From the Editor

The "Black" Intelligentsia and that Taliban Comment

By Charles Michael Byrd
C. Byrd
(Photo by Lynn Goldsmith)

One might suppose it difficult to draw comparisons between this country's "black" power elite and Islamic extremists, but, thanks to Julian Bond, it's easier than you think. Recall the NAACP Chairman of the Board's remarks from July of this year disparaging President George W. Bush's cabinet nominees as coming "from the Taliban wing of American politics." Bond's remarks could well be a classic example of eschewing sage advice to not point a finger, inasmuch as it might turn around and point back at you. More on that in a minute.

In "The Bhagavad Gita and The Qur'an: Wisdom Visions of the Infinite's Shiftings" (Journal of Vaishnava Studies, Spring 2001), William J. Jackson, professor of religious studies at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis, cites the sufi Muslim philosophy that the human is the sole creature capable of transcending himself. He is the more non-linear being, and that nonlinearity is a distinguishing feature. Other creatures have a more linear instinctive life; bees, ants, and birds function within certain gene-set routines. Antithetically, by establishing his reality in a vast spiritual consciousness that knows no end, the human can appreciate Divine oneness more fully than any other creature.

Jackson also declares, though, that linear, one-dimensional thought is one of the biggest problems afflicting far too much of contemporary Islam. This has given rise to the more virulent, fundamentalist strain. He offers the Feast of Sacrifice that Muslims around the world celebrate as an example. The negative karma accrued from the intentional butchery of living beings notwithstanding, no one seems to mind the slaughter of up to 350,000 sheep -- on the way to a grand total of one million at Mina, the killing ground in Mecca -- in the space of a few hours of the first day, in "honor" of the Almighty.

This excessive killing, Jackson contends, coupled with the physical movements around the Ka'ba -- an ancient building of stone, with a sacred stone encased in silver, that pilgrims touch and kiss -- demonstrates the concrete factuality of a faith that, at its core, is strongly resistant to the observance of rituals in a purely symbolic manner as is the case when Christians celebrate the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ by a purely symbolic act of cannibalism (i.e., receiving communion).

"This inner core of literalism and factuality is the source both of Islam's power over its adherents, since in the last resort social practice must be moulded to conform to it, and of most of the problems it faces in adjusting to contemporary realities, since that very social moulding leads only too often to a stultifying literalism which sees all change as the enemy of the good: such is the dilemma facing Islam in the world."
The professor suggests that it is easier for those -- particularly the young -- whose "teachers" have brainwashed them to cling to their difference as if it is their lifeline, and those whose "teachers" trained them to erect windowless doorless walls of hate, to believe that Allah is power and that they should shape earthly power to represent His dominion as conceptualized by politicos. This is true not only for demoniac bastards hell-bent on flying hijacked airliners into skyscrapers but for Muslim extremists such as Louis Farrakhan who has employed his own bastardized version of Islam to foster animosity and hatred predicated on perceived "racial" difference. Furthermore, the NAACP promotes America's oppressive race-consciousness -- a form of "social moulding" that, itself, has evolved into a sort of proselytizing religion -- more aggressively than any other entity.

It is a different path to believe that Allah is oneness, that earthly oneness manifests His spiritual oneness in the loving lives of service and creativity. One path, therefore, involves mere reliance on love. The other way involves a fanatic rage for domination at all costs, involves vilifying "whites" and Jews as devils! and blood-suckers!, involves denigrating those who step out of and away from the linear political color continuum as "race-traitor infidels!"

It is fitting, Jackson asserts, that the legalists and politicos, who focus their duplicity on whatever they wish to secure, should deny that the mystical sufis play a meaningful role in Islam. Similarly, today's "black" intelligentsia denies what everyone has known for a long while. To quote columnist Stanley Crouch: "Black nationalism didn't just derail the civil rights movement; it obliterated it in favor of a tribalism that was based on some kind of black unity and eventually some kind of Third World unity, functioning in opposition to the great devil of all times, the West."

The sufis have often focused on the simplicity of the sacred, that outside-the-box love that is elusive and mysterious, the unity already in existence. The politicos, however, in their quest to build "nations" predicated on race or religion, have not infrequently created hells on Earth. The latter highlights the futility and inferiority of one-dimensional, linear thought (that we must all individually transcend), whether originating within the friendly confines of the USA or within some cave in Afghanistan.



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