It has been a while since I’ve posted here. Today’s post was meant to be a continuation of my last post, which explored the burqa (face covering) and the increasing trend of over-exposed flesh—i.e., short shorts that show the butt cheeks, etc—as two sides of an extreme coin that ultimately serves the system of global capitalism and capitalist imperialism.
I planned to expand upon this last point in today’s post. However, in light of last month’s Paris terrorist attacks and the ongoing rise of ISIS related terrorist violence, I’d like to focus on another, though related, topic: the role of certain western powers in the promotion of radical Islam and Islamic extremism and terrorist groups like ISIS and others.
While this topic may seem unrelated to the issue of the burqa, as a symbol of religious extremism, it is not surprising that the prevalence of the burqa has increased as the support for radical Islam–both within the Muslim world and by certain western powers–has increased. In this way the two topics are not completely unrelated.
Everywhere one looks in mainstream news and media we see the increasing spectacle of masked Muslim terrorists committing acts of abhorrent violence, terror and horror. What is often ignored in the media is that violent Islamic extremism is not a primordial, inherent reality. Indeed, up until the 1970s many Muslim countries and regions were modernizing and becoming secular, which is a very good thing. This was evidenced not least in women’s fashions and women’s dressing, which were quite modern or open and similar to western fashions of the time (a far cry from the increasingly veiled or face covered Muslim woman of today).
Ironically, while the west claims to be at war with radical Islam and Islamic terrorism, direct western involvement and interference in certain (previously secular or non-religious) states has contributed to religious radicalization in the region. Countries like Iran and Afghanistan were modernizing and secular in the post colonial era until US and British involvement–via coup d’etats and the direct funding of Mujahadeen’s/violent religious radicals, respectively–led to events that would eventually usher in Islamic rule or the rise of terrorist groups in those countries.
The Iranian revolution (which initially began as a socialist, student and labour uprising but was later co-opted by Islamists) was a direct result of 25 years of uber-oppressive rule by the Shah, who was reinstated through as US-UK coup d’état (in 1952) against the democratic and secular president Mohamend Modesseah. He was ousted for daring to nationalize oil and keep the profits for his country rather than give 99% of oil profits to the British Empire. While the US reinstated Shah was secular, he was a brutal oligarch who ruled as a tyrant and was an ally of the imperial west. When he was reinstated, his 25-year reign led to the revolution, which eventually ushered in Islamic rule.
With respect to the Mujahadeen (now known as the Taliban) in Afghanistan, it was admitted in the late 1990s, by former US intelligence officials, that “American intelligence services began to aid the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan 6 months before the Soviet intervention.”  While the official story was that the US only started supporting the Mujahadeen after the Soviets invaded Afghanistan on 24 Dec 1979, the reality is that they began supporting them months earlier in an effort to essentially bait the Soviets into invading the country and becoming bogged down in a proxy war with the jihadists. This strengthened the US’ position against the USSR in the super power race of that time.
Overall, as Muslim countries decolonized many were aligning with the USSR, or were non-aligned (which often meant being sympathetic to the Soviets), and the non-religious or anti-religious undertones of communism had a secularizing effect on the politics, culture (and fashion) of these countries. With the rise of the Cold War and the desires of the US to wipe out it’s super power competitor, the US (and the UK) began to bolster, motivate, fund and arm backwards and violent religious factions like the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan.
Essentially, promoting Islamic extremism was one western response to the so-called communist threat (read as the threat to UK and US power) posed by Russia and the Soviet Union. There are other reasons for the creation, support, promotion, funding and/or arming of radical terrorist groups, which I will not go into now.
The same is true of contemporary terrorist groups such as ISIS. While the west claims to currently be at war with ISIS, the reality is that western/NATO powers actually supported and armed these violent lunatics in an effort to undermine other secular Muslim regimes such as Assad’s Syria. For instance, it was reported by the BBC in 2013 that states such as France and the US gave arms and military support to the Free Syria Army, a so-called insurgency group openly linked to ISIS, in Syria.
There is so much more to say on this topic. For now, I just want to note that certain western powers have helped to contribute to the rise of radical Islam, putting the whole world in danger, including secular, non-radical, non-violent Muslims (as well as people in the west). Secular Muslims and secular Muslim regimes are targeted by the west, rather than supported. This is strange considering the supposed war on terror.
Given their support–be it direct or indirect–of terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS, western governments must be seen as partly responsible when these groups (or their affiliates) turn around and commit heinous terrorist attacks (such as the November Paris attacks) in western countries. Strangely, since 9/11 and the ensuing multi-billion dollar global war on terrorism, western governments have been unable or unwilling to protect their citizens from terrorism. Despite billions and billions of dollars being put towards the war on terror, the terrorist threat is strangely larger than ever. One reason may be that certain western powers are–and historically have been–keen to back and support the very terrorist groups they claim to oppose in the first place. Just some things to ponder…