Making of History

November 11, 2018

— Nasir Khan

“Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.

The tradition of all dead generations weighs like an nightmare on the brains of the living.”

— Karl Marx, Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852)
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The social, political and economic factors in shaping history have been emphasized time and again by socialist theorists. Here in this short extract, Karl Marx points to the importance of prevailing objective conditions that determine the course of history. How he sees a logic in the social developments is part of his philosophy of history.

The conscious efforts of human beings sometimes set in motion the wheels of history and sometimes accelerate the speed of that process. But these variables are also dependent on the major trends that already exist. What exists is not independent of what has gone before but is rather a result of the earlier conditions under which historical events took place and the steady historical processes that have been in operation. Even in the realm of speculative thought and old metaphysical issues, we are profoundly conditioned by the old modes of thought and traditions.

Even a great thinker like Marx elaborated his thought by imbibing the ideas of the French Enlightenment, from Montesquieu to Linget and Condorcet, and by the Scottish historians. He took from Hegel the idea that history is the progressive self-realization of man by practical social activity. While Hegel’s ideas were couched in somewhat obscure language, Marx was able to find the essential meanings they contained. As a result he developed his ideas by subjecting Feuerbach and Hegel in matters of the role of religion, State, civil society, bureaucracy and the class structure of the industrial society.

His ideas of revolutionary Socialism became clearer in his thought by his critical assessment of the older socialist thinkers. The same thing applies in his understanding and explanation about the capitalism by his close scrutiny of the earlier economists.

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Marxism and Freedom

November 11, 2018

— Nasir Khan

“Better to die fighting for freedom than be a prisoner all the days of your life.”

― Jamaican musician Bob Marley (1945-1981)
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To gain freedom from social, political and religious oppression is a great thing for every sentient human being. As we know we are living in a world where the ‘ruling ideas of the age’ we are living in, are related to Power – in all its nefarious forms. Political power, economic power, social power, religious power – all such different faces of power are intertwined; they contribute to the same goals and the same targets. Politically conscious people know that the targets are the ordinary people of any given society, whether in the advanced capitalist societies or the ‘developing’ countries. If the people became aware of the overall bondages they are subjected to, they will strive for freedom.

The fact remains that only a very tiny minority develops such consciousness; for the vast majority the established order is more like the divine writ, which none should question. However, the ideas and actions to challenge the established order are not easy either; they often have unexpected harsh reactions and consequences. The revolutionaries of the past ages have shown that nothing comes without struggle. In our age, it is still the revolutionary thought and praxis of Marxism that has to ‘bear the cross’. This is despite all the howling of the jackals of reaction and their ilk.

The Importance of the Separation of Religion and State

November 7, 2018

— Nasir Khan

“The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries.

[Letter objecting to the use of government land for churches, 1803]”

― James Madison (1751-1836). He was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America and its fourth President.
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While underscoring the importance of the separation of Church and State, James Madison had in view the gory history of Europe over the course of at least 18 centuries of political strife, horrifying torture and violence because of the unquestioned power of the church over the states and within the political systems of states. The rulers had to obey the commands of the Catholic Church. After the Reformation, the Lutheran including the Calvinist churches also had immense power over the states.

In fact, the question of the separation of Church and State in a broader sense is the question of the separation of Religion and State. After the end of the medieval times, there was a movement towards the freedom of conscience. The people had to be freed from the suffocating clutches of Religion.

It meant a challenge to the clerical authorities that had imposed their will and their interpretations of what God may have said or ordered. Thus, the chief custodians of the divine truth, who had arrogated all powers on behalf of God to themselves for so long found themselves confronting a new situation. Their monopoly over what God said was under question. That was dangerous, very dangerous!

Now some thinkers and enlightened people said what people believed in matters of a Divine Power or Religion was a personal matter; this was secularism. It was no business of the state to impose the will of the clergy on the people. According to them, people should have the freedom of conscience.

For most people, it was a novel idea; they never had anything like this for so many centuries. Thus, a revolutionary idea was introduced that had far-reaching effects. Consequently, the process of freedom of conscience and the secularization of the state and society gained more ground in most of Europe, North America and Australia, etc.

While the western countries made such inroads into enlightenment, freedom of conscience, and gave legal protection to people to believe or practise any religion, the vast majority of Muslim countries has followed a different course.

