Transnational Decolonization Is the Solution, Not Movements as Bernie Sanders’ & the Women’s March
From The Anarchist Library by Mohamed Jean Veneuse
Acknowledgments: Eternal thanks to Krista D’Amour Flute, Maysam Ghani, Laith Marouf, Aragorn!, Joaquin Cienfuegos, Deepa Rajkumar, and Robert Lovelace for their insightful feedback.
To be clear, valorized figures like Alexandra Ocasio Cortez and social movements like that of Bernie Sanders and the Women’s March are - in fact - not decolonial at all. Their sole strategy depends on voting, reforming laws, protests of equality, and a national assimilationist politics of citizen rights. In adopting the former strategy they constantly evoke two central pillars of representative-democracy: (neo)liberal humanism and multicultural identity politics, both which are founded on supremacist Enlightenment values. In relying on these colonial/imperial ideals and this approach these movements are ultimately – whether they recognize or not – re–entrenching Euro-American white ascendance and individualism. Till the historical present, these human rights paradigms and identitarian reference points continue to structurally and symbolically humanize white bodies and contribute to the reified dehumanization of people who are Indigenous, Black and People of Color. Contrary to the popular belief that this strategy can usher cataclysmic change – numerous radical Indigenous, Black, Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, Sikh, as well as a minority Arab and Muslim knowledge keepers and movement organizers – have exposed and continue to tirelessly argue against the destructive implications of this strategy that – again – is not decolonial at all.
On the other hand, decolonization operates from the premise that representative democracy, ultimately anchored in capitalist nation-state structures, is a neocolonial product of modernly. It is an extension of an ongoing Euro-American neoimperialist project that we all ceaselessly subordinate ourselves to in the East and the West. Decolonization does not rely on a strategy that rests on the seizure of the nation-state to enact change from within. Decolonial approaches do not strategically invest in the reform of Western nation-state laws that evict Indigenous, Black people and POC. Decolonization recognizes that in a neoliberal age there is no separation between capitalism and nation-states. Decolonization accounts for the relationship between settler-colonial societies (as the US/Canada) and franchise or so-called postcolonial societies as Egypt, neither of which have undergone decolonization. I write this relatively short piece in an attempt to hold all of us, including myself, accountable, beginning with my own diasporic Muslim POC communities in settler-colonial societies such as the U.S./Canada.
Settlers of the capitalist Nation-State, Not Hyphenated Citizen-Subjects
There are several flawed assumptions informing movements as that of the Women’s March and Bernie Sanders’ and their trajectories, besides those briefly noted, and which I now expand upon:
First, these social movements operate on the premise that nation-states can be disentangled from capitalism. However, the historical fact is that capitalism and the nation-state symbiotically evolved together. Though the relationship between capitalism and nation-states, sometimes, can expose minor rifts between them, in the short term, that can lead to manifested ruptures, which have local and even regional implications. Nonetheless, their long-term existence is contingent and codependent on the sustenance of their undeniable, deep-rooted, mutual interests. The quintessential definition of globalization and neoliberalism is deeply anchored in the idea that the relationship between the nation-state and capitalism is irreversible. Neoliberalism, in fact, began with Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher in 1979 and was, later, ruptured wide open in 1994 with the Democrat’s NAFTA. The fact is, at the macro-level, the nation-state and capitalism are our real parents.
Capitalist nation-states are not just institutions but rather are oppressive ways of conceiving the world around us, including our own identities and selves. They herd us and structure our thoughts, and fine-tune our behavioral patterns, feelings and emotions. They do so by constantly disseminating repressive racializing, gendering, sexualizing, classist, debilitating and ablest logics, which since birth we have all internalized and replicate at the horizontal level. On the one hand, the nation-state (our ‘real father’) indoctrinates us on how to become authoritarian, to hierarchize, covet and hoard power, to categorize and discipline others and ourselves. On the other hand, capitalism (our ‘representative mother’) teaches us how to commoditize, individualize, commercialize and materialize space/time, as well as love, friendships, solidarity, ally ship and land. This would include symbols of anti-capitalist resistance on our t-shirts and MacBook stickers – nothing is sacred to it.
