Forging a Socialist-Islamist Alliance by William T. Hathaway

by William T. Hathaway
Writer, Dandelion Salad
February 6, 2014

Review of Eric Walberg, From Postmodernism to Postsecularism: Re-emerging Islamic Civilization, Clarity Press, 2013

Most western Middle East experts see Islam as a problem for the West — a source of terrorism, religious fanaticism, unwanted immigrants — and they see their job as helping to change the Middle East so it’s no longer a problem for us. Eric Walberg, however, recognizes that this is another instance of the Big Lie.

The actual problem is the multifaceted aggression the West has been inflicting on the Middle East for decades and is determined to continue, no matter what the cost to them and us will be. His books and articles present the empirical evidence for this with scholarly precision and compassionate concern for the human damage done by our imperialism.

His latest book, From Postmodernism to Postsecularism: Re-emerging Islamic Civilization, is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand our ongoing war on the Muslim world — from Libya to the Philippines, from growing beleaguered communities scattered across North America and Europe to South Africa and Australia — from the perspective of those on the receiving end of America’s violence today. It is a compelling representation of both the breathtaking sweep of fourteen centuries of Islamic civilization and the current state of the Muslim world.

In this sequel to his impressive Postmodern Imperialism (2011), Walberg attempts to bridge the East-West gap, “not through a reconciliatory discourse, but through a critical reading of history,” according to the Palestinian-American writer Ramzy Baroud. Walberg looks at Islam as both religion and ideology, tracing it both via a methodological and an epistemological critique, and takes it seriously as a civilizational alternative to our present bankrupt secular imperialist order.

Our politicians and media have created an image of fiendish Muslim terrorists who “hate us for our freedom.” But they really hate us for subjugating them, for overthrowing their governments, dominating their economies, and undermining their way of life. Since we started the aggression, the attacks won’t end until we leave their countries.

Walberg asks the logical question: What can replace the neocolonial order so ruthlessly and cleverly put in place by the imperial powers in the Middle East over the past century? He explores many alternative answers ranging from “more of the same” to radical transformation.

What does Islam have to say about economics, politics, community, relations with Nature? Walberg charts a wealth of experience from the past fourteen centuries. Islam was the first world order to unite people on the basis of genuine equality, in a truly multicultural way. It never created empires like the Romans, the Christian heirs to the Romans, and most recently the British and Americans. Why?

Who are the great Muslim thinkers, and how do they differ from western thinkers of the time? How do the Prophet Muhammad’s efforts to enact the revelations of the Quran in the seventh century compare with the teachings of Marx about how to create a world order without the depredations of capitalism?

These are some of the questions Walberg addresses, trying to bring together the two main opponents of imperialism today: Islamists and socialists. Our foe is the entire Western corporate juggernaut, of which Israel is only a part. To survive, we must set aside our religious and political differences and form a united front. Shias, Sunnis, secularists, and socialists need to work together to defeat our common enemy. As Samir Amin wrote, “To bring the militarist project of the United States to defeat has become the primary task, the major responsibility, for everyone.” If we join in solidarity, we can win. Otherwise the imperialists will continue to divide and rule.

But it is essential for socialists to take Islamists seriously, and vice versa, for both sides to understand the various currents in the common resistance to imperialism, and to forge alliances that will be lasting. So far, Islam has been at best tolerated by socialists, at worst, dismissed and opposed. At the same time, Islamists have been suspicious of the socialist reaction to imperialism, in a sense, wishing a pox on both houses.

Leftists are quick to condemn Islamists as strategically obtuse, or worse craven, willing to collaborate with imperialists (Saudis from the start, Muslim Brotherhood in the 1950s–60s against Nasserists), and to take CIA money (Afghanistan). There are those who denounce Hamas as an Israeli creation. Walberg looks closely at these arguments, based on his analysis of imperialist strategies during the past two centuries.

That Hamas possibly got support from Israeli sources is part of the age-old imperialist use of Islamists, but it has backfired. Hamas didn’t sell out. Fatah/PLO discredited themselves over decades and are now empty shells. The role of Hamas in exposing PLO hypocrisy and “holding the fort” against Israel has been proved decisively since it came to power in democratic elections in 2006.

