Friday, 29 November 2013

What is Sufism?

Most men are content to accept the world as it appears to them, whereas a noble minority wishes to tear away the veil of appearances so as to behold the true nature of things. This is not hyperbole; this has been the main philosophical project of all our great thinkers. Kant, who was perhaps the greatest philosopher since Aristotle, attempted to grasp the reality behind the appearances, and he was forced to draw to a rather depressing conclusion: the real did not admit of being apprehended by man - it was forever to remain the unknowable x.

The hopeless romantic that Kant was, he was not to give up so easily. Because the world as it really is cannot be known, man is better off concentrating on acting in such way that the world becomes as it should be. What had begun as a ambitious metaphysical project, degenerated into a rather pitiable kind of moralism: with the introduction of his thou shalt, Kant had reverted to the Pietism of his childhood. If Kant had been an Orthodox Christian, his solution is likely to have been very different from the one offered to him by his Pietist tutors.

According to Orthodox Christianity, the ultimate reality is knowable and there are methods that can be employed by man so as penetrate beyond the world of appearances. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the favoured method is known as Hesychasm. With recourse to breathing exercices, man can attain an altered state of consciousness, and while in this state, man can know things that otherwise would have remained unknown to him.

Hesychasm is a method with some striking similararities with the technique employed by the Hindu yogis: (i) the vairocana posture aids us in regulating our breathing with a view to avoiding aimless volition, while (ii) ekagrata enables us to concentrate all our energies on a single point. Hesychasm recommends the formula "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner" in conjunction with inhalation and exhalation. In carrying out this respiratory exercise, it is recommended that one does not follow the manual on which one is relying too mechanically. The right breathing technique is acquired by means of trial and error, and it will take you approximately six months to master it. Here it must be emphasised that your ability to acquire this technique is wholly dependent on your mental constitution and character. Some people are contemplatives by nature, with a strong aptitutde for concentration, which is a prerequisite to rigorous philosophical thinking, whereas others are men of action with restlessness dwelling inside them. The latter are men who excel in the active realm, and they have little to gain from any dabbling in mysticism.

Russia, the land of a polymorphic race with a strong propensity to mysticism, is today the main custodian of the Christian Orthodox mysticism. In tune with the somewhat erratic Russian character, Hesychasm in Russia assumed an almost Dionysian form qua the whirling dances of the Khlysti. Those Russian Orthodox Christians who are tempted write off the Khlysti as heretics, tend to forget that almost all Russian saints of note lived on the edges of orthodoxy, with a behaviour so startlingly unconventional that these extraordinary men came to be known as Fools for Christ.

It is worth noting that the former Soviet Union is also the heartland of Sufism. It is my view that both Sufism and Hesychasm has found fertile ground precisely in those territories where shamanism has been the main vehicle of religious expression. Shamanism is the original religion of the whole mankind, and every religious tradition that followed had no choice but to submit to this primordial religion. Both Christianity and Islam have accomodated shamanism to such a degree, that shamanistic techniques, such as the erratic Hesychasm of the Russian Fools for Christ and the Sufis with their equally erratic sessions of Dhikr (remembrance of God), are considered paragons of Orthodoxy.

Contrary to the popular view, Sufism is not a heterodox sect within Islam. Sufism forms an integral part of Islam. Indeed, Sunni Islam and Sufism are inseparable. The only Muslims who reject Sufism are the Salafists of Saudi Arabia and the equally odious Shia fundamentalists of Iran. The Sufis are persecuted in both Saudi Arabia and Iran; in both of the mentioned countries, the tombs of the Sufi saints are desecrated by the authorities.

We turn now to the question of what Sufism is. Here I leave it to Ibn-Khaldun (1332-1406), perhaps the finest Muslim philosopher and the author of one of the greatest books ever penned: the glorious al-Muqaddima, to explain its essence:

'There are men who attempt to obtain supernatural perception through exercise. They attempt an artificial (state of) death through self-mortification. They kill all corporeal powers (in themselves), and wipe out all influences of those powers that color the soul in various ways. This is achieved by concentrated thinking, and doing without food for long (periods). It is definitely known that when death descends upon the body, sensual perception and the veil it constitutes disappear, and the soul beholds its essence and its world. (These men) attempt to produce, artificially before death, the experience they will have after death, and to have their soul behold the supernatural. Other such people are the men who train themselves in sorcery. They train themselves in these things, in order to be able to behold the supernatural and to be active in the various worlds. Many (Sufis) shun (supernatural perception) when it accidentally happens to them, and pay no attention to it. They want God only for the sake of His essence, and nothing else. It is well known that (supernatural perception) occurs among the (Sufis). They call their supernatural experiences and mind reading "physiognomy" (firasah) and "removal" (of the veil of sense perception, kashf). Their experiences of (supernatural) activity they call "acts of divine grace" (karamah). None of these things is unworthy of them.'

