Effects of Radicalism
Yusef Progler, a transnational Islamic intellectual and activist active in the Multiversity project, has cited the native American scholar Ward Churchill’s label of ‘White Studies’ for “the amalgam of Western theory and method” or “Euro-American centric knowledge system” in which “a set of theories and practices that were developed with Western modernity and spread by colonialism” is adhered to. In his response to Churchill’s critical label, Progler suggested the options proposed by John Mohawk in dealing with White Studies, becoming a good subject, bad subject, and last but not least, no subject at all:
A good subject means that you play by all the rules, you treat it with respect and reverence, and ou do what you are supposed to do, you work within the hierarchy, you follow all the parameters, procedures and protocols of the system, and you are a good subject. The second response is to become a bad subject.
A bad subject means that you do not really question the foundations of the system, of the discourse, but you merely engage in quibbling over its details, arguing and perhaps even trying to wrestle some control away of the discourse from those who established it, much the way nationalists tried to wrestle control of the state away from the colonialists. But, the bad subjects cannot really change much, they can just gain control, or they complain, or they argue, but they do not really get at the root of the problem, they do not alter the terms of the discourse, and so they more or less perpetuate the same colonial system.
But there is a third option, to continue with John Mohawk’s reasoning, and that is to become a non-subject, to abandon the discourse completely, to “vacate the space,” if you will, to give up on it. Now, granted, this third option is very difficult to pursue, but it is none the less, at least in my view, a viable option that ought to be pursued. …Maybe some academics (need to become the next Edward Said and work from within the university system) can do that, but many of us cannot, first of all. Second of all, and more importantly, by staying the course and not vacating the space we are validating the system. We are in a sense paying allegiance by our very participation, by publishing in its journals, by teaching in its institutions, by sending our children to its schools, by seeking jobs and fame and fortune from within this system, we are supporting it, perpetuating it. So, vacating the space is a way to force the system to fold in on itself, by removing the diversity that it needs in order to be a legitimate academic system. We have the power to withhold that diversity, and to reveal the system for what it is, which is White Studies, for all to see.
To borrow Mohawk’s options, there have been three effects of radicalism among Indonesians. The first is the ‘good subject’ effect. Most Indonesians, including the ulama and intellectuals, have accepted the label of ‘radical’ and ‘radicalism’ to be related with Islam and busy themselves with speaking and writing for or against it. A simple search on Google Scholar and Portal Garuda, the premier Indonesian academic database, with the keywords ‘radicalism’ and ‘radikalisme’ can prove this. The multitudes of seminars, workshops, symposiums, conferences, and other events arranged by Indonesians in every layer of government and society containing either word in its theme for the past decade is a further proof.
Only a minority becomes ‘bad subject’, rejecting the relationship between’radicalism’ and Islam, stating as Mohamed Ghilan, “Radicalism is a political problem, not an Islamic One”:
The very idea that Islam can be categorised into radical, moderate, extremist, etc., gives credence to the Islamophobic assumption that Islam has an inherent quality within it that makes it dangerous – regardless of context. It also removes responsibility from the individual and places blame on the religion itself, as if it is something that can stand on its own without the human element. To assume that Islam is the primary motivation for the presence of extremist violence in the Muslim world is to assume that without Islam, no violent groups would arise in the same political conditions that exist today. It is not mere coincidence that all violent groups in Muslim majority countries in modern times constantly speak of themselves as legitimate forces of resistance against foreign occupation or local despotic governments that serve foreign interests.
Islam is not a religion of peace. It also is not a religion of violence. It is a religion for human beings, who by nature of their primal instincts sometimes engage in violent conflicts. It is, therefore, not appropriate to view the Koran as a contradictory text, simply because it contains peaceful as well as violent verses. Rather, it is a text that contains passages that relate to behaviour during violent conflict, surrounded by passages calling towards peace and coexistence.
However, very few has become ‘no subject’, that is not ignoring ‘radicalism’, but finding and doing other more important things for the benefit of the nation and the ummah. To understand this last option, it is necessary to discuss the causes of radicalism.