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Blank political map of Europe

 

As a student of modern political history, I have often heard of a wartime poster that read : “Freedom is in peril. Defend it with all your might.” The idea behind this historic poster was to get progressive/liberal forces together the world over to fight against the fascists bent on crushing the principles of freedom and democracy, for which our ancestors had sacrificed their lives. I wonder if we did not need that poster back even more today!

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A new kind of fascism fuelled by a highly distorted ideology of otherwise humanistic-liberal Islam is on the rise in the Middle East in our times. The new fascism preaches hatred and violence against women, minorities and conscientious individuals and denies them their freedom. Most of the Wahhabi rulers and clergies have long been notorious for practicing it in one way or the other. Since the fall of the authoritarian Shah regime in Iran, the Khomenis have joined the Wahhabis in more or less a similar fanatical sectarian practice in the region. And the latest entry in that club of anti-freedom regimes in the region is that of the self-styled Islamic State with its unparalleled acts of barbarism against humanity .

The rise of radical Islam has not been without its adverse effects on Turkey. Authentic reports have it that Ankara has of late been increasingly straying away backward from the path of its legendary founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Since the rise of Justice and Development Party (AKP) under Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in 2002  religion has ceased to be strictly in the private domain. It has come to intervene in the fields of education, marriage and even one’s diet, dress and other activities.

It is an irony there has been little international action against this growing denial of freedom and democracy by the rulers/gangs in the Middle East. What is shocking is that most of the governments in advanced democracies have rather been a silent accomplice in what the rulers in the Middle East have been doing to the freedom of their citizens, women and minorities in particular. Recently, despite the absolutely heinous rights record of the successive Khomeinist regimes in Tehran, Washington and close allies have adopted an approach of ambivalence towards Iranian rulers. The Khomeinist rulers have used this atmosphere to spread their fanatical influence to other parts of the region. Media reports suggest Tehran has already virtually taken over Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Iraq.  It is likely to consolidate itself further once the major powers may reach a framework agreement with it on the nuclear issue leaving Tehran free to develop nukes and bully more around in the region .

The rulers in the liberal democratic world must take to self-introspection and adopt appropriate measures aimed at combating this growing intolerance in the region. Their current approach of inaction or silence on the matter is absolutely antithetical to the contemporary Western moral and political values. They must discard it for the health of freedom and democracy not only in the Middle East but also in the entire world today.

Also, it is essential that democratic governments rein in traditional domestic fascist elements. Like it or not, father of fascism Adolf Hitler was not really “killed” with his suicide long time back. Some of his ideological descendents, often-called ultra-nationalist elements, still erupt, even in today’s democratic societies and indulge in acts of violence against the minorities by whipping up the passions of the majority community on some or the other non-issues. A legitimate modern state has to defend all its citizens, including the minorities, against such ultra-nationalists . The governments in democratic societies must also protect the freedom of non-conformist intellectuals. There have been several cases to show that when their right to freedom is under threat, few government leaders have really cared for them. The reason is simple . Such individuals don’t belong to the majority or minority community and hence don’t matter much in the usual vote-bank calculus of the politicians . 

Finally, I would add that in making the ruling class of any legitimate democratic state in our times function the way it is supposed to the ultimate responsibility rests with the progressive liberal elements. The progressives do well to heed the following prescription of famous Austro-British philosopher Karl Popper: “ If we think history progresses…., we commit the same mistake as those who believe that history has a meaning that can be discovered in it and need not be given to it… ‘History’ cannot do that; only we, the human individuals, can do it; we can do it by defending and strengthening those democratic institutions upon which freedom, and with it progress, depends. And we shall do it much better as we become more fully aware of the fact that progress rests with us, with our watchfulness, with our efforts, with the clarity of our conception of our ends, and with the realism of their choice. Instead of posing as prophets, we must be the makers of our fate. We must learn to do things as well as we can, and to look out for our mistakes. ” 

 

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Jagdish N. Singh is an Indian journalist based in New Delhi.

4 COMMENTS

  1. We must recognize – and remember – that there is more than one variety of fascism afoot. In America and Europe there are protofascist movements for whom the radical hyper-Islam of ISIS provides the perfect excuse for the persecution of all Muslims. The eventual conflagration may not be between the forces of fascism on the one hand and the forces of freedom and democracy on the other; rather it may be between two competing fascisms, each contesting for the right to oppress the rest of us.

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