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Russia and Baathism

Russia's approach to the Middle East is marked by caution and pragmaticism. The absence of a clearly defined policy towards the Middle East is no doubt owing to the many disappointments experienced by Russia in her dealings with this region. Russia's three major disappointments in the Middle East were as follows:

(i) The Israeli Failure: The Soviet Union was supportive of the Zionist project and strongly favoured the creation of a binational state in which Arabs and Jews would enjoy equal rights. The procession towards a Middle Eastern homeland for the Jews had already been initiated by the British; so far as the Soviet Union was concerned, it was a matter of thwarting the British plans of creating a outpost of settlers subservient to Anglo-American interests in the midst of the Arabs. The leaders of the Soviet Union wished to oversee the creation of a binational state which would be sympathetic to their aims in the Middle East. Things did not turn out quite as Soviet Union had planned: not only was Israel intent on pursuing a foreign policy running counter to Soviet interests; the Zionist state was also hell-bent on bringing about an exodus of the Soviet Jews, which would result in the Soviet Union's being drained of some of its brightest minds. Golda Meir, an Ukrainian Jewess and Israel's ambassador to the Soviet Union, discarded every conceivable notion of diplomatic etiquette during her time in the Soviet Union. Well aware of the strong support for the state of Israel amongst the Soviet Jews, she took her lobbying on behalf of the Zionist state to extreme lengths by behaving like a celebrity rather than a diplomat. In her interactions with the Soviet Jews she made no secret of the fact that she wanted them to emigrate to the state of Israel. Being a Jewess of the ghetto, Golda Meir looked upon the assimilated Jews of the Soviet Union with contempt: to the Soviet intellectual Ilya Ehrenburg, who was an assimilated Jew fiercely proud of his motherland, Meir made it known that she "[did] not like [...] Jews who knew neither Hebrew nor Yiddish." Ehrenburg, infuriated by Meir's insolence, had a biting retort in store for the Jewess of the ghetto: "you, madam, are an American agent" (cf. Losurdo: 2012, p. 282). Stalin soon came to realise that Israel was on the verge of becoming an albatross around his neck: not only was Israel showing an increasing predilection for the Western powers; the Soviet Union was at risk of becoming alienated from the Arab world as well. A crackdown on Zionist sympathisers amongst the Soviet Jews took place; the extent of this crackdown is illustrated by the fact that Molotov's Jewish wife was sent to the gulag for greeting Meir too heartily at a Jewish gathering. The Soviet Union's decisive turn against Israel came about in 1956 when it sided with Nasser's Egypt against the Anglo-French-Israeli coalition during the Suez War. And in 1967 the Soviet Union reaffirmed its commitment to the Arab cause during the Six Day War.

(ii) The Iraqi Failure: The toppling of Abdul Karim Qassem's unabashedly leftist and pro-Soviet regime in Iraq by the Baathists taught the Soviet Union another important lesson: there was a limit to how far to the political left the Arabs would be willing to go. The Soviet Union came to realise that Baathism was the best they could hope for in Arab world. Pragmaticism was called for in regard to the Arabs; and the Baathists were certainly preferable to the Islamic fundamentalists. Henceforth, the Soviet policy would be to support secular-nationalist elements in the Arab world, and there was a clear red line which the Soviet would never cross: to side with Islamic-fundamentalist forces in the Arab world. The Soviet Union's decidedly anti-Islamist posture is in stark contrast to the policies of the Americans, which, according to Yevgeny Primakov, consisted in supporting "those who not only stood up for Muslim values but were willing to resort to terrorist methods to do so."

