation of (multi)culturally defined temporal geographies is possible only if tolerance is mutual, so that co-existence is organically possible. any unilaterally extended liberty to a minority, purporting to be an "identity", such as muslims in the west contend, has to be reciprocated in full with a similarly effective contribution to coexistence.

where islam is concerned though, events in denmark point out that such a level of mutual tolerance is still way off . even less extreme examples of islamic politics fail to inspire a confidence that muslim communities are ready to offer any support to efficient coexistence in identical or contiguous zones of time-space. the rift between the seculars and political islam in turkey is additional corrob oration that even in more homogenous populations, such tolerance may not come easy.

i find the mohammed cartoons published by the danish paper jyllands-posten abhorrent because of terribly bad taste and depressing lack of humor. neither can i approve the use of mohammed to censure uncouth hordes of uncivilized persons who claim to be his followers. in my opinion, the very just criticism of islamist violence in the cartoons has lost its impact because the reverred prophet of muslims who is totally innocent in the contemporary massacres fanatics enact in his name, was selected to denounce the act of hooliganism committed by muslims.

however, as far as the invioolable freedom of opinion and expression is concerned, neither the lack of taste, nor my (or anybody's) approval, nor the essential wrongfulness of the carricatures can justify their censorship or worse, their censorship through death threats, lethal assaults and the very ruffianism of the islamists that the cartoons mock. in itself, this is an indication that too many muslims are probably incapable of the kind of tolerance that can breed efficient multicultural coexistence and neither are ready to stand corrected.

oh, the catch here is quite ironic: if that level of critical, pluralist, democratic tolerance is ever attained by the muslims, there will remain scant need for switching to multiple juridicialism.

(1) to "read" instead of interpret, view, place etc, is a verb usurped by postmodernist literature but it was used by (mainly) marxian and liberal writers, too, in the pre-postmodernist era. let us note here however that many posties are continuances of the disgruntled marxian tradition.
(2) less by measure of population or area than the "exiguous" historic contribution its society has made to the economic and cultural collective acquis of humanity.
(3) this should be "read" as "reproduction of all functions of human existence", from economics to emotions; or all its actions, from baking bread to committing murder.
(4) i refer to robert k. merton' s terminology here: non-functional is just that; dis-functional plays a negative role in maintaining a functionally integrated social whole.

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