A New Theology of Power

Category: Americas, World Affairs Topics: Occupation, United States Of America Views: 1623

"This book sounds an alarm: Israel, through the deep and pervasive power of its lobby, threatens deeply-cherished American values - especially free speech, academic freedom and our commitment to human rights." Paul Findlay, They Dare To Speak Out (1985)

In 1982, Paul Findley, went down in his re-election bid after serving in the Congress for twenty-two years, and the principal pro-Israeli lobby in Washington took credit for his defeat. What was the Congressman's crime? He had crossed a line drawn by the Israeli lobby in United States; he had violated the ban on meeting Arafat.

This past week I too had a small taste of the same medicine. No, I am not a public figure, nor had I met with Arafat or any other Palestinian degraded to "terrorist" ranks  by Israel's lexical offensive. I am only a professor, an obscure peddler of dissent, who, once tenure was secured, had been left reasonably well-alone by school administrators, colleagues, and assorted self-appointed censors. How then did I get into trouble?

Over the past year, however, I began to cross that thin line which I should have known one crosses only at some peril. I began to talk and write about Israel. None of this would have been newsworthy if I had been reading from the script; but I was  not. Instead, I began calling a spade a spade. In other words, I was stepping over the line.

Although invisible, this line is like a charged electrical cable. I first stepped on this cable when I spoke at a seminar on September 11 at Northeastern University in October 2001. I had planned on providing a historical backdrop to the attacks on the Twin Towers, drawing attention to the record of French, British and American interventions in the region. My principal concern was that such an attempt, so soon after September 11, might be greeted with hostility. To my pleasant surprise, I was proved wrong. At the end of the seminar, not a few stepped forward to thank me for speaking out.

But the matter did not end there. I was informed by the Chair of my department soon after the talk that a colleague had emailed to complain that I had departed from the announced theme of the seminar. Later, the same day, as I was walking across the campus, I was stopped by a professor who informed me that he was at my talk, and he proceeded to accuse me of "hate speech." Apparently, he had been troubled by a passing reference to the peculiar history of Israel.

The impact of September 11 on the lives of Americans was best summed up by the feeling that it had changed every thing. I shared in America's grief at the wanton loss of human lives, the first in their recent history; though I had known this grief before, many times before. September 11 was changing me too. I was witnessing the curtailment of civil liberties in United States, growing attacks on Islam, and the triumph of lobbies who wanted United States to wage endless wars against the rest of the world. I decided to step out of my academic shell. It was time to speak to some real issues.

Among other things, when a campaign for the academic boycott of Israel was initiated in early April, I decided to join the campaign. When I invited a few colleagues to join the boycott, one described the boycott as destructive, prompting me to explain why I thought this campaign was morally justified. I did so in an essay, "An Academic Boycott of Israel," which was first published in Counterpunch.Org on July 31, and it has since appeared on several websites, newspapers and discussion groups. Of course, this prompted both angry and supportive emails; only one threatened violence. On the whole I was pleased at the response.

There was worse to come. On September 3, the Jerusalem Post carried a report on my essay, without any mention its title or substance, under the heading, "US Prof Justifies Palestinian Terror Attacks." This provoked more angry emails to me, the Chair of Economics, and some others at Northeastern University. Over the next two days, I was also contacted by The Jewish Advocate, Boston Herald, Bloomberg News, and The O'Reilly Factor. Although flattered by the attention, I declined the invitation to meet the honorable Mr. Bill O'Reilly.

On September 5, taking the cue from the Post, the Herald published another malicious and sensational report on my essay. It was headlined, "Prof Shocks Northeastern with Defense of Suicide Bombers." It claimed that my article "sent shock-waves through the Fenway campus yesterday," but quoted only one of my colleagues. This report too made no mention of the title or substance of my essay, justifiably raising suspicions about the reporter's motive. And although I had responded in a timely manner to their email, the reporter claimed that he could not contact me by phone or email.

It is curious how these reports had inverted the objective of my essay. My essay made a case for an academic boycott, a quintessentially non-violent act, as an alternative to the recent Palestinian acts of desperation. By showing greater solicitude for the Palestinians' desperate plight, I argued, international civil society could give hope to this beleaguered people, and persuade them to act with greater patience in the face of Israel's brutal military Occupation. The Post and Herald had twisted a moral case for non-violent action into justification for terror.

It would appear that I had crossed the line in advocating an academic boycott of Israel, and I had to be punished. To quote from Taha Abdul-Basser (Herald, September 9), what the Post and Herald "actually find distasteful is the thought that intelligent, well-spoken people of conscience should call for a moral stand against the oppressive and unjust behavior of Israel." At least in United States, it is the Israeli narrative that has dominated public discourse on policies towards the Middle East. This narrative speaks only of Jewish claims to Palestine, and presents Israel as a victim of Arab hatred of all things Western, a beleaguered outpost of Western civilization in an ocean of Arab barbarians. My essay was unacceptable because it questions this narrative.