(iii) The Egyptian Failure: In 1976 Anwar Sadat cancelled the Soviet-Egyptian friendship treaty and expelled all Soviet military advisers from the country in his endeavours to placate the Americans and the Israelis. This political humiliation made the Soviet Union more circumspect than ever in relation to the Middle East.

In the light of the mentioned Soviet-Russian failures in the Middle East, it is only to be expected that the Russians will exercise extreme prudence in regard to Syria. Even so, the civil war in Syria matters to Russia, because the outcome to this conflict could potentially have repurcussions within Russia. Anything perceived as an Islamist victory could serve as an inspiration to sectarian forces in several former Soviet republics as well as within Russia proper. The fact that Islamist fighters from Kazakhstan and the Caucasus are present in Syria is a cause for great concern, and the return of these terrorists to their countries of origin must be prevented at all costs.

The Syrian civil war is dragging on not only because of structural contradictions that were long present within the society, viz., the Alawite minority's shameless propensity to self-aggrandisement; the interference of several foreign powers is a far more important reason as to why this conflict is as protracted as it is. Of foremost interest in this regard are the roles of Saudi Arabia and Iran:

Saudi Arabia: As far as Saudi Arabia is concerned, it is a matter of settling ideological scores with the Baathists, asserting one's leadership of the Arab world, and countering Iranian influence in Syria. A far more sinister aspect to the Saudi role is this nation's desire to export its Salafist brand of Islam to Syria with a view to undermining the latter's laudable commitment to secularism.

Iran: Iran is an enemy of the Arabs and Syria is Iran's main gateway to the Arab world. Iran's machinations in Syria are rooted in Iranian fears of the emergence of a cohesive political force amongst the Arabs, as such a force is likely to clash with Iran sooner or later, considering that Iran is currently in possession of territories to which the Arabs have repeatedly laid claim on ethno-historic grounds (cf. Khuzestan and Shatt al-Arab). Given these fears, Iran is more than pleased with a division of the Arab world along sectarian lines.

The key to ending the civil war in Syria is the curtailing of the influence of both the Saudis and the Iranians. The ideal way of concluding this civil war would be by means of preserving the Baathist rule while making significant political concessions to the Sunni majority of Syria at the same time. Such an objective can be attained by supporting Sunni elements within the Baath Party of Syria with a view to facilitating an internal coup. In such a scheme of things, Russia could play a decisive role. Baathism is still a horse worth betting on; Russia should get rid of the jockey and keep the horse.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Shia Good, Sunni Bad?

A regrettable misconception currently in vogue amongst many who claim to understand the Islamic world is that the Shias are somehow more liberal than the Sunnis. Such a manner of viewing things seems to be partly effected by the ongoing conflict in Syria, where the Sunni side has been guilty of barbaric acts of wellnigh epic proportions. Even so, the mentioned misconception must be dispelled sooner rather than later, because our ability to develop a cordial relationship with the Islamic world hinges on whether we succeed in reaching out to the Sunni majority or not.

Contrary to popular conception, the Sunni majority is not at all sympathetic to the theocratic aspirations of the monarchs of the Gulf and their Salafi-Hanbali henchmen. Salafism represents a minority within Sunni Islam, but owing to the fact that the Salafists are heavily funded with petrodollars and weapons by the monarchies of the Gulf as well as the Anglo-Americans, e.g., in Afghanistan, Chechnya, and Syria, they are a vocal minority exercising political influence to a degree far in excess of their actual numerical strength.

The Sunni majority adheres to the Hanafi school of law. It is interesting to note that the Hanafi school of law is predominant in the non-Arabic regions of the Islamic world: Turkey, the former Soviet Union, the former Yugoslavia, South Asia, and Afghanistan. The Hanafi school of law has been successful in abstracting the essence Islam from the tribal context in which it arose; this is to say that it has carried out a de-arabisation of Islam. In doing so, the Hanafi school of law has given its variety of Sunni Islam a distinctly cosmopolitian outlook in contradistinction to the tribal Islam of the Hanbalis. The Hanafis are renowned for their creative interpretation of the precepts of Islam with a view to making religion compatible with time and circumstance. Furthermore, the Hanafi school of law permits its adherents to pray in their native languages rather than in Arabic. This freedom of choice in the realm of liturgy is of pivotal importance; for instance, I can envisage a future Islam in Russia, where the Muslims recite their prayers in their native Russian tongue rather than in Arabic.

