Communism and Socialism in the Era of Religious Fundamentalism

Hein (Abu Bakr)

Hein Htet Kyaw (Abu Bakr) has been a hacktivist since 2013. Hein used to be an active member of an influential pro-Palestinian Islamist hacktivist group that was anti-Rojava and pro-Islamism. Later, he was influenced by a libertarian socialist tendency resulting from a split from that pro-Palestinian Islamist hacktivist group around 2014. He was recruited by a Myanmar hacktivist group too. Later, he was expelled from the Myanmar group since he had conflicts with other influential Burmese Buddhist hacktivists because of his Bengali-mixed Muslim bloodline, his sympathy toward Rohingya boat people, and his pro-Palestinian activism. Later, he joined a Bangladeshi hacktivist groups with his mixed-Bengali identity and his sympathy towards Rohingya boat people. He co-founded a new pro-Palestinian hacktivist group in 2015 and maintained his involvement in one of the pro-Palestinian hacktivist groups until the Charlie Hebdo incident. He was surprised when his team decided to blame Charlie Hebdo, despite Charlie Hebdo’s progressive editorial team being the victims. He cut ties with all of these hacktivist groups after that. He declared himself an atheist and has been actively advocating for the rights of atheists, religious dissenters, and blasphemers in Myanmar since 2017. He is actively challenging the state blasphemy laws in Myanmar by giving digital platforms for the religious reformers and religious dissents who were being censored by the Myanmar Theravada Buddhist establishment. He described himself as a secularist, libertarian communist, and rationalist.

Submitted by heinhtetkyaw on December 7, 2022

Religious Fundamentalism always had been a political problem since centuries. Historically, it was religious tribalism which stronger religious groups colonising the weak religious groups. Every single religion all over the world, especially the main religions such as Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, and Hinduism, spread by colonising the weaker or less populous areas forcefully or via pressurisation.
In the 21st century, religious fundamentalism has reached a level where intersectional oppressions are being acknowledged. For example, patriarchy and sexism are known to be connected with religions and religious teachings.

Christianity and Colonialism
Christianity was started when some mediaeval scholars started to write books about a middle-eastern Jew named Jesus and his apostles. Most of the stories are even attributed to the pagan gods. Following colonialism, Christianity, a foreign theology, was introduced to several countries that were being colonised. Christian missionaries try to persuade the war refugees by giving them food, shelter, and care amid the war that the Christian-theology-backed establishment started. In that way, Christianity managed to secure a minority position in the third world countries in postcolonial era.

Political Islam
According to Mansoor Hekmat, who is the founder of both the Communist Party of Iran and the Worker-Communist Party of Iran, "political Islam" is a general title referring to the movement that sees Islam as the main vehicle for a right-wing restructuring of the ruling class. Basically, it means Islam and its religious morality will influence the state and the laws. Such kind of movements are in power in the middle eastern regions and some southeast asian countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia. Islam was not an organic part of those areas originally. Islam was nurtured in Arab regions. However, with its brutal colonial war, called "Islamization," that committed several genocides against the indegenous population who refused to accept the Islamization process, Islam easily spread to regions like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Malayasia. Nowadays, these countries are the strong hold of islamists where LGBT+ are being persecuted and womens are being oppressed by the Sharia Law.

Political Buddhism
In the Myanmar context, since it's more or less influenced by Buddhism and its traditions, political Buddhism represents the ultranationalistic Buddhist militants who want the Buddhist moralities (according to how they interpret them) to influence the state and rule of law. When such kind of movements are reinforced with semi-automous religious fundamentalist movements, the political power and the mass that followed has become too powerful. For Myanmar, Political Buddhism was started by U Nu, the first prime minister in postcolonial era. Later, it was adopted by the military junta in the 2010s. In contemporary Myanmar, political Buddhism is represented by the military junta, the right-wing nationalist parties, and some fractions of the population who are religious fundamentalists. Similarly, but in a less oppressive manner, LGBTQ+ people are being degraded and women are being controlled under political Buddhism. Myanmar's political Buddhism was reinforced by the experiences of its former Buddhist countries, such as Afghanistan, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, when Buddhism was eradicated by Islamic colonialism.

