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Osama bin Laden's realgoal may be to start a civil war-or a series of civil wars.
WHAT TERRORISTS WANT Is there a better way to defeat a1 Qaeda? BY NICHOLAS LEMANN LETTER FROM WASHINGTON NY 29 Oct 2001
These days, life's small satisfactions seem to mean more than they used to, so I got quite a lot of pleasure from discovering ihat the Washington office of the RAND Corporation looks just how you'd want it to look-which is to say, very "Mission: Impossible." It's next door to the Pentagon, but in one of those office-and-mall complexes that evoke Orange County, California, more than Arlington, Virginia. I ducked through a set of glass doors between Au Bon Pain and HiiagenDazs, 'and proceeded through a series of security checkpoints to the office, which was spotlessly sleek and new, with no stray pieces of paper anywhere. The director of the Washington office, Bruce Hoffman, who is one of the leading experts on terrorism, had kindly agreed to meet with me, even though RAND had declared a moratorium on discussing the specifics of the war on terrorism, in part because it was consulting with unspecified government agencies about how the United States should respond to the attacks of September 1 lth. In Washington, the more you know about what's going on the less you're able to talk abc)ut it. So Hoffman and 1 had a curious conversation. He is a small, dark, friendly, wiry, bearded man with a lot of nervous energy. I would ask a question; he would smile and tilt back in his chair and look upward, as if searching the ceiling for small imperfections, and say, "Let me see if I can answer that by rephrasing something I said in my boole@"Inside Terrorism" (1998)-"or my testimony" (he testified before a House subcommittee in late September). And if that did@t work he'd give me an amiable, apologetic shrug and say, "Sorry, that gets to the line of what I can talk about," or, "I ca@t go down this road." The world of terrorism experts is small and has heretofore been somewhat obscure. Hoffman told me that when he was in graduate school in international relations, in the midseventies, the standard choice of a field for an ambitious young person was nuclear strategy, or Soviet-American relations, and it's the people who made that choice (rather than choosing terrorist studies) who now, in middle age, sit atop the foreign-policy establishment. They have spent their lives looking down on terrorism experts. "They're sort of mechanics, like theatre ushers or guards at the mall," one former diplomat told me. But now it seems as though Hoffman and company made the right choice.
uring the nineteen-nineties, when Dnobody was paying much attention, the terrorist-studies field was caught up in a fight, which intensified in 1995 after members of the Aum Shinrikyo sect released nerve gas in a Tokyo subway. In one camp were academics, who stuck to the traditional view of terrorists as political actors who use violence to achieve what they ca@t achieve through traditional means, and who therefore are@t likely to engage in mass, and apparently senseless, killing. "Terrorism has a purpose," Hoffman told me. 'Writing it off as mindless and irrational is not useful." In the other camp were former and current government officials, who believed that terrorists were going to begin using weapons of mass destruction, out of sheer rage. The positions of the two camps are neatly conveyed by the two most resonant maxims ever coined by terrorism experts. On the academic side, Brian Michael Jenkins, a RAND colleague of Hoffman's, wrote in the seventies, "Terrorists want a lot of people watching and a lot of people listening and not a lot of people dead." On the government-official side, James
Woolsey, the former head of the C.I.A., argued, "Terrorists do@t want a seat at the table, they want to destroy the table and everyone sitting at it." At conferences, the academics would accuse the officials of scaremongering to iustify the establishment of a new government bureaucracy, and the officials would say that the academics were blind to the magnitude of the threat. "Most terrorists possess political objectives," Ehud Sprinzak, dean of the Lauder School of Government at Hebrew University and a member of the academic camp, wrote last year. "Any terrorist who threatens to kill thousands of civilians must know that his chances of political and physical survival are exceedingly slim. The usual suspects, such as Hezbollah, Hamas, and Islamicjihad, groups that so many Americans love to revile-and feardo not make the list of potential superterrorists. These organizations and their state sponsors may loathe the 'Great Satan,'but they want to survive and prosper politically." That this view turned out to be wrong doesn't mean that the other view was right. It was almost wholly focussed on the danger of chemical, biological, and nuclear attacks, undertaken for no purpose except destruction; it never envisaged the nature of the September llth attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Bruce Hoffman, to his credit, had begun warning in recent years that a new breed of religious terrorism was emerging that did not appear to play the old low-casualty game. In "Inside Terrorism," he wrote, "For the religious terrorist, violence is first and foremost a sacramental act or divine duty executed in direct response to some theological demand or imperative. Terrorism thus assumes a transcendental dimension, and its perpetrators are consequently unconstrained by the political, moral, or practical constraints that may affect other terrorists." Hoffman's crystal ball wasn't flawless. In a book of advice to the incoming Administration that RAND published earlier this year, he wrote, "It is patently clear that the U.S. intelligence community has scored a string of impressive successes over the past couple of years that proves the value and importance of this singularly vital asset in the struggle against terrorism. Proof of this may be found in the fact that Osama bin Laden and his minions have been consistently stymied for the past 26 months." We now know what Osama bin Laden is capable of, but the arguments about what terrorists want-which underlie arguments about how to fight them-have not been settled. In "The Wealth of Nations," Adam Smith wrote, "In ancient times the opulent and civilized found it difficult to defend themselves against the poor and barbarous nations. In modern times the poor and barbarous find it difficult to defend themselves against the opulent and civilized." That pretty wen expresses the standard academic view of terrorism as a loser's game whose danger to the rest of us is mainly psychological. Hoffman reminded me that, during the entire twentieth century, only a dozen terrorist incidents left more than a hundred people dead, and that during the thirty years preceding September ll th fewer than a thousand Americans had been killed worldwide by terrorists. Obviously, bin Laden does@t play by the rules of terrorism as the experts have understood them. But does that mean he has no rules-that he wants only to wreak havoc on a country he ca@t possibly conquer, because his motivation is psychological rather than strategic? Hoffman's view is that all terrorists have goals, and that it is dangerous to see them only as madmen bent on destruction. In other words, one should not only recognize their capacify for mass murder but also make a serious effort to understand how they think in order to anticipate their next move; we need a new theory of what terrorists want.
One could say that bin Laden's goal is a version of the one he often states publicly: to get the United States to disengage completely from the Middle East, by inducing fear in the general pubec which turns into pressure on the government. He could, however, have another goal, one that hasn't been worked into the copious public discussion of him: he could be understood as someone who is trying to start a civil war, or a series of civil wars, in the Middle East. I am extrapolating this view of bin Laden as a sort of terrorist entrepreneur from the work of a group of political scientists who have been studying civil wars all over the world. Because their subject is not, officially, terrorism (though the insurgent side in most civil wars uses terrorism as a prime technique), they have@t been consulted by the government or appeared on television. But their work points the way to a fresh and useful idea about what bin Laden might be up to. In this view, bin Laden wants, in the short run, to help his radical Islamist allies start insurgencies, and in the long run he wants these insurgencies to get control of the national governments of as many Muslim countries as possible. He may have already achieved control of one nation, Afghanistan; the picture of the Taliban as a separate entity that merely "harbors" him has begun to seem quite inaccurate. Bin Laden has been providing the
Taliban with an important military unit, Brigade 055; John Parachini, a terrorism expert at the Monterey Institute, suggested last year that "bin Laden and his organization may function like a silent and independent partner in government" with the Taliban. The prospect of bin Laden's gaining effective control of more national governments is an alarming one, because governments (unlike terrorist cans) can collect taxes and raise armies and-in the case of Pakistan, a prime location for a civil war-possess nuclear weapons. The hesitance of most Arab governments to ioin wholeheartedly in the American effort to bring down bin Laden, even though he is their sworn enemy, can be taken as evidence that they see a link between the way they treat him and the possibility of insurgency in their countries. Two of the leading theorists of civil war are James Fearon and David Laitin, both of whom are in the politicalscience department at Stanford. They argue that civil wars ought to be a subject of special concern because there are so many of them (in 1999, an international organization counted twenty-five ongoing civil wars), and because, compared with the conventional wars of the past half century, they are more violent, generate more civilian casualties, and last much longer. Fearon and Laitin believe that civil wars get under way because of specific dynamics that don't have much to do with over-all political conditions, ideology, or religious and ethnic disputes. (They do, however, believe that a high level of poverty almost certainly plays a role.) Laitin told me his evidence shows that grievance-for instance, oppression on the basis of ethnicity, religion, language, or political belief-does not necessarily lead to open rebellion against the government, as you'd expect. And when there is a rebellion there is no assurance that solving its stated grievance will cause it to stop. (Two other ambitious international research projects on civil wan-one conducted by a team at the World Bank, the other by a C.I.A.funded State Failure Project at the University of Maryland-have reached similar conclusions.) Fearon and Laitin's explanations of the escalations of civil wars rely on fine-grained examinations of the ways people interact on the ground. "We prefer micromechanisms to master narratives," Laitin says. The mechanism of violent insurgency runs like this: The world is fiffl of terrorist entrepreneurs; Osama bin Laden is merely among the most ambitious. To accomplish their aims, they first have to recruit foot soldiers, who are almost always young men. One recruiting tactic is to stage spectacular acts of aggression that make the insurgency appear to be powerfiil and exciting. What the entrepreneur wants to have happen next is a big, indiscriminate counterattack, which, in effect, means that his enemy has been put to work as his chief recruiter. This initiates what ETA, the Basque separatist organization in Spain, calls the actionreprisal-action cycle, and the insurgency takes off A good example of this dynamic comes from ETA's own history. In 1973,
ETA assassinated Luis Carrero Blanco, the Spanish premier. Generalissimo Francisco Franco sent in troops heubent on punishment, and in so doing he set off a lengthy and violent regional ' I war. Much the same thing hapcivi pened in Sri Lanka, where the Tamil Tigers were small-scale terrorists until 1983, when they killed thirteen government soldiers. This set off a series of anti-Tamil pogroms-which in turn had the effect of starting a true civil war, one that is still going on. Bin Laden has added a new wrinkle: take action against, and draw reprisal from, an especially powerful third party; namely, the United States. So far, the Administration has clearly been careful not to take bin Laden's bait-which would mean retaliating in ways that leave lots of innocent people dead. When I spoke with James Fearon, he observed that this deadly recruitment process may actually create an opporrunity for the United States. When recruits are flooding into an unorthodox underground army, there is great potential for developing agents-in this case, young Arab men-who might feed,American intelligence information that could disable attacks in advance and make the whole terrorist operation vulnerable. The cell structure of Al Qaeda is meant to limit the potential damage of betrayal (because so few people know everything); but it would be difficult for the organization to grow rapidly and at the same time limit the internal flow of information. In general, a period is probably beginning in which two sides wifl be intensely competing for the loyalties of people in a series of Middle Eastern countries. Fearon and Laitin and their colleagues argue that in the real world people choose to join not one side of a great clash of civilizations but what looks like the winning team in their village. In Afghanistan, it seems to matter far more that the Taliban is mainly Pashtun and the Northern Alliance mainly Tajik and Uzbek than that the two groups have different religious beliefs or attitudes toward modernity.