As regards the rich intellectual heritage of Islam, it must be emphasised that the Sunnis have always been its main proponents and custodians: all the great philosophers of Islam - Al-Kindi, Al-Farabi, Ibn-Rushd, Ibn-Sina, Al-Ghazzali, Ibn-Khaldun, and Rumi - were Sunnis. Likewise, mystical Islam or Sufism is accepted by the Hanafis as an integral part of their Islamic heritage, whereas it is rejected as a heresy by the Hanbalis.

The Shias, like the Salafists, represent the polarising forces in the Islamic world. The monarchies of the Gulf are not the sole obtstacles to unity in the Islamic world; Iran is as great a stumbling block in this respect. The double-dealing nature of the Mullahs in Qom should be obvious to anyone who has taken the time to study the history of this country. The denunciation of Israel is a weekly event in Iran, but this seemingly uncompromising anti-Zionism did not prevent the Iranians from cooperating with Israel against both the Soviet Union and Iraq (cf. the destruction of Osirak). Similarly, America may be the Great Satan in the geo-theological scheme of things, but the Iranians have never been averse to striking deals with their arch-enemy either, as seen in the case of the Iran-Contra affair. In the light of this dubious track record of Iran, both Russia and China would be well advised to approach this country with the greatest caution.

In order to understand the double-dealing nature of the Iranians one must familiarise oneself certain core theological and jurisprudential concepts of Shia Islam. Two such concepts are zahir and batin. The English equivalents of these concepts are apparent and hidden, visible and occult, or exoteric and esoteric. What you would do well to note regarding the modus operandi of the Shias is that they are able to combine a seemingly liberal exterior with a veiled fundamentalistic adherence to the dogmae of their religion. In many Muslim countries, the Shias are prominent in the showbiz industry, thus leaving one with the optical illusion that the Shias are liberal or westernised, whereas the Sunnis are puritans enslaved by a medieval mindset. This optical illusion has a great deal to do with the Shias' all too frequent recourse to Taqiyya, a concept which is central to Shia jurisprudence and only of peripheral importance to the jurisprudence of the Sunnis. Given the fact that the Shias are a minority in most countries, it is permissible for them to conceal their religious affiliations so as to avoid persecution, but there is no denying that these tactics of dissimulation are subject to misuse. Sham conversions to Christianity, particularly amongst the Shias, is not an unheard of phenomenon amongst asylum seekers in many Western countries. Taqiyya, in this case, serves the purpose of furthering one's economic-existential interests rather than guarding one against persecution. An interesting example in this regard is the Iranian scholar Reza Aslan who - so it seems to me - converted to Evangelical Christianity in order to carve out an academic career for himself as a biblical scholar, and reverted to being a Shia upon attaining his ph.D. I have visited many an Islamic country, from Maghreb to Malaysia, and I am yet to see any evidence of the Shias' being more liberal than the Sunnis. To the contrary, during the month of Muharram I have seen Shia mobs march through Sunni neighbourhoods while hurling insults at those Islamic khalifs whom they do not consider the legitimate successors to Muhammed; this spectacle is very much reminiscent of the Orangemen who march through Catholic neighbourhoods with the primary purpose of flexing their sectarian muscle. The Shias are essentially a sect within Islam and do not deserve to be treated on an equal footing with the Sunni majority. The very word Shia means party or faction; this self-designation in itself tells us something about the sectarian ethos of the Shias. This sectarian ethos of the Shias is radically at odds with the ecumenism of the Sufis, who are no strangers to praying alongside Christians and Buddhists in Central Asia. And we would do well to note that the Sufis are currently being persectuted in Iran. Sectarianism also informs the foreign policy of the Iranians, who did not lift a finger in support of Gadaffi - a man who had advocated the case of Iran at the Arab League summits on more than one occasion; the ingratitude of the Iranians in this regard was beneath contempt. The only occasions on which the Mullahs of Qom voice their indignation is when their fellow Shias are under fire, be it in Syria or in Bahrain. The same sectarianism can be witnessed amongst the Shias of the Arabic nations: they seem more interested in singing the praises of their Mullahs in Qom than worrying about the well-being of the countries in which they actually reside.