The ruling classes and the Muslim clergy became close partners to advance their respective agendas. In fact, they found Islam as a convenient tool to gain power and influence over a people who had a strong cultural identity with Islam. This they exploited to the maximum. That opened the way for the fanatics, misguided and indoctrinated people to clamour for an Islamic polity under the rule of God.

As a result, we see the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the terrorists of the Islamic State in many countries and many Islamist groups and organisations causing havoc. One thing: They are convinced they represent the ‘light’ of Islam. They are offering the salvation to worldwide Muslim community people (the Ummah); the golden age of ‘Islamic truth’ and ‘Islamic justice’ is near when the Sharia laws of the seventh-century Islamic Arabia will be enforced.

In fact, many ordinary Muslims think that the era of the early Caliphs of Islam of the seventh-century Arabia will solve all their worldly problems. It is logically possible that such a golden age can emerge if there was anything like this before!

However, we may pause for a second and think (not easy though): The world has moved with the times, including the Christians of Europe and their descendants in North America and Australia, etc. How will Islamists go back from the 21st century to the seventh-century Arabia? The only possibility I can see is if Aladdin with his magic carpet appears and transports us back to our golden age, back in time. If he does that I’m sure he will give me some space on his magic carpet; I promise to report back to all of you my story from there!

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The fanatic mobs of Pakistan are a threat to democracy and the rule of law

November 1, 2018
— Nasir Khan, November 1, 2018
 
It may come as to jolting shock to many civilized human beings in the world that hundreds of thousands of Muslims of Pakistan are protesting, not against something awful that happened, but because an innocent Christian women, Aasia Bibi, who had falsely been accused of blasphemy was acquitted by the Supreme Court of Pakistan on her appeal.
 
The judges of the Supreme Court found that she had been falsely charged by some Muslim co-workers on some very trivial dispute; the trial judge had sentenced her to death on the basis of false accounts of the witnesses of the true nature of the petty dispute. Aasia Bibi, a married working-class woman, had languished in prison for the last eight years in solitary confinement.
 
Now, so many Pakistani Muslims are protesting and threatening to bring the country to a standstill for the acquittal of Aasia Bibi!
 
It is difficult to believe this, but that is exactly what these people are doing, and they think they are doing it to ‘defend and exalt the honour of Prophet Muhammad’.
 
The events in Pakistan show how the Islamic clerics, with the support of the Pakistani ruling elite over the years, had a free hand to spread the poison of religious fanaticism among the ordinary people and turn them into extremists, who, apparently have become indifferent to the distinction between right and wrong because of their religious indoctrination.
 
 

Pakistan: Thousands protest blasphemy acquittal, ignore PM’s call

Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan-led protests take place across the country, a day after Supreme Court clears Aasia Bibi.

by

Most schools and many businesses remained closed in three major Pakistani cities on Thursday [Akhtar Soomro/Reuters]
Most schools and many businesses remained closed in three major Pakistani cities on Thursday [Akhtar Soomro/Reuters]

Islamabad, Pakistan – Thousands of far-right religious demonstrators continue to block major roads across Pakistan in protest against the acquittal of a Christian woman in a high-profile blasphemy case.

The Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) political party, led by firebrand Muslim leader Khadim Rizvi, organised rallies in cities across the South Asian country on Thursday, despite a warning from Prime Minister Imran Khan not to “force the government to have to take action”.

Aasia Bibi, 53, who was on death row for eight years, was acquitted by the country’s top court on Wednesday, with judges saying the prosecution contained “glaring and stark” contradictions.

Shortly after the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling was pronounced, Rizvi led a major protest outside government buildings in the eastern city of Lahore, with fellow TLP leaders declaring the three judges who acquitted Bibi to be “liable to be killed”.

The sit-in protest in Lahore remained the largest TLP demonstration on Thursday, with other major demonstrations being held in the southern city of Karachi, Pakistan’s largest. Protesters are also blockading a major highway into the capital, Islamabad.

Most schools and many businesses remained closed in all three cities through the day, with hospitals on high alert in case the protests turned violent. Highways were partially shut down and the federal cabinet held an emergency meeting to discuss the law and order situation.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, in a televised address to the nation, accused the TLP of attempting to stir religious sentiments for political gains.