Stathis Kalyvas and Roger Petersen, both former students of Laitin's who now teach at the University of Chicago and at M.I.T, respectively, have conducted lengthy firsthand retrospective studies of civil wars, at practicaUy a door-to-door level of detail. Kalyvas worked in Greece, Petersen in Lithuania. They found that people often choose sides on the basis of calculations about their personal chances of survival. These calculations go on at two levels: among young men deciding whether to join the insurgency, and among families deciding whether to place their allegiance with the insurgents or with the government. Insurgencies have to begin with what Petersen calls "zero-threshold actors"that is, self-dramatizing people who are immune to the logical weighing of risk and reward. Mohamed Atta would seem to be a classic example. But an insurgency ca@t get off the ground with only zero-threshold actors; it needs to sign up people who assess risk more rationally. If one's aim is to limit an insurgency, Petersen told me, do@t go to "the fanatics but the next group they'd go to for recruits, and give them incentives not to join. Change their thresholds." People in the mold of the September llth hijackers are a precious resource for an insurgency, because few people are naturally violent. "The reason there is so much violence in civil war is that people do@t like to commit violence," Kalyvas told me. He believes that situations in which mass, indiscriminate killing appears to be taking place-like the long-running Islamist insurgency in Algeria-are actually situations where a few committed killers are doing almost all the dirty work. Once somebody becomes a killer, turning back is extremely difficult-this is known as "the tyranny of sunk costs'@ and most civil-war violence takes the form of a small number of killers persuading members of the general populace to suggest who their next victims should be. As Kalyvas puts it, "You get a chance to get rid of people you don't like" without having personaffy to puli the trigger. Nobody informs on his neighbors in this way unless lie believes he will be immune from retribution. Those trying to stop insurgencies might try to identify and eliminate the few actual killers; it would be a mistake to assume that entire populations have become homicidal. The more useful anti-insurgency tactic is to compete, literally door to door, for people's loyalty (with the coinage of loyalty being willingness to inform on one side or the other). One reason that the entrepreneurs turn to terrorism is that, without the resources of a state, they have to make people believe that terrible things will happen to them if they don't side with the insurgency-that's why local killing can be an effective recruiting technique. One can surmise that many Pashtuns in Afghanistan might turn against the Taliban, which is much better positioned to distribute costs than benefits, if they could feel sure that neither the Taliban nor the Northern Alliance would kill them. The antiterrorist side, because it usually has more resources, has the advantage of being able to offer people rewards (like the American humanitarian-aid project in Afghanistan, if it works) as well as punishments. Stathis Kalyvas points out that areas of "fragmented sovereignty' are the ideal places for the outbreak of violence. If the government has total control-or no control-then there's no use in waging a contest for people's loyalty. In one article, Kalyvas reminds us that the worst kileng of civilians by other civilians in the American Civil War occurred in Missouri and Kansas, the places that were not firmly on either side. It seems quite clear that Afghanistan todar-where, after all, there was a pre@xisting civil war between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance-is such a place. Pakistan, whose instabiety was obvious before September llth and has undoubtedly increased since then, would seem to be a likely site for a similar competition. Social scientists who try to understand people as rational actors constantly calculating and recalculating cost-benefit ratios can come across as bleak and dour in their view of the world. But the work of the students of civil war actually could give rise to optimism about the situation in the Middle East, because it offers an altemative to the idea that the region and its religion are inalterably at odds with the rest of the world. The civil-war scholars reject the idea of a unitary Islam, and also that of a struggle between a good, peacefiil Islam and a bad, distorted, violent Islam. Instead, they see all religious beliefs as evolving, with the sacred texts being constantly reinterpreted as conditions change. Kalyvas reminded me, for example, that Europe's Christian Democratic Parties were almost all theocratic and antidemocratic when they were founded, in the nineteenth century, and embraced democracy only because they realized that otherwise they would lose their influence. Applying these ideas to the current situation would mean obtaining as much specific local informafion as possible, and then, perhaps through the use of native "subcontractors," convincing people that linking their fiiture to bin Laden is a bad idea. It would have to be a slow, careful, patient process that combined punishment of specific violent people with the offer of rewards for potential allies of the West. None of this would alter the strategy of attempting to disrupt bin Laden's access to money and electronic communications and forestall further attacks. But, for the present, quiet is America's friend; killing, of Americans by bin Laden and of Arab civilians by Amer-
icans, is bin Laden's friend, because it draws ordinary people as weu as combat troops to his side.
This might be called the retail approach to fighting terrorism:
it is conducted on an almost individual level. But as American
life gets more disrupted you increasingly hear calls for a more
wholesale approach: the attempt to disable the entire Middle Eastern
terrorist apparatus with a series of swift, broad military strokes.
Although this side lost the first round of policy debates inside
the Administration, its partisans certainly have@t given up. Their
position gets articulated mairdy in the truncated form of allusions
to the positions of hawkish policymakers-chiefly Paul Wolfowitz,
the Deputy Secretary of Defense-who ca@t state their case publicly.
In order to hear it in full, I went out one morning to a Washington
suburb for coffee and bagels with Kenneth Adelman, who was the
head of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency in the Reagan'Administration.
Adelman is no longer in government, but he is still very much
a member of a cohesive circle of foreign-policy conservatives
that formed in the late sixties and early seventies and is still
going strong. He is on the Defense Policy Board, a group of former
officials with a generally hawkish cast (it is chaired by Richard
Perle, a leading defense conservative). This group has had two
days of Pentagon briefings since September llth, including a long
session with the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz.
Adelman and his wife, Carol, have also seen the Cheneys and the
Rumsfelds socially since September llth. So although Adelman was
speaking for himself, his views were formed in an atmosphere of
regular contact with the Administration. Adelman told me that
rather than talk in terms of hawks and doves he preferred to discuss
"narrow" and "wide" options. "The narrow
end would be, focus on nine-eleven"-the September llth attacks.
"A manhunt for Osama bin Laden and his organization, and,
at the outside, the Taliban," he said. "The wide group
would say, 'Do@t do that. Instead, go after weapons of mass destruction,
networks, and countries that house them.' That's more doable than
the first option. The chance of finding the man and his top lieutenants
is infinitesimal. The argument against the narrow approach is
that you'd be bound to be disappointed, and you won't teach the
right lesson. The lesson would be, you almost have to knock down
the World Trade Center and the Pentagon to get us to go after
you." The Taliban, Adelman predicted, will fall "in
a few weeks." What should happen next in Afghanistan? "Do
you have to have a government that you put together?" he
said. 'Most places don't have a government. You don't need to
have a government there. My model would be, kick out the existing
government, that's fine, and then if the Northern Alliance starts
fighting, I do@t care. The difference is between a government
that supports evil people and a government that's incompetent
but isn't doing anything. That's most of the world." That
took care of Afghanistan. What else would Adelman do? "Maybe
Sudan and the Bekaa VaHey," he said, "but the big enchilada
is Iraq. The arL),ument al),ainst it would be clear. One, @here
is @o evidence that Iraq was involved in nine-eleven. Two, the
coalition won't support us. Three, it seems like BusHs father's
legacr-it's not part of the drill, it's a big diversion. "The
other side is, one, if we're going after international terrorism
and weapons of mass destruction and states that support both,
Iraq comes up three cherries. Two, just because we have no intelliLyence
linkinz Iraq to nine-eleven does@t mean it did@t happen. Three,
we know Saddam Hussein harbored the mastermind of the bombing
of the World Trade Center in'93 and that he tried to assassinate
George H. W. Bush in Kuwait the same year. He's much weaker today
than he was in'91, when the Gulf War ended, and we learned then
that his soldiers don't want to fight for him." I asked Adelman
what he would say to President Bush if he were given the opportunity
to sell him personally on the wide option. "This is a historic
moment," he told me (as Bush). "You have a mission.
It is almost a divine mission. You have one task in life. That
is to wage a global campaign against terrorism and weapons of
mass destruction. Unhke any of your predecessors, including Harry
Truman at the beginning of the Cold War, you have no public opposition,
no congressional opposition, and meaningless foreign opposition.
It is a noble, wonderfid mission. Our children's lives will be
better for it. You are given the opportunity by tragedy to solve
the larger problem. It is virtually impossible to wipe out terrorist
groups, but, by God, you can wipe out countries that support terrorism.
There are two countries that are not easy picking, but not tough-Afghanistan
and Iraq. I have no evidence that Iraq was involved in nine-eleven,
but I feel it. There is no reason you ca@t use these ideal conditions
to help fulfill your mission." Adelman had been looking at
me intently as he spoke. Now he sank back into the sofa where
he was sitting. I was no longer the President and we were no longer
in the Oval Office. "That's the argument," he said.
Waiting for rain Fundamentalists have hijacked Islamic science. Can it ever be liberated, asks Ziauddin Sardar NS Dec 2001
WILL THE fall of the Taliban mean anything for the hold of fundamentalism on science in the Muslim world? After all, fundamentalism and science are strange bedfellows, as we've seen in the US with Creationism. And if it does, will there be hopeful answers this time to the questions I asked twenty years ago in these pages-can Muslim scientists pick up the threads that were dropped 400 years ago? Then and now, everyone in the Muslim world agrees that an essential component of any cultural revival is the recovery of the spirit and values of Islamic science. Muslim scholars are keen to make science an integral part of their culture. They are angry at lost opportunities and at the possibility of dropping the ball again.
Basically, the debate on Islamic science has been hijacked by fundamentalist mystics. To judge by the special issue on Islam and science published last winter in the Pakistani journal Islamic Studies, for these people science does not mean science as it has existed in Muslim tradition and history. Instead, it's some sort of esoteric experience based on Islamic mysticism or Sufism. This mystical tendency has now established itseff as a new academic orthodoxy: from Kuala Lumpur to Islamabad, this is what is being discussed and taught under the rubric of "Islamic science'. But this didn't have to happen-and understanding how it did may yet show a way forward.
The Islamic science debate captured Muslim imagination in the late 1970s. The emergence of OPEC power, the Iranian revolution and a growing consciousness of cultural identity were fuelling optimism in the Muslim world. There were encouraging signs that Muslims wanted to reinvent their own science. This was discussed at conferences from Riyadh to Rabat. One particular study, sponsored by the Intemational Federation of Institutes of Advanced Studies (IFIAS) in Stockholm brought together Muslim scientists and scholars worldwide in seminars held between 1980 and 1983.
The IFIAS study, published as The Touch of Midas, concluded that the issue of science and values in Islam must be treated within 'Science becomes not a problem-solving enterprise or objective enquiry, but a mystical quest to understand the Absolute' a framework of concepts that shape the goals of a Muslim society. Ten fundamental concepts were identified: tawheed (unity), khaiifah (trusteeship), ibadah (worship), ilm (knowledge), haial (praiseworthy), haram (blameworthy), adi (justice), zulm (tyranny), istislah (public interest) and dhiya (waste). All intellectual and cultural activities in Islam are guided by an ethical framework, so the creation of an ethical framework for science was seen as the first step toward integration. A system guided by these concepts and values, it was argued, embraces the nature of scientific enquiry in its totality, integrating facts and values, and institutionalises a whole system of knowing that is based on accountability and social responsibility. The pursuit of scientific enquiry in a Muslim society should, then, be seen as a form of worship, promoting enquiry and thought, public interest and social justice.
This framework was widely debated and criticised in the Muslim world. At its core was the idea of science as systematic observation and experimentation, which allowed scientists to build models and theories that generate universal knowledge. Just like science in Islamic history, which is full of people doing just that. In the early 1990s, however, there was a definite shift away from this methodology into obscurantism. This was part of both a general, sharp rise in the "literalist" mode of thought in the Muslim societies and a growing retreat into mysticism. The impact on the Islamic science debate was devastating.
Two strands mark out the change. First, it began to be argued that all knowledge, including scientific knowledge, could be found in the Koran. This thesis received a tremendous boost from the well-funded Saudi project, Scientific Miracles in the Qur'an (Koran). The project spanned both empirical work, involving comparisons of those verses of the Koran that deal with astronomy and embryology with the latest discoveries, and popularisation through conferences and seminars. Relativity, quantum mechanics, big bang theory, embryology-practically everything was "discovered" in the Koran.
This toxic combination of religious literalism and "science" resembles Creationism in that it doesn't just accept that version of science as true, but attacks all critics of it. Unfortunately, this variety is now the most popular version of Islamic science.