There are two internal sources of all the ills of the Islamic world: one is Saudi Arabia and the other is Iran. It is incumbent on the Muslims to do their utmost to repel the incursions of both the Salafists and the pro-Iranian Shias into their countries. As for the Sunnis, it is worth pointing out that it is amongst these people that the future allies of both Russia and China are to be sought. It bespeaks an appalling nescience of Russia's true intentions to think that Putin is walking out on a limb for Assad. From a Russian point of view, it is far more important to preserve the Baathist structure in Syria than to perpetuate the rule of Assad and his Alawite clan. Assad is dispensable; Baathism is not. Indeed, the very future of the Islamic world is dependent on whether it can find a secular-nationalist alternative à la Baathism to a tribal Islamism or not.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

The Roots of Western Multiculturalism

Being in a state of denial is the lot of most men, and blaming others for one's own shortcoming is another common vice to be encountered amongst the featherless bipeds. Strip away the veneer of civility, and what you will find is an odious freak of nature. There are those who say that man's being beholden to a magical worldview is a thing of the past; this is not at all the case. The modern man is no different from the most uncouth savage. The savage would view all phenomena as the works of intelligent agencies; if living humans did not bring something about, it had to be the work of beings from the spirit world. If something contrary to man's intentions or desires came about, he would hold the demons of the netherworld responsible for his misfortune. Did you ever wonder why the devil is portrayed as the genius par excellence? Man is so in denial of his own stupidity that he has the audacity to think that it requires nothing less than an ingenuity of truly cosmic proportions to outwit him.

Multiculturalism is an important social fact to be reckoned with in all Western countries. According to Vladimir Putin, who is a very wise man, there are two different varieties of multiculturalism to be encountered in our world. The first kind is the organic multiculturalism of Russia, whereas the other is a Western variety of multiculturalism - which is a product of Western colonialism. The former kind of multiculturalism has developed naturally during the course of many centuries, whereas the latter kind of multiculturalism has been forced upon the world by the West.

The black man did not arrive in America of his own accord; he was dragged to these distant shores. Likewise, millions of Chinese and Indian kulis were uprooted from their own lands to meet the Western demands of cheap labour. Furthermore, the Western nations enlisted millions of brown and black soldiers to settle imperial disputes with one another; when the French occupied Ruhr, they deliberately took recourse to black soldiers in order put the following point across to the Germans: "you are lower than the lowest."

As regards the question of immigration, the following must be remembered:

Traditionally it is the rightist parties of the West that have tacitly welcomed immigrants, because it provides them with ample supply of cheap labour, whereas the true bastions of the Left, the labour unions, have opposed immigration on the grounds that it adds to the plight of the workers in terms of lowering their wages. Just as there is migration within the states from the countryside to the cities in tune with the altering of the economic relations, so there is emigration from one state to another. If people do not like seeing Afghans, Pakistanis, and Arabs in their countries, then I suggest that they try to eradicate this problem by going to the root of the issue: stop bombing them, allow these nations to diversify their economies, do not meddle in their internal affairs, do not steal their natural resources, and do not drain them of their best minds.

What is known as multiculturalism in the modern Western societies is no more than a feeble attempt at limiting the damage done long years ago. In the wake of the colonial liberation two impending dangers occupied the Western mind:

(i) Would there be a racial backlash against the Western world?

and:

(ii) Would the former colonies follow in the footsteps of Russia and embrace communism?

The spread of communism had to be stopped at all costs, even if it meant abandoning the long-cherished ideals of racial segregation. In other words, multiculturalism was forced upon the West:

"[T]he Soviet Union had an enviable record on race relations. [...] The Soviet Union had no difficulty in presenting racism as a distinctly Western problem." (F.F.)

But the modern Western man is quite unwilling to assume the responsibility for his own follies; rather he will assign the blame to an imaginary foe called Cultural Marxism, much in the same way as the primitive man would attribute all his woes to the Devil. To the Western man I have the following to say: multiculturalism is of your own making. How did this come to pass? Blame your own stupidity and that of your forefathers. The devil does not exist. And having your women impregnated by the black man is but a small price to pay for your not so New World Order.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Are Russians Racists?