Second, when these social movements claim they fear that Trump has ushered-in fascism, they are naively mistaking fascism for Totalitarianism. Totalitarianism imposes draconian order from above through force, be it via police repression, legislative and judicial power, or even national emergencies, imposed curfews, and military regimes. On the other hand, fascism constantly produces tyranny at the horizontal levels of the family, neighborhoods, schools, factories, hospitals etc where equality and equity can neither be guaranteed nor legislated. Fascism’s goal is to transform us all into egoistic little Mussolinis and mini-gods in public and private. Fascism is facilitated through local and global political, economic, cultural, and spiritual stereotypes that we all reenact relative to each other. Fascism is the cancer we must fight and our liberation depends on it. Fascism permeates spirally from the top-down, is reinforced from the bottom-up and is reenacted horizontally within our daily, mundane, lives. Hence, Hannah Ardent wrote a book titled The Origins of Totalitarianism while Wilhelm Reich wrote, The Mass Psychology of Fascism. What makes fascism more insidiously dangerous than totalitarianism is that fascism is always mobilized on a mass movement and a scale that operates in all vectors and directions. Fascism is encoded and entrenched within the very organizing skeleton that is the capitalist nation-state. We must recognize that fascism is a mass psychology and, in turn, that we have all internalized micro-fascisms relative to the symbolic and structural privileges that we each positionally enjoy and reproduce at the grassroots level during our social encounters. In order to undo our own domestication so that we may reassert control over our own lives, we must acknowledge that we all have the potential to replicate the sexism, racism, classism, transphobia, biophobia and ablest oppressions that colonial ‘cultures of whiteness’ produce and relentlessly disseminate through capitalist-state frameworks. We cannot eradicate power differentials in our encounters, but we can delineate them by combatting our internalized micro-fascisms and taking responsibility as individuals and communities for altering prejudices that blind our inner hearts, spirits and actions. Not understanding the difference between fascism and totalitarianism is not just a passé, mute, theoretical point, but rather one that possesses destructive crippling social movement consequences as well, especially when considering what constitutes resistance. That is the heavy price of living in an Orwellian, post-alternative fact and schizophrenic world of ‘double speak’ informed and tainted by the destructive legacy of liberalism and its dilution of our words and their meanings. While in modernity, white supremacist tendencies and assumptions overtly inform conservative right-wing parties and positions, the greater danger is how they covertly and underhandedly disguise themselves within (neo)liberal progressive and even leftist positions.
Our internalization of these colonial and capitalist nation-state logics is reflected in our contradictory ethical-political positions in which cis-heteropatriarchy, homo-nationalism and pinkwashing are constantly reiterated within our movements. An example is the Heineken and Johnnie Walker sponsored pride parades and Women’s Marches that we perceive as resistance despite these movements being premised on bleached notions of non-violence, gay marriage, coming out narratives, pride, and shame. These protests that represent important but temporary and exhausting public displays of revolt are limited and reactionary because they are based on a Western notion of ‘freedom of assembly’ in the absent construction of ethical-political, decolonial, land-based alternatives. What further exposes the futility and contradiction of these acts of dissent is their precise re-enactment on stolen Indigenous land in a settler-colonial society like the U.S. where Black bodies are rendered disposable. Even more proof of their ineffectiveness is the fact that this resistance is always surrounded on all fronts by trigger-happy slave-catching police forces from which we seek sanctioned-permits to protest in an NRA, Bonnie and Clyde culture that is sadistically obsessed with its imperialist, hyper-masculine, soldiers and military industrial complexes amidst backdrop patriotic chants of U.S.A.! While homonationalism domesticates and neutralizes queer communities under white settler-state authority in this instance, cis-heteropatriarchy preserves Victorian notions of nuclear family units, privatized routes of inheritance, and the individualist and commoditized ownership of land and nonhuman life. Pinkwashing is the Israeli state’s instrumentalization of LGBTQ-friendly images and rights for Zionists, with Euro-American collusion, which is then used to deflect attention from the Israeli settler-colonial occupation of what is deemed to be a ‘backward’ Palestine.
As products of colonialism and imperialism, the encoding of cis-heteropatriarchy, homonationalism, and pinkwashing within capitalist nation-states have the particular effect of infantilizing Indigenous, Black people and People of Color, as opposed to our radicalization. As colonized individuals and communities of color, they leave us with false binaries like becoming heroes/villains, civilized/primitive, victims/perpetrators, innocent/evil and two reactionary responses given our internalized traumas. The first option is orientalism as we strive to become good law-abiding citizens who opt for reform and deify a colonial constitution based on individualist protestant-Weberian capitalist ethics of individualism, inheritance, and property rights. The second option, especially in the case of Muslims, is that we can become fundamentalist, mindless, terrorists who reenact our traumas by adopting violence as a sole holistic strategy. Fact is capitalist nation-states possess a monopoly over meanings of violence that include the relentless violence that arrives with the sexism, racism, ageism, classism, etc. that we experience and are exposed to everyday. In the case of Arabs and Muslims, if one were to further apply this false binary formula transnationally in the particular case of Syria to view its geopolitical consequences, this means having to choose between an imperialist/colonialist and militarized interventionist Crusading-Zionist-Wahhabi alliance in the disguised and despotic name of human rights and democracy, and on the other hand, a similar Russian-Iranian-Syrian authoritarian coalition and axis.
