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The Roots of Muslim Rage - The Atlantic

The Roots of Muslim Rage


Why so many Muslims deeply resent the West, and why their bitterness will not
easily be mollied
BERNARD LEWIS
SEPTEMBER 1990 ISSUE

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InoneofhislettersThomasJeersonremarkedthatinmattersofreligion"the
maximofcivilgovernment"shouldbereversedandweshouldrathersay,"Divided
westand,united,wefall."InthisremarkJeersonwassettingforthwithclassic
tersenessanideathathascometoberegardedasessentiallyAmerican:the
separationofChurchandState.Thisideawasnotentirelynew;ithadsome
precedentsinthewritingsofSpinoza,Locke,andthephilosophersoftheEuropean
Enlightenment.ItwasintheUnitedStates,however,thattheprinciplewasrst
giventheforceoflawandgradually,inthecourseoftwocenturies,becamea
reality.
Iftheideathatreligionandpoliticsshouldbeseparatedisrelativelynew,dating
backamerethreehundredyears,theideathattheyaredistinctdatesbackalmostto
thebeginningsofChristianity.ChristiansareenjoinedintheirScripturesto"render
...untoCaesarthethingswhichareCaesar'sanduntoGodthethingswhichare
God's."Whileopinionshavedieredastotherealmeaningofthisphrase,ithas
generallybeeninterpretedaslegitimizingasituationinwhichtwoinstitutionsexist
sidebyside,eachwithitsownlawsandchainofauthorityoneconcernedwith
religion,calledtheChurch,theotherconcernedwithpolitics,calledtheState.And
sincetheyaretwo,theymaybejoinedorseparated,subordinateorindependent,

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andconictsmayarisebetweenthemoverquestionsofdemarcationand
jurisdiction.
Thisformulationoftheproblemsposedbytherelationsbetweenreligionand
politics,andthepossiblesolutionstothoseproblems,arisefromChristian,not
universal,principlesandexperience.Thereareotherreligioustraditionsinwhich
religionandpoliticsaredierentlyperceived,andinwhich,therefore,theproblems
andthepossiblesolutionsareradicallydierentfromthoseweknowintheWest.
Mostofthesetraditions,despitetheiroftenveryhighlevelofsophisticationand
achievement,remainedorbecamelocallimitedtooneregionoronecultureor
onepeople.Thereisone,however,thatinitsworldwidedistribution,itscontinuing
vitality,itsuniversalistaspirations,canbecomparedtoChristianity,andthatis
Islam.
Islamisoneoftheworld'sgreatreligions.LetmebeexplicitaboutwhatI,asa
historianofIslamwhoisnotaMuslim,meanbythat.Islamhasbroughtcomfort
andpeaceofmindtocountlessmillionsofmenandwomen.Ithasgivendignity
andmeaningtodrabandimpoverishedlives.Ithastaughtpeopleofdierentraces
toliveinbrotherhoodandpeopleofdierentcreedstolivesidebysidein
reasonabletolerance.Itinspiredagreatcivilizationinwhichothersbesides
Muslimslivedcreativeandusefullivesandwhich,byitsachievement,enrichedthe
wholeworld.ButIslam,likeotherreligions,hasalsoknownperiodswhenit
inspiredinsomeofitsfollowersamoodofhatredandviolence.Itisourmisfortune
thatpart,thoughbynomeansallorevenmost,oftheMuslimworldisnowgoing
throughsuchaperiod,andthatmuch,thoughagainnotall,ofthathatredis
directedagainstus.
Weshouldnotexaggeratethedimensionsoftheproblem.TheMuslimworldisfar
fromunanimousinitsrejectionoftheWest,norhavetheMuslimregionsofthe
ThirdWorldbeenthemostpassionateandthemostextremeintheirhostility.
Therearestillsignicantnumbers,insomequartersperhapsamajority,ofMuslims
withwhomwesharecertainbasicculturalandmoral,socialandpolitical,beliefs
andaspirations;thereisstillanimposingWesternpresencecultural,economic,
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diplomaticinMuslimlands,someofwhichareWesternallies.Certainlynowhere
intheMuslimworld,intheMiddleEastorelsewhere,hasAmericanpolicysuered
disastersorencounteredproblemscomparabletothoseinSoutheastAsiaorCentral
America.ThereisnoCuba,noVietnam,intheMuslimworld,andnoplacewhere
Americanforcesareinvolvedascombatantsorevenas"advisers."Butthereisa
Libya,anIran,andaLebanon,andasurgeofhatredthatdistresses,alarms,and
aboveallbaesAmericans.
