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Middle East Press on Pakistan Democratic Movement, Trump Vs Biden and Greek Anti-Fascist Struggle: New Age Islam's Selection, 12 October 2020

By New Age Islam Edit Bureau

12 October 2020

• Who Is Leading The Pakistan Democratic Movement: Maryam Nawaz Sharif Or Maulana Fazlur Rehman?

By Mehr Tarar

• Trump Vs Biden: Michigan Offers a Glimpse of America’s ‘White Salafis’

By Mohammed Almezel

• Fighting For Palestine

By Mark Muhannad Ayyash

• The Greek Anti-Fascist Struggle Is Far From Over

By Marianna Karakoulaki

• In Dune, Paul Atreides Led A Jihad, Not A Crusade

By Ali Karjoo-Ravary


Who is leading the Pakistan Democratic Movement: Maryam Nawaz Sharif or Maulana Fazlur Rehman?

By Mehr Tarar

October 11, 2020


Maulana Fazlur Rahman [L] and Maryam Nawaz Sharif [R]

Image Credit: APP/AP


On both sides, cars and SUVs lined the narrow road as if forming a protecting boundary. DSNG vans of major and minor TV channels were in a neat formation, one behind the other. I had no idea what was happening inside as I arrived, on October 8, at the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) office in Model Town for my interview with the PML-N Punjab President Rana Sanaullah, a veteran politician of a formidable moustache and no-words-mincing chequered reputation.

Getting out of my nondescript car in front of the gate, as I walked through the negligible security system, I heard PML-N’s Vice President Maryam Nawaz Sharif’s voice, loud and clear, through a loudspeaker. In the mid-sized lawn of the office, a convention of PML-N’s parliamentarians and ticket holders had begun a few minutes ago. Since I had a clear view of the stage, I stood at the entrance of the canopied gathering of many men and a few women, most of whom were listening in well-behaved quietness to their new leader’s old speech peppered with a few novel twists to the oft-repeated narrative. Interjecting the speech were the prepared slogans of solidarity with Nawaz Sharif. A large number of them milled outside the canopy, talking to one another, or wolfing tea and snacks served on white-clothed large tables. Many of them were inside the building, crowding various rooms, corridors and conference areas, in nodding-head seriousness of talking about things that matter.

Maryam dressed in simple black edged in tiny yellow embroidery, statuesque and stunning as always, stood behind a staid podium, articulate, passionate, fiery. Her words reflected a fury barely concealed. It sounded personal: the wrath at the alleged victimisation of her father, herself, her family. Maryam’s speech followed that of her father’s address to his party leaders and workers. Sharif, earlier, boomed on a giant screen: “Imran’s selectors [military establishment], you will have to answer for this. You cannot go home without answering. Without Pakistan's parliament, its institutions cannot operate. Even the judiciary cannot work. We will make you answer, we will not sit back until we get one.”

Nawaz Sharif, in his self-imposed exile that initiated after an alleged short-term deal with the establishment while he was serving a seven-year jail sentence, is now leading the fight for democracy in Pakistan though video speeches from London. Despite Khan’s government’s demand for fulfilment of the conditions of Sharif’s medical treatment in London, the main one being of his return in four weeks, and Islamabad High Court’s order for an immediate return, Sharif is adamant about his stance of saying put in London on medical pretexts. The court has declared Sharif an “absconder.”

Vive la révolution.

Over the next few weeks, and probably the next few months, Maryam would be repeating the same thing with a few new statements, punctuated with reminders of the glorious tenures of Nawaz Sharif’s three-time prime ministership, threats of removal of Imran Khan’s government, predictions of the imminence of removal of Imran Khan’s government, and what would happen if removal of Imran Khan’s government was not achieved within the framework of the agenda of PDM.

That is the Pakistan Democratic Movement, an alliance of 11 opposition parties, major and minor, in terms of their national presence and impact. The raison d’etre of PDM is the fight for supremacy of democracy. Ostensibly. The slogan, originally of PML-N, is the sanctity of vote–vote ko izzat do. Asif Zardari-led Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) echoes the sentiment. The stimulus is the establishment’s alleged rigging of the 2018 elections that brought into power Imran Khan, his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) government’s “inefficient” running of the affairs of the country, the “bad” governance, and the inability to control prices of necessities, tariffs of basic utilities, and failure to provide cheap housing and employment.

