Base Camp is where visitors go to relax, unwind, and get familiar with an anthology of earlier material.

Syria – A New Iran?

Seven Islamist groups joined forces last week to form the Islamic Front, a formidable rebel conglomerate in Syria. Ahmed Eissa, one of its commanders, is reported to have said [Time] that their aim is to form an Islamic state in Syria “where the sovereignty of God almighty alone will be our reference and ruler.” [Al-Jazeera]

Their aim is to form an Islamic state in Syria ‘where the sovereignty of God almighty alone will be our reference and ruler’

‘God almighty alone… our reference and ruler’. Where have we heard that before? Back to the middle ages we go. A recipe for disaster in both objective and subjective terms. A step into repression, in the name of salvation, obedience, righteousness, absolution.

And the trouble spreads. And still those who speak against it are branded bigots. And still those who point out that the root of the problem is the belief that God is absolute, that ‘His’ word is final and that ‘He’ has jurisdiction over everything on earth, are branded sensationalists. And still nothing is done to address the problem at its root by separating religion from politics, or stamping out any institution that doesn’t respect boundaries.

And still we talk about cultural rights, even when these rights are used to abuse others, and still we do nothing, and still we stand like deer in the headlights, watching the juggernaut speed down the road, wondering why on earth it’s not braking.

Perhaps we should look a little further east, to Iran, to put the problem in perspective. Thirty-four years ago, in what was once known as Persia, there was a revolution against the ruthless Shah, Iran’s iron-fisted, West-friendly ruler.

The revolution was successful. The Shah fled, making way for a transition.

A subsequent national referendum saw Iran turn into an Islamic Republic by unanimous consensus (99.3%) at the helm of which stood the Islamic elite. This religious leadership paved the way for one of modern history’s most astounding brainwashing systems of governance, coupled with a brutal dictatorship that made people look back on the days of the Shah with nostalgia. Disobedient was akin to disobeying God, a crime far graver than any dissent theretofore observed. The Islamic regime applied its interpretation of Sharia Law across the land with such unwavering force that thousands ended up killed, while hundreds of thousands were persecuted, detained, and treated as political prisoners.

So the Ayatollahs of Iran got to rule one of the most ancient people of the world with impunity, reducing them to cattle

So the Ayatollahs of Iran got to rule one of the most ancient people of the world with impunity, reducing them to cattle.

When the war with Iraq broke, the Ayatollahs upped the stakes, recruiting young male teenagers in the name of God, making martyrs of them, so that they, now blessed heroes, would enter heaven with a plastic key and be greeted with ample food and women.

As for Iran’s women – though progress has been made in some areas over the years; namely education – they were repressed and subjugated via a series of Sharia dictats that commanded that they be submissive, as befitted a ‘sister.’.

Let me put it this way. The prevalence of Iranian Islamists was akin to Robespierre not getting ousted during the French revolution. It was equivalent to him staying in power, enforcing his guillotine-based, fatally-pure, inflexible interpretation of the Social Contract without reservation, for years and years.

We all know how that experiment went. Robespierre executed thousands of people before he fell, making way for more rational members of the revolution, notwithstanding Napoleon’s imperial stint.

So must the Ayatollahs and their mindless minions: fall! Exit the game to make way for something more beneficial to humanity. One cannot but cringe at the monstrosity of this theocracy.

Yet theocracy is making a comeback in various parts of the world, including Syria, where jihadists, Salafists, and other fundamentalists are making their move, eager to apply version 2.0 of political Sharia. Even after Egypt’s Muhammad Morsi has tried and failed miserably. Even after Tunisia’s Ennahda (the ruling Islamic Party) resigned from power, unable to to govern.

Yet we see it rising again, in new form, in the war-torn country of Syria, where jihadists, Salafists, and other fundamentalists are making their move

Dare we not talk against this movement?

I think we must.

How about acting to prevent such groups from assuming political power?

It’s a harder question to answer, this one. US influence has faded, the West – generally speaking – rendered broke and exhausted, unwilling, if not unable, to enter yet another Muslim conflict. Obama is struggling to get his Healthcare Plan off the ground, let alone planes and troops. Europe reels from its recent economic crisis and uncertainty looms. China is busy manufacturing its way into the globe’s lead. And Putin, Russia’s fledgling crypto-dictator, having smelled blood, and eager to secure his increasingly precarious position, argues against intervention (or whatever little chance there is for one) – lobbying for an arms treaty instead, which does little to curtail the conflict.

All the while the extremists gain traction on both sides, catching the Syrian citizens in the crossfire.

At times like these, art is useful – books, films etc. Stories like Persepolis come to mind, if not handy. They trace things out, reminding everyone in an unequivocal manner of the perils of revolution and the setbacks caused when fanatics rise to power. Especially when they stay there.

Persepolis is just a story, of course. A book. A movie. What do world politics have to do with it? Putin isn’t preoccupied with fluffy fairytales, or history, other than those that pertain to his survival. He wants to keep himself safe now that the winds of dissent blow through Russia. He plays everyone against each other, and will keep doing so until he’s strong again.

Just like Obama.

Just like every European leader. Just like every Arab dictator. Just like Robespierre.

And the war in Syria rages on, with crimes committed on all sides, with a brutal regime getting challenged by another brutal regime of equal, if not greater, oppressive potential.

And the thunder of medieval politics rolls.