America was never great, nor will it ever be. America is a settler-colonial society that arose from and continues to thrive on a simultaneous double helix. The first strand of the helix, enacted in 1492, is internal colonization. This consisted of Indigenous genocidal-extermination to steal land as well as enact an industrial plantation economy upon it through the enslavement and indentured servitude of Middle Passage Black peoples, a hardly insignificant number of who were Muslims. The second strand is external colonization that is intimately linked with geo-political, imperialist, militarized adventurism elsewhere and as an extension of three racial/ethnic and spiritual incited Anglo-Saxon crusading wars with Muslims and Islam prior to 1492. Colonization never ended for Indigenous, Black people and People of Color, whether within settler-colonial societies or abroad in franchise ‘post’ colonial societies such as Egypt. In the case of diasporic Muslims, millions of recent arrivants to the U.S./Canada have been driven to become POC settlers because of the destruction and devastating conditions reaped upon our original homelands. However, we must beg the question, at whose expense is our migration to Empire? Who continues to suffer, including our own families and peoples, in our motherlands? Diasporic Muslim POC must understand that regardless of our agonies as new arrivants to the U.S./Canada, we are complicit in upholding settler-colonialism. Our complicity relies on the daily dispossession and denial of Indigenous people of futurities and land (the true source of wealth) in addition to a continuing after-life to slavery that has globally hyper-visibled and invisibled Black bodies. This modern enslavement now manifests itself in even more complicated forms including slavery’s ethnocentric instrumentalist weaponization of blackness to pit Transatlantic Blacks against new African diasporas in a race to the pyramid’s top as we all aspire towards ascendant European values and seductive social incentives and upward mobility. Without appealing to puritan identity politics and blood quantum logics in a complicated bi-and-multi-racial world in which ‘white-passing’ POC exist: if one is not a descendent of either of these entwined braids (Indigenous and Middle-Passage Black) on Turtle Island, then one is a settler with the variations of penalties and privileges that one’s uprooting and dislocation affords. As settlers of color, we cannot simply and purely whitewash away our complicities and participation in settler-colonialism through the promise of an assimilationist and inclusive insistence on an unapologetic ‘hyphenated-American’ citizen-identity. Bernie Sander’s democratic-socialist movement and others like the Women’s March insist that we embrace this option, despite that it is a colonial identity in which settler-colonialism, imperialism, neoliberalism, and global orientalism continues to thrive.
The refusal of diasporic Muslim POC to critically interrogate their settler-colonial positionings and to decolonize their colonized identities as well as interpretations of Islam makes us no different from Zionist settlers in Palestine benefitting off of the back of native Jewish, Christian and Muslim Palestinians since 1948. In our own settler-colonial U.S/Canadian landscape, our integration as diasporic Muslim POC arrives at the expense of Indigenous and Black peoples. In turn, decolonizing Islam is fundamental to the liberation of all peoples not only because of the geopolitical context of Islamophobia and Islam as a quintessential Other in modernity, but also arguably because of Islam’s founding on and relationship to social justice for all peoples. Decolonizing Islam means resurrecting a Qur’an of the oppressed. In tandem to this, decolonizing Islam requisites the expedited embodiment of this socially-just Qur’an by resurgent Muslims who must address our multi-and-cross valiant oppressions that include: Arab supremacy, which is identified in the Qur’an, as well as our present disregard for nonhuman life, sexism, anti-Blackness, and participation in anti-Indigenous politics etc. These injustices and sicknesses fester within our own migrant and global communities. Enough then of what we in the diaspora hypocritically and costly trade off of our Muslim responsibilities in exchange for our cheap purchase of the ‘American Dream’ founded on Manifest Destiny, Terra Nullius, and Doctrines of Discovery, all which we barter in exchange for the fantasy of Palestinian liberation that comes at the expense of Indigenous and Black subduing. The destructive legacy of (neo)liberalism far supersedes that of (neo)conservativism.
Identity politics – as a product of (neo)liberalism – are tactically useful plainly because of ongoing, real, visceral, symbolic, structural and material, violences and sufferings that womyn, children, the youth, the elderly, the poor, the differently abled, Indigenous, Black people and POC face every moment of everyday. However, identity politics are also very much strategically limited because of Euro-American and (neo)liberal structural and symbolic ontologies/epistemologies that inform them as categories and reference points.
Decolonization and Re-Indigenization
On the other hand, and unlike the former progressive and liberal-leftist movement trajectories, decolonization does not rely on the seizure of nation-state power at all. Rather, decolonization is grounded in relationship to a biodiverse project of grounded reliving on the land where we relearn how to dream, walk, feel, speak, listen, act, love, disagree, eat, seek shelter, identify and relate to each other and nonhuman life differently as a symbiotic community. Decolonization, unlike European Marxist-leftist-socialist trajectories (which many perceive as radical), does not anthropomorphize land or conceives and treats it as property. In this sense, decolonization seeks to transcend Western ‘empowering’ international neo-development militarized projects and (neo)liberal ecological environmentalism. Moreover, decolonization is an inherently communitarian spiritual act – unlike the majority of European Anarchist trajectories that condemn, in particular, what all monotheistic religions, faiths, and spiritualities claim, based on their myopic experiences mostly with Western-interpreted imperialist/colonialist Christianities.