The real reason, allegedly, is Khan’s government’s alleged pushing to the wall the opposition leadership. The modus operandi is a series of cases of financial corruption or misuse of authority against the major opposition leaders. The collective pain of the alleged growing political irrelevance is the unifying force behind PDM, an alliance of parties that are as ideologically and politically opposed from one another as Vladimir Lenin and Winston Churchill, or Mao Zedong and Harry S Truman. You get the gist. Maulana Fazlur of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) is the first chairperson of PDM.

Maulana’s electoral power and shifting political loyalties are debateable, on any given day. What is uncontested: his madrassa and Deobandi support. His biggest strength is his hordes of madrassa students who rally to his call for a protest, on any issue, anywhere, against anyone. Two of Maulana’s major cards against his opposition are that of religion and treason. Standing next to Maryam for a press briefing after the dinner hosted in his honour at the Sharif’s Jati Umra residence on October 7, Maulana reiterated his mission: “We want to give the people a legitimate government and a parliamentary system through this movement.”

On being asked if he would support Maryam’s candidature for prime ministership in case of PDM’s success in its mission of the overthrow of Khan’s elected government, Maulana, in his diplomatic smiling best responded: “At the moment, we are fighting for the rights of both men and women to elect their own government.” In 1993, commenting on Benazir Bhutto’s prime ministership, Maulana had categorically responded that “Islam prohibits female leadership, and female leadership is against Sunnah.”

Maulana in January 2014 stated: “TTP’s suicide bombings are Allah’s wrath upon us. And so, there is a need to earmark and eliminate the real enemy of Pakistan: every woman who wears jeans. From earthquakes to inflation, all kinds of disasters are caused by the immodesty of women. A woman who is not covered like a sack of flour is a walking and talking weapon of mass destruction for her state. And Pakistan has a multitude of such nuclear missiles in all its major cities.”

In 2014, Maulana called the females participating in PTI’s Azadi dharna “as having bad characters,” labelling them “as women from the dark side of society.” On the murder of social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch in 2016, Maulana passed the judgement: “Shamelessness and exhibitionism are a scourge in our society, spread through women like her.”

On the Aurat (Women) March of 2020, Maulana’s views on females fighting for their rights reverberated in his familiar derision for equality of genders: “If anyone thinks they can come on roads under different banners and threaten our culture and Islamic values, they should know that we will also come out to stop them... Wherever you see such elements, ask the law [enforcement authorities] to stop them, but if the authorities provide protection to such protests, then get ready for any sacrifice. We cannot let religion and our cultural values be bad-named.”

Quoted are just a few of the countless statements regarding the status and honour of women espoused by the honourable first chairperson of PDM, the alliance of opposition parties that will be fighting for the sanctity of vote and “rights of men and women to elect their own government.”

The main faces, the biggest attraction, the “crowd pullers” of PML-N and PPP, are Maryam Nawaz Sharif and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari. Their most important quality is their last names. There are some remarkable people in Maryam and Bilawal’s parties who in a different, in a better, in a fairer world, would be great leaders. People like the former prime minister, the brilliant Shahid Khaqan Abbasi of PML-N, and the diehard party loyalist, the eloquent Qamar Zaman Kaira of PPP. In the reality of 2020’s game of thrones, they would always stand a step behind their leaders who notwithstanding their personal charm and prowess of oration have attained their positions of party leadership on the power of their last name. Dynastic politics trump merit-based politics, and that is the hard, unchanging truth of the parties that today pride themselves on being the torchbearers of democracy and the sanctity of vote.

PDM, following its 26-point agenda, will hold its first rally in Gujranwala, Punjab, followed by rallies in Karachi on October 18, Quetta on October 25, Peshawar on November 22, Multan on November 30, and Lahore on December 13. Alliances for democracy are not a new phenomenon in Pakistan: 1964’s Combined Opposition Parties, 1968’s Democratic Action Committee, 1977’s Pakistan National Alliance, 1983’s Movement for Restoration of Democracy, and 2002 Alliance for Restoration of Democracy. The debate on the success and failure of those alliances is beyond the scope of this op-ed. What is important today is to understand the rationale behind PDM’s emergence: survival of two political dynasties or sanctity of vote, and/or concern for the wellbeing of the common man?

And for the Pakistani nation, it is the time for a collective introspection: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times, shame on both of us.”


Trump Vs Biden: Michigan Offers a Glimpse of America’s ‘White Salafis’

By Mohammed Almezel

October 10, 2020


13 people, some of them associated with the far-right Wolverine Watchmen militia group, were arrested for alleged plots to take Michigan governor hostage and attack the state capitol building, in Lansing, Michigan, US

Image Credit: Ador T Bustamante/Gulf News


Win or lose on November 3, Donald Trump has already reserved his spot in history. Like him or not, the 45th president of the United States will be remembered as the man who galvanised American politics in a way only few other politicians can claim of.

