Jihad: a War Journal by Ari Sitas: Page 8 of 9
The membrane is according to Rushdie, Astretchy" Aspringy" and Atranslucent" and constitutes an Aectoplasmic barrier, a Wall" an Ainvisible restriction"- those who pass, mutate. From where they pass Athrough the tear in the sky, and for a terror-stricken instant" Rushdie tells us with great aplomb, we may glimpse Amiracles through the gash, visions for which we can find no words, the mysteries at the heart of things, Eleusinian, unspeakable, bright." (92) Our hope has to be that someone may bring such visions into words, so that the membrane disappears.
The Taliban are not a Aragbag of loons": they are rather, a cruel and logical outcome of a regrettable entanglement. They are a repressive and an authoritarian outcome, more dangerous to the mythical East than they are to the mythical West. They present a cipher for the West and a moment for self-reflection: how much of what they have come to represent was a product of Western intervention? How much of that intervention was a product of a distorted Western imaginary? The Time's Nancy Gibbs needs an answer too: the men who crossed the membrane to share in America's Avices, freedoms and gifts" shaved, showered, comforted themselves about life after death; and from the diary of one of them, they were supposed to proceed to shout “Allahu Akbar” as they seized control of the destiny of the planes. They had crossed no membrane.
What we are left with is indeed the Amisery of power" and the jihads it makes mandatory for miserly, contorted passions. Freedom, the Ajoy of being", eudaimonia is distorted by the demonic forces of state, religion and duty. The Awar that doesn't exist" produces warring, nevertheless. There is no way a child born in Afghanistan or Central New York under the shadow of death will have anything but a disposition to enlist for future wars. Rushdie tried to write as if the Ajoy of being" was possible, across and between the Atranslucent" ectoplasm.
Many of our generation in the geographical Rest grew up in a bi-polar world, struggling to find a voice in-between: against the technological prowess of the West and hoped for a different agency for pre-history's undoing: for a while, the peasantry seemed to present the ramparts of resistance, the wretched of the earth with nothing to lose but their at best, semi-proletarianised chains. Through the verses of the defining poetry of emerging difference, alternative utopias seemed possible. But not for long as the realpolitik of post-colonial transitions and the pressure for alignment and the dire poverty after the colonial plunder, created a virtue out of necessity.
Yet we too have to ask some pressing questions, like: can we re-negotiate the politics of Revelation? Can we spin around the entanglement of prophesy and truth that animate Jewish, Christian and Moslem terminal exclusions forever? Apart from a common ground in patriarchy there seems to be little else that does not lead to a cul-de-sac. The scientific, historical and of late, deconstructive efforts (like Rushdie's) to humanise the prophetic and the signified risk excommunication. The arguments that Islam is not one thing, one penal code, one uniform unchanging decree and under Islam's earthly journey a multiplicity of Apotentials" lie submerged is a powerful argument. AThe irony of the present situation is" writes Tariq Ali, A that religion in the Punjab was always a relaxed affair. The old tradition of Sufi mysticism, with its emphasis on individual communion with the creator and its hostility to preachers, had deep roots in the countryside. The tombs of the old Sufi saints, for centuries the sites for annual festivals during which the participants sang, danced, drank, smoked bhang and fornicated to their heart's content, were placed under martial law by General Zia." (93) This though is not a historiographic debate: a multiform notion of Islamic culture can only be the result of internal power struggle- a jihad within, in all its complications and cannot be imposed through collateral World Bank conditionals.
At the source of most large-scale forms of violence and indeed of violence at the most micro-levels of human interaction lurks a disposition to consider the Aother", as an expendable surplus. Granted, modern military strategy is more selective and targeted, trying to minimise the Aothers" it annuls. Yet, even there the marriage between a political economy of general expendability and particular applications of force, is haunted by the originary disposition. In trying to stop the cruel pleasures of destruction, the macro and the micro get enmeshed: the end of conceptions that have no second thought of killing thousands of unsuspecting people in New York and its zap-mode corollary, presuppose transformations unimaginable by modern sociology or psychology.
What furthermore, are the pre-conditions for the end of all fatwas in a world that is so inter-twined and interconnected? What are in other words the pre-conditions that make antiphony secure, no matter what is being said or signified? Where no power or coercion, implied or manifest enter into the negotiation or conversation? The disappearance of essentialisms is one, disarmament another; the careful dismantling of the Amembrane" is one, the treating of the phantoms that lurk on its boundaries, another The figurative displacements that are exercised in the Satanic Verses need their sociological equivalent: there are as many people as those who follow the imaginary paths to a Adream Vilayet" who dream of a return to a homeland. These are not only the victims of piracy and expropriation. They are refugees, and people who cannot cross the barbed-wire of their own nation-states (victims of internal displacement). They are so because of who they are or who they are supposed to be. They are Palestinians and Afghanis, they are Turkish and Greek Cypriots, they are Punjabis and Hutus, they are Tutsis and Ethiopians, they are Irish and Maori, they are Kurds and Iranians: the mere human surplus of a geopolitical game. They are the ones whose phantoms also haunt the membrane.
What is forgotten in this world of heroes and gangsters, and we have to thank Rushdie for that, are Aysha and Aher" villagers- people so faithful, so in need of transcendence that no Arabian Sea will stop them; no terrifying space between the village and the city; no demon lurking on the path; and despite their hyperbolic presentation in the novel, we know them well, we know them everywhere: so many redemptive movements of ordinary people who want an Aout of" within- a space outside civil society and state, a space outside nations' hollowed-grounds, wars and cruise missiles. That they can't get there is a criticism, that the world won't change to accomodate them, is another. In that double-critique, we are left helpless with our slide-rules and tanks.
And America? Before, it projects scatterlings of demons onto terrestrial maps, it has to seriously reflect about its entanglement; but also an entanglement within: unless it carries out a reconciliation with its own unquiet dead and the phantoms that haunt its own history page, its frontiers, the Aothers" who dance as demons in its gun-range; also its own otherness, in a land that was never America by intention. Without such a jihad it can only be seen, by its acts of aggression and not for its republicanism and its successes. Desatanising the US is also an internal process, a jihad within that speaks truths, many truths to power.
When language fails, there is music. America's most human contribution has emerged from its most mongrel of creations: jazz. It has emerged from its most oppressed minority: freed African slaves. Its cadences speak both of a longing for a lost homeland, a cry of pain and a celebration of desire. Freed from its conventions, it opens up a space for all, for a communication beyond barricades, membranes, despite Moloch, Agog and Magog.