The second strand is best described as mystical fundamentalism-Islamic science becoming the study of the "essence" of things. The material universe is investigated as an integral and subordinate part of higher levels of existence, consciousness and modes of knowing. So science becomes not a problem-solving enterprise or objective enquiry, but a mystical quest to understand the Absolute. Conjecture and hypothesis have no real place: all enquiry must be subordinate to the mystical experience. '
The Iranian scholar Syed Hossein Nasr is the leading figure in this. For Nasr, his students and followers, such as the Malaysian philosopher of science Osman Bake and the American scholar William Chittick, Muslim science was and is 'sacred science", a product of a particular mystical tradition that traces its roots to the neo-Platonists. In his historical works, Nasr has concentrated on areas such as the occult, alchemy and astrology-at the expense of vast amounts of research into exact sciences-in an attempt to show that historically Islamic science was largely "sacred science". Nasr's rewriting of history has been strongly refuted by scholars ranging from the German-Turkish historian of science Faut Sagzin to Western historians such as Donald Hill. Sadly, none of this has been enough.
Which is why I feel a strong sense of deja vu. After saving Europe from itself by preserving and taking forward scientific basics from ancient Greece, which could so easily have been lost in Europe's Dark Ages, science in Muslim civilisation can only ever be marginalised by obscurantist and mystical tendencies. Dislodging them will take considerable courage and will. Ironically, and sadly, while quoting the scientific achievements of Muslim civilisation has almost become a clich6, a genuine revival of Islamic science no;N appears rather remote.
Ziauddin Sardar's article "Can science come back to Islam?"
was published in New Scientist on 23 October 1980. His book, Introducing
Science, witi be published by Icon Books next year
From Islam A Short History Karen Armstrong ISBN 1-84212-462-5 2001
ISLAM AGONISTES THE ARRIVAL OF THE WEST (I 7 5 0-2,000)
The Arrival of the West (I750-2000)
This single chapter is provided consistent with copyright regulations and is included as essential reference material on Islam and democracy. It is also an encouragegement for you to buy the book Please puirchase the book if you are using the material except for educational purposes.
The rise of the West is unparalleled in world history. The countries north of the Alps had for centuries been regarded as a backward region, which had attached itself to the Greco-Roman culture of the south and had, gradually, developed its own distinctive version of Christianity and its own form of agrarian culture. Western Europe lagged far behind the Christian empire of Byzantium, where the Roman Empire had not collapsed as it had in Europe. By the twelfth and thirteenth centuries these western European countries had just about caught up with the other core cultures, and by the sixteenth century had begun a process of major transformation that would enable the West to dominate the rest of the world. The achievement of such ascendancy by an outgroup is unique. It is similar to the emergence of the Arab Muslims as a major world power in the seventh and eighth centuries, but the Muslims had not achieved world hegemony, and had not developed a new kind of civilization, as Europe had begun to do in the sixteenth century. When the Ottomans had tried to reorganize their army along Western lines in the hope of containing the threat from Europe, their efforts were doomed because they were too superficial. To beat Europe at its own game, a conventional agrarian society would have to transform itself from top to bottom, and recreate its entire social, economic, educational, religious, spiritual, political and intellectual structures. And they would have to do this very quickly, an impossible task, since it had taken the West almost three hundred years to achieve this development. The new society of Europe and its American colonies had a different economic basis. Instead of relying upon a surplus of agricultural produce, it was founded on a technology and an investment of capital that enabled the West to reproduce its resources indefinitely, so that Western society was no longer subject to the same constraints as an agrarian culture. This major revolution in reality constituted a second Axial Age, which demanded a revolution of the established mores on several fronts at the same time: political, social and intellectual. It had not been planned or thought out in advance, but had been the result of a complex process which had led to the creation of democratic, secular social structures. By the sixteenth century Europeans had achieved a scientific revolution that gave them greater control over the environment than anybody had achieved before. There were new inventions in medicine, navigation, agriculture and industry. None of these was in itself decisive, but their cumulative effect was radical. By i 6oo innovations were occurring on such a scale that progress seemed irreversible: a discovery in one field would often lead to fresh insights in another. Instead of seeing the world as governed by immutable laws, Europeans had found that they could alter the course of nature. Where the conservative society created by agrarian culture had not been able to afford such change, people in Europe and America were becoming more confident. They were now prepared to invest and reinvest capital in the firm expectation of continuing progress and the continuous improvement of trade. By the time this technicalization of society had resulted in the industrial revolution of the nineteenth century, Westerners felt such assurance that they no longer looked back to the past for inspiration, as in the agrarian cultures and religions, but looked forward to the future. The modernization of society involved social and intellectual change. The watchword was efficiency: an invention or a polity had to be seen to work effectively. An increasing number of people were needed to take part in the various scientific and industrial projects at quite humble levels as printers, clerks, factory workers and in order to acquire a modicum of the new standards, they had to receive some kind of education. More people were needed to buy the mass-produced goods, so that to keep the economy going an increasing number of people had to live above subsistence level. As more of the workers became literate, they demanded a greater share in the decisions of government. If a nation wanted to use all its human resources to enhance its productivity, it had to bring groups who had hitherto been segregated and marginalized, such as the Jews, into mainstream culture. Religious differences and spiritual ideals must not be allowed to impede the progress of society, and scientists, monarchs and government officials insisted that they be free of ecclesiastical control. Thus the ideals of democracy, pluralism, toleration, human rights and secularism were not simply beautiful ideals dreamed up by political scientists, but were, at least in part, dictated by the needs of the modern state. It was found that in order to be efficient and productive, a modern nation had to be organized on a secular, democratic basis. But it was also found that if societies did organize all their institutions according to the new rational and scientific norms, they became indomitable and that tfie conventional agrarian states were no match for them. This had fateful consequences for the Islamic world. The progressive nature of modern society and an industrialized economy meant that it had continuously to expand. New markets were needed, and, once the home countries had been saturated, they had to be sought abroad. The Western states therefore began, in various ways, to colonize the agrarian countries outside modern Europe in order to draw them into their commercial network. This too was a complex process. The colonized country provided raw materials for export, which were fed into European industry. In return, it received cheap manufactured Western goods, which meant that local industry was usually ruined. The colony also had to be transformed and modernized along European lines, its financial and commercial life rationalized and brought into the Western system, and at least some of the 'natives' had to acquire some familiarity with the modern ideas and ethos. This colonization was experienced by the agrarian colonies as invasive, disturbing and alien. Modernization was inevitably superficial, since a process that had taken Europe three centuries had to be achieved at top speed. Where modern ideas had time to filter down gradually to all classes of society in Europe, in the colonies only a small number of people, who were members of the upper classes and significantly the military, could receive a Western education and appreciate the dynamic of modernity. The vast majority of the population were left perforce to rot in the old agrarian ethos. Society was divided, therefore, and increasingly neither side could understand the other. Those who had been left outside the modernizing process had the disturbing experience of watching their country become utterly strange, like a friend disfigured by disease and become unrecognizable. They were ruled by secular foreign law-codes which they could not understand. Their cities were transformed, as Western buildings imodemized' the towns, often leaving the 'old city' as a museum piece, a tourist trap, and a relic of a superseded age. Western tourists have often felt disoriented and lost in the winding alleys and apparent chaos of an oriental city: they do not always appreciate that for many of the indigenous population, their modernized capitals are equally alien. People felt lost in their own countries. Above all, local people of all classes of society resented the fact that they were no longer in control of their own destiny. They felt that they had severed all connection with their roots, and experienced a sinking loss of identity. Where Europeans and Americans had been allowed to modernize at their own pace, and to set their own agendas, the inhabitants of the colonized countries had to modernize far too rapidly and were forced to comply with somebody else's programme. But even Western people had found the transformation of their society painful. They had experienced almost four hundred years of political and often bloody revolutions, reigns of terror, ethnic cleansing, violent wars of religion, the despoliation of the countryside, vast social upheavals, exploitation in the factories, spiritual malaise and profound anomie in the new megacities. Today we are seeing similar violence, cruelty, revolution and disorientation in the developing countries, which are making an even more difficult rite of passage to modernity. it is also true that the modern spirit that developed in the West is fundamentally different. In Europe and America it had two main characteristics: innovation and autonomy (the modernizing process was punctuated in Europe and America by declarations of independence on the political, intellectual, religious and social fronts). But in the developing world, modernity has been accompanied not by autonomy but by a loss of independence and national autonomy. Instead of innovation, the developing countries can only modernize by imitating the West, which is so far advanced that they have no hope of catching up. Since the modernizing process has not been the same, it is unlikely that the end product will conform to what the West regards as the desirable norm. If the correct ingredients of a cake are not available if rice is used instead of flour, dried eggs instead of fresh, and spices instead of sugar the result will be different from the cake described in the cookbook. Very different ingredients have gone into the modern cake of the colonized countries, and democracy, secularism, pluralism and the rest are not likely to emerge from the process in the way that they did in the West. The Islamic world has been convulsed by the modernization process. Instead of being one of the leaders of world civilization, Islamdom was quickly and permanently reduced to a dependent bloc by the European powers. Muslims were exposed to the contempt of the colonialists, who were so thoroughly imbued with the modern ethos that they were often appalled by what they could only see as the backwardness, inefficiency, fatalism and corruption of Muslim society. They assumed that European culture had always been progressive, and lacked the historical perspective to see that they were simply seeing a pre-modern agrarian society, and that a few centuries earlier Europe had been just as 'backward'. They often took it for granted that Westerners were inherently and racially superior to 'orientals' and expressed their contempt in myriad ways. All this not unnaturally had a corrosive effect. Western people are often bewildered by the hostility and rage that Muslims often feel for their culture, which, because of their very different experience, they have found to be liberating and empowering. But the Muslim response is not bizarre and eccentric; because the Islamic world was so widespread and strategically placed, it was the first to be subjected in a concerted, systematic manner to the colonization process in the Middle East, India, Arabia, Malaysia and a significant part of Africa. Muslims in all these places very early felt the brunt of this modernizing assault. Their response has not been simply a reaction to the new West, but the paradigmatic reaction. They would not be able to come to modernity as successfully or as smoothly as, for example, japan, which had never been colonized, whose economy and institutions had remained intact, and which had not been forced into a debilitating dependency on the West. The European invasion of the Islamic world was not uniform, but it was thorough and effective. It began in Moghul India. During the latter half of the eighteenth century, British traders had established themselves in Bengal, and at this time, when modernization was still in its infancy, the British lived on a par with the Hindu and Muslim merchants. But this phase of British activity is known as the 'plundering of Bengal', because it permanently damaged the local industry, and changed its agriculture so that Bengalis no longer grew crops for themselves but produced raw materials for the industrialized Western markets. Bengal had been reduced to second-class status in the world economy. Gradually as the British became more 'modern' and efficient themselves, their attitude became more superior, and they were determined to 'civilize' the Indians, backed up by the Protestant missionaries who started to arrive in 1793. But the Beng@lis were not encouraged to evolve a fully industrialized society of their own; the British administrators introduced only those aspects of modern technology that would reinforce their supremacy and keep Bengal in a complementary role. The Bengalis did benefit from British efficiency, which kept such disasters as disease, famine and war at bay, and the population increased as a result; but this created new problems of overcrowding and poverty, since there was no option of migration to the towns, as in the West, and the people all had to stay on the land. The plundering of Bengal economically led to political domination. Between I798 and i8i8, by treaty or by military