No American politician, perhaps since the election of John F. Kennedy in 1960, has evoked such emotions that may very well dominate the American psyche long after he leaves office. Trump will always be remembered as a genuinely polarising figure who awakened nationalist passions Americans thought they had buried deep over years of an incessant progressive tide with the elections of such liberals as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

When Black Lives Matter protests gripped the country following the death of a black man at the hands of white policemen, it was fundamentally seen as a natural reaction to the rise of the Trump nationalist phenomenon, which led the way to the resurgence of white supremacists and anti-minorities sentiment. Groups such as the Proud Boys, the Patriotic Movement, and the Three Percent — essentially names of far-right armed militias, have of late become part of the political discourse.

Over the weekend, a court in Michigan charged Barry Croft, a white supremacist and active member of the Three Percent, and five others with “domestic terrorism” plot to kidnap Michigan Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer and a plan to storm the government buildings to “overthrow the state government”.

The Michigan case might help researchers understand the thinking and actual ability of armed militias in the US. Researchers have been warning about the rise of the threat posed by these groups especially in an election that pits one half of the country against the other in a way America may have never seen before. Such schism has of course been heightened by political tension over the response of the Trump administration to the coronavirus outbreak and the economic downturn which led to record number of unemployment and the summer anti-racism protests.

Growing domestic terrorism

Months before the Michigan arrests, the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said the US “faces a growing terrorism problem that will likely worsen over the next year.” In the June report, the CSIS said based on its data set of terrorist incidents, the most significant threat likely comes from white supremacists and that over the rest of 2020, the terrorist threat in the US “will likely rise based on several factors, including the November 2020 presidential election.”

There is no evidence of course that links the Michigan plot directly to Trump’s policies or speeches, who on few occasions condemned such acts of terror. But Whitmer, the Michigan governor, expectedly put the blame squarely on the president. She referred to his call, during last month’s debate with Joe Biden, to the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by”.

“Hate groups heard the president’s words not as a rebuke, but as a rallying cry. When our leaders speak, their words matter. They carry weight. When our leaders meet, encourage or fraternise with domestic terrorists, they legitimise their actions, and they are complicit. When they stoke and contribute to hate speech, they are complicit.”

Conspiracy theories

The Trump speeches have no doubt evoked nationalist sentiments. When he speaks of radical left conspiracy to take over America to “take away your religion”, abolish the right to bear arms, restrict individual freedoms and open the door to immigrants, white groups may think it is their ‘constitutional duty’ to fight back.

A little known European-born conspiracy theory, the Great Replacement, has over the past few years found many believers in the US. The theory claims that, with the complicity or cooperation of the ‘liberal elites’, the white European population at large is being progressively replaced with non-European peoples, specifically Arab, Berber and sub-Saharan Muslim populations from Africa and the Middle East through mass migration, demographic growth and a European drop in the birth rate.

In August last year, Patrick Crusius, a 21-year-old white supremacist and subscriber to the Replacement Theory, opened fire in a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, and killed 23 people, mostly immigrants of Mexican origin. In online notes he posted before he committed the massacre, he said he was inspired by the mosque massacre in Christchurch, New Zealand, in which a white terrorist shot and killed 51 Muslims during Friday prayers.

Far-right extremism

Terror based on extremist religious or racial tendencies has been rife well before the Trump presidency. Al Qaida, Daesh, white supremacists, and many other terrorist groups existed and wreaked havoc for decades. But it is perhaps one of those rare occasions in history when such tendencies are inspired by a mainstream politician — particularly one who occupies the highest office in the world, the White House. President Trump, for all fairness though denied repeatedly that he will ever condone extremist behaviour.

But in his clear Machiavellian pursuit of retaining power, he realises that his chances of re-election mainly rest with white America — and not any white; the ‘Salafi’ white America. Similar to those Muslim Salafists who seek a puritan society that mirrors in their view the early days of Islam, a world ruled by Sharia only, the white Salafis dream of an America that is purely white; a segregated America well before the civil right movement and ‘liberal onslaught.’

As the presidential election nears, it is less than three weeks away, it will be important to watch the far-right dynamism, the behaviour of the white Salafis of America.

The race to the white House looks increasingly tight, despite the early Biden lead in the polls. Yet it is far from over. But even if President Trump loses the election, there is not doubt that his impact on the American political, social and racial discourse will remain long after he has left the Oval Office.


