It was an endorsement that caught everybody by surprise. Why would Al Qaeda, the terrorist organisation that prides itself on its hatred for the United States choose to support John McCain, the ultra-conservative, Bush Doctrine-following US Presidential candidate? How could Al Qaeda possibly benefit from another war hawk in the White House? And, most importantly, what could these two have in common?
At first glance, not much. A closer look however suggests that beneath the surface, the rhetoric and the appearances, the American Right and Al Qaeda may actually be two peas in a pod.
Think about the message posted on the al-Hesbah website which, when decoded and translated, said that “Al Qaeda will have to support McCain in the coming election”. The website was confident that McCain would continue the “failing march of his predecessor” which would then lead the US to exhaust its resources and bankrupt its economy. An expansion of US military commitments in an attempt to take revenge on Al Qaeda is exactly what this group wants. And this is what John McCain promises.
So we have one side which is intent on destroying, and the other side which is content to be destroyed, for it is through its own destruction that will come the annihilation of its enemy. It is a sick relationship and yet one that both sides need, thriving on the demonisation of each other, without which they would have no reason to exist — or in this case, be elected.
So what do the Republicans and Al Qaeda have in common? Divisiveness. It is the ‘with us or against us’ approach, the delineation of patriotic vs. non-patriotic parts of the country, the Red states vs. the Blue states, the black man vs. the white man that that strikes a chord with Al Qaeda, for they too have the same approach — if you are not with them, you are going to hell.
It is the puritanical attitude that both groups share, the belief that all those who are different are to be shunned and that uniformity is the only way to achieve unity.
And it is the use of fear as an operating mechanism that brings these two groups together. One side woos its voters by telling them the other candidate will take their money, turn their nation into a socialist state, coddle criminals and be an open target for the Russians and the Muslims. The other side recruits its followers by telling them that they will be enslaved by the immoral West, their wives will stop listening to them and there will be lewdness and orgies on the street.
Both these groups cater to an uninformed audience. Both these groups preach intolerance. And both lure their followers by claims to “return to the core values” — a proposition which sounds good until you ask, what values? And more importantly, whose values?
A great Sufi, Sheikh Ibn Arabi, once wrote, “Beware of confining yourself to one belief — for much good would elude you. Be in yourself a matter for all forms of belief, for God is too vast and tremendous to be restricted to one belief rather than another.”
While the wisdom of this quote eludes both groups, they continue to shun a mindset that encourages inclusion and incorporation. They charge ahead without bemoaning the loss of innocent lives which result from their illegal, unilateral attacks on sovereign nations or blowing themselves up in public spaces.
For them, their agendas comes first — in the case of Al Qaeda, doing whatever they can to bring down the West and set up their own rule in the East, in the case of the Republican Right, setting the stage for the Rapture, or the second coming of Christ, which many right-wing Christians, including Bush, believe can only happen once certain events take place.
One of the pre-conditions for Rapture is a clash of civilisations, a polarisation of the world, something both Al Qaeda and the Republican Right seem to be working very hard at. But as another great Sufi once said, “There can be no clash of civilisations, only barbarisms. The civilised do not collide — they unite.”
The question is, how civilised are those running our countries?
Ayeda Naqvi has been a journalist for 17 years. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Daily Times, 28/10/2008