“I say to these people: do not confront this state … do not damage this country for your vote bank,” said Khan.

“If you do this, I promise that the government will do its duty … I ask you: do not force the government to have to take action,” he added.

On Thursday, Shehryar Afridi, Pakistan’s minister of state for interior affairs, told parliament that talks were under way with protesters to end the standoff.

‘Watershed moment’

Blasphemy against Islam and its prophet is a sensitive subject in Pakistan, where the crime can carry a compulsory death sentence.

Increasingly, blasphemy accusations have resulted in mob lynchings and extrajudicial murders.

At least 74 people have been killed in violence related to blasphemy allegations since 1990, according to an Al Jazeera tally.

PM Imran Khan urged calm since Bibi’s acquittal but his call has fallen on deaf ears so far [Saudi Press Agency via AP]

There are still roughly 40 people on death row or serving life sentences for blasphemy, in Pakistan, according to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Bibi’s case had become emblematic of fair-trial concerns in cases related to the country’s blasphemy laws, with two senior political leaders who stood up for her gunned down in 2009 for supporting her.

Rights groups have hailed her acquittal as a watershed moment.

“Justice has finally prevailed. The message must go out that the blasphemy laws will no longer be used to persecute the country’s most vulnerable minorities,” said Omar Waraich, deputy director for South Asia at human rights group Amnesty International.

Tense calm 

At the protest at Islamabad’s Faizabad interchange, roughly 2,000 TLP supporters had gathered to block a major road into the federal capital.

TLP volunteers had visibly beefed up security at the demonstration’s entry and exit points. They barred entry to journalists, saying they would only be allowed to pass after surrendering cameras and other equipment.

Among the protesters, a tense calm prevailed, with many young men interspersed among the crowd carrying sticks and metal rods.

Many sat on reed mats, listening to devotional poems and sermons extolling the virtues of loving Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. The TLP mainly represents the Barelvi sect of Sunni Islam, which places a particular importance on the veneration of the personage and honour of the Prophet.

Overhead, two military helicopters flew low over the crowd, prompting shouts from many protesters. Two young men manning a barricade angrily shook their sticks at the aircraft.

Further protests are expected on Friday following midday prayers, with other right-wing religious groups joining the TLP in its rejection of the verdict.

Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s digital correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim

Pakistan protests: How powerful are religious groups?

Inside Story

Pakistan protests: How powerful are religious groups?

Palestinians under Israeli colonial occupation and the Arab rulers

October 28, 2018

–Nasir Khan, November 27, 2018

The leadership of the Arab world has been corrupt since the end of the Ottoman Sultanate, when, under the European ‘Mandatory powers (read: Neo-colonial powers), Britain and France, divided the Middle East according to their imperial interests.

Now, many Arab regimes, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, are close allies and ‘partners’ of the Zionists of Israel. They follow the lead of Israel in suppressing the national rights and aspirations of the Palestinians. They are not going to form a power bloc to stand for the occupied Palestinians; they are a long arm of the power of Israel and the United States, all too eager to protect the imperialist and undermine the Palestinian people’s struggle for national liberation.

But the oppressed and marginalized people of Palestine are in a precarious situation. They are victims of imperialism in the most tragic way. Even the leadership of these occupied people in the shape of the Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas is doing exactly as Israel wants, despite his periodic speeches in the United Nations for the national rights of the Palestinians. Such a window dressing takes place with the blessings of Israel, because it does no harm to Israel.

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Palestinians under Israeli colonial occupation and the Arab rulers

October 27, 2018

–Nasir Khan, November 27, 2018

The leadership of the Arab world has been corrupt since the end of the Ottoman Sultanate, when, under the European ‘Mandatory powers (read: Neo-colonial powers), Britain and France, divided the Middle East according to their imperial interests.

Now, many Arab regimes, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, are close allies and ‘partners’ of the Zionists of Israel. They follow the lead of Israel in suppressing the national rights and aspirations of the Palestinians. They are not going to form a power bloc to stand for the occupied Palestinians; they are a long arm of the power of Israel and the United States, all too eager to protect the imperialist and undermine the Palestinian people’s struggle for national liberation.

