chapter  4
Islam and globalization
Pages 28

In a brief but powerful speech that Arundhati Roy delivered at the closing rally of the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, on January

27 2003, the defiant anti-war activist, award-winning novelist, and the

recipient of the 2002 Lannan Foundation Prize for Cultural Freedom

outlined the vicious circularity of the violence that US imperialism

unleashes upon the world. Identifying the empire as the scattered con-

stellation of the US government, its European allies, the World Bank,

the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Trade Organization

(WTO), and multinational corporations, she then declared that this empire ‘‘has sprouted other subsidiary heads, some dangerous byproducts –

nationalism, religious bigotry, fascism and, of course, terrorism. All these

march arm in arm with the project of corporate globalization.’’1 One of

the principal examples that Roy provides to illustrate her argument is her

own country, India, where she reports that the government is divided into

two arms:

While one arm is busy selling India off in chunks, the other, to divert

attention, is orchestrating a howling, baying chorus of Hindu

nationalism and religious fascism. It is conducting nuclear tests, rewriting

history books, burning churches, and demolishing mosques. Censorship, surveillance, the suspension of civil liberties and human rights, the

questioning of who is an Indian citizen and who is not, particularly

with regard to religious minorities, are all becoming common practice

The deadly combination that Roy identifies as the high mark of globaliza-

tion – economic buccaneering (overnight robbery of national wealth on the

high economic seas of transnational commerce) on one hand and cultural tribalism on the other – is evident all over the globe. As part of this schi-

zophrenic scene, Roy describes what she calls ‘‘a state-sponsored pogrom’’ in

which thousands of Muslims, women in particular, were gang-raped and

slaughtered by Hindu fundamentalists. ‘‘More than a hundred and fifty

thousand Muslims,’’ Roy reports, ‘‘have been driven from their homes. The

economic basis of the Muslim community has been devastated.’’ What have

Indian authorities done in response? ‘‘Narendra Modi, architect of the

pogrom, proud member of the RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh = ‘‘a right-wing Hindu cultural guild with a clearly articulated anti-Muslim stand

and a nationalistic notion of hindutva . . . the ideological backbone of BJP, the Hindu nationalist party’’] has embarked on his second term as the Chief

Minister of Gujarat.’’ And then comes Roy’s principal point: ‘‘If he [Nar-

endra Modi] were Saddam Hussein, of course each atrocity would have

been on CNN. But since he’s not – and since the Indian ‘‘market’’ is open to

global investors – the massacre is not even an embarrassing incon-

The point of Roy’s argument, pointedly observed, is that if the market

to globalized capital is wide open and lucrative, the presiding imperial

hubris could not care less if consumers are eating each other alive, so far as

it can make a lucrative business out of the spectacle. Add those countless

Muslims murdered by Hindu fundamentalist thugs in India to countless

more murdered by the Jewish state in Palestine and the even more

countless massacred by the Christian empire and its allies in Afghanistan

and Iraq, and then bring Arundhati Roy’s voice of moral outrage closer to the mournful testimony of Judith Butler and ask with her ‘‘what are

the cultural barriers against which we struggle when we try to find out

about the losses that we are asked not to mourn, when we attempt to

name, and so to bring under the rubric of the ‘human’ those whom the

United States and its allies have killed?’’4 We can of course, as Judith Butler

knows only too well, easily name the nameless, for they all have a name.

His name is Muhammad al-Durrah (1988-2000), cold-bloodedly murdered

by the Israeli sharpshooters on September 30 2000 in the Gaza Strip at the beginning of the al-Aqsa Intifada. Her name is Abeer Qassim Hamza

al-Janabi (1991-2006), the 14-year-old Iraqi girl from the village of Mah-

moudiyah near Baghdad who on or about March 12 2006 was gang-raped

by the US serviceman, Pfc. Steven D. Green and his company, before

they burned and murdered her ravaged body along with her father Qassim Hamza Raheem, 45, her mother Fakhriya Taha Muhasen, 34,

and her seven-year-old sister, Hadeel Qassim Hamza. They are not

nameless. Like all other humans, they have a name. CNN anchorpersons

may not know how to pronounce them. Fox News propaganda officers

may not care to consider them human. The New York Times might be

complicitous in giving its reporter Judith Miller wide-opened columns to

help the Bush administration to cheat and lie its way to bombing Abeer

Qassim Hamza al-Janabi’s entire country to rubble. But they all have proper names.