Fighting for Palestine

By Mark Muhannad Ayyash

10 Oct 2020

In the last few years, Israel has further cemented its grip on Palestine. The list of Palestinian losses is depressing: the marked movement towards international recognition of Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel, official annexation of Palestinian land, an increase in the number of settlers and the development of settlements on Palestinian lands, the horrific besiegement of Gaza and the world’s participation in the siege, the “de-development” of the Palestinian economy, uninhibited killing and maiming of Palestinians, suffocating restrictions on movement, gender-based violence in prisons and at checkpoints, continued demolitions of Palestinian homes, the stifling of Palestinian activism and speech for Palestinian rights in Western Europe and North America, and the rising tide of diplomatic normalcy between Israel and Arab states.

Add to the mix common social issues like patriarchal oppression, interpersonal conflict, crime, socioeconomic inequality, family feuds, and political corruption, combined with a lacklustre and largely handcuffed leadership, and you begin to get a picture of how remarkable Palestinian resistance really is.

That Palestinians do not give up is precisely what is so historic and inspiring about their resistance. For more than 100 years, the Palestinian people have been resisting and fighting for Palestine, holding on to what they have left of it, clinging on to the hope of one day reclaiming what they have lost.

Attention is often given to the armed resistance, but far more numerous, diverse, and long-standing is the unarmed Palestinian resistance. Labour strikes, boycotts, legal actions, political and community organising, demonstrations, marches, hunger strikes, passing the keys of demolished homes from one generation to the next, the formation of Palestinian societies and cultural groups in exile and refugee camps, lobbying politicians across the world, building creative local and sustainable economies, and everyday acts of resistance are all peppered throughout the history of the struggle.

Resistance also comes in the form of cultural productions that narrate and communicate the suffering of Palestinians; intellectual and academic studies that illuminate the history and lived realities of Palestinians; the development of political manifestoes and ideologies that pave a path forward towards freedom and liberation.

It is impossible to count the number of people who have given, and continue to give, their time, efforts, livelihood, and their lives in the fight for Palestine. The problem is not that these lives are never reported or (re)presented in the international discourse. The problem is that the core and underlying essence of Palestinian actions remains unregistered and unaccounted for, it is buried and prevented from being released into the mainstream discourse.

The Emirati and Bahraini political elites, for example, never register these lives when they proclaim their so-called peace deals with Israel. Many Palestinians, as well as common Bahrainis and Emiratis who have no say in the policies adopted by their rulers, have rightly labelled these agreements a betrayal of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian cause.

Palestine is entirely absent from these “peace in the Middle East deals” not just in terms of Palestinian officials being excluded from negotiations and agreements, but in the real tangible sense of erasing Palestinian lands, rights, freedoms, and lives from the geopolitical landscape and political grammar. These deals seek to constitute a new status quo in which it becomes normal to accept that Palestine does not exist and therefore deserves, or even has itself earned, its erasure.

We do not need to imagine how this normalisation of erasure would operate in the mainstream discourse of Western European and North American media. It has been happening for many years. For a recent example, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) despicably apologised for using the term Palestine on air just one day after one of its hosts dared to pronounce this apparently forbidden and offensive word.

Hiding behind vacuous policies filled with fluff and pretentious legalistic phraseology, the CBC maintains that Palestine does not exist as a modern state and therefore does not warrant naming. These kinds of actions and policies, which are active in other settler-colonial and neocolonial countries, are an affront to the millions of lives that have dedicated their very existence to the fight for Palestine.

The ‘problem’ of Palestine

One of the mechanisms in which Palestine is erased in the two examples above is the casting of the question of Palestine as a “problem” in the sense of a nuisance to the peace and tranquillity of the world order, since Palestine does not fit the conventional categories through which the world order is made legible.

Thus, the very same categories that emerged in the colonial era in order to dispossess and/or rule over Indigenous peoples across the world, such as laws of property ownership, statehood, and sovereignty, are presented in the contemporary world as “natural” categories that simply describe how the world is “naturally” organised.

Mainstream discourse does not question how these categories were produced and “validated” through brutal colonial violence and state terror; instead, it asserts that the categories are justified in their violence because the oppressed fail to belong to these categories which are designed to oppress and eliminate them. And in this world that is birthed and developed in and through colonialism, this comes to pass as somehow sensical.

In The Souls of Black Folk, published in 1903, WEB DuBois explored what it means to be continuously asked, directly and indirectly, “How does it feel to be a problem?” This question, which continues to be asked of Black Americans, reveals nothing about the struggles, aspirations, and lived realities of Black lives in America. Rather it tells us much more about the power structures in which Black Americans come to be constructed as a “problem”.

