The 23rd of June, 2019 is likely to be a black letter day in the British calendar. Exactly three years ago, on this very day, the fateful In/Out referendum on the continued membership of the EU was conducted under the direction of the then prime minister, David Cameron. He thought he would sail through the EU referendum and then rule the country for four more years in peace. Little did he know that he had fallen victim to the treachery of the hard-core Brexiteer gang and within 24 hours he would no longer be the prime minister of the country and the country would descend into utter chaos and possible dismemberment.
Now, what is this Brexit (British exit) ideology and how can this ideology be compared to the ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) doctrine? Superficially, it may look totally disparate, far-fetched and ludicrous. But when one digs deeply at the root causes or mind-sets of these two dogmas, one finds uncanny resemblance and convergences of ideological objectives.
So, what is this Brexit ideology? In the British society, particularly among the elites and upper echelons of the English society, there are unconscious or subconscious desires to gain back the good old imperialism. They hanker after the days when Britainnia ruled the waves, sun never set in the British Empire. They were distraught at the loss of coveted colonies like India and adjoining countries; Malaysia, Burma, most of Africa and so forth since the WWII (World War II). Surely, they can regain all these colonies only if they can break away the shackles of the EU and become great again!
Compare this mind set with the ISIS fundamentalists. In the golden age of Islam, Islamic art and culture, scientific and technical achievements as well as military power were so dominant that no other country could come close to it. They were the supreme rulers of the world! Although those glory days were many centuries back, it is irrelevant to them. Couldn’t they pull back those golden days now and become great again?
The uncanny similarities between these two groups are astounding. Both of them are hankering after golden days – in ISIS case about seven to ten centuries back and in Brexit case about three centuries back – and harbouring the delusion that things would be rosy again. They simply disregard the intervening centuries, changed world circumstances with entirely different geo-political, economic, scientific, industrial and military positions. They just dream of the past rainbow images and desperately hope that they will come true if they want them earnestly enough! They are just delusional.
For the Brexiteers to have the present predicament of towing the EU rules and regulations over and above the national regulations is very demeaning and hurtful. How could they submit themselves to the regulations enacted by ‘unelected politicians’ (which Brexiteers mendaciously claim to be so) of states which had been liberated by Britain in the second world war? Surely Britain should have the most dominant role in the EU; not the state who had been beaten fairly and squarely in the last world war. For them, the present world order is too bitter a pill to swallow.
The ISIS is in the same dilemma. They claim to have given the world scientific disciplines like Algebra, Geometry, Astronomy, Optics, Medicine etc and now Muslims are told to follow the advancement in these disciplines carried out by the infidels! Quran is the book given only to Muslims directly by God (Allah) and that holy book contains all the knowledge there is in the world! The ISIS now, proclaiming the Caliphate of the Muslim world, is the rightful owner of all the superior knowledge given by God to human beings. And why should ISIS with glorious background follow the laws and regulations enacted by the infidels? They should follow Sharia Laws and become great again!
All of this parallelism between Brexit and ISIS would have been ignored or gone unnoticed, but for the ‘populist’ politicians and ‘fundamentalist’ Mullahs stoking up their respective sectarian narratives. These two strands of people are not confined to the UK only, they are everywhere; it is a world-wide phenomenon.
Populism from Trump in America, Johnson in Britain, Orbán in Hungary, Erdoğan in Turkey and many more round the world are creating a poisonous political atmosphere and vitiating democratic processes to suit their own purposes. The claims such as £350 million per week extra to the cash-starved NHS (from the saving of British subscription to the EU), stopping of millions of Turks (to the tune of 80 million!) coming to the UK under the EU, unacceptability of Brussels rule (by unelected representatives) over the British parliament, loss of millions of jobs due to European immigrants coming to Britain etc. were the ‘ignominious populist’ British propaganda underpinning the Brexit ideology. Once these blatantly false and egregious dogma were thrown out in to the public domain, they are very difficult to put back and Brexit has become a firmly held ‘religious dogma’. A recent survey of opinion poll had shown that among the Tory party members, Brexit has become such a sacrosanct issue that over 64% of them are prepared to sacrifice the Union of this country, accept significant decline in national economy, accept drastic drop in standards of living of the public in order to achieve Brexit! What Brexit will achieve is not important to them; but Brexit must be upheld. This view is no less fundamentalist in severity than the religious fundamentalism.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaiming ISIS a few years ago had the ultimate objective of establishing a pure form of Islam upholding the fundamentalist ideology. This ideology, called Wahhabism, emanating from the Sunni sect is the only version of Islam worth keeping and all other sects of Islam as well as all other religions may be sacrificed. The internecine conflict between Sunni and Shia arises from this basic premise. The fundamentalist Wahhabi ideology has become supreme and everything else is dispensable.
Doesn’t it ring a bell of uncanny similarities between the Brexiteers and ISIS Jihadists? Both are myopic pursuant of their own tunnel visions disregarding surroundings and all other factors. This mind set arises from extreme form mental disease due to egoistic, xenophobic, supremacist attitudes. These two attitudes are the two sides of the same worn-out coin.
- Dr A Rahman is an author and a columnist