Grace Lee Boggs is a powerful, long-time, multi-issue activist who recently wrote a response piece to Lous Baeck's paper "Islamic Views on Globalization". She touches on a subject I've been kicking around on Planet Grenada ever since I've started, namely the relationship between Islam and different forms of Leftist thought (see islam needs radicals)
The Islamic Struggle and Ours by Grace Lee Boggs
In my mind’s eye throughout the holidays has been the image of three million white-robed Muslims peacefully praying and picnicking on their pilgrimage to Mecca in December. At the same time I have been reflecting on “Islamic Views On Globalization” by Louis Baeck, Professor of International Economics and Development at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium.
Prior to reading Baeck’s article, like most Americans, I had not paid sufficient attention to the fact that during the last few decades people all over the Third World have been engaged in a search for alternate roads to modernity because the modernity forced upon them by western colonization and corporate globalization has been so traumatic and also because the unrestrained economic development of western societies has had such catastrophic consequences for our planet and for our relationships with one another.
In the Islamic world, according to Baeck, liberal and progressive intellectuals have been searching in their own cultural and religious traditions for a way of thinking that would guide them towards a more democratic and humane modernity. They hope and believe that Islam, unlike western secularism, can provide them with a philosophy that puts morals and ethics, or right conduct, in command of economics and thus a way of thinking that will safeguard their societies from the consumerism and commercialization of all our human relationships which has become the norm in the West, and especially in the United States.
In the Islamic world the 1979 revolution in Iran, which overthrew the U.S-sponsored Shah and empowered the Ayatollahs, is viewed as an expression of this cultural revival.
Since the U. S. military incursions into oil rich- Saudi Arabia and Iraq and the increasingly blatant support by the U.S. of Israel’s occupation of Palestine, this search by Islamic progressives for a non-western road to modernity has been overshadowed by the fundamentalists led by Osama bin Laden. But the search continues and we have a responsibility to explore the possibilities it offers for building relationships of solidarity that can replace the immobilizing fears and suspicions created by 911 and perpetuated since then by the Bush administration and the media.
The Islamic search reminds me of MLKs’s call for a radical revolution in values against the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism as he grappled in the last three years of his life with the crises of the urban rebellions and the violence of American culture at home and abroad.
“The war in Vietnam,” King said, “is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit. We have come to value things more than people. Our technological development has outrun our spiritual development. We have lost our sense of community, of interconnection and participation.”
“Our society has made material growth and technological advance an end in itself, robbing people of participation, so that human beings become smaller while their works become bigger.”
“Instead of pursuing economic productivity,” King urged, “we need to expand our uniquely human powers, especially our capacity for Agape which is the Love that is ready to go to any length to restore community.”
I also see similarities between the Islamic struggle for more democratic and humane roads to modernity and our Detroit City of Hope campaign. Because we have suffered and are suffering the devastation which is the result of putting economics in command, we are making community-building rather than economics the key to the reconstruction of all our institutions from the ground up.