The question, in short, never probes the questioner’s own role in rendering Black life as a “problem”, or in creating the social, economic, cultural, and political conditions that oppress and suppress Black life.

Similarly, Palestinians are cast as a “problem” in the international arena, shifting the burden of becoming unproblematic on the subject that has been produced as a “problem” – an impossible task whose sole purpose is really the eradication and erasure of the subject that has been constituted as a “problem”.

For imperial allies led by the United Kingdom and then the United States, the Israeli settler-colonial state, and Arab states that largely have been quick to acquiesce and serve imperial interests, Palestine has always been posed as a “problem” which must be dissolved. If only those who render Palestine a “problem” would have the courage, they would ask Palestinians what they really intend to ask: how does it feel to have the world wish that it did not have to deal with you? How does it feel to be entirely unwanted, unheard? How does it feel to be entirely instrumental for others in your very being and non-being?

These are precisely the kinds of rhetorical questions that the Gulf ruling elites are asking of Palestinians today. Palestine has seen its fair share of allies who appear to stand with Palestinians, only to move on and leave it behind. It is this sense of being left behind that haunts and seems to follow Palestinian resistance that I want to underscore. That in addition to facing all of those immense difficulties of erasure perpetrated by settler-colonial and imperial powers, of which the CBC and Canada are a part, there is also a more hurtful kind of erasure that can take place in the space where Palestinians join hands with others from the “Global South” seeking collective liberation.

If I repeat the term Palestine too much in this piece, it is because it needs to be affirmed and reaffirmed, continuously, forcefully, and vociferously. The effort to erase Palestine, of which the CBC and the UAE/Bahrain ruling class are but a small part, is not going away but is in fact gaining momentum. Whether the CBC or the Emirati and Bahraini authoritarian rulers are intentionally erasing Palestine is really irrelevant, what matters is the effect of their discourse, actions, and policies, which is the erasure of Palestine – a project that has reached an advanced stage.

In this sense, yes Palestine is so far a losing cause. It will likely continue to be a losing cause for the foreseeable future. But make no mistake, Palestine is not a lost cause. So long as the injustice continues unabated, Palestinians will fight for Palestine. And even if freedom remains beyond reach, Palestinians in Palestine and beyond will at least show the world that the violence of this settler-colonial, neocolonial, and post-colonial world order will never defeat the spirits of those who are being crushed at the bottom of this order.

Yes, in fighting, Palestine will be a nuisance, but in the sense of always reminding the powerful that they are not the “forces of the good” that the world order is neither orderly nor just. To register and release into the mainstream discourse, the essence of Palestinian actions of resistance is to realise that when Palestine does not fit into dominant categories, this is not because of a shortcoming of Palestine, it is because of the violent and oppressive purpose of those categories.

To register Palestinian lives is to realise that the creation of a Palestinian state, for example, is not an end in itself, an effort to join the rest of the world of nations through the category of statehood, but was always, at least for the countless lives that have fought and continue to fight for it, a means towards true liberation and freedom – towards a decolonised life.


Ayyash is the author of A Hermeneutics of Violence (UTP, 2019). He was born and raised in Silwan, Jerusalem, before immigrating to Canada. He is currently writing a book on settler colonial sovereignty.


The Greek Anti-Fascist Struggle Is Far From Over

By Marianna Karakoulaki

10 Oct 2020

“Golden Dawn is a criminal organisation,” declared an announcer from the top of the Court of Appeals in Athens on Wednesday, making public the landmark verdict in the biggest trial of self-professed fascists since Nuremberg. Thousands of anti-fascist protesters who had gathered outside the court burst into cheers, hugging each other in celebration at a decision they had been waiting for for more than five years. The mood, however, quickly turned sour as police released tear gas and used water cannon to disperse the crowd.

The brutal police response that followed the verdict was indicative that the anti-fascist fight in Greece is still far from over. Yes, the leaders of Greece’s neo-Nazi party, which terrorised the country for years, will be behind bars. Yes, the party’s name will be erased from the Greek political scene. But its dangerous, divisive and often deadly ideology is still well embedded in Greek society.

Golden Dawn was born from the ashes of the Greek military junta (1967-1974) in the early 1980s. The party’s founding leader, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, a Holocaust denier and Hitler admirer created a cult of personality and charmed those who leaned towards the far right and felt like their views were not represented by Greece’s political parties by promising to make their voices heard. His words were the law for the party’s members.