At least according to Islam, religion (dīn), faith (iīmān), and spirituality (ruhaniya) – are three interrelated non-individualist and distinct communitarian concepts. Islam acknowledges that over 124,000 prophets have been sent to different tribes and nations since creation so that we may, as the Qur’anic verse 49:13 states, “get to know one another” and vie with one another in ethical-political responsibilities towards each other and nonhuman life. Separately and collectively all three concepts have been historically used across space/time by all peoples and societies to uphold liberation and social justice, but also to suppress it. Far from it, decolonization does not assume that we are pure nor is it concerned with us becoming romanticized tree-hugging hippies. It does not involve a ‘return to innocence’ or our deference to romanticized and righteous notions of the past. Rather, what decolonization demands is that we distinguish between general moral dictums and ethical practices and therefore recognize that although the latter are derivatively related to the former they are always contingent on spatial/temporal contexts. Abstract moral dictums such as ‘though shall not kill’ are suspended in an ethical situation in which our lives and lands are under imminent threat of life and death. In this sense, decolonization necessitates that we extract ethical-political and spiritual non-authoritarian and non-capitalist (etc.) concepts and practices from our pre-modern spiritual and cultural paradigms to project their contextualized application relative to land in the present-future. The perception that returning to and learning from the land as primitive is based on our colonial internalization of modern European logics of ‘civilization’, ‘culture’, ‘sexuality’, ‘progress’, ‘liberation’, ‘renaissance’, ‘development’, ‘decadence’, as well as the contemporary non-existent division between the ‘private/public’. The last is especially true in a post-9/11 Snowden age in which we are all digitally constructed, surveilled, mined, and harvested online through cameras on our laptops, televisions and smart phones. Those of us most threatening and high on the radical matrix are those of us decolonially capable of cogently ethical-politically and spiritually interlinking struggles and constructing alternative histories and narratives.
Despite similarities and distinctions between the settler-colonial contexts of Turtle Island and Palestine, diasporic Muslim POC must adopt Palestine as an ethical-political compass from which to orient our activist responsibilities towards Indigenous and Black peoples in the U.S./Canada. This is not only vital because decolonization is a spiritual act. Rather, it is also crucial because of Palestine’s historical and spiritual significance to Muslims since Islam’s dawn and arguably prior to it becoming the site of an ongoing Western Crusading war in the Middle East from the pre-modern period to the present moment. Palestine and Jerusalem (al-quds) served as the initial qibla (direction) that Muslims prayed to, and is now regarded as the third holiest site to Muslims, following the first (Mecca, which Muslims since pray to) as well as the second sacred site (Medina). Albeit a pan-Arab cause, liberating Palestine is more threateningly potent as a pan-Islamic conviction. After all, while the former cause orbits around 420 million Arabs (a racial/ethnic identity that includes Eastern Christians, Druze, Muslims, Jews, and Bedouins), the latter implies engaging 1.8 billion Muslims who circularly revolve around a spiritual signifier Islam (that ultimately seeks to transcend all identity politics). Neither figures include transnational allies across the world, affected by the Non-Aligned Movement and the Bandung Conferences’ spirit, that continue to believe in Palestine as a just ideal and necessary struggle. While pan-Arabism and pan-Islamism are not necessarily opposing dualities, they are evoked here to highlight the essentialist limitations and potentials of both in light of issues in each like: On the one hand, Arab Supremacy, and on the other hand, Sunni exceptionalism. Both pan-Arabism and pan-Islamism are contingent on how one ultimately interprets the identities Arab and Muslim or Islam, given how (neo)liberalism has affected their understandings as well as how the West has long sought to divide and conquer both by inciting and exploiting racial/ethnic and sectarian divisions within each. However, as noted earlier, Islam’s exceptional power and transcendental appeal, unlike the identity Arab, is that it ideally revolves around the non-identitarian global message and bond of spirituality, which is a fundamental tenant of decolonization that cannot be dismissed. This is particularly the case, when one Islamically expands the definition of who and what is a spiritual believer to depend on the ethical-political commitments and practices we all follow despite our diverse traditions and paths to the same Creator and in relation to (non)human life. In this sense, it is irrelevant from a Qur’anic perspective and as I argued elsewhere, whether or not individuals and communities explicitly identify as Muslim or not. Besides the Qur’anic injunction that there “is no compulsion in religion”, in numerous verses as 2:251, 7:56, 7:74, 8:73, 11:116, 12:73, 13:25, 26:152, 27:48 and 47:22 etc., the Qur’an explicitly describes disbelievers, amongst many other facets, as those who dabble in “excess”, uphold “injustice”, spread “mischief” and “corrupt the earth”.
It is not only vital that we understand the importance of spiritually decolonizing urban and rural spaces and hence the vitality of land to liberation. Rather, decolonization also (further) involves a violent unsettling of everything that ‘cultures of whiteness’ and their ‘civilizational progressive’ values ushered in. This, in fact, constitutes most of the presuppositions you and I know of our entwined colonially fractured histories and present identity crises. Decolonization involves unavoidable violence in the unmaking of our own liberal-constructed identities and the subjugation of each other, especially as Indigenous, Black people and POC. This includes our reenactment of an ‘Oppression Olympics’ between us such that we are no longer endlessly pitted against one another because as colonized Indigenous, Black and POC communities we ought to be natural allies. Therefore, decolonization is an active (not reactive colonial) act – which amongst many elemental pillars entails dismantling competitions of oppression we play as Indigenous, Black people and POC relative to each other as to who is more marginalized.