Attimesthishatredgoesbeyondhostilitytospecicinterestsoractionsorpolicies
orevencountriesandbecomesarejectionofWesterncivilizationassuch,notonly
whatitdoesbutwhatitis,andtheprinciplesandvaluesthatitpracticesand
professes.Theseareindeedseenasinnatelyevil,andthosewhopromoteoraccept
themasthe"enemiesofGod."
Thisphrase,whichrecurssofrequentlyinthelanguageoftheIranianleadership,in
boththeirjudicialproceedingsandtheirpoliticalpronouncements,mustseemvery
strangetothemodernoutsider,whetherreligiousorsecular.TheideathatGodhas
enemies,andneedshumanhelpinordertoidentifyanddisposeofthem,isalittle
diculttoassimilate.Itisnot,however,allthatalien.Theconceptoftheenemies
ofGodisfamiliarinpreclassicalandclassicalantiquity,andinboththeOldand
NewTestaments,aswellasintheKoran.Aparticularlyrelevantversionoftheidea
occursinthedualistreligionsofancientIran,whosecosmogonyassumednotone
buttwosupremepowers.TheZoroastriandevil,unliketheChristianorMuslimor
Jewishdevil,isnotoneofGod'screaturesperformingsomeofGod'smore
mysterioustasksbutanindependentpower,asupremeforceofevilengagedina
cosmicstruggleagainstGod.ThisbeliefinuencedanumberofChristian,Muslim,
andJewishsects,throughManichaeismandotherroutes.Thealmostforgotten
religionoftheManicheeshasgivenitsnametotheperceptionofproblemsasa
starkandsimpleconictbetweenmatchingforcesofpuregoodandpureevil.
TheKoranisofcoursestrictlymonotheistic,andrecognizesoneGod,oneuniversal
poweronly.Thereisastruggleinhumanheartsbetweengoodandevil,between
God'scommandmentsandthetempter,butthisisseenasastruggleordainedby
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God,withitsoutcomepreordainedbyGod,servingasatestofmankind,andnot,
asinsomeoftheolddualistreligions,astruggleinwhichmankindhasacrucial
parttoplayinbringingaboutthevictoryofgoodoverevil.Despitethis
monotheism,Islam,likeJudaismandChristianity,wasatvariousstagesinuenced,
especiallyinIran,bythedualistideaofacosmicclashofgoodandevil,lightand
darkness,orderandchaos,truthandfalsehood,GodandtheAdversary,variously
knownasdevil,Iblis,Satan,andbyothernames.
The Rise of the House of Unbelief
InIslamthestruggleofgoodandevilverysoonacquiredpoliticalandevenmilitary
dimensions.Muhammad,itwillberecalled,wasnotonlyaprophetandateacher,
likethefoundersofotherreligions;hewasalsotheheadofapolityandofa
community,arulerandasoldier.Hencehisstruggleinvolvedastateanditsarmed
forces.IftheghtersinthewarforIslam,theholywar"inthepathofGod,"are
ghtingforGod,itfollowsthattheiropponentsareghtingagainstGod.Andsince
Godisinprinciplethesovereign,thesupremeheadoftheIslamicstateandthe
Prophetand,aftertheProphet,thecaliphsarehisvicegerentsthenGodas
sovereigncommandsthearmy.ThearmyisGod'sarmyandtheenemyisGod's
enemy.ThedutyofGod'ssoldiersistodispatchGod'senemiesasquicklyas
possibletotheplacewhereGodwillchastisethemthatistosay,theafterlife.
ClearlyrelatedtothisisthebasicdivisionofmankindasperceivedinIslam.Most,
probablyall,humansocietieshaveawayofdistinguishingbetweenthemselvesand
others:insiderandoutsider,in-groupandout-group,kinsmanorneighborand
foreigner.Thesedenitionsnotonlydenetheoutsiderbutalso,andperhapsmore
particularly,helptodeneandillustrateourperceptionofourselves.