conquest, British rule was established throughout India, except in the Indus Valley, which was subdued between I843 and I849 In the meantime, the French had tried to set up an empire of their own. In 1798 Napoleon Bonaparte occupied Egypt, hoping to establish a base in Suez that would cut the British sea-routes to India. He brought with him a corps of scholars, a library of modern European literature, a scientific laboratory and a printing press with Arabic type. From the start, the advanced culture of Europe, coming as it did with a superbly efficient modern army, was experienced in the Muslim Middle East as an assault. Napoleon's expedition to Egypt and Syria failed. He had intended to attack British India from the north, with the help of Russia. This gave Iran a wholly new strategic importance, and for the next century Britain established a base in the south of the country, while the Russians tried to get control of the north. Neither wanted to make Iran a full colony or protectorate (until oil was discovered there in the early twentieth century), but both powers dominated the new Qajar dynasty, so that the shahs did not dare to make a move without the support of at least one of them. As in Bengal, both Britain and Russia promoted only the technology that furthered their own interests and blocked such inventions as the railway, which might have benefited the Iranian people, in case it endangered their own strategic position. The European powers colonized one Islamic country after another. France occupied Algeria in i83o, and Britain Aden nine years later. Tunisia was occupied in i88i, Egypt in i882, the Sudan in i 8 8 9, and Libya and Morocco inI9I2. In i 9 i 5 the SykesPicot agreement divided the territories of the moribund Ottoman Empire (which had sided with Germany during the First World War) between Britain and France in anticipation of victory. After the war, Britain and France duly set up protectorates and mandates in Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq and Transjordan. This was experienced as an outrage, since the European powers had promised the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire independence. In the Ottoman heartlands, Mustafa Kemal, known as Atatiirk (i88I-I938), was able to keep the Europeans at bay and set up the independent state of T@rkey. Muslims in the Balkans, Russia and Central Asia became subject to the new Soviet Union. Even after some of these countries had been allowed to become independent, the West often continued to control the economy, the oil or such resources as the Suez Canal. European occupation often left a legacy of bitter conflict. When the British withdrew from India in I947, the Indian subcontinent was partitioned between Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan, which are to this day in a state of deadly hostility, with nuclear weapons aimed at each other's capitals. In 1948 the Arabs of Palestine lost their homeland to the Zionists, who set up the Jewish secular state of Israel there, with the support of the United Nations and the international community. The loss of Palestine became a potent symbol of the humiliation of the Muslim world at the hands of the Western powers, who seemed to feel no qualms about the dispossession and permanent exile of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. Nevertheless, in the very early days, some Muslims were in love with the West. The Iranian intellectuals Mulkum Khan (i833-Igo8) and Aqa Khan Kirmani (i853-96) urged Iranians to acquire a Western education and replace the Shariah with a modern secular legal code, seeing this as the only route to progress. Secularists from these circles joined the more liberal ulama in the Constitutional Revolution of igo6, and forced the Qajars to set up a modern constitution, to limit the powers of the monarchy and give Iranians parliamentary representation. Most of the leading muitahids in Najaf supported the constitution. Sheikh Muhammad Husain Naini expressed their view most cogently in his Admonition to the Nation (igog), which argued that limiting tyranny in this way was clearly an act worthy of the Shiah, and that constitutional government, Western-style, was the next best thing to the return of the Hidden Imam. The Eg"tian writer Rifah al-Tahtawi (i 8o I -7 3) was enthralled by the ideas of the European Enlightenment whose vision reminded him of Falsafah. He loved the way everything worked properly in Paris, was impressed by the rational precision of French culture, by the literacy of even the common people, and intrigued by the passion for innovation. He longed to help Egypt enter this brave new world. In India, Sayyid Ahmad Khan (i8I7-98) tried to adapt Islam to modern Western liberalism, claiming that the Quran was quite in accordance with the natural laws that were being discovered by modern science. He founded a college at Aligharh where Muslims could study science and English alongside the conventional Islamic subjects. He wanted to help Muslims to live in a modemized society without becoming carbon-copies of the British, retaining a sense of their own cultural identity. Before colonization had got under way in their areas, some Muslim rulers had tried to modernize on their own initiative. The Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II had inaugurated the Tanzimat (Regulations) in i826, which abolished the janissaries, modernized the army, and introduced some of the new technology. In i839 Sultan Abdulhamid issued the Giilhane decree, which made his rule dependent upon a contractual relationship with his subjects, and looked forward to major reform of the empire's institutions. More dramatic, however, was the modernization programme of the Albanianpasha of Egypt Muhammad Ali (I769i848), who made Egypt virtually independent of Istanbul, and almost single-handedly dragged this backward province into the modern world. But the brutality of his methods showed how difficult it was to modernize at such breakneck speed. He massacred the political opposition; twenty-three thousand peasants are said to have died in the conscripted labour bands that improved Egypt's irrigation and water-communications; other peasants so feared conscription into Muhammad Alios modemized army that they frequently resorted to self-mutilation, cutting off their own fingers and even blinding themselves. To secularize the country, Muhammad Ali simply confiscated much religiously endowed property, systematically marginalized the ulama, and divested them of any shred of power. As a result, the ulama, who had experienced modernity as a shocking assault, became even more insular, and closed their minds against the new world that was coming into being in their country. Muhammad Ali's grandson, Ismail Pasha (i8O3-95) was even more successful: he paid for the construction of the Suez Canal, built nine hundred miles of railways, irrigated some I,373,ooo acres of hitherto uncultivable land, set up modern schools for boys and girls, and transformed Cairo into a modern city. Unfortunately, the cost of this ambitious programme made Egypt bankrupt, forced the country into debt, and gave Britain a pretext for establishing its military occupation in i882 to safeguard the interests of the European shareholders. Muhammad Ali and Ismail had wanted to make Egypt a modern independent state; instead, as a result of modernization, it simply became a virtual British colony.
None of these early reformers fully appreciated the ideas behind the transformation of Europe. Their reforms were, therefore, superficial. But later reformers up to and including Saddam Hussein have also simply tried to acquire the military technology and outer trappings of the modern West, without bothering overmuch about its effects upon the rest of society. From an early date, however, some reformers were acutely aware of these dangers. One of the first to sound the alarm was the Iranian activist jamal al-Din (i839-97), who styled himself 'al-Afghani' ('the Afghan'), probably hoping that he would attract a wider audience in the Muslim world as an Afghan Sunni than as an Iranian Shii. He had been in India at the time of the great mutiny of Hindus and Muslims against British rule in i 8 S 7; wherever he travelled in Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, Russia or Europe he was aware of the ubiquitous power of the West, and was convinced that it would soon dominate and crush the Muslim world. He could see dangers of a shallow imitation of Western life, and asked the people of the Islamic world to join forces against the European threat; they must come to the scientific culture of the new world on their own terms. They must, therefore, cultivate their own cultural traditions, and that meant Islam. But Islam itself must respond to the changed conditions and become more rational and modern. Muslims must rebel against the long closing of the 'gates of iitihad'and use their own unfettered reason, as both the Prophet and the Quran had insisted. The Western encroachment had made politics central to the Islamic experience once more. From the time of the Prophet Muhammad, Muslims had seen current events as theophanies; they had encountered a God who was present in history, and had issued a constant challenge to build a better world. Muslims had sought a divine meaning in political events, and even their setbacks and tragedies had led to major developments in theology and spirituality. When Muslims had achieved a type of polity that was more in accordance with the spirit of the Quran after the decline of the Abbasid caliphate, they had agonized less about the political health of the ummah, and felt free to develop a more interior piety. But the intrusion of the West into their lives raised major religious questions. The humiliation of the ummah was not merely a political catastrophe, but touched a Muslim's very soul. This new weakness was a sign that something had gone gravely awry in Islamic history. The Quran had promised that a society which surrendered to God's revealed will could not fail. Muslim history had proved this. Time and again, when disaster had struck, the most devout Muslims had turned to religion, made it speak to their new circumstances, and the ummah had not only revived but had usually gone on to greater achievements. How could Islamdom be falling more and more under the domination of the secular, Godless West? From this point, a growing number of Muslims would wrestle with these questions, and their attempts to put Muslim history back on the straight path would sometimes appear desperate and even despairing. The suicide bomber an almost unparalleled phenomenon in Islamic history shows that some Muslims are convinced that they are pitted against hopeless odds.
The reformers constantly felt that they had to answer the European criticisms of Islam. In religious as in political affairs, the West was now setting the Muslim agenda. In India, the poet and philosopher Muhammad lqbal (i876-i938) insisted that Islam was just as rational as any Western system. Indeed, it was the most rational and advanced of all the confessional faiths. Its strict monotheism had liberated humanity from mythology, and the Quran had urged Muslims to observe nature closely, reflect upon their observations, and subject their actions to constant scrutiny. Thus the empirical spirit that had given birth to modernity had in fact originated in Islam. This was a partial and inaccurate interpretation of history, but no more biased than the Western tendency at this time to see Christianity as the superior faith and Europe as always having been in the vanguard of progress. Iqbal's emphasis on the rational spirit of Islam led him to denigrate Sufism. He represented the new trend away from mysticism that would become increasingly prevalent in the Muslim world, as modern rationalism came to seem the only way forward. lqbal had been deeply influenced by Western thought and had received a PhD in London. Yet he believed that the West had elevated progress at the expense of continuity; its secular individualism separated the notion of personality from God and made it idolatrous and potentially demonic. As a result, the West would eventually destroy itself, a position that was easy to understand after the First World War, which could be seen as the collective suicide of Europe. Muslims therefore had a vital mission to witness to the divine dimension of life, not by retiring from the world to engage in contemplation, but by an activism that implemented the social ideals of the Shariah. The reformers we have considered so far were intellectuals, who spoke chiefly to the educated elite. In Egypt, the young schoolteacher Hasan al-Banna (i go6-49) founded an organization that brought their ideas to the masses. The Society of Muslim Brothers became a mass movement throughout the Middle East, and was the only ideology at this time that was able to appeal to all sectors of society. Al-Banna knew that Muslims needed Western science and technology, and that they must reform their political and social institutions. But he was also convinced, like the reformers, that this must go hand in hand with a spiritual reformation.
When al-Banna saw the British living in luxury in the Suez Canal Zone, he was moved to tears by the contrast with the miserable hovels of the Egyptian workers. He saw this as a religious problem that needed an Islamic solution. Where Christians would often respond to the challenge of modernity by a reassertion of doctrine, Muslims have responded by making a social or political effort (iihad). Al-Banna insisted that Islam was a total way of life; religion could not be confined to the private sphere, as the West contended. His society tried to interpret the Quran to meet the spirit of the new age, but also to unify the Islamic nations, raise the standard of living, achieve a higher level of social justice, fight against illiteracy and poverty, and liberate Muslim lands from foreign domination. Under the colonialists, Muslims had been cut off from their roots. As long as they copied other peoples, they would remain cultural mongrels. Besides training the Brothers and Sisters in the rituals of prayer and Quranic living, al-Banna built schools, founded a modern scout movement, ran night schools for workers and tutorial colleges to prepare for the civil service examinations. The Brothers founded clinics and hospitals in the rural areas, built factories, where Muslims got better pay, health insurance and holidays than in the state sector, and taught Muslims modern labour laws so that they could defend their rights. The society had its faults. A small minority engaged in terrorism and this brought about its dissolution (though it has since revived, under different auspices). But most of the members who numbered millions of Muslims by I948 knew nothing about these fringe activities and saw their welfare and religious mission as crucial. The instant success of the society, which had become the most powerful political institution in Egypt by the Second World War, showed that the vast mass of the people wanted to be modern and religious, whatever the intellectuals or the secularist government maintained. This type of social work has continued to characterize many of the modern Islamic movements, notably the Mujamah (Islamic Congress) founded by Sheikh Ahmed Yasin in Gaza, which built a similar welfare empire to bring the benefits of modernity to Palestinians in the territories occupied by Israel after the June War of i967, but in an Islamic context.