Decolonization demands that we recognize our species’ creative and unfathomable feats yet also our disposability, finiteness and insignificance. Killing/murdering the Creator and crowning ourselves as omnipotent is not a solution, as that does not disappear a dead God’s space or power-vacuum. Rather, it transforms us all into demagogues vying for the usurpation of that space and power relative to nonhuman life, as the example of the initial 18 days of the January 2011 Tahrir Uprisings uniquely proved. Given Egypt’s complicity in the Zionist occupation of Palestine, dethroning the pharaoh Hosni Mubarak – who at this moment is out of prison – was not the real struggle. After all, Mubarak has since been replaced by Mohamed Morsi (presently incarcerated) and now, in exchange, the ever more ruthless-military-junta of a dictator Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi who makes Mubarak’s 30 year reign seem like a horizon less utopia. Rather, the real struggle has always been how Egyptians (and perhaps others all over the world) can permanently (given the analysis above) sustain the decolonial, horizontalist, momentum of non-authoritarian and non-materialist, as well as anti-colonial and anti-imperial, organizing to make the capitalist nation-state totally irrelevant regionally and transnationally. Although during the initial Tahrir Uprisings, Egyptians were united under the false banner of nationalism that camouflaged ethical-political, ethnic, gendered, and spiritual, factional differences between them, they also offered a hopeful glimpse of an alternative spirit and world that manifested in innovated initiatives they incepted. Examples of these include: al-lijan al-sha’biyah (or ‘popular assemblies’), neighborhood councils, security checks points (given, that over 99 police stations were burnt to the ground), the sharing of necessary food and shelter (while sleeping and living on what are and should have always been a people’s public streets and squares).
As such, decolonization centrally entails the embrace of a politics of responsibility and accountability (not a capitalist nation-state politics of citizenship rights) to (non)human life. As a participant in the Egyptian uprisings who has been and is involved with radical Indigenous, Black and people of color movements in settler-colonial US/Canada, as well as the Global South, and as a radical non-statist and non-capitalist Muslim, I am disinterested in reactionary colonized responses manifesting in neo-conservative movements such as ISIS/Al-Qaeda/the Muslim Brotherhood. As an unapologetic ‘Islamist’ – a European term that relies on the presumptive Western segregation and compartmentalization of spirituality from politics – I am also equally disinterested and oppose the neo-orientalist integration of myself to fit European worldly capitalist nation-state paradigms.
Decolonization demands that we do not engage in self-righteousness and acknowledge that we are all authoritarians and capitalists. This is even true when we are radically and decolonially seeking to dismantle and construct alternative ethical-political paradigms to capitalist nation-state archetypes. Hence we must recognize the difference between polemical anti-authoritarian and anti-capitalist rhetoric and the actual extraction and application of non-authoritarian and non-capitalist land-based concepts and practices in constructing a different world with others. Decolonization’s non-and-anti-statist and non-and-anti-capitalist foundations then inherently and explicitly mean the dissolution of settler-colonial America and Canada, and in this context, an ever return to Turtle Island. If decolonization revolves around undoing oppression and capitalist nation-state structures that sustain it, then reindigenization is the act of re-imaginatively and practically recreating an alternative world through the non-authoritarian, non-materialist, non-individualist, gender egalitarian, socially just commitments and responsibilities we retrieved from our cultures and spiritualities and that we are now collectively applying towards a distinct pluriverse world. These alternatives, to say the least, include: 1) Holistic understandings of transformative justice (towards dismantling incarcerating prison industrial complexes); 2) Healing (in unmaking the biomedical and pharmaceutical industrial complexes); as well as 3) Ethical frameworks of hospitality and conflict resolution towards mitigating our disagreements relative to each other when and should they arrive (in Islam, these are referred to as Usul al-Diyafa and Usul al-Ikhtilaf).
In this historical moment, it is therefore rather disheartening to see old and new generations defer to institutionalized social democrats and professionalized liberal-leftist-political positions that actually dilute and pollute the potential for a more radical politics – and yet that are adopted as the barometer for ‘social change’ and ‘revolutionary activism’. As I noted in the beginning, I am referring to social movements as that of Bernie Sanders, who voted for the Jerusalem Bill and broad and dangerous legislations as FOSTA/SESTA, and stands against BDS, is inadequate at best regarding gender, racial and sexual politics, and ultimately believes in U.S. settler-colonial closed borders. But also now and equally responsible, are others, as new democratic Congress womyn Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, as well as Alexandra Oscaio Cortez who not only unapologetically insist on a colonial ‘American’ identity but are also encouraging support for the so-called ‘Green New Deal’. Within it, Cortez and the deal’s architects pay empty reconciliatory lip-service acknowledgement to Indigenous land and peoples. They claim that the new social contract, that is being compared with the Moon-landing and dubbed after Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Industrial New Deal, will: “Obtain […] the free, prior, and informed consent of [I]ndigenous people for all decisions that affect [I]ndigenous people and their traditional territories, honoring all treaties and agreements with indigenous people, and protecting and enforcing the sovereignty and land rights of [I]ndigenous people”. This statement alone is evidence of (neo)liberalism’s destructive affect and naïve as well as persistent permeation into all our politics. It demonstrates that Cortez and her supporters are either confused or do not comprehend the implications of their own statements and political stances. Though they certainly are not monolithic, still, decolonial Indigenous conceptualizations of sovereignty, self-determination, and nationhood are fundamentally antithetical and irreconcilable with not only capitalism but also nation-state paradigms and hence oppose the paternalism and stewardship of both parents. The rhetorical words of these congressional politicians and forthcoming policies blatantly ignore that all of America is stolen Indigenous land that must be immediately rematriated and repatriated. This especially holds weight if the over 500 broken treaties, as the Green New Deal insists, are to be finally applied after over 500 years of post-Colombian unbaiting reigns of terror, enslavement, and settlement.