But the oppressed and marginalized people of Palestine in a precarious situation. They are victims of imperialism in the most tragic way. Even the leadership of these occupied people in the shape of the Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas is doing exactly as Israel wants, despite his periodic speeches in the United Nations for the national rights of the Palestinians. Such a window dressing takes place with the blessings of Israel, because it does no harm to Israel.

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On Karl Marx’s Life and Ideas

October 25, 2018

–Nasir Khan

“All mysteries which lead theory to mysticism find their rational solution in human practice and in the comprehension of this practice.”
― Karl Marx

Karl Marx was born on May 5, 1818, in the Prussian province of Rhine, and died in London on March 1883, at the age of 65. He was the most influential socialist philosopher and revolutionary thinker, whose ideas have deeply influenced the course of human history and human thought.

His writings cover philosophy, history, political economy, anthropology, social criticism, history, theory of revolutionary practice, and he himself participated in revolutionary activities. When he was a student at the university, he was deeply involved in the Young Hegelian movement. The members of this group in their articles and pamphlets criticized Christian culture. Feuerbach’s materialism was opposed to Hegel’s idealism. He reduced Hegel’s ‘Absolute Spirit’ to human ‘species being’.

Because of Marx’s critical articles in the Rheinische Zeitung, the government closed this paper. He went to Paris in 1843 where he made contacts with French socialist groups and emigre German workers. Here he met Frederick Engels and the two became friends for the rest of their lives. But his stay there was short. He was expelled from Paris in 1844.

After his expulsion from Paris, Marx, along with Engels moved to Brussels, where they lived for three years. After an intensive study of history, he formulated the theory of history commonly known as historical materialism.

In his theory of history, Marx accepted Hegel’s idea that the world develops according to dialectical process. But the two had different ideas about what the dialectic process entails. For Hegel, historical developments take place through the mystical entity called Absolute Spirit. Marx rejected the notion of Absolute Spirit, and said what moved society was not the Absolute Spirit, but man’s relation to matter, of which the most important part was played by the mode of production.

In this way, Marx’s materialism becomes closely related to economics. Human labour shaped society and material conditions determined the superstructures. The part played by labour, not some mystical Absolute Spirit, formed the basis of social life. Marx’s dialectal view of social change is shorn of Hegel’s idealist dialectics. The two stand on different levels and their philosophies of history differ.

For Marx, man working on nature remakes the world and in doing so he also remakes himself by increasing his powers. Marx wrote in the German Ideology, ‘Men have history because they must produce their life.’

Marx went to Paris in 1848 where the revolution first took place and then to Germany. But the failure of the revolutions forced him to seek refuge in London in 1849, where he spent the rest of his life.

He and his family had to face many economic hardships in London. His friend Engels helped him economically and he himself wrote articles as a foreign correspondent for the New York Daily Tribune for which he was paid reasonably well. But he and his family showed no interest to spend the money frugally, as a result they had unending economic problems.

However, the revolutionary thinker devoted much time to the First International and its annual Congresses. The rest of the time, he spent in the British Museum library collecting material and taking notes and analyzing the material for studies of political economy. In 1867, he published the first volume of Capital, in which he discussed the capitalist mode of production. He explained his views on the labour theory of value, conception of surplus value, accumulation of capital and the ‘so called primitive accumulation’ in the final part of the book. He had completed the volumes II and II in the 1860s, which Engels published after the death of Marx in 1883.

The profound analysis of capital, Marx undertook in the nineteenth century is still relevant to our understanding the global capitalism and the forces that control it. He had shown the tendency of capital under the general law of capitalist accumulation. A few own more wealth, but others have little to live on. A recent Oxfam report says that eight men own the same wealth as the 3.6 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity. In the global economy, rich industrialists and producers take advantage of the global workforce that mostly lives in the global South. The abundant cheap labour from the poor countries is used to produce goods that are sold at high prices in the industrialized western countries.

The problem to end the exploitation of the working class people was a core issue for Marx, and his theory to end this exploitation can only take place when a more equitable form of society is created that stands opposed to the accumulation of capital by a few and the poverty or meager existence of the majority. That objective of a human society is not possible under capitalism.