What is a Modern Muslim State?
The colonial experience and the collision with Europe had dislocated Islamic society. The world had irrevocably changed. It was hard for Muslims to know how to respond to the West, because the challenge was unprecedented. If they were to participate as full partners in the modern world, Muslims had to incorporate these changes. In particular, the West had found it necessary to separate religion and politics in order to free government, science and technology from the constraints of conservative religion. In Europe, nationalism had replaced the allegiance of faith, which had formerly enabled its societies to cohere. But this nineteenthcentury experiment proved problematic. The nation states of Europe embarked on an arms race in 1870, which led ultimately to two world wars. Secular ideologies proved to be just as murderous as the old religious bigotry, as became clear in the Nazi Holocaust and the Soviet Gulag. The Enlightenment philosophes had believed that the more educated people became, the more rational and tolerant they would be. This hope proved to be as utopian as any of the old messianic fantasies. Finally, modern society was committed to democracy, and this had, in general, made life more just and equitable for more people in Europe and America. But the people of the West had had centuries to prepare for the democratic experiment. It would be a very different matter when modern parliamentary systems would be imposed upon societies that were still predominantly agrarian or imperfectly modernized, and where the vast majority of the population found modern political discourse incomprehensible. Politics has never been central to the Christian religious experience. Jesus had, after all, said that his Kingdom was not of this world. For centuries, the Jews of Europe had refrained from political involvement as a matter of principle. But politics was no secondary issue for Muslims. We have seen that it had been the theatre of their religious quest. Salvation did not mean redemption from sin, but the creation of a just society in which the individual could more easily make that existential surrender of his or her whole being that would bring them fulfilment. The polity was therefore a matter of supreme importance, and throughout the twentieth century there has been one attempt after another to create a truly Islamic state. This has always been difficult. It was an aspiration that required a iihad, a struggle that could find no simple outcome. The ideal of tawhid would seem to preclude the ideal of secularism, but in the past both Shies and Sunnis had accepted a separation of religion and politics. Pragmatic politics is messy and often cruel; the ideal Muslim state is not a 'given' that is simply applied, but it takes creative ingenuity and discipline to implement the egalitarian ideal of the Quran in the grim realities of political life. It is not true that Islam makes it impossible for Muslims to create a modern secular society, as Westerners sometimes imagine. But it is true that secularization has been very different in the Muslim world. In the West, it has usually been experienced as benign. In the early days, it was conceived by such philosophers as John Locke (i632-I704) as a new and better way of being religious, since it freed religion from coercive state control and enabled it to be more true to its spiritual ideals. But in the Muslim world, secularism has often consisted of a brutal attack upon religion and the religious. Atatiirk, for example, closed down all the madrasahs, suppressed the Sufi orders, and forced men and women to wear modern Western dress. Such coercion is always counterproductive. Islam in Turkey did not disappear, it simply went underground. Muhammad Ali had also despoiled the Egyptian ulama, appropriated their endowments, and deprived them of influence. Later jamal Abd al-Nasser (i 9 i 8-70) became for a time quite militantly anti-Islamic, and suppressed the Muslim Brotherhood. One of the Brothers, who belonged to the secret terrorist wing of the society, had made an attempt on al-Nasser's life, but the majority of the thousands of Brothers who languished for years in al-Nasser's concentration camps had done nothing more inflammatory than hand out leaflets or attend a meeting. In Iran, the Pahlavi monarchs were also ruthless in their secularism. Reza Shah Pahlavi (i878-4I) deprived the ulama of their endowments, and replaced the Shariah with a civil system; he suppressed the Ashura celebrations in honour of Husain, and forbade Iranians to go on the haji. Islamic dress was prohibited, and Reza's soldiers used to tear off women's veils with their bayonets and rip them to pieces in the street. In 1935, when protestors peacefully demonstrated against the Dress Laws in the shrine of the Eighth Imam at Mashhad, the soldiers fired on the unarmed crowd and there were hundreds of casualties. The ulama, who had enjoyed unrivalled power in Iran, had to watch their influence crumble. But Ayatollah Muddaris, the cleric who attacked Reza in the parliamentary Assembly, was murdered by the regime in 1937 and the ulama became too frightened to make any further protest. Reza's son and successor, Muhammad Reza Shah (i 9 i 9-8o) proved to be just as hostile and contemptuous of Islam. Hundreds of madrasah students who dared to protest against the regime were shot in the streets, madrasahs were closed, and leading ulama were tortured to death, imprisoned and exiled. There was nothing democratic about this secular regime. SAVAK, the shah's secret police, imprisoned Iranians without trial, subjected them to torture and intimidation, and there was no possibility of truly representative government. Nationalism, from which Europeans themselves had begun to retreat in the latter part of the twentieth century, was also problematic. The unity of the ummah had long been a treasured ideal; now the Muslim world was split into kingdoms and republics, whose borders were arbitrarily drawn up by the Western powers. It was not easy to build a national spirit, when Muslims had been accustomed to think of themselves as Ottoman citizens and members of the Dar al-Islam. Sometimes what passed as nationalism took a purely negative stance and became identified with the desire to get rid of the West. Some of the new nations had been so constructed that there was bound to be tension among their citizens. The southern part of the Sudan, for example, was largely Christian, while the north was Muslim. For a people who were accustomed to defining their identity in religious terms, it would be hard to establish a common'Sudanese'nationalism. The problem was even more acute in Lebanon, where the population was equally divided between at least three religious communities Sunni, Shii and Maronite Christian which had always been autonomous before. Power-sharing proved to be an impossibility. The demographic time-bomb led to the civil war (I975go), which tragically tore the country apart. In other countries, such as Syria, Egypt, or Iraq, nationalism would be adopted by an elite, but not by the more conservative masses. In Iran, the nationalism of the Pahlavis was directly hostile to Islam, since it tried to sever the country's connection with Shiism and based itself on the ancient Persian culture of the pre-Islamic period. Democracy also posed problems. The reformers who wanted to graft modernity on to an Islamic substructure pointed out that in itself the ideal of democracy was not inimical to Islam. Islamic law promoted the principles of shurah (consultation), and iimah, where a law had to be endorsed by the 'consensus' of a representative portion of the ummah. The rashidun had been elected by a majority vote. All this was quite compatible with the democratic ideal. Part of the difficulty lay in the way that the West formulated democracy as 'government of the people, by the people, and for the people'. In Islam, it is God and not the people who gives a government legitimacy. This elevation of humanity could seem like idolatry (shirk), since it was a usurpation of God's sovereignty. But it was not impossible for the Muslim countries to introduce representative forms of government without complying with the Western slogan. But the democratic ideal had often been tainted in practice. When the Iranians set up their Majlis (Assembly) after the Constitutional Revolution of igo6, the Russians helped the shah to close it down. Later, when the British were trying to make Iran a protectorate during the I920S, the Americans noted that they often rigged the elections to secure a result favourable to themselves. Later American support for the unpopular Muhammad Reza Shah, who not only closed down the Majlis to effect his modernization programme, but systematically denied Iranians fundamental human rights that democracy was supposed to guarantee, made it seem that there was a double standard. The West proudly proclaimed democracy for its own people, but Muslims were expected to submit to cruel dictatorships. In Egypt there were seventeen general elections between I923 and I952, all of which were won by the popular Wafd party, but the Wafd were only permitted to rule five times. They were usually forced to stand down by either the British or by the King of Egypt. It was, therefore, difficult for Muslims to set up a modern democratic nation state, in which religion was relegated to the private sphere. Other solutions seemed little better. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, founded in I 9 3 2, was based on the Wahhabi ideal.
The official view was that a constitution was unnecessary, since the government was based on a literal reading of the Quran. But the Quran contains very little legislation and it had always been found necessary in practice to supplement it with more complex jurisprudence. The Saudis proclaimed that they were the heirs of the pristine Islam of the Arabian peninsula, and the ulama granted the state legitimacy; in return the kings enforced conservative religious values. Women are shrouded from view and secluded (even though this had not been the case in the Prophet's time), gambling and alcohol are forbidden, and traditional punishments, such as the mutilation of thieves, are enshrined in the legal system. Most Muslim states and organizations do not consider that fidelity to the Quran requires these pre-modern penal practices. The Muslim Brotherhood, for example, from a very early date condemned the Saudis' use of Islamic punishments as inappropriate and archaic, especially when the lavish wealth of the ruling elite and the unequal distribution of wealth offended far more crucial Quranic values. Pakistan was another modern Islamic experiment. Muhammad Ali Jinnah (i 876-i 948), the founder of the state, was imbued with the modern secular ideal. Ever since the time of Aurengzebe, Muslims had felt unhappy and insecure in India: they had feared for their identity and felt anxious about the power of the Hindu majority. This naturally became more acute after the partition of the subcontinent by the British in I 947, when communal violence exploded on both sides and thousands of people lost their lives. jinnah had wanted to create a political arena in which Muslims were not defined or limited by their religious identity. But what did it mean for a Muslim state which made great use of Islamic symbols to be'secular'? The jamaat-i Islami, founded by Abul Ala Mawdudi (I 903-7 9) pressed for a more strict application of Shariah norms, and in i 9 S 6 the constitution formally defined Pakistan as an Islamic Republic. This represented an aspiration, which now had to be incarnated in the political institutions of the country. The government of General Muhammad Ayub Khan (i9S8-69) was a typical example of the aggressive secularism that we have already considered. He nationalized the religious endowments (awqa@, placed restrictions on madrasah education, and promoted a purely secular legal system. His aim was to make Islam a civil religion, amenable to state control, but this led inevitably to tension with the Islamists and eventually to Khan's downfall. During the 1970s, the Islamist forces became the main focus of opposition to the government, and the leftist, secularist Prime Minister Zulfaqir Ali Bhutto (i928-79) tried to mollify them by banning alcohol and gambling, but this was not sufficient and in July I977 the devout Muslim Muhammad Zia al-Haqq led a successful coup, and established an ostensibly more Islamic regime. He reinstated traditional Muslim dress, and restored Islamic penal and commercial law. But even President Zia kept Islam at bay in political and economic matters, where his policy was avowedly secularist. Since his death in a plane crash in i 9 8 8, Pakistani politics has been dominated by ethnic tension, rivalries and corruption scandals among members of the elite classes, and the Islamists have been less influential. Islam remains important to Pakistan's identity and is ubiquitous in public life, but it still does not affect realpolitik. The compromise is reminiscent of the solutions of the Abbasids and Mongols, which saw a similar separation of powers. The state seems to have forced the Islamic parties into line, but this state of affairs is far from ideal. As in India, disproportionate sums are spent on nuclear weapons, while at least a third of the population languish in hopeless poverty, a situation which is abhorrent to a truly Muslim sensibility. Muslim activists who feel coerced by the state look towards the fundamentalist government of the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan. The fact that Muslims have not yet found an ideal polity for the twentieth century does not mean that Islam is incompatible with modernity. The struggle to enshrine the Islamic ideal in state structures and to find the right leader has preoccupied Muslims throughout their history. Because, like any religious value, the notion of the true Islamic state is transcendent, it can never be perfectly expressed in human form and always eludes the grasp of frail and flawed human beings. Religious life is difficult, and the secular rationalism of our modern culture poses special problems for people in all the major traditions. Christians, who are more preoccupied by doctrine than by politics, are currently wrestling with dogmatic questions in their effort to make their faith speak to the modern sensibility. They are debating their belief in the divinity of Christ, for example, some clinging to the older formulations of the dogma, others finding more radical solutions. Sometimes these discussions become anguished and even acrimonious, because the issues touch the nub of religiosity that lies at the heart of the Christian vision. The struggle for a modern Islamic state is the Muslim equivalent of this dilemma. All religious people in any age have to make their traditions address the challenge of their particular modernity, and the quest for an ideal form of Muslim government should not be viewed as aberrant but as an essentially and typically religious activity.