"Avoid the faults of your nation." This is a dictum of Balthasar Gracian. No nation is unblemished and Russia is no exception to this rule. Very few nations surpass the Russians when it comes to self-criticism. Repentence is not only a central concept to the theology of the Russian Orthodox Church: echoes of it can be heard in the folk songs, the novels of Dostoyevsky, and even in the five-year plans of Stalin. When Stalin urged the citizens of the Soviet Union to do their utmost to industrialise the nation, he pointed to the past follies of the rulers and the ruled alike, and now the hour of decision of the come: if the Russians did not rise up from their semi-vegetative state, the Soviet Union would be crushed by the Anglo-American imperialists. The village idiots of Russia, still reeking of alcohol, awoke from their slumber and industrialised the nation. More than this: they developed the nuclear bomb. And just when the Americans thought they had the upper hand qua technology, the village idiots shot Gagarin into space.

The first Russian village idiot of note to rise up against tyranny was Yemelyan Pugachev (1742-1775). The man may have been an illiterate goon, but he was also a shrewd politician. The French aristocrat Joseph de Maistre, who despised all revolutionaries, closely monitored the exploits of Pugachev and viewed the success of the village idiot as an omen of the coming deluge. "The Pugachev of the future", said de Maistre, would not be Pugachev the Village Idiot; he would be the "Pugachev of the University." How right de Maistre was: both Lenin and Stalin were intellectuals. Lenin mastered the works of Marx and Hegel as a very young man, whereas Stalin, for his part, was a product of the Russian Orthodox Church. Educated at a seminary, he received classical education of the highest order. Stalin's appetite for philosophy and literature was almost superhuman, and he would read the dialogues of Plato in classical Greek. Lenin and Stalin were not only intellectuals; both men were also deeply practical. Balance of power and strategies of tension were no longer the pastimes of seasoned imperialists; the Bolshevik upstarts could play these games of life and death just as well. This prompted the reactionary German social philosopher Oswald Spengler to remark that Russia had finally thrown off her European mask; hidden underneath the mask was the bloodthirsty Mongol. Because Russia had revolted against the imperial order of the West, she would have to pay for her disobedience by being ostracised from the community of the civilised Western nations. This quasi-theological narrative can be discerned in virtually every Western monograph treating of Russia's past: Russia is good to the extent that she is European and evil to the extent that she is Asian. Such a crude narrative tells us very little about Russia, but it tells us a great deal about the inveterate provincialism of Russia's enemies.

It is true: Russia - or the former Soviet Union - is the land of extremes. The dialectical philosophies of Hegel and Marx, which sought to reconcile opposites, were congenial to the Russians. The problem of Faust was also the problem of Russia:

"Zwei Seelen wohnen, ach! in meiner Brust,
Die eine will sich von der andern trennen;
Die eine hält, in derber Liebeslust,
Sich an die Welt mit klammernden Organen;
Die andre hebt gewaltsam sich vom Dust
Zu den Gefilden hoher Ahnen."

The philosophies of Hegel and Marx sought to bring this contradiction to naught, and this was precisely the kind of remedy needed in Russia, the land of contradictions. She was the land of repentent aristocrats with money to burn, who abandoned all their wealth to live amongst the poor - as the poor. Yet Russia was also the land of the pogroms, where the dregs of the society would be subjected to the kind of treatment that would have made a Nazi gnash his teeth in dread: Jewish teenage girls would be gang-raped and bayonets would be rammed up their vaginae. Little seems to have changed in modern Russia: some years ago a beautiful Tajik girl, no more than nine years of age, was stabbed to death by Russian teenagers in Sankt Petersburg. This Tajik girl, with white skin and European traits, would not have been touched if her father had looked European. But because her father was a black-haired Tajik, she had to pay with her life. Once again Russia is divided: 50% of the Russians are xenophobic, whereas 50% of the Russians do not mind foreigners. What Lenin and Stalin had united is once again out of joint.

The Soviet Union used to be known as the Affirmative Action Empire. Soviet Union's track record in regard to her minorities is something of which every Russian has reason to be proud. When the Czarist Russia came tumbling down, there were approximately 50 recognised ethnic groups in Russia, whereas during the heyday of Stalin, there were more than 150 recognised ethnic groups in the Soviet Union. Furthermore, because many of these ethnic groups had no written language of their own, new written languages were developed under the auspices of the state. The achievements of the Soviet Union prompted the Italian statesman Alcide de Gaspari (1881-1954) - a Christian-Democrat to boot - to utter the following words:

"Upon seeing how Hitler and Mussolini persecuted people because of their race and promulgated those terrifying race-laws, and at the same time upon seeing how the Russians, who comprise 160 races, endeavour to bring together these different races in the name of social unity, I must also say this: this is Christian; this is eminently universal in its true Catholic sense."