It is this (neo)liberalism imbued within these alleged reconciliations, and other colonially contrived identities, that is deeply troublesome. It sustains both settler-colonialism and America’s imperialist aspirations in franchise or so-called postcolonial societies like Egypt. It also further geopolitically normalizes Palestinian occupation as well as distracts attention from the local and transnational decolonial work, some of us are engaged in, that concerns undoing the colonial/imperial perils of European modernity.
Decolonization and reindigenization mean that diasporic POC Muslims must embrace the full responsibilities and struggles that arrive with the Islamic terms – hijra (migration) and the Medina Charter. Muslims engaged in two early migrations over 1439 years ago during Prophet Muhammad’s time. The first was from Mecca to Abyssinia where they were protected and offered safe-haven by the Christian King Negus, who later converted to Islam, while, the second, was to the Ansar (the Helpers) of Medina. Diasporic POC Muslims in settler-colonies as the US/Canada (and even others across the Pacific like New Zealand and Australia) cannot sanctimoniously claim to speak for the liberation of Palestine without recognizing that the Indigenous land they now stand and breathe on must be fully rematriated and repatriated to Indigenous peoples. This is the measure of ‘victory’ as opposed squabbling over Empire’s scraps and spoils through electoral-representative ‘democratic’ systems in midterm and presidential elections that will supposedly usher in a just society and worldly liberation for us all. This is particularly critical in a defining moment in which innumerable peoples are concerned with a decaying globe, which our existence relies on, and that has its own timetable, in light of what we have collectively squandered, raped and pillaged of it. Decolonization further means moving radically beyond Ta-Nehsi Coates’ white-European Zionist framework for reparations. Coates’ schema and logic denies Indigenous deposition and nonsensically relies on a capitalist insurance tabulate of dollar cent figures in the devalued redressing of human misery, shackling and death, which no price tag can be assigned to. What of after-life reparations to the ongoing slavery enacted through Stand-Your-Ground laws, police brutality and premeditated extrajudicial killings, routine ‘Stop and Frisk’ programs, ‘Policies of Broken Windows’, voter disenfranchisement, and a shattered criminal justice system? What reparations can recompense for racial capitalism as well as School-to-Prison pipelines, impoverishment and premature deaths, 1994 Crime bills that Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders voted for and that superfluously target and incarcerate Black youth who are referred to as ‘thugs’ and ‘super-predators’? What of reparations to Mexican-Americans, deprived by the Mexican-American war of the right to migrate into what was then half of their former nation? What of Japanese Americans, interned during World War II and Chinese Americans and their sufferings under the Oriental Exclusion Acts? Rather, in this instance, decolonization ought mean following the lead of nascent movements as the Dream-Defenders in linking Black and Indigenous struggles to Palestinian liberation. There is no free Palestine from the River to the Sea till Indigenous and Black peoples are liberated of settler-colonialism here in the US/Canada and vice versa.
On Solidarity & Ally-ship
As for ‘allies’ of European descent it must be understood that – as Indigenous, Blacks, Muslims and POC – we continue to be exposed to physical, cultural, mental, and spiritual pathological torture, in part, through compartmentalized European neoliberal academic knowledge systems. These include prejudicial and conventional Eurocentric fields of study that masquerade as universal knowledges, like: anthropology, history sociology, art, engineering, agricultural and physical sciences, as well as medicine and venerated individualist discourses as psychoanalysis. These compartmentalized discourses are ontologically/epistemologically ill-suited, narrow, and incongruent with the communitarian, sophisticated and de-segregated knowledge systems of Indigenous, Black and POC ways of life, oral traditions, stories, analyses, and narratives, that all too often are cast by the West as ‘myths’, ‘superstitious’ and ‘non-scientific’. However, to us, our knowledge systems are multiple, collaborative, and accumulative living memories that are intensely embedded in cosmological, cultural and spiritual land based techniques, skills, value-systems, and ways of knowing, which as minorities we are collectively seeking to reclaim and reinvent through reindigenization.
