Sunday, July 20, 2008

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Arab imperialism – a story of state centralisation.

Which is one reason why Islamic imperialism has been a failure.

by Ferdinand III

In many ways and on many different levels, Islam is a failure. The imperialist venture, founded by pagan moon worshipping Arabs has never delivered, by itself, a self-generated system of progress and profit – one which benefitted the greater world at large. This is an indisputable fact which will never be uttered anywhere in the West. Any temporal success Islam has ever enjoyed was due to the riches and benefits of lands and systems it conquered. An obvious but rarely mentioned reason for Islam's poverty of self-created prosperity is the fact that Islam is a concept of state centralisation coerced through a cult of submission. Islam is in many ways the perfect tool of state aggrandizement and imperial control. This element ensures the poverty of any Islamic system.

Islamic imperialism over 1400 years has killed at least 300 million non-combattants and wiped out indigineous cultures from Morocco to Indonesia. Pagan, uncultured , but fanatical Arabs first carried the Muslim banner from southern France through to China on an imperialist rampage overshadowing that of the Mongols under Chinghis Khan; or even the expansion of Russia from a poor Muslim dominated statelet to the largest land empire in human history. The Turks, Persians, northern Indians and Sudanese were even more ferocious in many ways in implementing the totality of Muslim governance than the pagan Arabs. Indeed both Turks and Persians still today look down upon Arabs as lazy, sex addled, liars and incompetents. Yet for these and other 'believers' Islam became a centralising tool of incredible potentcy and a mechanism of power without parallel perhaps in human history. There is a reason why say the Persian or Turkish elites took up Islam and it had little to do with spiritual salvation.

The usefulness of Islamic doctrine to centralise state control has to be true if one keeps in mind two critical aspects to Islamic success in conquering huge areas of the globe. First, poor, uncultured, and peripheral Arab tribes, once united behind a fanatical doctrine of universal domination were able to spread, subdue and manage an empire far larger than anything Rome could put together in just 150 years. A strong central state ideology is an obvious necessity to do this.

Second, many of the Arab conquests were against feebler nations, empires and princedoms, in which the Arabs were able to quickly demonstrate the benefits of centralised Muslim rule for local elites, or to various factions which were weakening the targeted state in question. The Arabs could offer ambitious war-lords, or precarioulsy perched princes a more complete system of state control. Islam is after all in every way a 'total' concept – one which controls the spirit, the economy, the society and one which demands obeisance to the community or umma, but also most importantly to the temporal leader in whom both faith and worldly power are joined.

This point is especially relevant to the Arab conquests of North Africa, northern Persia, Afghanistan and central Asia. These initial Arab conquests were mostly achieved by offering the system to those politicians or warriors in need of a power base and a centralising system of compulsion. Islam was and is the greatest program of centralisation known to man. In fact without a strong Chinese state and dynastic system sitting athwart the initial Arab expansion during the 7th and 8th centuries, the Arabs might have moved right through Asia to the Pacific ocean.

Islamic centralisation of state power started immediately with its inception under Mohammed. In the place of the extreme political fragmentation that had formerly existed in Arabia, with various tribal groups vying with one another for local dominance, there emerged under Mohammed and the original Muslims an elite from the Quraysh tribe, which was able to coerce a relatively centralized political structure which integrated most of the tribes. This process of Arab state consolidation that began with Muhammad continued unabated throughout the whole period of the early Islamic conquests during the 7th and 8th centuries. After Mohammed's death each Arab tribal group which was integrated into the state during the conquest period was administered by an agent, often one of the Quraysh elite, who supervised the tribe and collected the taxes. It was in fact tax collection which forced the creation of the Islamic state structure and it was taxation and military bases and the integration of Arab tribes into a general Arab army which fostered the idea of the umma or community not of the spirit, but of the conquering.

These two facts of imperialist necessity – taxation and warring – created unity first in the Arab tribes [with much civil war, discord, intra-Arab fighting, coups, blood and hate it is to be sure]; and than amongst disparate non-Arab tribes of the conquered or the to-be-conquered areas. Various non-Arab tribal groups subject to the state, and within the onerous Arab tax system, were recruited, trained and integrated into the Arab led armies to fight in various theatres for their Arab-Muslim overlords. The enticements were booty, plunder and women – all which were shared by the victorious Arab general with his men. In fact the most copious documents written by Arabs relating to their conquests relate not the campaigns, number of dead, or stratagems, but the booty divided up by warrior.

The payments to warriors and political leaders who supported Islam became instituionalised as Arab imperialism progresssed. Simply put – it paid to join the winning side. The Arabs cleverly devised a system of stipends or direct salary payments to warriors serving in the Islamic armies. These payments, because they were predictable streams akin to a pension, created a direct and enduring link between the interests of those recruited into the Islamic armies and the interests of the state and the ruling elite in a way that merely sharing in the distribution of booty from a successful campaign could never do. Moreover, tribesmen in the Islamic armies who rebelled against the regime now did so at the cost of losing the stipends that the regime provided. As well the 'pension' was graded in order to reflect the priority of an individual's contribution and thus bravery, zeal and prowess was amply rewarded.

It was thus better for many to join the advancing Arab armies and receive booty, pensions, women and a system of state control; than to resist. External enemies abounded during the early Arab conquests which allowed Arab leadership the opportunity to direct ambitions outwards and defuse internal conflicts or potential coups. Much easier to raid, plunder and conquer an external foe and receive massive financial benefits then to engage in long, bloody and perhaps pointless or fatal intra-Arab conflict.

As Islam progressed and its universal message of inevitable domination seemed to be confirmed by the expansion of its empire, the totality of its state functionary must have appealed to many non-Islamic tribes and leaders. The complete domination of life by the Islamic state in which all matters personal and social are regulated, monitored and completely under the control of the temporal leader is an inducement few dictatorial minds will resist.

In a pre-modern world, with reasonably limited and primitive methods of communication, travel, warring, and social control, Islam must have seem a god-given tool of celestial vitality. No wonder it was so enthusiastically embraced by those who desired complete domination and overlordship of their fellow humans. Yet by denying freedom and by demanding unthinking submission to a cult and to a leadership with covets only power, Islam is little different than any other system of totality and pagan ritualisation. Eventually such a system simply implodes due to its own illogic and destructive intent. A fascism never survives – unless its enemies allow it too. This is the current modern danger. The supposedly educated modern Western mind does not address Islam as an imperialist tool and a cult of totality but as some sort of exalted spiritual program akin to Western doctrines of charity and love. Put into its proper historical context Islam can be viewed for what it is – a program of complete state control and a means to propagate imperialist war.