The Soviet Union was a well-functioning - by no means flawless - multinational empire until the reign of Gorbachev. Gorbachev, who was a third-rate Marxist and unfit for the task of statesmanship, failed to perceive the obvious: ideas do have consequences. The pseudo-democratic reforms forced through by Gorbachev with a view to bringing about a more transparent society turned out to be a self-defeating enterprise. At the Russian universities there was an increasing interest in the pre-Marxist philosophical traditions of Russia; an intellectual engagement harmless enough in itself and even beneficial to those who care for such lofty matters. Most philosophical ideas, clad in a jargon incomprehensible to the hoi polloi, seldom carry with them any repurcussions at societal level. Ideas with social consequences are those tailor-made for public consumption. The two most dangeous ideas to infect the Russian society during the reign of Gorbachev were those of liberalism and nationalism.

Liberalism was viewed as the magic potion that would cure the Russian society of all its ills. The implementation of liberalism entailed economic reforms and a free press. As soon as these two criteria had been met, wealth and happiness would follow as matter of course. This was the American dream in action - Russky style. What was not known to the Russians was the dark side of liberalism: a murderous ideology that viewed freedom as a privilege rather than a fundamental human right; an ideology that championed slavery and the immiseration of its own working classes so that the privileged few could lead a life of luxury.

The other dangerous Western idea to take root in Russia and Eastern Europe at large was a disease with which the white Anglo-Americans seem to be more afflicted than any other race: the idea of racial supremacy. Here it should be kept in mind that eugenics and the implementation of other pseudo-scientific measures with a view to maintaining racial purity were not the inventions of the German Nazis. These were ideas that were in vogue in both England and the United States long before they were adopted by the Nazis. American white supremacists such as David Duke, presumably nauseated by the sheer number of black faces on the television screen, began to look to the Russian nation as the paragon of white pride. The Russian, who heretofore had oscillated between being a white European and a slit-eyed Mongol, depending on whether he followed the dictates of the West or not, was once again being touted as a worthy son of the West. Concurrent with this farcical spectacle another drama was unfolding on the periphery of the Soviet Empire: the spread of Islamism in the predominantly Muslim regions and the whipping up of anti-Russian sentiments amongst the Ukrainians in particular, not least by courtesy of the British historian and counter-intelligence asset Robert Conquest, whose spurious revelations concerning the Russian genocide of the Ukrainians were widely circulated in the Ukrainian society. What was happening was plain to every Soviet citizen with a discerning mind: the enemies of the Soviet Union were polarising the different ethnic groups so as to bring about the dissolution of the state, even at the cost of a civil war. In Tajikistan alone the civil war cost more than 100.000 lives.

This was the divided society in which Russian racism arose. During the woeful nineties, when the only known law was that of the jungle, the strong prevailed and the weak perished. Given these harsh circumstances, it was hardly suprising that the rugged men of the Caucasus dominated the streets of Russia. The same law of the jungle also hardened the Russian: the neglected children of alcoholised parents became ruthless xenophobes. But to understand a social phenomenon does not mean that one condones it. Racism in Russia is a security threat and should be treated accordingly. A divided Russia cannot survive and this is something that Vladimir Putin and I understand better than most people. You know what I think; upon reading the following words of Putin you will come to realise that all great men think alike:

"[N]ationalists must remember that Russia was formed specifically as a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional country from its very inception. Nationalists must remember that by calling into question our multi-ethnic character, and exploiting the issue of Russian, Tatar, Caucasian, Siberian or any other nationalism or separatism, means that we are starting to destroy our genetic code. In effect, we will begin to destroy ourselves. [M]ulticulturalism and multi-ethnicity lives in our historical consciousness, in our spirit and in our historical makeup. Our state was built in the course of a millennium on this organic model. After consolidating our national identity, strengthening our roots, and remaining open and receptive to the best ideas and practices of the East and the West, we must and will move forward."