The Western media often give the impression that the embattled and occasionally violent form of religiosity known as 'fundamentalism' is a purely Islamic phenomenon. This is not the case. Fundamentalism is a global fact and has surfaced in every major faith in response to the problems of our modernity. There is fundamentalist Judaism, fundamentalist Christianity, fundamentalist Hinduism, fundamentalist Buddhism, fundamentalist Sikhism, and even fundamentalist Confucianism. This type of faith surfaced first in the Christian world in the United States at the beginning of the twentieth century. This was not accidental. Fundamentalism is not a monolithic movement; each form of fundamentalism, even within the same tradition, develops independently and has its own symbols and enthusiasms, but its different manifestations all bear a family resemblance. It has been noted that a fundamentalist movement does not arise immediately, as a knee-jerk response to the advent of Western modernity, but only takes shape when the modemization process is quite far advanced. At first religious people try to reform their traditions and effect a marriage between them and modern culture, as we have seen the Muslim reformers do. But when these moderate measures are found to be of no avail, some people resort to more extreme methods, and a fundamentalist movement is born. With hindsight, we can see that it was only to be expected that fundamentalism should first make itself known in the United States, the showcase of modernity, and only appear in other parts of the world at a later date. Of the three monotheistic religions, Islam was in fact the last to develop a fundamentalist strain, when modern culture began to take root in the Muslim world in the late ig6os and I97os. By this date, fundamentalism was quite well established among Christians and Jews, who had had a longer exposure to the modern experience. Fundamentalist movements in all faiths share certain characteristics. They reveal a deep disappointment and disenchantment with the modern experiment, which has not fulfilled all that it promised. They also express real fear. Every single fundamentalist movement that I have studied is convinced that the secular establishment is determined to wipe religion out. This is not always a paranoid reaction. We have seen that secularism has often been imposed very aggressively in the Muslim world. Fundamentalists look back to a 'golden age' before the irruption of modernity for inspiration, but they are not atavistically returning to the Middle Ages. All are intrinsically modern movements and could have appeared at no time other than our own. All are innovative and often radical in their reinterpretation of religion. As such, fundamentalism is an essential part of the modern scene. Wherever modernity takes root, a fundamentalist movement is likely to rise up alongside it in conscious reaction. Fundamentalists will often express their discontent with a modern development by overstressing those elements in their tradition that militate against it. They are all even in the United States highly critical of democracy and secularism. Because the emancipation of women has been one of the hallmarks of modern culture, fundamentalists tend to emphasise conventional, agrarian gender roles, putting women back into veils and into the home. The fundamentalist community can thus be seen as the shadow-side of modernity; it can also highlight some of the darker sides of the modern experiment. Fundamentalism, therefore, exists in a symbiotic relationship with a coercive secularism. Fundamentalists nearly always feel assaulted by the liberal or modernizing establishment, and their views and behaviour become more extreme as a result. After the famous Scopes Trial (i925) in Tennessee, when Protestant fundamentalists tried to prevent the teaching of evolution in the public schools, they were so ridiculed by the secularist press that their theology became more reactionary and excessively literal, and they turned from the left to the extreme right of the political spectrum. When the secularist attack has been more violent, the fundamentalist reaction is likely to be even greater. Fundamentalism therefore reveals a fissure in society, which is polarized between those who enjoy secular culture, and those who regard it with dread. As time passes, the two camps become increasingly unable to understand one another. Fundamentalism thus begins as an internal dispute, with liberalizers or secularists within one's own culture or nation. In the first instance, for example, Muslim fundamentalists will often oppose their fellowcountrymen or fellow-Muslims who take a more positive view of modernity, rather than such external foes as the West or Israel. Very often, fundamentalists begin by withdrawing from mainstream culture to create an enclave of pure faith (as, for example, within the ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in Jerusalem or New York). Thence they will sometimes conduct an offensive which can take many forms, designed to bring the mainstream back to the right path and resacralize the world. All fundamentalists feel that they are fighting for survival, and because their backs are to the wall, they can believe that they have to fight their way out of the impasse. In this frame of mind, on rare occasions, some resort to terrorism. The vast majority, however, do not commit acts of violence, but simply try to revive their faith in a more conventional, lawful way. Fundamentalists have been successful in so far as they have pushed religion from the sidelines and back to centre stage, so that it now plays a major part in international affairs once again, a development that would have seemed inconceivable in the midtwentieth century when secularism seemed in the ascendant. This has certainly been the case in the Islamic world since the I 97os. But fundamentalism is not simply a way of 'using'religion for a political end. These are essentially rebellions, against the secularist exclusion of the divine from public life, and a frequently desperate attempt to make spiritual values prevail in the modern world. But the desperation and fear that fuel fundamentalists also tend to distort the religious tradition, and accentuate its more aggressive aspects at the expense of those that preach toleration and reconciliation.
Muslim fundamentalism corresponds very closely to these general characteristics. It is not correct, therefore, to imagine that Islam has within it a militant, fanatic strain that impels Muslims into a crazed and violent rejection of modernity. Muslims are in tune with fundamentalists in other faiths all over the world, who share their profound misgivings about modern secular culture. It should also be said that Muslims object to the use of the term 'fundamentalism', pointing out quite correctly that it was coined by American Protestants as a badge of pride, and cannot be usefully translated into Arabic. Usul, as we have seen, refers to the fundamental principles of Islamic jurisprudence, and as all Muslims agree on these, all Muslims could be said to subscribe to usuliyyah (fundamentalism). Nevertheless, for all its shortcomings, 'fundamentalism' is the only term we have to describe this family of embattled religious movements, and it is difficult to come up with a more satisfactory substitute. One of the early fundamentalist idealogues was Mawdudi, the founder of the jamaat-i Islami in Pakistan. He saw the mighty power of the West as gathering its forces to crush Islam. Muslims, he argued, must band together to fight this encroaching secularism, if they wanted their religion and their culture to survive. Muslims had encountered hostile societies before and had experienced disasters but, starting with Afghani, a new note had crept into Islamic discourse. The Western threat had made Muslims defensive for the first time. Mawdudi defied the whole secularist ethos: he was proposing an Islamic liberation theology. Because God alone was sovereign, nobody was obliged to take orders from any other human being. Revolution against the colonial powers was not just a right but a duty. Mawdudi called for a universal iihad. just as the Prophet had fought the jahiliyyah (the 'ignorance' and barbarism of the pre-Islamic period), Muslims must use all means in their power to resist the modern jahiliyyah of the West. Mawdudi argued that iihad was the central tenet of Islam. This was an innovation. Nobody had ever claimed before that iihad was equivalent to the five Pillars of Islam, but Mawdudi felt that the innovation was justified by the present emergency. The stress and fear of cultural and religious annihilation had led to the development of a more extreme and potentially violent distortion of the faith.
But the real founder of Islamic fundamentalism in the Sunni world was Sayyid Qutb (i go6-66), who was greatly influenced by Mawdudi. Yet he had not originally been an extremist but had been filled with enthusiasm for Western culture and secular politics. Even after he joined the Muslim Brotherhood in 19 5 3 he had been a reformer, hoping to give Western democracy an Islamic dimension that would avoid the excesses of a wholly secularist ideology. However, in i956 he was imprisoned by al-Nasser for membership of the Brotherhood, and in the concentration camp he became convinced that religious people and secularists could not live in peace in the same society. As he witnessed the torture and execution of the Brothers, and reflected upon al-Nasser's avowed determination to cast religion into a marginal role in Egypt, he could see all the characteristics of jahiliyyah, which he defined as the barbarism that was for ever and for all time the enemy of faith, and which Muslims, following the example of the Prophet Muhammad, were bound to fight to the death. Qutb went further than Mawdudi, who had only seen non-Muslim societies as jahili. Qutb applied the term jahiliyyah, which in conventional Muslim historiography had been used simply to describe the preIslamic period in Arabia, to contemporary Muslim society. Even though a ruler such as al-Nasser outwardly professed Islam, his words and actions proved him to be an apostate and Muslims were duty-bound to overthrow such a government, just as Muhammad had forced the pagan establishment of Mecca (the jahiliyyah of his day) into submission. The violent secularism of al-Nasser had led Qutb to espouse a form of Islam that distorted both the message of the Quran and the Prophet's life. Qutb told Muslims to model themselves on Muhammad: to separate themselves from mainstream society (as Muhammad had made the hiirah from Mecca to Medina), and then engage in a violent iihad. But Muhammad had in fact finally achieved victory by an ingenious policy of non-violence; the Quran adamantly opposed force and coercion in religious matters, and its vision far from preaching exclusion and separation was tolerant and inclusive. Qutb insisted that the Quranic injunction to toleration could only occur after the political victory of Islam and the establishment of a true Muslim state. The new intransigence sprang from the profound fear that is at the core of fundamentalist religion. Qutb did not survive. At al-Nasser's personal insistence, he was executed in i966. Every Sunni fundamentalist movement has been influenced by Qutb. Most spectacularly it has inspired Muslims to assassinate such leaders as Anwar al-Sadat, denounced as a jahili ruler because of his oppressive policies towards his own people. The Taliban, who came to power in Afghanistan in 1994, are also affected by his ideology. They are determined to return to what they see as the original vision of Islam. The ulama are the leaders of the government, women are veiled and not permitted to take part in professional life. Only religious broadcasting is permitted and the Islamic punishments of stoning and mutilation have been reintroduced. In some circles of the West, the Taliban are seen as quintessential Muslims, but their regime violates crucial Islamic precepts. Most of the Taliban ('students' of the madrasahs) belong to the Pakhtum tribe, and they tend to target non-Pakhtums, who fight the regime from the north of the country. Such ethnic chauvinism was forbidden by the Prophet and by the Quran. Their harsh treatment of minority groups is also opposed to clear Quranic requirements. The Taliban's discrimination against women is completely opposed to the practice of the Prophet and the conduct of the first ummah. The Taliban are typically fundamentalist, however, in their highly selective vision of religion (which reflects their narrow education in some of the madrasahs of Pakistan), which perverts the faith and turns it in the opposite direction of what was intended. Like all the major faiths, Muslim fundamentalists, in their struggle to survive, make religion a tool of oppression and even of violence. But most Sunni fundamentalists have not resorted to such an extreme. The fundamentalist movements that sprang up during the I97os and ig8os all tried to change the world about them in less drastic but telling ways. After the humiliating defeat of the Arab armies in the Six-Day War against Israel in i967, there was a swing towards religion throughout the Middle East. The old secularist policies of such leaders as al-Nasser seemed discredited. People felt that the Muslims had failed because they had not been true to their religion. They could see that while secularism and democracy worked very well in the West, they did not benefit ordinary Muslims but only an elite in the Islamic world. Fundamentalism can be seen as a 'post-modern' movement, which rejects some of the tenets and enthusiasms of modernity, such as colonialism. Throughout the Islamic world, students and factory workers started to change their immediate environment. They created mosques in their universities and factories, where they could make salat, set up Banna-style welfare societies with an Islamic