IntheclassicalIslamicview,towhichmanyMuslimsarebeginningtoreturn,the
worldandallmankindaredividedintotwo:theHouseofIslam,wheretheMuslim
lawandfaithprevail,andtherest,knownastheHouseofUnbeliefortheHouseof
War,whichitisthedutyofMuslimsultimatelytobringtoIslam.Butthegreater
partoftheworldisstilloutsideIslam,andeveninsidetheIslamiclands,according
totheviewoftheMuslimradicals,thefaithofIslamhasbeenunderminedandthe
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lawofIslamhasbeenabrogated.Theobligationofholywarthereforebeginsat
homeandcontinuesabroad,againstthesameindelenemy.
Likeeveryothercivilizationknowntohumanhistory,theMuslimworldinits
heydaysawitselfasthecenteroftruthandenlightenment,surroundedbyindel
barbarianswhomitwouldinduecourseenlightenandcivilize.Butbetweenthe
dierentgroupsofbarbarianstherewasacrucialdierence.Thebarbarianstothe
eastandthesouthwerepolytheistsandidolaters,oeringnoseriousthreatandno
competitionatalltoIslam.Inthenorthandwest,incontrast,Muslimsfroman
earlydaterecognizedagenuinerivalacompetingworldreligion,adistinctive
civilizationinspiredbythatreligion,andanempirethat,thoughmuchsmallerthan
theirs,wasnolessambitiousinitsclaimsandaspirations.Thiswastheentity
knowntoitselfandothersasChristendom,atermthatwaslongalmostidentical
withEurope.
Thestrugglebetweentheserivalsystemshasnowlastedforsomefourteen
centuries.ItbeganwiththeadventofIslam,intheseventhcentury,andhas
continuedvirtuallytothepresentday.Ithasconsistedofalongseriesofattacks
andcounterattacks,jihadsandcrusades,conquestsandreconquests.Fortherst
thousandyearsIslamwasadvancing,Christendominretreatandunderthreat.The
newfaithconqueredtheoldChristianlandsoftheLevantandNorthAfrica,and
invadedEurope,rulingforawhileinSicily,Spain,Portugal,andevenpartsof
France.TheattemptbytheCrusaderstorecoverthelostlandsofChristendomin
theeastwasheldandthrownback,andeventheMuslims'lossofsouthwestern
EuropetotheReconquistawasamplycompensatedbytheIslamicadvanceinto
southeasternEurope,whichtwicereachedasfarasVienna.Forthepastthree
hundredyears,sincethefailureofthesecondTurkishsiegeofViennain1683and
theriseoftheEuropeancolonialempiresinAsiaandAfrica,Islamhasbeenonthe
defensive,andtheChristianandpost-ChristiancivilizationofEuropeandher
daughtershasbroughtthewholeworld,includingIslam,withinitsorbit.
ForalongtimenowtherehasbeenarisingtideofrebellionagainstthisWestern
paramountcy,andadesiretoreassertMuslimvaluesandrestoreMuslimgreatness.
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TheMuslimhassueredsuccessivestagesofdefeat.Therstwashislossof
dominationintheworld,totheadvancingpowerofRussiaandtheWest.The
secondwastheunderminingofhisauthorityinhisowncountry,throughan
invasionofforeignideasandlawsandwaysoflifeandsometimesevenforeign
rulersorsettlers,andtheenfranchisementofnativenon-Muslimelements.The
thirdthelaststrawwasthechallengetohismasteryinhisownhouse,from
emancipatedwomenandrebelliouschildren.Itwastoomuchtoendure,andthe
outbreakofrageagainstthesealien,indel,andincomprehensibleforcesthathad
subvertedhisdominance,disruptedhissociety,andnallyviolatedthesanctuary
ofhishomewasinevitable.Itwasalsonaturalthatthisrageshouldbedirected
primarilyagainstthemillennialenemyandshoulddrawitsstrengthfromancient
beliefsandloyalties.
Europeandherdaughters?ThephrasemayseemoddtoAmericans,whosenational
myths,sincethebeginningoftheirnationhoodandevenearlier,haveusually
denedtheirveryidentityinoppositiontoEurope,assomethingnewandradically
dierentfromtheoldEuropeanways.Thisisnot,however,thewaythatothers
haveseenit;notofteninEurope,andhardlyeverelsewhere.
Thoughpeopleofotherracesandculturesparticipated,forthemostpart
involuntarily,inthediscoveryandcreationoftheAmericas,thiswas,andinthe
eyesoftherestoftheworldlongremained,aEuropeanenterprise,inwhich
EuropeanspredominatedanddominatedandtowhichEuropeansgavetheir
languages,theirreligions,andmuchoftheirwayoflife.