After silently growing its membership base for years, Golden Dawn was recognised as a political party in 1993. The Greek political elite and media, viewing the party as a caricature doomed to remain on the far-right fringes of Greek politics, refused to take it seriously. Nevertheless, the party’s members trained like an army for years and continued to expand their reach. During the day, they organised food distribution networks and blood donation events – of course only for ethnic Greeks. At night, they terrorised underdeveloped neighbourhoods of Athens, attacking everyone who did not fit into their racist ideals.

Greece’s devastating economic crisis was what finally allowed them to gain enough public support to become part of mainstream politics. As the economic devastation discredited Greece’s established mainstream parties, they used the growing public anger towards political elites to secure 18 seats in the country’s 300-seat parliament in the June 2012 elections.

After entering the parliament, they attempted to hide their neo-Nazi roots by portraying themselves not as violent racists, but Greek patriots. They created a narrative in which they were true patriots, ready to give their lives for the motherland and stand up to those who “ruined” the country with their pro-EU, left-wing or liberal views. They presented themselves as white, Christian nationalists who will do anything to protect the Greek people and Greek culture from external influences.

Despite these attempts to revamp their image, however, they never tried to hide their hate for anyone who did not fit their definition of an “Ideal Greek”. They continued their attacks on migrants, who they believe do not belong in Greece, and leftists who they accused of “not loving their country enough”.

In fact, Golden Dawn’s election success, which made them the third strongest party in the country, encouraged its members to unleash even more violence on the so-called “enemies of Greece”. After all, thousands of Greeks, by casting a vote for Golden Dawn, had legitimised the party’s stated goal of ridding the country of all non-Greek people and “unpatriotic” ideas.

Only a few months after the election, on January 17, 2013, two Golden Dawn members killed Sahzat Lukman, a Pakistani migrant, on his way to work. Nine months later, anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas was murdered. His death sparked a long investigation, which led to the start of the Golden Dawn Trial in 2015.

Greek media initially attempted to portray Fyssas’s death as the result of a fight between football hooligans. But the Greek anti-fascist movement refused to let this happen. Through the hashtag #antireport on Twitter, as well as other online platforms, they told the real story – Pavlos Fyssas was killed by Golden Dawn. They organised protests, campaigns and events on a daily basis until the day the authorities arrested the leadership of the neo-Nazi party.

As soon as their criminal activities became public, Golden Dawn lost political power and supporters. The ones who claimed to protect Greeks from foreigners had killed a Greek – albeit an anti-fascist Greek. Suddenly the group’s supporters realised they would be stigmatised if they continued to remain affiliated with a violent, fascist party. Golden Dawn no longer represented the Greek ideal. They were criminals. Golden Dawn was no more.

Ideologies, however, do not die with political organisations that represent them. They often find themselves other facades.

This is exactly what happened in Greece. After Golden Dawn’s fall from grace, other groups following fascist ideologies popped up – groups that promised to protect the country from the “refugee invasion”; groups that claimed they would take revenge for Macedonia; groups that said they were working to keep Greece as the homeland of Greeks and no one else. They refrained from using the name “Golden Dawn” even though many of their members were former members or supporters of the party. Meanwhile, some prominent members of the disgraced political party, including Michaloliakos’s henchman Ilias Kasidiaris, formed new political parties. And, perhaps most alarmingly, despite Golden Dawn leaders being branded criminals and murderers, Golden Dawn’s rhetoric has been adopted by many in the Greek political and media elite. The ideological stances that made Golden Dawn appealing to a large section of the Greek public – its anti-immigration rhetoric, jingoism, Islamophobia and racism – have become the new normal in the country.

So Wednesday’s verdict may be the final nail in Golden Dawn’s coffin, but the ideology that once allowed the party to enter Parliament is still well embedded in Greek society. The Greek fascism represented by the party can still find its way into the parliament under different banners and through other “patriotic” members of Parliament.

If we are to learn one lesson from the short history of Golden Dawn, it is this: Fascism will be defeated not in courtrooms or parliaments, but on the streets. Golden Dawn was brought down thanks to the relentless efforts of the Greek anti-fascist movement – they exposed the party’s crimes, its ideology, and violent nature when everyone else chose to look away.

Court rulings, as important as they may be, can eliminate political parties and groups, but they cannot eliminate ideologies. If Greece is to completely rid itself of fascism one day, it will be through the righteous struggle of Greek anti-fascists.