From Postmodernism to Postsecularism: Re-emerging Islamic Civilization is a gripping and informative wake-up call to both sides of the anti-imperial equation, pulling together the many threads that can unite us, from Foucault’s “political spirituality,” to the Egyptian revolutionaries’ solidarity with America’s 99%, to the American Muslims’ support for the peace and ecology movements.

William T. Hathaway is an adjunct professor of American studies at the University of Oldenburg in Germany. His latest book, Wellsprings, concerns the environmental crisis: He is a member of the Freedom Socialist Party ( A selection of his writing is available at

6 thoughts on “Forging a Socialist-Islamist Alliance by William T. Hathaway

  1. Whilst this review is extremely timely and the ideas presented are both necessary and cogent, I beg to differ.

    For too long the “Muslim narrative” in the West has been dominated by Bernard Lewis, an old-school British Zionist. Edward Said’s welcome input radically changed the discourse of course, but there is still a lot more to be said ~ particularly from women’s perspective.

    To frame this debate in retrograde ideological terms is a mistake, far better to reconfigure the narrative as a spiritual-gender question.

    Moreover, it is pointless to talk about Muslim communities as though they were viable, unless we address the over-riding catastrophe of environmental degradation, and the urgent need for bio-regeneration schemes on a huge scale.

    This would elevate the discussion way beyond the mundane politics of yesterday into the future-orientated realms of ecofeminism, permaculture remediation and international environmental law.

    Restore the land, advocate self-determination for women, ensure mandatory enlightened education for all with proper health care; none of this is supportable without a dramatic re-evaluation of the role and relevance of Sharia law, and the endemic sexism and desperate brutality that stalks the false Sunni-Shia divide.

    Such initiatives would go a long way to fire an enduring Islamic renaissance that could transform the politics of the Middle-east ~ and demonstrate to the American crony capitalist ideologues, the redundancy of their greedy obsessive-compulsive appetites that are sanctioned by a christist-garrison mentality that is frankly obsolete, sexist, cultist, biophobic and medieval in the worst sense of bigoted, superstitious, blinkered and absurdly reductionist.

    The oldest university in the Western hemisphere is Fez in Morocco. The neo-classical rebirth of Europe and subsequent enlightenment would not have occurred, had it not been for the exceptional culture of Andalusia. Islam has contributed astonishing levels of sophistication to world civilization. In the bubble of Western hegemonic arrogance it has been transformed into a pathetic caricature.

    Neither the misogynist mullahs nor the tyrannical, pampered and cruel pseudo-monarchs have the right solution or come anywhere close to it.

    Islam needs to be re-digested, re-conceived and expressed in a totally new way that transcends Western political categories, & thereby re-inform & help reshape both the West and Itself.

  2. The Christian West has been disturbing the shit for 2014 years and still no end in sight. Any culture, any religion will have it’s share of extremist fanatics giving a bad reflection on the others. Blind and ignorant war, hate and fear mongering is not the answer. And the media’s hysteria only adds fuel to a very dangerous fire.

    • Pesky, the good news of salvation thru Jesus is not religion. you seem to always confuse the two. Either you just have not really studied the New Testament or you prefer to remain deliberately Christophobic, which is a form of bigotry.

    • Larry , we all have a very very very skewed view of Islam here in the States . for example : if you read ”In search of Muslim Feminism ”, you find how far ahead they are in this area than the West. of course you would not know that from the news. but then again , the news is news that comes from nowhere .

      The Muslims in many parts of the world understand Socialism because they live in community . Common ground is closer than we think .

  3. Philosophy Prof at Boston U. and Catholic intellectual Peter Kreeft wrote an excellent book along these same lines called ”Ecumenical Jihad”. His premise was that we have more in common with the Muslims than we realize and can unite on various things and work together against injustices .

    this article here is a very creative article. it is this manner of thinking in articles like this that present various possibilities to act upon .

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