Western imperialism and religious fundamentalism
Most of these religious fundamentalist movements were not strong until the late era of colonialism. Even though there were a significant number of reactionaries who struggled against colonialism with triblistic nationalism, revolutionaries managed to promote progressive values and solidarity between different religious populations with the help of Marxism during the colonial era. As a result, progressive movements and progressive governments (even though most of them were totalitarian and authoritarian) succeeded to the extent that social situations are getting better for the oppressed classes.
However, such movements were buried by the western imperialist camp during the Cold War. In order to push back the Soviet Union's communism, the western imperialist camp revived religious fundamentalist movements in several regions, including the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Africa.
Political Islam was resurrected in the Middle East region. However, the Islamists denied working for Christians and Jews according to their religious teachings. Thus, the alliance between the Islamists and the western imperialist camp was broken. On the other hand, political Buddhism was also revived. However, since Buddhism was sort of pacifistic in its original teachings, the reaction towards the western imperialist camp from the political Buddhism camp was not that apparent. Moreover, China and its imperialism also played a vital role in the regions where political Buddhism was strong.
As a result, anti-imperialist people from the western world, who found their imperialist government were frasturcted. They felt alienated since they failed to vote these governments out. Thus, they started to look for their allies outside of their region. Even Marxists and some anarchists fell into such a trap. As a result, a significant amount of ignorant reactionary Marxists and anarchists found political Buddhism and political Islam as their allies. However, political Buddhism and political Islam are being considered reactionary, counter-revolutionary and regressive by the organic third world progressives. 
Such a phenomenon of reactionary western Marxists who think of Islamism as anti-imperialism can be explained or debunked through the lens of third world Marxists.
According to Dr. Taimur Rahman, who is the Secretary-General of the Pakistan Mazdoor Kisan Party, political Islam first arose as a challenge to Western secularism, then became a tool against the secular neo-democracy and anti-imperialist movements of imperialism. Similarly, according to Samir Amin, who is an Egyptian-French Marxian economist, political Islam is not anti-colonial, but it's an invaluable ally for colonialism.

Exposing Eurocentrism and the White Savior Complex
While everyone critising the regressive and oppressive religious teachings without any harms on them in the western world, some people in the developing countries are getting killed or arrested for their apotasy acts. However, even in the west, there are some exceptions. When someone critise Islam, they will get attacked by the self-claiming progressives and islamists as islamophobe.
In the western world, Christianity has become an easy target for blasphemy since it has its roots in western colonialism and imperialism. However, since Islam has its connection with the refugee population, critising Islam can give serveral degrading labels to an individuals even the ones from the hard left. Such a reaction can be seen not only in the mainstream liberal left but also in some hard-left tendencies. That kind of political reaction has been going on since the western establishment started their so-called "war on terror." As a result, some white leftists who felt guilty tried to defend Islam with their ignorance.
Such kind of reactionary political reactions didn't stop at fighting back the white racists. It even marginalised the organic third world ex-muslims, reformist liberal muslims and secularists who struggled against the Islamic fundamentalism. Instead of persuading such kind of progressive refugees into their organisations, the eurocentric racist white leftists started to denounced them as Islamophobic, useful idiots for western alt-right and politically incorrect individuals. Not only failing to defend these organic secularists, progressives, and rationalists, the western left went further, assisting the Islamists that would endanger the organic population in the regions. Such an example can be seen in some eurocentric, racist white leftists such as Corey Oakley, who writes for Socialist Alternative (Red Flag Australia) and most members of Solidarity Australia. Not only do they defend Islam's religious teachings that are transphobic, homophobic, sexist, anti-semitic, and violent, but they even endorse Islamists (religious fundamentalist fascists) like Bashar al-Assad and the Muslim Brotherhood when it comes to Middle Eastern politics. Suck kind of political stances can be concluded as opportunistic, hypocritical and reactionary. However, their intentions were good due to the anti-refugee political climate given the timeline. Nonetheless, it's undeniable that their ignorance on the local on-ground political situations, organic religious teachings and socio-economic conditions of the third world countries has led them to such kind of reactionary and counter-revolutionary political insights. Such leftists who suffer from saviour complex can be found in some other countries too. It's not about the color of the skin. Such kind of leftist with savior complex can be of any color. However, what matters here is the experience that you have with religious fundamentalists and regimes.
While they're acting like useful idiots for Islamists by defending Islamist values in the name of "defending Muslims," the real revolutionaries from the Third World countries are being killed by the Islamists. Avijit Roy, a Bengali secularist, rationalist, atheist, and free-thinker who struggled against Islamic fundamentalism in Bangladesh, was killed by an Islamic militant organization, the Ansarullah Bangla Team. Meena Keshwar Kamal, the founder of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, was assassinated by either Mujahideens or Khadamat-e Aetla'at-e Dawlati. Taslima Nasrin, a Bengladeshi secular Marxist and feminist got a lot of fatwa against her. Mashal Khan, a progressive muslim from Pakistan was attacked by islamist mob in his own university. In Myanmar, several progressive Buddhist scholars are being jailed for speaking out against political Buddhism. I have never seen a solidarity campaign from these eurocentric, privileged, self-claiming leftist groups with the banners of "liberty," "free speech," and "secularism." Instead of defending these people, such eurocentric pro-fascist reactionaries on the left normally defend religious fundamentalist mobs and totalitarian governments by echoing the rights of angry people to defend their religions. Such reactionary politics should be reconsidered and exposed.
The eurocentric political need to defend the refugees and push back the anti-immigrant, xenophobic right-wingers is inevitable. However, in order to do that, one has to be educated or knowledgeable enough to understand the differences between religions and their followers. Critiquing religions for their oppressive, regressive, and exploitative teachings and elements is not racism. It's what progressives should do. However, attacking religious people solely because of their religious orientation is racism. Such kind of basic insights is something most of these reactionary eurocentric racist leftists from the developed countries representing a fraction of the western left missing.