ForaverylongtimevoluntaryimmigrationtoAmericawasalmostexclusively
European.TherewereindeedsomewhocamefromtheMuslimlandsintheMiddle
EastandNorthAfrica,butfewwereMuslims;mostweremembersoftheChristian
andtoalesserextenttheJewishminoritiesinthosecountries.Theirdeparturefor
America,andtheirsubsequentpresenceinAmerica,musthavestrengthenedrather
thanlessenedtheEuropeanimageofAmericainMuslimeyes.
InthelandsofIslamremarkablylittlewasknownaboutAmerica.Atrstthe
voyagesofdiscoveryarousedsomeinterest;theonlysurvivingcopyofColumbus's
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ownmapofAmericaisaTurkishtranslationandadaptation,stillpreservedinthe
TopkapiPalaceMuseum,inIstanbul.Asixteenth-centuryTurkishgeographer's
accountofthediscoveryoftheNewWorld,titledTheHistoryofWesternIndia,was
oneoftherstbooksprintedinTurkey.Butthereafterinterestseemstohave
waned,andnotmuchissaidaboutAmericainTurkish,Arabic,orotherMuslim
languagesuntilarelativelylatedate.AMoroccanambassadorwhowasinSpainat
thetimewrotewhatmustsurelybetherstArabicaccountoftheAmerican
Revolution.TheSultanofMoroccosignedatreatyofpeaceandfriendshipwiththe
UnitedStatesin1787,andthereafterthenewrepublichadanumberofdealings,
somefriendly,somehostile,mostcommercial,withotherMuslimstates.These
seemtohavehadlittleimpactoneitherside.TheAmericanRevolutionandthe
Americanrepublictowhichitgavebirthlongremainedunnoticedandunknown.
EventhesmallbutgrowingAmericanpresenceinMuslimlandsinthenineteenth
centurymerchants,consuls,missionaries,andteachersarousedlittleorno
curiosity,andisalmostunmentionedintheMuslimliteratureandnewspapersof
thetime.
TheSecondWorldWar,theoilindustry,andpostwardevelopmentsbroughtmany
AmericanstotheIslamiclands;increasingnumbersofMuslimsalsocameto
America,rstasstudents,thenasteachersorbusinessmenorothervisitors,and
eventuallyasimmigrants.CinemaandlatertelevisionbroughttheAmericanwayof
life,oratanyrateacertainversionofit,beforecountlessmillionstowhomthevery
nameofAmericahadpreviouslybeenmeaninglessorunknown.Awiderangeof
Americanproducts,particularlyintheimmediatepostwaryears,whenEuropean
competitionwasvirtuallyeliminatedandJapanesecompetitionhadnotyetarisen,
reachedintotheremotestmarketsoftheMuslimworld,winningnewcustomers
and,perhapsmoreimportant,creatingnewtastesandambitions.Forsome,
Americarepresentedfreedomandjusticeandopportunity.Formanymore,it
representedwealthandpowerandsuccess,atatimewhenthesequalitieswerenot
regardedassinsorcrimes.
Andthencamethegreatchange,whentheleadersofawidespreadandwidening
religiousrevivalsoughtoutandidentiedtheirenemiesastheenemiesofGod,and
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gavethem"alocalhabitationandaname"intheWesternHemisphere.Suddenly,
orsoitseemed,Americahadbecomethearchenemy,theincarnationofevil,the
diabolicopponentofallthatisgood,andspecically,forMuslims,ofIslam.Why?
Some Familiar Accusations
Amongthecomponentsinthemoodofanti-Westernism,andmoreespeciallyof
anti-Americanism,werecertainintellectualinuencescomingfromEurope.Oneof
thesewasfromGermany,whereanegativeviewofAmericaformedpartofaschool
ofthoughtbynomeanslimitedtotheNazisbutincludingwritersasdiverseas
RainerMariaRilke,ErnstJunger,andMartinHeidegger.Inthisperception,
Americawastheultimateexampleofcivilizationwithoutculture:richand
comfortable,materiallyadvancedbutsoullessandarticial;assembledoratbest
constructed,notgrown;mechanical,notorganic;technologicallycomplexbut
lackingthespiritualityandvitalityoftherooted,human,nationalculturesofthe
Germansandother"authentic"peoples.Germanphilosophy,andparticularlythe
philosophyofeducation,enjoyedaconsiderablevogueamongArabandsomeother
Muslimintellectualsinthethirtiesandearlyforties,andthisphilosophicantiAmericanismwaspartofthemessage.
