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Starting From Zero, Middle Eastern Edition
By Ed Driscoll · April 20, 2007 12:52 PM · The Return of the Primitive · War And Anti-War

Charles Johnson links to this Smithsonian profile of Sayyid Qutb, Osama bin Laden's chief mentor. You may remember Qutb from this January post, documenting his reaction to America's decadent show business strumpets. But the Smithsonian piece delves into the mindset that would cause such a reaction:

The core problem with the United States, for Qutb, was not something Americans did, but simply what America was—“the New World...is spellbinding.” It was more than a land of pleasures without limit. In America, unlike in Egypt, dreams could come true. Qutb understood the danger this posed: America’s dazzle had the power to blind people to the real zenith of civilization, which for Qutb began with Muhammad in the seventh century and reached its apex in the Middle Ages, carried triumphantly by Muslim armies.

Qutb rejected the idea that “new” was also “improved.” The Enlightenment, the Industrial Age—modernity itself—were not progress. “The true value of every civilization...lies not in the tools man has invented or in how much power he wields,” Qutb wrote. “The value of civilizations lay in what universal truths and worldviews they have attained.” The modern obsession with science and invention was a moral regression to the primitive condition of the first toolmakers.

As Mackubin Thomas Owens wrote a year after 9/11, that tragic day "revealed an emerging geopolitical reality: that the world's most important fault line is not between the rich and the poor, but between those who accept modernity and those who reject it."

Islamofascism is by far anti-modernism's most violent manifestation, but it's far from the only worldview that rejects the notion of modernity, of course: These fellows have much in common with Qutb's mindset--as would people as diverse as this gentleman and this gentlelady.

Or as David Brooks wrote in 2005:

In other words, the conflict between the jihadists and the West is a conflict within the modern, globalized world. The extremists are the sort of utopian rebels modern societies have long produced.

In his book "Globalized Islam," the French scholar Olivier Roy points out that today's jihadists have a lot in common with the left-wing extremists of the 1930's and 1960's. Ideologically, Islamic neofundamentalism occupies the same militant space that was once occupied by Marxism. It draws the same sorts of recruits (educated second-generation immigrants, for example), uses some of the same symbols and vilifies some of the same enemies (imperialism and capitalism).

Roy emphasizes that the jihadists are the products of globalization, and its enemies. They are detached from any specific country or culture, he says, and take up jihad because it attaches them to something. They are generally not politically active before they take up jihad. They are looking to strike a vague blow against the system and so give their lives (and deaths) shape and meaning.

In short, the Arab world is maintaining its nearly perfect record of absorbing every bad idea coming from the West. Western ideas infuse the radicals who flood into Iraq to blow up Muslims and Americans alike.

Read the rest of the Smithsonian piece for more insights into how such a worldview develops.



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