I think Ali Eteraz gained such a popular following based almost entirely on his looks. Let's not kid ourselves here, he is goddamn handsome. Actually, he looks kind of like me...except older, Pakistani, and maybe a little hotter. Anyway, while I appreciate that he takes an 'alternative' or 'progressive' approach to issues of Islam, the Desi community, etc., oftentimes the end result with Eteraz is that he becomes similar to other so-called "progressive Muslims"-- which is to say, defenders of the Islamophobic, racist power structure in the West. Case in point is Eteraz's love for Obama. No self-respecting Muslim should support an Uncle Tom just because he supports some kind of withdrawal of troops from Iraq (but only so that he can keep bombing the everloving shit out of Afghanistan and maybe blow up Pakistan and Iran too). But I'll let my audience (do I have an audience yet?) decide for themselves. Here is Eteraz's Suicide Intellect, his profoundly status-quo, reactionary take on Ali Shari`ati. Read it, then compare with Ali Shari`ati's classic essay, Red Shi`ism (the religion of martyrdom) vs. Black Shi`ism (the religion of mourning).
Most amazing of all to me is that Eteraz could interpret Shari`ati's bold call for Shi`a to "rebel against history" and "choose justice" as nihilism. Wouldn't it be much more nihilistic to lay down and accept injustice? Or maybe justify unjust government in the name of stability, as certain autocratic Sunni states have done? At the core of nihilism lies a rejection of morality, values, and universal truth; how could that be any more different from Shari`ati's cry for a revolutionary movement steeped in Islamic morality, Qur`anic values, and struggle for al Haqq, the Truth with a capital T?
Rather than blame Shari`ati for popularizing suicide in the Middle East, we need to blame the oppressors and colonialists who push people to such desperation that suicide becomes an option. Have Palestinians who blow themselves up been more influenced by the writings of a deceased Iranian intellectual, or by the brutally unlivable conditions imposed upon them by Israel? Ultimately, I think Eteraz's beef with Shari`ati is that the latter committed the sin of daring to rebel. For as much as "progressive Muslims" like Ali Eteraz (to be fair, I'm not sure if he uses that term to describe himself or not) want to rebel against traditional, orthodox Islam, they are much more timid when it comes to rebelling against Western imperialism, colonialism and racism.