orientation, demonstrating that Islam worked for the people better than the secularist governments. When students declared a shady patch of lawn or even a noticeboard to be an Islamic zone, they felt that they had made a small but significant attempt to push Islam from the marginal realm to which it had been relegated in secularist society, and reclaimed a part of the world however tiny for Islam. They were pushing forward the frontiers of the sacred, in rather the same way as the Jewish fundamentalists in Israel who made settlements in the occupied West Bank, reclaiming Arab land and bringing it under the aegis of Judaism. The same principle underlines the return to Islamic dress. When this is forced upon people against their will (as by the Taliban) it is coercive and as likely to create a backlash as the aggressive techniques of Reza Shah Pahlavi. But many Muslim women feel that veiling is a symbolic return to the pre-colonial period, before their society was disrupted and deflected from its true course. Yet they have not simply turned the clock back. Surveys show that a large proportion of veiled women hold progressive views on such matters as gender. For some women, who have come from rural areas to the university and are the first members of their family to advance beyond basic literacy, the assumption of Islamic dress provides continuity and makes their rite of passage to modernity less traumatic than it might otherwise have been. They are coming to join the modern world but on their own terms and in an Islamic context that gives it sacred meaning. Veiling can also be seen as a tacit critique of some of the less positive aspects of modernity. It defies the strange Western compulsion to 'reveal all' in sexual matters. In the West, people often flaunt their tanned, well-honed bodies as a sign of privilege; they try to counteract the signs of ageing and hold on to this life. The shrouded Islamic body declares that it is oriented to transcendence, and the uniformity of dress abolishes class difference and stresses the importance of community over Western individualism. People have often used religion as a way of making modern ideas and enthusiasms comprehensible. Not all the American Calvinists at the time of the I776 American Revolution shared or even understood the secularist ethos of the Founding Fathers, for example. They gave the struggle a Christian colouration so that they were able to fight alongside the secularists in the creation of a new world. Some Sunni and Shii fundamentalists are also using religion to make the alien tenor of modern culture familiar, giving it a context of meaning and spirituality that makes it more accessible. &gain, they are tacitly asserting that it is possible to be modern on other cultural terms than those laid down by the West. The Iranian Revolution Of 1978-9 can be seen in this light. During the ig6os Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (igo2-89) brought the people of Iran out on to the streets to protest against the'cruel and unconstitutional policies of Muhammad Reza Shah, whom he identified with Yazid, the Umayyad caliph who had been responsible for the death of Husain at Kerbala, the type of the unjust ruler in Shii Islam. Muslims had a duty to fight such tyranny, and the mass of the people, who would have been quite unmoved by a socialist call to revolution, could respond to Khomeini's summons, which resonated with their deepest traditions. Khomeini provided a Shii alternative to the secular nationalism of the shah. He came to seem more and more like one of the Imams: like all the Imams, he had been attacked, imprisoned, and almost killed by an unjust ruler; like some of the Imams, he was forced into exile and deprived of what was his own; like Ali and Husain, he had bravely opposed injustice and stood up for true Islamic values; like all the Imams, he was known to be a practising mystic; like Husain, whose son was killed at Kerbala, Khomeini's son Mustafa was killed by the shah's agents. When the revolution broke in I978, after a slanderous attack on Khomeini in the semi-official newspaper Ettelaat, and the shocking massacre of young madrasah students who came out on to the streets in protest, Khomeini seemed to be directing operations from afar (from Najaf, his place of exile) rather like the Hidden Imam. Secularists and intellectuals were willing to join forces with the ulama because they knew that only Khomeini could command the grass-roots support of the people. The Islamic Revolution was the only revolution inspired by a twentiethcentury ideology (the Russian and Chinese revolutions both owed their inspiration to the nineteenth-century vision of Karl Marx). Khomeini had evolved a radically new interpretation of Shiism: in the absence of the Hidden Imam, only the mystically inspired jurist, who knew the sacred law, could validly govern the nation. For centuries, Tlwelver Shies had prohibited clerics from participating in government, but the revolutionaries (if not many of the ulama) were willing to subscribe to this theory of Velayat-i Faqih (the Mandate of the jurist).' Throughout the revolution, the symbolism of Kerbala was predominant. Traditional religious ceremonies to mourn the dead and the Ashura celebrations in honour of Husain became demonstrations against the regime. The Kerbala myth inspired ordinary Shies to brave the shah's guns and die in their thousands, some donning the white shroud of martyrdom. Religion was proved to be so powerful a force that it brought down the Pahlavi state, which had seemed the most stable and powerful in the Middle East. But, like all fundamentalists, Khomeini's vision was also distorting. The taking of the American hostages in Tehran (and, later, by Shii radicals in Lebanon, who were inspired by the Iranian example) violates clear Quranic commands about the treatment of prisoners, who must be handled with dignity and respect, and freed as soon as possible. The captor is even obliged to contribute to the ransom from his own resources. Indeed, the Quran expressly forbids the taking of prisoners except during a conventional war, which obviously rules out hostage-taking when hostilities are not in progress.' After the revolution, Khomeini insisted on what he called 'unity of expression', suppressing any dissentient voice. Not only had the demand for free speech been one of the chief concerns of the revolution, but Islam had never insisted on ideological conformity, only upon a uniformity of practice. Coercion in religious matters is forbidden in the Quran, and was abhorred by Mulla Sadra, Khomeini's spiritual mentor. When Khomeini issued his fatwah against novelist Salman Rushdie for his allegedly blasphemous portrait of Muhammad in The Satanic Verses on I4 February ig8g, he also contravened Sadra's impassioned defence of freedom of thought. The fatwah was declared un-Islamic by the ulama of al-Azhar and Saudi Arabia, and was condemned by forty-eight out of the forty-nine member states of the Islamic Conference the following month. But it appears that the Islamic revolution may have helped the Iranian people to come to modernity on their own terms. Shortly before his death, Khomeini tried to pass more power to the parliament, and, with his apparent blessing, Hashami Rafsaniani, the Speaker of the Majlis, gave a democratic interpretation of Velayat-i Faqih. The needs of the modern state had convinced Shies of the necessity of democracy, but this time it came in an Islamic package that made it acceptable to the majority of the people. This seemed confirmed on 23 May I997, when Hojjat ol-Islam Seyyid Khatami was elected to the presidency in a landslide victory. He immediately made it clear that he wanted to build a more positive relationship with the West, and in September i 99 8 he dissociated his government from the fatwah against Rushdie, a move which was later endorsed by Ayatollah Khameini, the Supreme Faqih of Iran. Khatemi's election signalled the strong desire of a large segment of the population for greater pluralism, a gentler interpretation of Islamic law, more democracy, and a more progressive policy for women. The battle is still not won. The conservative clerics who opposed Khomeini and for whom he had little time are still able to block many of Khatemi's reforms, but the struggle to create a viable Islamic state, true to the spirit of the Quran and yet responsive to current conditions, is still a major preoccupation of the Iranian people.
Muslims in a Minority
The spectre of Islamic fundamentalism sends a shiver through Western society, which seems not nearly so threatened by the equally prevalent and violent fundamentalism of other faiths. This has certainly affected the attitude of Western people towards the Muslims living in their own countries. Five to six million Muslims reside in Europe, and seven to eight million in the United States. There are now about a thousand mosques each in Germany and France, and five hundred in the United Kingdom. About half the Muslims in the West today have been born there to parents who immigrated in the igsos and ig6os. They rejected their parents' meeker stance, are better educated, and seek greater visibility and acceptance. Sometimes their efforts are ill-advised, as, for example, Dr Kalim Siddiqui's call for a Muslim parliament in the United Kingdom in the early i ggos, a project which received very little support from most British Muslims but which made people fear that Muslims were not willing to integrate into mainstream society. There was immense hostility towards the Muslim community during the crisis over The Satanic Verses, when Muslims in Bradford publicly burned the book. Most British Muslims may have disapproved of the novel, but had no desire to see Rushdie killed. Europeans seem to find it difficult to relate to their Muslim fellow-countrymen in a natural balanced manner. Turkish migrant workers have been murdered in race riots in Germany, girls who choose to wear a hijab to school have received extremely hostile coverage in the French press. In Britain, there is often outrage when Muslims request separate schools for their children, even though people do not voice the same objections about special schools for Jews, Roman Catholics or Quakers. It is as though Muslims are viewed as a Fifth Column, plotting to undermine British society.
Muslims have fared better in the United States. The Muslim immigrants there are better educated and middle class. They work as doctors, academics and engineers, whereas in Europe the Muslim community is still predominantly working class. American Muslims feel that they are in the United States by choice. They want to become Americans, and in the land of the melting-pot integration is more of a possibility than in Europe. Some Muslims, such as Malcolm X (i92S-65), the charismatic leader of the black separatist group called the Nation of Islam, gained widespread respect at the time of the Civil Rights movement, and became an emblem of Black and Muslim power. The Nation of Islam, however, was a heterodox party. Founded in I 9 30 by Wali Fard Muhammad Fard, a pedlar of Detroit, and, after the mysterious disappearance of Fard in I934, led by Elijah Muhammad (i897-I975), it claimed that Godhadbeenincarnatedin Fard, that white people are inherently evil, and that there was no life after death all views that are heretical from an Islamic perspective. The Nation of Islam demanded a separate state for African Americans to compensate them for the years of slavery, and is adamantly hostile to the West. Malcolm X became disillusioned with the Nation of Islam, however, when he discovered the moral laxity of Elijah Muhammad, and took his followers into Sunni Islam: two years later, he was assassinated for this apostasy. But the Nation of Islam still gains far more media coverage than the much larger American Muslim Mission, founded by Malcolm X, which is now wholly orthodox, sends its members to study at al-Azhar, and explores the possibility of working alongside white Americans for a more just society. The bizarre and rejectionist stance of the Nation may seem closer to the Western stereotype of Islam as an inherently intolerant and fanatical faith. In India, those Muslims who did not emigrate to Pakistan in 1947 and their descendants now number i i _S million. But despite their large numbers, many feel even more beleaguered and endangered than their brothers and sisters in the West. The Hindus and Muslims of India are all still haunted by the tragic violence of the partition of the subcontinent in 1947, and though many Hindus stand up for Muslim rights in India, Muslims tend to get a bad press. They are accused of a ghetto mentality, of being loyal at heart to Pakistan or Kashmir; they are blamed for having too many children, and for being backward. Indian Muslims are being squeezed out of the villages, cannot easily get good jobs, and are often refused decent accommodation. The only signs of the glorious Moghul past are the great buildings: the Taj Mahal, the Red Fort and the juneh Mosque, which have also become a rallying point for the Hindu fundamentalist group, the Bharatiya janarta Party (BJP), which claims that they were really built by Hindus, that the Muslims destroyed the temples of India, and erected mosques in their place. The BJP's chief target was the Mosque of Babur, the founder of the Moghul dynasty, at Ayodhya, which the BJP dismantled in ten hours in December i992,, while the press and army stood by and watched. The impact on the Muslims of India has been devastating. They fear that this symbolic destruction was only the beginning of further troubles, and that soon they and their memory will be erased in India. This dread of annihilation lay behind their frantic opposition to The Satanic Verses, which seemed yet another threat to the faith. Yet the communalism and intolerance is against the most tolerant and civilized traditions of Indian Islam. Yet again, fear and oppression have distorted the faith.
