by Fasi Zaka
My previous article focused on the free reign of hate speech in some Pakistani media outlets that made liberal use of a mix of unsubstantiated conspiracy theory, faulty facts, racial hatred and religious intolerance, and my perspective was formed particularly by watching Zaid Hamid who does the show “Brass Tacks.”
In the week since, I have found the rhetorical violence present in the ‘lectures’ of Zaid Hamid followed up by a close dose of how it informs the reality of Brass Tacks and Zaid Hamid. Since the article he has circulated to the members of his mail group that I have attacked him at the behest of the Zionist Banking System, the Kufr Dajjal and that their ‘war’ has entered a new stage. He encouraged members to write to me, and they have in force. From veiled threats, to how my picture in this column looked like the dajjal (I am content with how God made me), or my membership to the ‘Illuminati’ amongst a number of others have all come my way, including links to documentaries on YouTube from where they have done their ‘scholarly research…’ Brass Tacks has a huge Islamic component, I wonder if Zaid Hamid has forgotten the lessons of ‘tohmat’, or allegations, and how Islam views it.
While at first I thought Zaid Hamid to be well-intended but misguided, what I have now seen firsthand demonstrates delusion. In this postmodern world where people have surrendered a good deal of their intimate freedoms to impersonal institutions, where the interlinked nexus of governments and corporations creates ripples that people find difficult to understand, the conspiracy theorist takes the easy way out by assuming that all events are at the hands of a secret few. Despite the invalidity of these theses, they have staying power because they offer no proof, and hence they cannot be disproved, especially if they are the product of a paranoid imagination. Common to most of these conspiracy theories is ‘de-individualization’, which is lumping people into impersonal groups and taking their humanity away from them. That’s what Zaid Hamid does when he rants about the inferiority of Hindus, the inherent evil nature of Jews or Pakistani leaders he disagrees with. He neglects to realize that his method is what also drove the neoconservatives in creating a world in their own ethnocentric image and in the killing fields of Iraq. This method also drove the perpetrator of the Marriott attack, who was so convinced of his mission that he didn’t mind killing scores of the poorest for a few choice targets.
As far as me being a Zionist Banker goes, I have never worked for a bank, or own shares in any. I did work briefly once for the World Bank, a development organization (one that I also believe has done some harm to the people it is mandated to help), but that was a short-term consultancy to research the value chain of apples for export and it had nothing to do with lending money. I do have two bank accounts, and the public is welcome to verify that in neither is there an exemption from paying the government Zakat, nor are there any withdrawals before it is imposed.
Let’s hold Zaid Hamid to his own standards by looking at his record. On the website of his security consulting firm, also called Brass Tacks, he proudly mentions testimonials from employees of both Deutsche Bank and Bank of America (amongst ten other banks), and from Shell. Wait a second! Isn’t this the same Zaid Hamid who does a TV programme that claims banks are in the hands of the Zionist Jews hungry to kill all Muslims? What is he doing profiting from protecting them after creating public animosity towards them? Is this the same Zaid Hamid who believes the world is being overrun by multinationals that are out to secure resources that will eventually harm Muslims? What is he doing profiting from protecting Shell, which has just signed an agreement to sell natural gas in the Governorate of Basra in Iraq under the US occupation? He is not living what he is preaching. He devours banks and multinationals on television but profits from them when the cameras stop rolling.
One of the major world conspiracies happens to be that the invasions of the US were conducted at the behest of Halliburton, an energy company with known ties to individuals of the US administration. Well, the Bank of America (BOA) has just recommended the stock of Halliburton after the CFO of the energy company met with BOA officials. So by one degree of separation, isn’t Brass Tacks, the company of Zaid Hamid, linked to Halliburton because of the BOA connection?
Now I want to clarify that all the above facts are true, but I do not believe in the yarn I wind around them to make them connect. I do not believe for a second that Zaid Hamid intends to create fear and profit from it. He just happened to be a security expert who landed on TV with a pre-existing business and started preaching his prejudices derived from random conspiracy theories. I wrote the scenario above to illustrate how the coincidental can be woven together to make a compelling narrative that has no real truth, nor is it causal or correlated. It is thinking like this that I wish Zaid Hamid would question himself on, because as demonstrated above even he could fall prey to the world where nothing is substantiated and the dicey is used as truth to fan hatred.
As far as profiting from concerns he preaches against, well that’s for him to resolve. But the absolutism that Zaid Hamid holds others to, he does not hold himself to apparently.
This absolutism is not just moral in his case, it is intellectual as well. In his recent programme, he described how income taxes were one of the greatest conspiracies of the US. Had he just bothered to look into the system of income taxes and public finance, he would have realized that a progressive taxation system is one of the greatest tools to redistribute wealth and to help the poor. Accidents of birth, talent and intelligence can be mitigated into a more just society when there is a documented tax base, and societies can pay for services to the economically disadvantaged. A progressive taxation system can make sure that there are good hospitals, schools, pensions and other benefits that can help them overturn an unequal society by redistributing from the rich to the poor. The welfare state that all populist Islamic leaders promise will be based on the progressive income tax system, not government sales tax (GST). If we had no income taxes, and only GST then we would be taxing consumption, and for the poor food is a large part of that, which means relative to income no income taxes and only GST; it would penalize the poor more than the rich and they would eat less. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
For example, Zaid Hamid has been insinuating for the longest time that most of Pakistan’s leaders are in the pockets of the CIA. I am sure some are. However, Zaid Hamid makes one exclusion to his thesis, General Musharraf, someone who overtly cooperated more with the US than anyone else in Pakistan’s history. Now exactly how Zaid Hamid has the knowledge to make this distinction, no one knows. By continuously insisting on television the he is the only one who knows these things, he is creating the cult of personality, not that of objectivity. After all, this is a man who decries the state of representative politics, of democracy, but that does not mean he has the right to do away with it, because the only alternative in his eyes would be someone he approves of (himself?), not who the people choose.
In the end, I would like to add a few cautionary notes. Brass Tacks is not a programme entirely without merit, and neither is Zaid Hamid. For example, he is right when he discusses the rancid imperialism of the US and its misadventures abroad, he is right when he believes that unfettered capitalism is bad, or that Muslims need to awaken from their slumber. He is right when he mentions there are flaws in an economic system that allows for hot money, that sells credit irresponsibly for mindless consumption. These are legitimate themes, and the fact that Zaid Hamid is non-sectarian is applause worthy.
But where Zaid Hamid should draw the line is upholding the facts that withstand query, abstaining from hate speech even if he opposes large swathes of humanity and verifying tracts that may not fit into his presuppositions. There is a place for both the right and left on television, after all that is what creates consensus through dialectic. What should be common is remembering Islam is a religion of peace.
The writer is a Rhodes scholar and former academic. Email: email@example.com
Source: The News, Thursday, September 25, 2008