AfterthecollapseoftheThirdReichandthetemporaryendingofGerman
inuence,anotherphilosophy,evenmoreanti-American,tookitsplacetheSoviet
versionofMarxism,withadenunciationofWesterncapitalismandofAmericaas
itsmostadvancedanddangerousembodiment.AndwhenSovietinuencebegan
tofade,therewasyetanothertotakeitsplace,oratleasttosupplementitsworking
thenewmystiqueofThirdWorldism,emanatingfromWesternEurope,
particularlyFrance,andlateralsofromtheUnitedStates,anddrawingattimeson
boththeseearlierphilosophies.Thismystiquewashelpedbytheuniversalhuman
tendencytoinventagoldenageinthepast,andthespecicallyEuropean
propensitytolocateitelsewhere.Anewvariantoftheoldgolden-agemythplacedit
intheThirdWorld,wheretheinnocenceofthenon-WesternAdamandEvewas
ruinedbytheWesternserpent.Thisviewtookasaxiomaticthegoodnessandpurity
oftheEastandthewickednessoftheWest,expandinginanexponentialcurveof
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evilfromWesternEuropetotheUnitedStates.Theseideas,too,fellonfertile
ground,andwonwidespreadsupport.
Butthoughtheseimportedphilosophieshelpedtoprovideintellectualexpression
foranti-Westernismandanti-Americanism,theydidnotcauseit,andcertainlythey
donotexplainthewidespreadanti-WesternismthatmadesomanyintheMiddle
EastandelsewhereintheIslamicworldreceptivetosuchideas.
Itmustsurelybeclearthatwhatwonsupportforsuchtotallydiversedoctrineswas
notNaziracetheory,whichcanhavehadlittleappealforArabs,orSovietatheistic
communism,whichcanhavehadlittleappealforMuslims,butrathertheir
commonanti-Westernism.Nazismandcommunismwerethemainforcesopposed
totheWest,bothasawayoflifeandasapowerintheworld,andassuchtheycould
countonatleastthesympathyifnotthesupportofthosewhosawintheWesttheir
principalenemy.
Butwhythehostilityintherstplace?Ifweturnfromthegeneraltothespecic,
thereisnolackofindividualpoliciesandactions,pursuedandtakenbyindividual
Westerngovernments,thathavearousedthepassionateangerofMiddleEastern
andotherIslamicpeoples.Yetalltoooften,whenthesepoliciesareabandonedand
theproblemsresolved,thereisonlyalocalandtemporaryalleviation.TheFrench
haveleftAlgeria,theBritishhaveleftEgypt,theWesternoilcompanieshaveleft
theiroilwells,thewesternizingShahhasleftIranyetthegeneralizedresentment
ofthefundamentalistsandotherextremistsagainsttheWestanditsfriends
remainsandgrowsandisnotappeased.
Thecausemostfrequentlyadducedforanti-AmericanfeelingamongMuslims
todayisAmericansupportforIsrael.Thissupportiscertainlyafactorof
importance,increasingwithnearnessandinvolvement.Buthereagainthereare
someoddities,diculttoexplainintermsofasingle,simplecause.Intheearly
daysofthefoundationofIsrael,whiletheUnitedStatesmaintainedacertain
distance,theSovietUniongrantedimmediatedejurerecognitionandsupport,and
armssentfromaSovietsatellite,Czechoslovakia,savedtheinfantstateofIsrael
fromdefeatanddeathinitsrstweeksoflife.Yetthereseemstohavebeennogreat
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illwilltowardtheSovietsforthesepolicies,andnocorrespondinggoodwilltoward
theUnitedStates.In1956itwastheUnitedStatesthatintervened,forcefullyand
decisively,tosecurethewithdrawalofIsraeli,British,andFrenchforcesfromEgypt
yetinthelateftiesandsixtiesitwastotheSoviets,notAmerica,thattherulers
ofEgypt,Syria,Iraq,andotherstatesturnedforarms;itwaswiththeSovietbloc
thattheyformedbondsofsolidarityattheUnitedNationsandintheworld
generally.Morerecently,therulersoftheIslamicRepublicofIranhaveoeredthe
mostprincipledanduncompromisingdenunciationofIsraelandZionism.Yeteven
theseleaders,beforeaswellasafterthedeathofAyatollahRuhollahKhomeini,
whentheydecidedforreasonsoftheirowntoenterintoadialogueofsorts,foundit
easiertotalktoJerusalemthantoWashington.Atthesametime,Westernhostages
inLebanon,manyofthemdevotedtoArabcausesandsomeofthemconvertsto
Islam,areseenandtreatedbytheircaptorsaslimbsoftheGreatSatan.
