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Islaamic Consciousness: Nationalism or Anti-nationalism? (Part 1/2)

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Some commentators have suggested that Islaamic Consciousness is evidence of nationalistic tendencies. However, what most of these commentators have overlooked is the inadequacy of the concept of nationalism itself, and its derivatives, in providing an institutional and paradigmatic framework to adequately facilitate the phenomenon of Islaamic Consciousness.

This inadequacy escapes the nation-centred mind of the global masses that have been trained to see the nation-state as the only body from which actions may be expected. Such a perception in turn lays the foundation for the rise of Transnational Militancy and whose “terroristic” component is seen as an evil in itself and without a prior cause.

Perhaps many Muslims who are involved in Transnational Militancy also don’t realise the geopolitical significance of such a self-consciousness as some of them are inevitably urging an address of their concerns from a viewpoint that takes the global national, institutional and infrastructural status quo as a given, and evidenced by their subsequent demands for a “state”. (It is unfortunate that humanity, time and again, tends to reach into a paradigmatic cauldron for solutions to problems that arise from the very same abysmal depths.)  Insofar as the nation-state is taken to be natural, Islaamic Consciousness, in its various manifestations, is set to collide with the established orders of the nation-state based status quo.
This brief discussion proposes that Islaamic Consciousness is a “next-generation” form of “nationalism”, or perhaps “consciousness” would be a better term, that transcends the current idea of nation-centred consciousness. In this sense, it is both nationalist and anti-nationalist. It is nationalist in that there is an increasing tendency by Muslims to perceive themselves as part of a global body. It is anti-nationalist in that the UN-endorsed and nationally enforced coincidence between the current idea of nationalism and geographical contiguity does not enable it to assert itself in a manner as significant as the nation-state. 

Nationalism, Technology and Psychological Dialecticism

The idea of Nationalism and its current manifestation is a corollary of a previous state of technology that confined and defined consciousness within physical limits.

Traditionally, unity and shared consciousness was a function of physical proximity or contiguity. While the nation-state was easier to maintain militarily, politically and economically if it was contiguous, an important factor that contributed to the coincidence of locality and familial consciousness was the absence of technology that enabled individuals comprising a geographically located state to even imagine questioning the legitimacy or reality of this basis of consciousness. We can understand this as Technology-Dependent Cultural Space. “Oneness” was thus gradually associated with physical proximity whilst the National and Capitalist Projects later determined the extent to which consciousness was allowed to transcend whatever boundaries it deemed appropriate. 

Various forms of consciousness had been created and destroyed by the technologies of transport and communication throughout history. The camel and horse, for instance, aided in the expansion of the Islaamic Empire and brought about the Arabisation of what is now generally seen as Arabia. Printed media aided the creation of shared consciousness through the spread of nationalistic and cultural literature in Europe,  and railway networks and telegraph lines facilitated the formation of national consciousness within India and other colonised states. However, in all these periods, a shared consciousness still required shared physical locality. In diasporic circumstances, peoples generally integrated with local conditions as shared consciousness with their respective “homelands” were compromised by their inability to avail themselves of the requisite amount of social support, pressure and similarity in circumstances that would enable them to maintain a singular view of themselves.   

One of the main factors contributing to the encapsulation, insulation and harnessing of consciousness historically, and in the above instances, lay in not only (1) the state of technology, but also on, amongst others, variance in the (2) population’s technological literacy, and, the (3) extent to which the access to, and control of communicative media is monopolised.  

Borrowing Marxian terms, we can view these 3 factors as comprising the “Forces of Consciousness Reproduction”. In other words, these, in an abstract sense, determine the direction and propensities of collective consciousness. They in turn determine the “Relations of Consciousness”, or how people relate to each other and assume, create or pursue shared identities. Both the Forces of Consciousness and the Relations of Consciousness in turn collude to determine the “Locality of Consciousness”, or where consciousness is located, i.e. nationally, supranationally, etc.

We can term the dynamic interaction between these as technology-dependent Familial Dialecticism. In other words, when the Forces of Consciousness change or advance, existing Relations of Consciousness will evolve or face significant challenge. For instance, the current Relations of Consciousness are being unnaturally confined within the walls of the nation-state which is serving as fetters on the consequences of the advance in the Forces of Consciousness. The “dialectical” component comes in when existing Relations of Consciousness – i.e. National patriotism - and the Relations of Consciousness being produced by global advances in the Forces of Consciousness – transnationalism - interact. “Familial” is relevant here as variances in the changing worldview of those who are transcending the existing Relations of Consciousness inevitably conflict with the citizen’s sense of the collective “family”. 

Ironically, the global “coalition against terror” is itself a transnational force brought about by transnational militancy which in turn was brought about by the counterpositional existence of nation-states. In this sense, we can say that the western-led “war on terror” is a response to a “war on terror”. The former is a response to the evils perpetrated by Transnational Militants whilst the latter is response to the evils a transnational nation had to endure because they did not have a singular state to represent their interests as they were transnationally dislocated.

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