Aljazeera contributor Mark LeVine says Snowden’s battle against US surveillance fits into a modernist reading of jihad as a fight for betterment.
Let us assume, for the moment, that National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden is the person he’s portraying himself to be: not merely a patriot, but a humanitarian who’s given up all the trappings of a successful life to ensure that “the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant”.
Advertisement - story continues below
The 29-year-old Snowden, who leaked information on secret US government surveillance programmes such as PRISM and “Boundless Informant” to the Guardian, is certainly right to focus on the danger posed by the Obama administration’s surveillance policies, and the “global war on terror” they serve, not merely to US democracy but to “the world” more broadly as well. The United States has been engaged in a jihad of global proportions not for the past ten years, but for well over a century. As with all empires, Islam’s included, the US jihad started small, but spread rapidly once the political and economic conditions in its core and peripheries came into proper alignment.
And as with other empires, the US jihads had their roots in the most offensive of ideologies, which justified its spread as both inevitable and good, while – not surprisingly – viewing any opposition as irrational, bad, and justly subject to suppression by any means necessary. As the 19th century Protestant preacher and arch-imperialist Josiah Strong put it, the emerging American empire was destined by God to rule the earth, everyone else must prepare for a “ready and pliant assimilation” or become “extinct”. Islam’s great conquerors tended to be a bit more generous, at least rhetorically…