The attacks against me perhaps are not over yet. As I was finishing this essay on the night of September 8, I learned that I had been 'spoofed' - a new word in my lexicon. Someone had stolen my identity and sent out a malicious e-mail to administrators and colleagues at Northeastern. The spoof was quite crude, making it hard for anyone to believe it could have originated from me. Or perhaps, I am being naive.

In the days following the September 11 attacks, President Bush had advanced a vision of the world framed in Manichean terms. You are either with us, or you are against us. We are innately good, but all those who oppose us are evil-doers; their violence against us is metaphysical, it springs from their devilish nature, and has no political or sociological causes. Instantly, this new-fangled political doctrine was also transformed into a theology. It applied not only to countries but also to individuals, aliens and citizens alike. Any dissent with the Bush doctrine could be regarded as blasphemous, as support for terrorism. This is the new theology of power, whose foundations and ramifications are being worked out feverishly every day by hawks of every stripe.

In the same manner that Israel, Russia, China, India, and many smaller powers besides, have appropriated this new theology to suppress the legitimate resistance of various oppressed peoples as terrorist activities, a variety of hawkish lobbies have been using the media to stifle discourse by painting their opponents with the brush of terrorism. In attacking me, the Post and Herald reports have employed the same strategy.

I am afraid that if these efforts are allowed to succeed, we may soon witness the narrowing or, worse, the closing, of all discourse on history, foreign policy, rights, justice, resistance, violence, power, oppression, sanctions, imperialism, and - lest I be accused of offering a partial list - terrorism. We will be free only to mouth slogans.

Down with terrorism! Down with our enemies! Down with Islam!

M. Shahid Alam is Professor of Economics at Northeastern University, Boston. Copyright 2002: M. Shahid Alam










  Category: Americas, World Affairs
  Topics: Occupation, United States Of America
Views: 1623

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Older Comments:
Response to Ester.

You must either be living in a cave to say that the only reason Islam is growing is because of immigration or you see so many conversions that you cannot stand it.

Check this website and read about all the testimonies of people who have found Islam. You might benefit from their stories and might one day realise the truth of Islam. But first you must have a sincere heart.



In respose to J .Schumann

Here is a good reading for you to educate yourself about Muhammad and your "God" from a netral source. I wonder why he chose Muhammad as the most influencial person in history.




From the 100, a Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History

by Michael H. Hart

My choice of Muhammad to lead the list of the world's most influential persons may surprise some readers and may be questioned by others, but he was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular levels.

Of humble origins, Muhammad founded and promulgated one of the world's great religions, and became an immensely effective political leader. Today, thirteen centuries after his death, his influence is still powerful and pervasive.

The majority of the persons in this book had the advantage of being born and raised in centers of civilization, highly cultured or politically pivotal nations. Muhammad, however, was born in the year 570, in the city of Mecca, in southern Arabia, at that time a backward area of the world, far from the centers of trade, art, and learning. Orphaned at age six, he was reared in modest surroundings. Islamic tradition tells us that he was illiterate. His economic position improved when, at age twenty-five, he married a wealthy widow. Nevertheless, as he approached forty, there was little outward indication that he was a remarkable person.

Most Arabs at that time were pagans, who believed in many gods. There were, however, in Mecca, a small number of Jews and Christians; it was from them no doubt that Muhammad first learned of a single, omnipotent God who ruled the entire universe. When he was forty years old, Muhammad became convinced that this one true God (Allah) was speaking to him, and had chosen him to spread the true faith.

=== Go to the above website to read the rest.

Esther8, it may shock you or surprise you to know that many Americans from all ethnic backgrounds are embracing Al-Islam as a way of life. If all of your information about muslims in America is derived from the popular media sources then I can appreciate why you may be misinformed.

H Bhutta is right. Knowing only lies about Islam, I read the Quran in a bookstore. I embraced Islam on the way to the checkout stand. Of course, I am all for Muslim immigration into my country, as well.

H Bhutta, the only reason Islam is growing in the West is because of immigration. Now I doubt it bothers you if any Europeans are killed. Whether the Europeans are were in the twin towers or killed somewhere else. The Muslims had an empire before the British. America is not an empire. America just beleives in taking care of itself. That is all.