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The cancer of religious fanaticism in Pakistan

October 19, 2018

— Nasir Khan, October 19, 2018

The cancer of religious fanaticism and barbarism in the shape of Islamism, which, by the way, has no relation to a global religion, Islam, is devouring Pakistan and its peace-loving people. But in this mess, sane people have to speak up and combat the ignorant and indoctrinated people, who are operating as the defenders of Allah, the Prophet and Islam.

But let me say it to all those who think about their country, Pakistan, and its people, Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, freethinkers and humanists that Almighty Allah, the Great Prophet Muhammad and Islam are under no existential danger in Pakistan or anywhere else.

Who is in danger are the ordinary people who have been misled and falsely indoctrinated by fanatic clerics and political manipulators for their selfish and nefarious motives. It may be difficult for many to swallow this bitter pill of truth, but there is no other way to fight the cancer of fanaticism than to face the truth and find ways of combating it.
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Angry Muslim protesters demonstrate outside a local Hindu temple in Reharki in Sindh Province, Pakistan, 2016.

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Standing against the brutal colonial power of Israel

October 4, 2018

Nasir Khan, October 4, 2018

The young Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour was released from an Israeli prison on 20 September 2018. Despite the continuous harassment and the threats of imprisonment, she has been subjected to by the Israeli authorities to stop and stifle the voice of this brave poet, she has not surrendered her human right and human dignity to speak the truth on behalf of her people, the Palestinians, whose land was forcibly taken from them by a colonial power in 1948 with the help of imperialist powers and since then it has been busy ethnically cleansing step by step the land of its people. 

The tragedy of Palestine continues, and there is no indication that Israel will stop its crimes in Palestine or accept the Palestinians’ right to their own land, and liberty.

The name of Tatour’s country and of all the Palestinians is Palestine, not Israel.

Israel can kill as many Palestinians it wants; it may imprison as many Palestinians it wants; it may expand as much in the land that is still in the hands of the occupied Palestinians, but one thing is certain that all these actions of Israel are crimes under international law and clear violations of all norms of the rules of law. If no one does anything about it then that is because Israel has the military, economic and diplomatic support of the United States and some other countries.

The people of Palestine want an end to the brutal Israeli occupation of their land freedom from this colonial militarist power. The people who sacrifice their lives to break the siege of Gaza and liberate their country are heroes, even children are heroes fighting against a cruel power. Israel has one solution for them: shoot them and terrorize kill them if they protest or if they want to break the illegal Israeli siege of Gaza, which is the largest prison in the world where almost two million Palestinians of Gaza are condemned to suffer. That shows how powerful Israel and its supporters are!

The poets and writers who stand for resistance are heroes in a great struggle. A people who refuse to remain the slaves of the Zionists will suffer, no doubt, but one day they will be free.

Thank you Dareen Tatour for your bold stand! We who seek freedom for all the colonized people and stand for human rights hold you and people like you in high esteem. The struggle should go on.

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Islamists and their versions of Islam

September 26, 2018

Islamists misuse of Islam is a dangerous phenomenon for democracy and common social and political values of the present age.

Islamic-Sharia-Law

by Nasir khan

For the last two three decades the term ‘Islamist’ has commonly been used in political discourse. It stands for those misguided and indoctrinated ignorant Muslims whose aim is to impose their fanatical versions of Islam on others.

But we should keep in mind that Islam as a world religion is followed by people with different world-outlooks who are divided into numerous sects. Furthermore, these followers have varying interpretations of the role of political power, about the leaders of the Islamic community (the Ummah), the rights and obligations of the rulers and the ruled, etc. etc.

These views of Islamic law, Sharia, cover civil and criminal law that again are subject to four main schools of jurisprudence within the Sunni jurisprudence while the Shias have their own jurisprudence. There is little chance of any unity of ideas among them.

What is most alarming about the Islamists’ general world-view is their negation of the universal dimension and inherent tolerance of this world religion. Instead, they put forward a narrow and anti-social version that goes against all principles of democracy, respect for religious minorities and inculcate discrimination against the followers of other faiths.

The whole process can be termed as creating mental and religious ghettos, absolutely closed to rational thought but hell-bent on myopic divisions. In such a suffocating universe, there is no room for mutual accommodation, acceptance of secularism in a multi-religious and multi-cultural world in which we live in Europe and some parts of America.

The Islamists misuse of Islam is a dangerous phenomenon for democracy and common social and political values of the present age.


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