Sunday, April 23, 2006

Max goes analytical

You may have guessed from my post of 31st March that I would be reading Moazzam Begg’s book, Enemy Combatant: A British Muslim’s Journey to Guantanamo and Back. A couple of days ago, I came upon this bit on page 155: “I hadn’t read Kafka, but I knew the expression Kafkaesque. It was happening to me.”

As synchronicity would have it, just four days earlier, I had been discussing Franz Kafka’s The Trial with the London book club of which I am an honorary member. They were in Prague for the weekend and so had chosen an in situ book. It suddenly struck me that Begg’s story was indeed a real life version of The Trial. There are obviously a lot of differences between the stories, including how they end, but the similarities are striking.


The Trial is the story of Josef K, who goes through very strange proceedings within a surreal court system without ever being told what it is he has been charged with. Begg went through “proceedings” (abduction, rendition, torture) that would have been unimaginable to us just a few years ago, also without ever being told what he had been accused of.


While I was looking for information that would add extra value to the book club meeting, I came upon a reference to Jean-Paul Sartre’s Anti-Semite and Jew: An Exploration of the Etiology of Hate. In this book, Sartre discusses the ordeal of the Jew born into a world where anti-Semitism flourishes. Sartre presents the argument that this was Josef K’s world, and perhaps Kafka’s world too. It was an angle I had not thought of, especially because neither religion nor ethnic background is mentioned in The Trial, and because I had never perceived any of Kafka’s work as having particularly Jewish themes. I had, however, thought of The Trial as a possible metaphor for life, i.e. while everything seems to be going along well, one suddenly loses control, realises he has no idea what is going on or what it is all about, and then can do nothing more than grasp at straws to try to get through the trial that is life.


Sartre:
This is perhaps one of the meanings of The Trial by the Jew, Kafka. Like the hero of that novel, the Jew is engaged in a long trial. He does not know his judges, scarcely even his lawyers; he does not know what he is charged with, yet he knows that he is considered guilty; judgment is continually put off -- for a week, two weeks -- he takes advantage of these delays to improve his position in a thousand ways, but every precaution taken at random pushes him a little deeper into guilt. His external situation may appear brilliant, but the interminable trial invisibly wastes him away, and it happens sometimes, as in the novel, that men seize him, carry him off on the pretence that he has lost his case, and murder him in some vague area of the suburbs.


Upon pondering them all together - Kafka, Sartre and Begg - I have come to the conclusion that the Muslim now shares the position of the Jew in the western world. That is, while he is supposedly assimilated (to varying degrees), he is also often irrationally disliked, distrusted or hated, although he may be doing nothing more than trying to get through life like his counterparts of any other religion, ethnicity or nationality. No matter what he does or how he lives his life, he will always be guilty by virtue of who he is.


What a lovely world we live in.


9 comments:

Anonymous A-Hole said...

Hmph.

Anonymous A-Hole said...

Of course, there are currently no Jewish groups, or governments, calling for the genocide of all Muslims. That is but one chief difference.

Anonymous A-Hole said...

And it certainly doesn't help that America's "moderate" Muslim group, CAIR, is a Hamas front group with known ties to U.S. and middle east terror.

Max said...

Asshole, thank you for sharing your political views, but actually they have nothing to do with one man's story. Why don't you read Begg's book? You might find it enlightening. I know you won't buy the book because you are afraid of where the proceeds might go, but perhaps you can borrow it from the library if any libraries in the US will carry it. I'll even lend you my copy.

Anonymous A-Hole said...

I'm not opposed to reading his book, though I can think of better things to do with my time. As you've pointed out I'd never contribute a penny to his pocket by way of paying anything for his book. BTW, it's books just like Begg's that most librarians (I'm sorry, "library scientists") are eager to stock. What U.S. libraries refuse to stock are books by Oriana Fallaci and others telling the truth about Islam.

And my "political" views are in direct response not to Mr. Begg's book but to your comparisons of Muslims to Western Jews. CAIR, for example, is a perfect example of the "distrust" not being "irrational."

My political views should be expected when commenting about a post that has as much to do with your political views as it does with Mr. Begg's book.

Max said...

Sorry, I hadn't realised that all librarians have the same political views.

When I compare the positions of western Muslims and Jews, I am talking about people in the mainstream rather than fanatics of either religion. I am against the demonisation of Islam because I still believe that most Muslims are not terrorists or supportive of terrorists. I do, however, realise that you disagree with me.

Anonymous A-Hole said...

I'm referring to the librarians in the "mainstream" rather than the fanatics of library science.

But you bring me to an interesting point. Please show me the "mainstream" Muslims. I'm not entirely sure where to find them. The "mainstream" Muslims in America, for example, allow themselves to be represented by CAIR, a known (and effectively proven) Hamas front group.

I'd be happy to consider the views of the "mainstream" Muslim but they don't seem to be available. Where are they? To whom do they belong? Are we referring to the CAIR-style American "mainstream" Muslim? Or to the "mainstream" European Muslim? Or perhaps to the "mainstream" Arab Muslim? Are we talking about the "mainstream" Muslim who looks the other way while the fanatics take over his mosque many weekday nights?

If we're talking about the "mainstream" Arab Muslim, then I rest my case.

And if we're talking abou the "mainstream" Muslims of any other region, well, they're currently hiding (from the purveyors of Shari'a, mind you, not from anyone else).

Show me an example of these "mainstream" Muslims and I'll consider alternatives. Time and again, though, the "mainstream" Muslims (like Sami Al-Arian, for example) prove fanatic.

Maybe these are the "mainstream" Muslims. Or maybe these.

It's interesting. Arab Muslim countries, and their leaders, are making their views very clear. On the other hand, the "mainstream" Muslims remain virtually silent. I'm having difficulty understanding why this is.

It's easy to talk about theoretical "mainstream" Muslims or the "moderate" Muslims. But it seems almost impossible to prove they exist. I'll gladly follow any link you can provide.

Max said...

Sorry, darling, please don't think I have been ignoring you, I simply have not been around.

When I speak of people in the mainstream, Muslim or Jew, there are no "links". I am talking about people, not about political movements. I am talking about individuals, not causes. I am also talking about people I personally know, rather than the bullshit we see on the "news".

All for now - I'm at work, v busy.

Ludovic said...

mm
i love how you semi-bash the French and then quote Sartre!
-Ludo