I know that at this moment in time USA is powerful country in terms of weapons. so whatever it says other nations obey and submit to the will of George Bush??? if he says it is day rest of the world particulary European countries will say yes it is a day when it is night outside and within their souls. no nation has got the guts to say no. not everything which Bush is saying is right. God has given us mind which is the most powerful "power" in the world. we should see back in history every nation has pride and fall, look into history of UK, once it was "British Empire" , "Great Britian" now it is what is called as United Kingdom. look into many nations of the world which were power ful nations not so called "super powers" of the world but Allah destroyed them and signs can be seen archeilogical excavations.

for me i think it is not the war against terrorism but it is war against Islam, because Islam is the fastest growing relegion in the West especially in USA and Europe. there is no stopping to it. no matter how hard the western nations will propagate its negative attitude towards ISLAM , the more it will flourish in their nations.


The learned Prof. Alam has not taken into consideration the violent attacks of islam on the HOLY ONE of Israel ADONAI [GOD]YESHUA ,instigated by Muhammad .He message came from Lucifer [Isaiah 14.12,Matthew 25.41 , John 8.44,Galations 1.1-8].He may have learned things from Jews and Christians ,which are written in the HOLY SCRIPTURE of TRUTH.The whole message he was promoting was for his own ego and power -trip,someone said ;he acted like a guru.The GOD of TRUTH ,who revealed himself in his SON YESHUA of Nazareth [John 8.12-58,Hebrews 1.1-13],was in his all consuming passion ,and to defy GOD Himself [[John 5.1-30,Philippians 2.5-11, Colossians 2.1.1-2.9]The ideolegie of Muhamad is in its character vogue in any society that has no regard for the TRUTH.,butis stisfied with devlish doctrines who revile the ,CREATOR of the Universe, the GOD of Israel and his HOLY SCRIPTURE in which he has made sure that Isreal has a hope and a future ,because of GOD'S promise to Abraham through David , MESSIAH would come ,before the destruction of the second temple at Jerusalem .Israel were to return in unbelief to their home called Israel [Isaiah 11.10-16,Jeremaih 31.31-40,Romans 9-11].The holy prophets and apostels spoke of him who said;I AM,THE WAY ,THE TRUTH and THE LIFE ,no man cometh unto the FATHER but by ME. Now God's command all men everywhere to repent for his beloves SON is the SAVIOR of all who aknowledge their sins and receive the LOVE of the TRUTH[2 Thessalonians 2.11-13]..There is hope for the Jews ,Arabs and all people to repent of their sinful ways and idols to the only true and livng GOD,who spared not his well-beloved SON ,but gave him so that that he would to his holy will to die in out room and stead ,as the HOLY LAMB of GOD [ Matthew 3,Revelation 1.1-19,19.1-21,21.9-21].YESHUA is the PRINCE of PEACE,at his 2 appearing on Mount Olive [Acts 1.1-12 , 17.22-34,Zechariah 12.10] he will reign from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. PT-LORD John

Thomas Jefferons said freedom of speech must be protected regardless of its content, let reason combat it.
Current reality seems absurd. I am very fearfull this country is heading to a police state under this adminstration.
Ameican Interst around the world is hijacked by self interst groups whose loyality is questionable, become difficult for reason to take its course.

Mohamed Kettina, you are right that Europeans did terrible things. However, it would be wrong to say Muslims did not. Like those before them Muslims enslaved, raped, and killed. As a matter of fact they did the same thing the Crusaders did. The Crusades was launched in response to Muslims expanding in Europe, and the Inquisition was launched after recapuring Spain, which was invaded by Muslims in 711 AD. I do not think the Muslims were the first to say slavery was wrong. As a matter of fact I remember the first people that said slavey was wrong werer people like the Quakers, and Abolitionist.

Why not inform others of the peculiar history of Muslim, imperialism, colonialism, the slave trade and that peculiar institution, the dhimma, described by two French historians as "the first apartheid system in history"?

Secondly, the antidote to Palestinian despair is negotiation, not suicide-bombs.

Yes, everything that the US does is right and any other country that does not agree with them is wrong and needs to be condemned, and should be condoemned by the world. Reminds me of the childhood times, when a bigger child amongst us will always dictate and make us all do what he wanted otherwise we were out of the group. It is simply said, a dictator's way. Why does all other countries have to be so yes yes, can't they see what is happening. At a personal level each one who feels this highhandedness should speak and convey the message, to the govt, or to the people, or to individuals. I was told, at my local post office, why i am in this country, that i have no right to, and that i do not even know how to dress up. I answered back so that the 20-25 people present could all hear it, i said, look at my dress, i am beautifully dressed and yet decently dressed, my body is decently covered and it shows culture. Your women are naked, there are signs everywhere to request them to come decently dressed, ask them to imitate me.The shocked expression was clear on all faces. The only way right now is to keep speaking and calling people's attention to the atrocities.


If Allah helps you, none can overcome you: If He forsakes you, who is there, after that, that can help you? in Allah, then, Let believers put their trust. [3:160], so put your trust in Allah(SWT) brother.