Islamophobia and Eurocentrism
Islamophobia is a word that wants to define someone who is hostile towards Muslims, especially Muslim immigrants in a western context. However, it's being dictated by the Islamists and the clerical fascists for their own use against the progressives scholars and activists in the third word countries.
According to Maryam Namazie, an Iranian Marxist and feminist, "Islamophobia" is a political term that is used to scaremonger people into silence, and it's an attempt by the Islamists and their apologists to prevent criticism of Islam and the Islamist movement by conflating much needed criticism with real harm against Muslims.
Recently, fascist governments from countries such as Turkey, Pakistan, and Indonesia are actively participating in the global anti-Islamophobia movements. Such kind of incidents revealed who are getting benefitted by such words. The western left especially those fractions who thought of Islamism as anti-imperialist are also responsible for such kind of hijack attempt on the word by the Islamists. 
Such reactionaries are using Islamophobia as a word to silence the organic third world muslim progressives from critising Islam in the west while fascists governments from Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Indonesia are using that word to oppress the women, LGBTQ+ and the progressive movements. Thus, this eurocentric mindset of those who thought of everyone critising Islam as Islamophobic should reflect their privileges of not living under Islamic regimes or living inside fundamentalist societies where a woman going out without a male guardian can be stoned or where a women having sex outside of maariage gets gosspied by your neighbors. Personally speaking as a Ex-muslim who happened to be born in a Buddhist dominant country, I think Islamophobia should not be used anymore since it shows its roots with eurocentrism and white guilt. Instead of the term "Islamophobia," more accurate terms like "anti-Muslim bigotry" or "anti-Muslim racism" should be used. After all, there is a significant difference between attacking a Muslim person for their religious identity and attacking a religion that is sexist, patriarchal, transphobic, homophobic, anti-semitic, and violent.

Racism and Islamophobia
Racism and prejudice must be addressed in order to combat anti-Muslim bigotry, also referred to as "Islamophobia" by eurocentric leftists and Islamists. The sexism theoretical framework classifies sexism into two types: hostile sexism and benevolent sexism. The similar concept also applies to racism in this instance. While xenophobic, anti-immigrant conservatives and right-wingers symbolise hostile racism, the self-righteous Western liberal leftists like Corey Oakley serve as a symbol of benevolent racism. Aggressive racism here refers to unadulterated racism. Constructive racism, however, is comparable to affirmative action. Right-wing aggressive bigots see both immigrants and migrants as threats, especially those with an Islamic origin.
Both immigrants and migrants, especially those with an Islamic heritage, are seen as people who need their guidance and protection by benevolent racists like Corey Oakley.

Religious liberation movements
Apart from these eurocentric, reactionary, and self-claiming Marxist movements, there were some left-wing movements that found their inspiration in religious theology. Taking Christian anarchism of Leo Tolstoy as an inspiration, Anarcho-Buddhism and Islamic-Anarchism were introduced. Even though some movements are indeed progressive since they're hostile towards the regressive teachings of the original religious establishment, some of them are led by mere oppositionists who never rebel against religious fundamentalism but act as useful idiots for the religious fundamentalists. So, it's hard to generalise all of them. There are some progressive religious reformers who are indeed worthy of respect. On the other hand, there are some oppositionists who like to act as a shield for religious fundamentalists.
In conclusion, secularism, internationalism, anti-imperialism, democracy, liberty, and anti-capitalism come as a package for real communists and socialists who read and comprehend Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Peter Kropotkin, and Mikhail Bakunin. Once one of these principles is lost, the movement as a whole will change into something wholly different that is the polar opposite of communism or socialism. Democracy, liberty, and internationalism do not exist under the stalinist system. It changed into something new as a result, which some have referred to as bureaucratic collectivism or state capitalism. Similar to the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party, when it concentrated too much on Islam, Arab nationalism, and anti-imperialism while ignoring the other components, it changed into something distinct that is also opposed to communism and socialism. Therefore, secularism, internationalism, anti-imperialism, democracy, liberty, and anti-capitalism must come together regardless of whether your motivation for liberation is drawn from the rationalist movement, a particular theological theocracy, social justice, or class struggle.