Anotherexplanation,moreoftenheardfromMuslimdissidents,attributesantiAmericanfeelingtoAmericansupportforhatedregimes,seenasreactionaryby
radicals,asimpiousbyconservatives,ascorruptandtyrannicalbyboth.This
accusationhassomeplausibility,andcouldhelptoexplainwhyanessentiallyinnerdirected,oftenanti-nationalistmovementshouldturnagainstaforeignpower.But
itdoesnotsuce,especiallysincesupportforsuchregimeshasbeenlimitedboth
inextentandastheShahdiscoveredineectiveness.
Clearly,somethingdeeperisinvolvedthanthesespecicgrievances,numerousand
importantastheymaybesomethingdeeperthatturnseverydisagreementintoa
problemandmakeseveryprobleminsoluble.
ThisrevulsionagainstAmerica,moregenerallyagainsttheWest,isbynomeans
limitedtotheMuslimworld;norhaveMuslims,withtheexceptionoftheIranian
mullahsandtheirdiscipleselsewhere,experiencedandexhibitedthemorevirulent
formsofthisfeeling.Themoodofdisillusionmentandhostilityhasaectedmany
otherpartsoftheworld,andhasevenreachedsomeelementsintheUnitedStates.
Itisfromtheselast,speakingforthemselvesandclaimingtospeakforthe
oppressedpeoplesoftheThirdWorld,thatthemostwidelypublicizedexplanations
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andjusticationsofthisrejectionofWesterncivilizationanditsvalueshaveof
latebeenheard.
Theaccusationsarefamiliar.WeoftheWestareaccusedofsexism,racism,and
imperialism,institutionalizedinpatriarchyandslavery,tyrannyandexploitation.
Tothesecharges,andtoothersasheinous,wehavenooptionbuttopleadguilty
notasAmericans,noryetasWesterners,butsimplyashumanbeings,asmembers
ofthehumanrace.Innoneofthesesinsarewetheonlysinners,andinsomeof
themweareveryfarfrombeingtheworst.ThetreatmentofwomenintheWestern
world,andmoregenerallyinChristendom,hasalwaysbeenunequalandoften
oppressive,butevenatitsworstitwasratherbetterthantheruleofpolygamyand
concubinagethathasotherwisebeenthealmostuniversallotofwomankindonthis
planet.
Isracism,then,themaingrievance?Certainlythewordguresprominentlyin
publicityaddressedtoWestern,EasternEuropean,andsomeThirdWorld
audiences.Itgureslessprominentlyinwhatiswrittenandpublishedforhome
consumption,andhasbecomeageneralizedandmeaninglesstermofabuse
ratherlike"fascism,"whichisnowadaysimputedtoopponentsevenbyspokesmen
forone-party,nationalistdictatorshipsofvariouscomplexionsandshirtcolors.
Slaveryistodayuniversallydenouncedasanoenseagainsthumanity,butwithin
livingmemoryithasbeenpracticedandevendefendedasanecessaryinstitution,
establishedandregulatedbydivinelaw.Thepeculiarityofthepeculiarinstitution,
asAmericansoncecalledit,laynotinitsexistencebutinitsabolition.Westerners
werethersttobreaktheconsensusofacceptanceandtooutlawslavery,rstat
home,thenintheotherterritoriestheycontrolled,andnallywhereverintheworld
theywereabletoexercisepowerorinuenceinaword,bymeansofimperialism.
Isimperialism,then,thegrievance?SomeWesternpowers,andinasenseWestern
civilizationasawhole,havecertainlybeenguiltyofimperialism,butarewereally
tobelievethatintheexpansionofWesternEuropetherewasaqualityofmoral
delinquencylackinginsuchearlier,relativelyinnocentexpansionsasthoseofthe
ArabsortheMongolsortheOttomans,orinmorerecentexpansionssuchasthat
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whichbroughttherulersofMuscovytotheBaltic,theBlackSea,theCaspian,the
HinduKush,andthePacicOcean?Inhavingpracticedsexism,racism,and
imperialism,theWestwasmerelyfollowingthecommonpracticeofmankind
throughthemillenniaofrecordedhistory.Whereitisdistinctfromallother
civilizationsisinhavingrecognized,named,andtried,notentirelywithoutsuccess,
toremedythesehistoricdiseases.Andthatissurelyamatterforcongratulation,not
condemnation.WedonotholdWesternmedicalscienceingeneral,orDr.