Moreover, European allies must comprehend the extent of power and privilege they possess when as Indigenous, Black people and POC we have been weaned to resent ourselves, our spiritualities and skin color, and to engage in the reactionary neoconservative/neoorientalist politics described above. We are born aspiring to the humanity of whites and whiteness even before recognizing our own dehumanization as Indigenous, Black people and POC. We are expected to shoulder magnanimous responsibilities of learning to tone police ourselves, to educate you – as European allies – on our struggles while also unlearning, re-binding and re-teaching our own Indigenous, Black, Muslim and POC communities. We are expected to conform to writing legibly, linearly, coherently, rationally, nonviolently, in order to be taken seriously or otherwise risk being pegged as engaging in so-called ‘reverse racism’. Or worse, reinforce the perception that we are engaged in ranting and raging diatribes that reinforce our eviction and casting as angry, savage, lunatics, despite our life and death struggles for existence presently exemplified in movements like Black Lives Matter, Idle No More, and No DAPL and multiplicitous others. We are expected to learn European languages, sciences, medicines, architecture, technologies, humanities, gender, queer, poststructuralist political philosophies and social movement theories that are privileged over our own mother tongues, and cultural and spiritual ways of life. We shoulder these enormous burdens and more without necessarily similarly witnessing the reciprocation of that accountability and responsibility from the end of Euro-American allies. Moreover, when Euro-American ally ship finally arrives, if it genuinely does, it is restricted to some struggles of ours at the expensive cost of others without the responsibility of their interlinking. This occurs despite Euro-American complicity in not just settler-colonialism, but rather imperialism, neoliberalism, global orientalism, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism etc. In turn, it is troubling to witness the hesitancy of Euro-American allies, if not their limitation and outright refusal of fully embracing what decolonization fundamentally entails, despite that it ought, as an earthquake, violently unsettle us all at the levels of the reconfiguration of our identities, responsibilities, notions of home and belongings. This does not mean that Euro-American allies lead or usurp decolonization/reindigenization either. It is ours to strategize, and theirs to engage, partake-in and support, even if that entails placing their bodies on the line for us, as ours have been all along and continue to be. And yet, as Indigenous, Black people and POC we stand tall, head up, shoulders broad, and rise resurgent, despite the indignity and disrespect we receive. Even when Euro-American allies polemically espouse more radical non-statist and non-capitalist social movement trajectories, beyond the reformist liberal-progressive agendas described above, it is often the case that they constrain their own responsibilities and homework. For instance, when they delimit their activism, teaching, and scholarly citation trails to European literatures that suite their philosophical debates, fragile egos, guilt and comfort as well as the empty darkness of their own conceits.
A general example that demonstrates the type of ally ship and solidarity we resent is one that ends up exacerbating the distrust and fruitless solidarities existing between us. For instance, when a straw-person European scholar/activist who espouses ‘radical’ anarchist politics decides to become a new Muslim revert/convert, and then proceeds to anthropologically mine Islam in order to publish book after book and does so quickly as a savoir-messiah without having adequately engaged Islamic methodologies, learned Arabic, or even acknowledged their own position or responsibilities as a settler and their complicity in settler-colonialism. This is done under the presumption (perhaps) that their conversion to Islam whitewashes their local anti-Indigenous and anti-Black as well as transnational collusions, not recognizing that this race to innocence is, in fact, anti if not blatantly un-Islamic and devalues the Creator's teachings and word. Unlike disenfranchised Muslim POC, and apart from when these white reverts/converts change their European names and orientally don Muslim garb to reflect their newly found Muslim identities, the color of their skin and the politics of citizenships – that document their original Euro-Americans places of birth – shields them from daily outing and scrutiny. Their whiteness shelters them from being interrogated for hours, if not days, and humiliated as we are stripped naked as anything birthed in airports and are archived on Terror Watch-Lists. Similarly, Euro-American allies cannot continue deploying ornamental usages of intersectionality without understanding that in the absence of a decolonial/anti-colonial/and anti-imperial framework in their analyses, their narrative is, in fact, rendered toothless. Euro-American allies cannot continue to teach gender and queer theories without engaging Indigenous and radical Black feminisms as well as Two-Spirit, queer Indigenous, queer Black, and queer of color critiques, especially when the former discourses center settler-colonialism. Empire’s settler-colonialism informs the very context in which all theories must be applied and the trajectory in which social movements are mobilized relative to both local struggles and similar resistances worldwide.
As I have argued elsewhere and ask rhetorically, if, I believe that Islam is inherently anarchistic, feminist, queer, and emphasizes social justice (etc.) on what grounds am I, to no avail, obligated to endlessly identify using modern terms as Muslim anarchist or Muslim feminist, as a precondition for solidarity with Euro-American others who are dismissive of them. Yet, I am required to justify my own existence to white gazes (and POC affected by them). The strict reason I continue to do it is as a tactic is to undo stereotypes and open foreclosed conversations on the ground (i.e. the grassroots). I do it to facilitate cross-disciplinary knowledge and social movement deliberations, not to convince you – as Euro-American allies – or assimilate into your paradigms without engagement; I said the question was rhetorical. White allies ought to reflect on the innumerable consequences of similar actions as these that they participate in and that further entrenches colonialism, imperialism, neoliberalism and misery, if they indeed value and are serious about being regarded as true allies that are worthy of our trust, which is not implicit because they are ‘activists’. Activism is not an institutionalized or armchair job that we practice when convenient and in the comfort of our homes. For us – Indigenous, Black people and POC – it is our life because our daily collective survival, resistance and existence in this war, is contingent upon it.