The Greek anti-fascist movement, despite its criminalisation by the Greek media and certain political elites, never stopped the fight. They have been and will continue to be, the first line of defence against fascism and the most vocal supporters of refugees, migrants and workers in the country.

Golden Dawn may be no more, but the Greek anti-fascist struggle continues.


Karakoulaki is an award winning multimedia journalist. She is a doctoral researcher at the University of Birmingham where she researches violent borders and necropolitics through the Balkan Route. She is an editor and director at E-IR. Her co-edited book Critical Perspectives on Migration in the 21st Century was published in 2018.


In Dune, Paul Atreides Led A Jihad, Not A Crusade

By Ali Karjoo-Ravary

11 Oct 2020

Fans of Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel, Dune, were disappointed to learn this week that the release of Denis Villeneuve’s much-anticipated film adaptation of the book has been pushed back to October 2021, almost a year later than expected.

Dune is a foundational classic of science fiction and marks, in many ways, the popularisation of the genre. In the hands of Villeneuve, the film is poised to be a blockbuster, and the buzz that emanated from its first and only trailer, released on September 9, 2020, is still palpable.

But fans familiar with the books noticed a major omission in its promotional materials: any reference to the Islam-inspired framing of the novel. In fact, the trailer uses the words, “a crusade is coming”, using the Christian term for holy war – something that occurs a mere three times in the six books of the original series. The word they were looking for was “jihad”, a foundational term and an essential concept in the series. But jihad is bad branding, and in Hollywood, Islam does not sell unless it is being shot at.

Dune is the second film adaptation of the popular 1965 science fiction novel by Frank Herbert. Set approximately 20,000 years in the future on the desert planet Arrakis, it tells the story of a war for control of its major export: the mind-altering spice melange that allows for instantaneous space travel. The Indigenous people of this planet, the Fremen, are oppressed for access to this spice. The story begins when a new aristocratic house takes over the planet, centring the narrative on the Duke’s son Paul.

The trailer’s use of “crusade” obscures the fact that the series is full of vocabularies of Islam, drawn from Arabic, Persian, and Turkish. Words like “Mahdi”, “Shai-Hulud”, “noukker”, and “ya hya chouhada” are commonly used throughout the story. To quote Herbert himself, from an unpublished 1978 interview with Tim O’Reilly, he used this vocabulary, partly derived from “colloquial Arabic”, to signal to the reader that they are “not here and now, but that something of here and now has been carried to that faraway place and time”. Language, he remarks, “is mind-shaping as well as used by mind”, mediating our experience of place and time. And he uses the language of Dune to show how, 20,000 years in the future, when all religion and language has fundamentally changed, there are still threads of continuity with the Arabic and Islam of our world because they are inextricable from humanity’s past, present, and future.

A quick look at Frank Herbert’s appendix to Dune, “the Religion of Dune”, reveals that of the “ten ancient teachings”, half are overtly Islamic. And outside of the religious realm, he filled the terminology of Dune’s universe with words related to Islamic sovereignty. The Emperors are called “Padishahs”, from Persian, their audience chamber is called the “selamlik”, Turkish for the Ottoman court’s reception hall and their troops have titles with Turco-Persian or Arabic roots, such as “Sardaukar”, “caid”, and “bashar”. Herbert’s future is one where “Islam” is not a separate unchanging element belonging to the past, but a part of the future universe at every level. The world of Dune cannot be separated from its language, and as reactions on Twitter have shown, the absence of that language in the movie’s promotional material is a disappointment. Even jihad, a complex, foundational principle of Herbert’s universe, is flattened – and Christianised – to crusade.

To be sure, Herbert himself defines jihad using the term “crusade”, twice in the narrative as a synonym for jihad and once in the glossary as part of his definition of jihad, perhaps reaching for a simple conceptual parallel that may have been familiar to his readership. But while he clearly subsumed crusade under jihad, much of his readership did the reverse.

One can understand why. Even before the War on Terror, jihad was what the bad guys do. Yet as Herbert understood, the term is a complicated one in the Muslim tradition; at root, it means to struggle or exert oneself. It can take many forms: internally against one’s own evil, externally against oppression, or even intellectually in the search for beneficial knowledge. And in the 14 centuries of Islam’s history, like any aspect of human history, the term jihad has been used and abused. Having studied Frank Herbert’s notes and papers in the archives of California State University, Fullerton, I have found that Herbert’s understanding of Islam, jihad, and humanity’s future is much more complex than that of his interpreters. His use of jihad grapples with this complicated tradition, both as a power to fight against the odds (whether against sentient AI or against the Empire itself), but also something that defies any attempt at control.

