Thursday, August 21, 2008

What is Islamism clashing with?

Dorothy from Kansas wrote, “Hi, Well, it's not like Christianity didn't have its chance.

They have been there, too, in the past.

Do you see this evangelical movement of Islamism as an outcome of the clash between Islamism and Christianity or Islamism and democracy or Islamism and capitalism?


Lawrence responds,

I don’t see Islamism as being a clash with Christianity. To some extent it is a clash with the West. It was interesting that Sayyid Qutb firmed up his Islamist ideas about the decadence of the West after attending school at the University of Colorado. He didn’t see the US as religious but as irreligious.

Fundamentalist Islam has been around for a long time. It was initially evangelistic in the same way that Mohammad was. It spread out, fought and conquered. It defeated the Ottomans in several battles but the Ottoman Empire finally took it seriously and nearly wiped the Wahhabs out. However, they hid in the wilderness and came back. Their emphasis was strictly religious. It wasn’t until the Muslim Brothers, especially Sayyid Qutb, blended Fundamentalist Islam with the tactics of Fascism and Communism that the ideology of Islamism became as we know it today.

Sayyid Qutb posed the question, why aren’t we the powerful ummah that Mohammad established before he died? The answer was, he determined, that Muslims had abandoned their religion. They no longer adhered to the Sharia. They needed to get back to the Sharia and they needed to understand Mohammad’s mission because it hasn’t ended. Mohammad brought the final word of Allah to humankind. It was the task of Muslims to carry it to the uttermost parts of the world. Nothing was more important than that and nothing should stand in its way. The Jihad demanded that enemies of this project be killed. Islamic leaders who betrayed Islam should be first to die, but infidels who opposed Islam or violated any of its tenets should be killed as well.

So Islamism is directed toward a Clash with the West, but it wasn’t a Clash that gave rise to Islamism. Neither was it the sense that we Muslims are poor and need to become rich. Islamists could see the difference in material success between the West and Islam, but they blamed their own people for abandoning the project. In borrowing tactics from Lenin, Stalin and Hitler, they understood that a carefully selected vanguard could accomplish marvelous things. Osama bin Laden was trained by the Muslim Brothers and specifically by the brother of Sayyid Qutb. He perfected a vanguard he called “the base,” Al Quaeda. And set about the continuation of Mohammad’s task as defined by Sayyid Qutb.

Some writers suggested that Osama would be content if we left the Middle East to him and his friends. If so, that would represent a change in his announced Islamist goals. If Osama settled for that he would be betraying Mohammad once again. – much as Yasser Arafat (also trained by the Muslim Brothers) would have been betraying Mohammad if he accepted Israel as a permanent state. Their task was to gain back the lands taken from them by the West, not to acknowledge the West’s right to any of them.

Lawrence Helm

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