In the end, our entire species capitulates to European values and ‘cultures of whiteness’. In turn, the only decolonial and collective way out for us given how we have all embraced identities that have been affected by liberalism is to recognize that what ought matter is not simplistic notions of whether one is white, a POC, Indigenous, Black, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, anarchist, Marxist, feminist or queer etc. Rather, what should always take precedence over these modern-liberal reconfigured identities are the strategic ethical-political commitments and responsibilities that ought to inform them given our distinctive positionalities. This is especially the case given liberalism’s destructive legacy on all our identity formations. In other words, being a Muslim does not inherently make you a member of a community striving towards decolonization and reindigenization. Similarly, just because one is racially/ethnically white does not implicitly or explicitly imply that you are a hostile foe either. Rather, what is more important is our individual and collective owning up to our ethical-political commitments because of the responsibilities arriving with our privileges, in light of our differentially distinct and yet mutually constituted locations of resistance. Ally-ship will always be conditional on fulfilling in action specific ethical-political commitments, just as one would not open their door and offer unconditional hospitality to a rapist, misogynist or a white supremacist. After all, we do not live in a colorblind or feminist world. However, if we wish to achieve that transcendental horizon then those of us occupying exceptional sites of power must consistently earn the confidence of those who are far less privileged and dispossessed. We do so by making room for the amplification of the latter’s already existing resistance and agency that is often enough drowned, marginalized, and silenced by more privileged voices. That is what sharing privilege is, because guilt re-centers the privileged without obligating their accountability and responsibility and therefore never benefits the oppressor or oppressed. It is for this reason that our notion of liberation cannot come at the exacted price of someone else’s subjugation and domination, because none of us are free till we all are.
In concluding, as a species, decolonial horizons are hindered by the fact that none of us are willing to sacrifice what is direly necessary today for the promise of a seemingly impossible yet possible tomorrow. So, instead, we consume more numbing T.V. shows, more video games simulating violence, more movies with Hollywoodian characterizations of love, more industrial processed foods disconnecting us from land. We are all on board a sinking titanic-ship called ‘progress’ and though we can all see the icebergs, we are steering for them anyways. Come closer to my lips and let us get this in our heads: Enough of trying to rescue and save Empire. It is finally collapsing and there is nothing we can do to rescue it, besides decolonizing and reindigenizing while hoping that it is not too late for our species, and thank the Creator for that! Enough with the ahistorical revisionism and historical amnesia! Enough with militarized patriotism and paternalistic cis-heteropatriarchal colonial understandings of nationalism and let us proceed to educate ourselves regarding what we fear encountering and have abdicated our collective responsibilities towards. Let us read, read, and listen, listen, listen, and then read some more, before we act, or even move our overzealous lips and tongues because possessing both does not entitle us to speech. Now is a time of treason and an opportunity for all of us to betray our collusive imperial/colonial nation-states, and anything less than that transforms us into traitors after a forsaken rhetorical and polemical cause called liberation, nothing more. As Indigenous, Black people and POC, we already have enough Red, Black and Brown skinned traitors in our communities who wear white masks and strive towards European values and ‘cultures of whiteness’. They have waged WAR upon us and seek the eradication of our ways of becoming and belonging since before we were even born and were severed from our mothers and grandmothers’ umbilical cords into this schizophrenic world with all its ill-reckonings and possible militant joys. Our warriors and veterans ought not be attention-seeking celebrity clowns on CNN and Fox, on Twitter, Youtube, and Facebook, nor ought they have Hollywood’s support and they certainly are not on the cover of Rolling Stone or listed amongst the 500 most influential Muslims. Rather they are the silenced and unsung everyday inspirers of our existence who are on the front lines of Great Gazan Marches of Return, Ferguson, and Unist’ot’en Camps and who never compromise their ethical-political spiritual compasses. They are from the bosom and as an extension of visionaries like: Fadwa Tuqan, Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Frantz Fanon, Kwame Nkrumah, Bhagat Singh, al-Muntabbi, Shakir al-Sayyib, Abdul Qadir Gilani, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, Red Cloud, Geronimo, the Panthers, the Zapatistas, and many, many, more. Tell me again how it might be, while others and I tell it how it is – having learned and continuing to from mountainous legacies and living icons that never perished and on whose shoulders we stand. Enough self-congratulatory praise for celebrity activists on account of what actually is unneeded, un-praiseworthy, and unnecessary settler-colonial games of assimilationist congressional ‘accomplishments’ and debilitating accommodationist, Band-Aid, solutions.
Whatever happens I leave it all to the Creator, be it the disheartening heartache or the fame and fortune that we are all running after and living hungry for. As a wandering-traveler on this land, I will continue learning until I soon turn the corner in that rite of passage from which there is no escape and that is written upon us all. Till then, the satirical show goes on. As with all I write, whatever benefit is from the Creator and those who taught, sacrificed, and laid the paths I now journey upon. As for the shortcomings, they are mine alone.
*The strategic choice to not cite 10-20 activist-scholarships for every argumentative point made is not beyond me. Rather, it’s a decision I made so as to not overwhelm the text or deter an ostensible public audience, for now, from reading and engagement.