Herbert’s nuanced understanding of jihad shows in his narrative. He did not aim to present jihad as simply a “bad” or “good” thing. Instead, he uses it to show how the messianic impulse, together with the apocalyptic violence that sometimes accompanies it, changes the world in uncontrollable and unpredictable ways. And, of course, writing in the 1950s and 1960s, the jihad of Frank Herbert’s imagination was not the same as ours, but drew from the Sufi-led jihads against French, Russian, and English imperialism in the 19th and mid-20th century. The narrative exhibits this influence of Sufism and its reading of jihad, where, unlike in a crusade, a leader’s spiritual transformation determined the legitimacy of his war.

In Dune, Paul must drink the “water of life”, to enter (to quote Dune) the “alam al-mithal, the world of similitudes, the metaphysical realm where all physical limitations are removed,” and unlock a part of his consciousness to become the Mahdi, the messianic figure who will guide the jihad. The language of every aspect of this process is the technical language of Sufism.

Perhaps the trailer’s use of “crusade” is just an issue of marketing. Perhaps the film will embrace the characteristically Islam-inspired language and aesthetics of Frank Herbert’s universe. But if we trace the reception of “the strong Muslim flavour” in Dune, to echo an editor on one of Herbert’s early drafts, we are confronted with Islam’s unfavourable place in America’s popular imagination. In fact, many desire to interpret Dune through the past, hungering for a historic parallel to these future events because, in their minds, Islam belongs to the past. Yet who exists in the future tells us who matters in our present. NK Jemisin, the three-time Hugo award-winning author, writes: “The myth that Star Trek planted in my mind: people like me exist in the future, but there are only a few of us. Something’s obviously going to kill off a few billion people of colour and the majority of women in the next few centuries.”

Jemisin alerts us to the question: “Who gets to be a part of the future?”

When a director or writer casts people of colour out of the future, when a director casts Islam out of the future, they reveal their own expectations and anxieties. They reveal an imagination at ease with genocide, with mass death, and with a whitewashed future that does not have any of the “mess” of the contemporary world. That “mess” is other people, people who defy control.

Unlike many of his, or our, contemporaries, Herbert was willing to imagine a world that was not based on Western, Christian mythology. This was not just his own niche interest. Even in the middle of the 20th century, it was obvious that the future would be coloured by Islam based on demographics alone. This is clearer today as the global Muslim population nears a quarter of humanity. While this sounds like an alt-right nightmare/fantasy, Herbert did not think of Islam as the “borg”, an alien hive mind that allows for no dissent. Herbert’s Islam was the great, capacious, and often contradictory discourse recently expounded by Shahab Ahmed in his monumental book, What is Islam? Herbert understood that religions do not act. People act. Their religions change like their languages, slowly over time in response to the new challenges of time and place. Tens of thousands of years into the future, Herbert’s whole universe is full of future Islams, similar but different from the Islams of present and past.

Herbert countered a one-dimensional reading of Islam because he disavowed absolutes. In an essay titled: Science Fiction and a World in Crisis, he identified the belief in absolutes as a “characteristic of the West” that negatively influenced its approach to crisis. He wrote that it led the “Western tradition” to face problems “with the concept of absolute control”. This desire for absolute control is what leads to the hero-worship (or “messiah-building”) that defines our contemporary world. It is this impulse that he sought to tear down in Dune.

In another essay, Men on Other Planets, Herbert cautions against reproducing cliches, reminding writers to question their underlying assumptions about time, society, and religion. He encourages them to be subversive, because science fiction “permits you to go beyond those cultural norms that are prohibited by your society and enforced by conscious (and unconscious) literary censorship in the prestigious arenas of publication”.

We should recognise Herbert for exploring Islam and religion without essentialising them, without reducing them to a cliché grounded in a timeless original model or relegating them to the domain of superstitious humanoid aliens. But in the same essay, he warned that “if it becomes too prestigious, science fiction will encounter new restraints”, expressing worry about the looming power of self-censorship in the face of respectability. Unfortunately, he was right, and it seems like the subversive elements of his own work, embedded in his deep exploration of “jihad”, have been subsumed into the Christianising “crusade”, at least so far. Let’s hope this extra year allows the film to do better.


Josephine H Detmer and Zareen Taj Mirza Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies at Bucknell University


Karjoo-Ravary received his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania and writes on the history of Sufism and its influence on politics, material culture, and literature, including speculative fiction. He is currently a Visiting Fellow at the Bard Graduate Center. Ali is also an editor at




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