The Way Forward
On the eve of the second Christian millennium, the Crusaders massacred some thirty thousand Jews and Muslims in Jerusalem, turning the thriving Islamic holy city into a stinking charnel house. For at least five months the valleys and ditches around the city were filled with putrefying corpses, which were too numerous for the small number of Crusaders who remained behind after the expedition to clear away, and a stench hung over Jerusalem, where the three religions of Abraham had been able to coexist in relative harmony under Islamic rule for nearly five hundred years. This was the Muslims' first experience of the Christian West, as it pulled itself out of the dark age that had descended after the collapse of the Roman Empire in the fifth century, and fought its way back on to the international scene. The Muslims suffered from the Crusaders, but were not long incommoded by their presence. In ii87 Saladin was able to recapture Jerusalem for Islam and though the Crusaders hung on in the Near East for another century, they seemed an unimportant passing episode in the long Islamic history of the region. Most of the inhabitants of Islamdon were entirely unaffected by the Crusades and remained uninterested in western Europe, which, despite its dramatic cultural advance during the crusading period, still lagged behind the Muslim world. Europeans did not forget the Crusades, however, nor could they ignore the Dar al-Islam, which, as the years went by, seemed to rule the entire globe. Ever since the Crusades, the people of Western Christendom developed a stereotypical and distorted image of Islam, which they regarded as the enemy of decent civilization. The prejudice became entwined with European fantasies about Jews, the other victims of the Crusaders, and often reflected buried worry about the conduct of Christians. It was, for example, during the Crusades, when it was Christians who had instigated a series of brutal holy wars against the Muslim world, that Islam was described by the learned scholar-monks of Europe as an inherently violent and intolerant faith, which had only been able to establish itself by the sword. The myth of the supposed fanatical intolerance of Islam has become one of the received ideas of the West. As the millennium drew to a close, however, some Muslims seemed to live up to this Western perception, and, for the first time, have made sacred violence a cardinal Islamic duty. These fundamentalists often call Western colonialism and post-colonial Western imperialism al-Salibiyyah: the Crusade. The colonial crusade has been less violent but its impact has been more devastating than the medieval holy wars. The powerful Muslim world has been reduced to a dependent bloc, and Muslim society has been gravely dislocated in the course of an accelerated modernization programme. All over the world, as we have seen, people in all the major faiths have reeled under the impact of Western modernity, and have produced the embattled and frequently intolerant religiosity that we call fundamentalism. As they struggle to rectify what they see as the damaging effects of modern secular culture, fundamentalists fight back and, in the process, they depart from the core values of compassion, justice and benevolence that characterize all the world faiths, including Islam. Religion, like any other human activity, is often abused, but at its best it helps human beings to cultivate a sense of the sacred inviolability of each individual, and thus to mitigate the murderous violence to which our species is tragically prone. Religion has committed atrocities in the past, but in its brief history secularism has proved that it can be just as violent. As we have seen, secular aggression and persecution have often led to a heightening of religious intolerance and hatred. This became tragically clear in Algeria in i992. During the religious revival of the I970s, the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) challenged the hegemony of the secular nationalist party, the National Liberation Front (FLN), which had led the revolution against French colonial rule in 11 9 5 4, and had established a socialist government in the country in i962,. The Algerian revolution against France had been an inspiration to Arabs and Muslims who were also struggling to gain independence from Europe. The FLN was similar to the other secular and socialist governments in the Middle East at this time, which had relegated Islam to the private sphere, on the Western pattern. By the 197os, however, people all over the Muslim world were becoming dissatisfied with these secularist ideologies which had not delivered what they had promised. Abbas Madani, one of the founding members of FIS, wanted to create an Islamic political ideology for the modern world; Ali ibn Hajj, the imam of a mosque in a poor neighbourhood in Algiers, led a more radical wing of FIS. Slowly, FIS began to build its own mosques, without getting permission from the government; it took root in the Muslim community in France, where workers demanded places of prayer in the factories and offices, incurring the wrath of the right-wing party led by jean-Marie Le Pen. By the ig8os, Algeria was in the grip of an economic crisis. FLN had set the country on the path to democracy and statehood, but over the years it had become corrupt. The old garde were reluctant to attempt more democratic reforms. There had been a population explosion in Algeria; most of its thirty million inhabitants were under thirty, many were unemployed, and there was an acute housing shortage. There were riots. Frustrated with the stagnation and ineptitude of the FLN, the young wanted something new and turned to the Islamic parties. In June iggo the FIS scored major victories in the local elections, especially in the urban areas. FIS activists were mostly young, idealistic and well-educated; they were known to be honest and efficient in government, though they were dogmatic and conservative in some areas, such as their insistence upon traditional Islamic dress for women. But the FIS was not anti-Western. Leaders spoke of encouraging links with the European Union and fresh Western investment. After the electoral victories at the local level, they seemed certain to succeed in the legislative elections that were scheduled for I992. There was to be no Islamic government in Algeria, however. The military staged a coup, ousted the liberal FLN President Benjedid (who had promised democratic reforms), suppressed FIS, and threw its leaders into prison. Had elections been prevented in such a violent and unconstitutional manner in Iran and Pakistan, there would have been an outcry in the West. Such a coup would have been seen as an example of Islam's supposedly endemic aversion to democracy, and its basic incompatibility with the modern world. But because it was an Islamic government that had been thwarted by the coup, there was jubilation in the Western press. Algeria had been saved from the Islamic menace; the bars, casinos, and discotheques of Algiers had been spared; and in some mysterious way, this undemocratic action had made Algeria safe for democracy. The French government threw its support behind the new hardline FLN of President Liamine Zeroual and strengthened his resolve to hold no further dialogue with FIS. Not surprisingly, the Muslim world was shocked by this fresh instance of Western double standards. The result was tragically predictable. Pushed outside the due processes of law, outraged, and despairing of justice, the more radical members of FIS broke away to form a guerrilla organization, the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), and began a terror campaign in the mountainous regions south of Algiers. There were massacres, in which the population of entire villages were killed. journalists and intellectuals, secular and religious, were also targeted. It was generally assumed that the Islamists were wholly responsible for these atrocities, but gradually questions were asked which pointed to the fact that some elements in the Algerian military forces not only acquiesced but also participated in the killing to discredit the GIA. There was now a ghastly stalemate. Both FLN and FIS were torn apart by an internal feud between the pragmatists who wanted a solution, and the hardliners who refused to negotiate. The violence of the initial coup to stop the elections had led to an outright war between the religious and secularists. In January iggs the Roman Catholic Church helped to organize a meeting in Rome to bring the two sides together, but Zeroual's government refused to participate. A golden opportunity had been lost. There was more Islamic terror, and a constitutional referendum banned all religious political parties. The tragic case of Algeria must not become a paradigm for the future. Suppression and coercion had helped to push a disgruntled Muslim minority into a violence that offends every central tenet of Islam. An aggressive secularism had resulted in a religiosity that was a travesty of true faith. The incident further tarnished the notion of democracy, which the West is so anxious to promote, but which it appeared, had limits, if the democratic process might lead to the establishment of an elected Islamic government. The people of Europe and the United States were shown to be ignorant about the various parties and groups within the Islamic world. The moderate FIS was equated with the most violent fundamentalist groups and was associated in the Western mind with the violence, illegality and anti-democratic behaviour that had this time been displayed by the secularists in the FLN. But whether the West likes it or not, the initial success of the FIS in the local elections showed that the people wanted some form of Islamic government. It passed a clear message to Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia, where secularist governments had long been aware of the growing religiosity of their countries. In the middle of the twentieth century, secularism had been dominant, and Islam was thought to be irredeemably pass6. Now any secularist government in the Middle East was uncomfortably aware that if there were truly democratic elections, an Islamic government might well come to power. In Egypt, for example, Islam is as popular as Nasserism was in the ig5os. Islamic dress is ubiquitous and, since Mubarak's government is secularist, is clearly voluntarily assumed. Even in secularist Turkey, recent polls showed that some seventy per cent of the population claimed to be devout, and that twenty per cent prayed five times a day. People are turning to the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, and Palestinians are looking to Mujamah, while the PLO, which in the i 96os carried all before it, often appears cumbersome, corrupt and out of date. In the republics of Central Asia, Muslims are rediscovering their religion after decades of Soviet oppression. People have tried the secularist ideologies, which have worked so successfully in Western countries where they are on home ground. Increasingly, Muslims want their governments to conform more closely to the Islamic norm. The precise form that this will take is not yet clear. In Egypt it seems that a majority of Muslims would like to see the Shariah as the law of the land, whereas in TVrkey only three per cent want this. Even in Egypt, however, some of the ulama are aware that the problems of transforming the Shariah, an agrarian law code, to the very different conditions of modernity will be extreme. Rashid Rida had been aware of this as early as the 193os. But that is not to say that it cannot be done. It is not true that Muslims are now uniformly filled with hatred of the West. In the early stages of modernization, many leading thinkers were infatuated with European culture, and by the end of the twentieth century some of the most eminent and influential Muslim thinkers were now reaching out to the West again. President Khatemi of Iran is only one example of this trend. So is the Iranian intellectual Abdolkarim Sorush, who held important posts in Khomeini's government, and though he is often harried by the more conservative muitahids, he strongly influences those in power. Sorush admires Khomeini, but has moved beyond him. He maintains that Iranians now have three identities: pre-Islamic, Islamic and Western, which they must try to reconcile. Sorush rejects the secularism of the West, believes that human beings will always need spirituality, but advises Iranians to study the modern sciences, while holding on to Shii tradition. Islam must develop its fiqh, so as to accommodate the modern industrial world, and evolve a philosophy of civil rights and an economic theory capable of holding its own in the twenty-first century. Sunni thinkers have come to similar conclusions. Western hostility towards Islam springs from ignorance, Rashid al-Ghannouchi, the leader of the exiled Renaissance Party in Tunisia, believes. it also springs from a bad experience of Christianity, which did stifle thought and creativity. He describes himself as a 'democratic Islamist' and sees no incompatibility between Islam and democracy, but he rejects the secularism of the West, because the human being cannot be so divided and fragmented. The Muslim ideal of tawhid rejects the duality of body and spirit, intellect and spirituality, men and women, morality and the economy, East and West. Muslims want modernity, but not one that has been imposed upon them by America, Britain or France. Muslims admire the efficiency and beautiful technology of the West; they are fascinated by the way a regime can be changed in the West without bloodshed. But when Muslims look at Western society, they see no light, no heart, and no spirituality. They want to hold on to their own religious and moral traditions and, at the same time, to try to incorporate some of the best aspects of Western civilization. Yusuf Abdallah al-Qaradawi, a graduate of al-Azhar, and a Muslim Brother, who is currently the director of the Centre for Sunnah and Sirah at the University of Qatar, takes a similar line. He believes in moderation, and is convinced that the bigotry that has recently appeared in the Muslim world will impoverish people by depriving them of the insights and visions of other human beings. The Prophet Muhammad said that he had come to bring a 'Middle Way' of religious life that shunned extremes, and Qaradawi thinks that the current extremism in some quarters of the Islamic world is alien to the Muslim spirit and will not last. Islam is a religion of peace, as the Prophet had shown when he made an unpopular treaty with the Quraysh at Hudaybiyyah, a feat which the Quran calls 'a great victory'. I The West, he insists, must learn to recognize the Muslims' right to live their religion and, if they choose, to incorporate the Islamic ideal in their polity. They have to appreciate that there is more than one way of life. Variety benefits the whole world. God gave human beings the right and ability to choose, and some may opt for a religious way of life including an Islamic state while others prefer the secular ideal. 'It is better for the West that Muslims should be religious,' Qaradawi argues, 'hold to their religion, and try to be moral. 14 He raises an important point. Many Western people are also becoming uncomfortable about the absence of spirituality in their lives. They do not necessarily want to return to pre-modern religious lifestyles or to conventionally institutional faith. But there is a growing appreciation that, at its best, religion has helped human beings to cultivate decent values. Islam kept the notions of social justice, equality, tolerance and practical compassion in the forefront of the Muslim conscience for centuries. Muslims did not always live up to these ideals and frequently found difficulty in incarnating them in their social and political institutions. But the struggle to achieve this was for centuries the mainspring of Islamic spirituality. Western people must become aware that it is in their interests too that Islam remains healthy and strong. The West has not been wholly responsible for the extreme forms of Islam, which have cultivated a violence that violates the most sacred canons of religion. But the West has certainly contributed to this development and, to assuage the fear and despair that lies at the root of all fundamentalist vision, should cultivate a more accurate appreciation of Islam in the third Christian millennium.