ParkinsonandDr.Alzheimerinparticular,responsibleforthediseasesthey
diagnosedandtowhichtheygavetheirnames.
Ofalltheseoensestheonethatismostwidely,frequently,andvehemently
denouncedisundoubtedlyimperialismsometimesjustWestern,sometimes
Eastern(thatis,Soviet)andWesternalike.Butthewaythistermisusedinthe
literatureofIslamicfundamentalistsoftensuggeststhatitmaynotcarryquitethe
samemeaningforthemasforitsWesterncritics.Inmanyofthesewritingstheterm
"imperialist"isgivenadistinctlyreligioussignicance,beingusedinassociation,
andsometimesinterchangeably,with"missionary,"anddenotingaformofattack
thatincludestheCrusadesaswellasthemoderncolonialempires.Onealso
sometimesgetstheimpressionthattheoenseofimperialismisnotasfor
Westerncriticsthedominationbyonepeopleoveranotherbutratherthe
allocationofrolesinthisrelationship.Whatistrulyevilandunacceptableisthe
dominationofindelsovertruebelievers.Fortruebelieverstorulemisbelieversis
properandnatural,sincethisprovidesforthemaintenanceoftheholylaw,and
givesthemisbelieversboththeopportunityandtheincentivetoembracethetrue
faith.Butformisbelieverstoruleovertruebelieversisblasphemousandunnatural,
sinceitleadstothecorruptionofreligionandmoralityinsociety,andtotheouting
oreventheabrogationofGod'slaw.Thismayhelpustounderstandthecurrent
troublesinsuchdiverseplacesasEthiopianEritrea,IndianKashmir,Chinese
Sinkiang,andYugoslavKossovo,inallofwhichMuslimpopulationsareruledby
non-Muslimgovernments.ItmayalsoexplainwhyspokesmenforthenewMuslim
minoritiesinWesternEuropedemandforIslamadegreeoflegalprotectionwhich
thosecountriesnolongergivetoChristianityandhavenevergiventoJudaism.Nor,
ofcourse,didthegovernmentsofthecountriesoforiginoftheseMuslim
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spokesmeneveraccordsuchprotectiontoreligionsotherthantheirown.Intheir
perception,thereisnocontradictionintheseattitudes.Thetruefaith,basedon
God'snalrevelation,mustbeprotectedfrominsultandabuse;otherfaiths,being
eitherfalseorincomplete,havenorighttoanysuchprotection.
Thereareotherdicultiesinthewayofacceptingimperialismasanexplanationof
Muslimhostility,evenifwedeneimperialismnarrowlyandspecically,asthe
invasionanddominationofMuslimcountriesbynon-Muslims.Ifthehostilityis
directedagainstimperialisminthatsense,whyhasitbeensomuchstrongeragainst
WesternEurope,whichhasrelinquishedallitsMuslimpossessionsand
dependencies,thanagainstRussia,whichstillrules,withnolighthand,overmany
millionsofreluctantMuslimsubjectsandoverancientMuslimcitiesandcountries?
AndwhyshoulditincludetheUnitedStates,which,apartfromabriefinterludein
theMuslim-minorityareaofthePhilippines,hasneverruledanyMuslim
population?ThelastsurvivingEuropeanempirewithMuslimsubjects,thatofthe
SovietUnion,farfrombeingthetargetofcriticismandattack,hasbeenalmost
exempt.EventhemostrecentrepressionsofMuslimrevoltsinthesouthernand
centralAsianrepublicsoftheUSSRincurrednomorethanrelativelymildwordsof
expostulation,coupledwithadisclaimerofanydesiretointerfereinwhatare
quaintlycalledthe"internalaairs"oftheUSSRandarequestforthepreservation
oforderandtranquillityonthefrontier.
Onereasonforthissomewhatsurprisingrestraintistobefoundinthenatureof
eventsinSovietAzerbaijan.Islamisobviouslyanimportantandpotentiallya
growingelementintheAzerbaijanisenseofidentity,butitisnotatpresenta
dominantelement,andtheAzerbaijanimovementhasmoreincommonwiththe
liberalpatriotismofEuropethanwithIslamicfundamentalism.Suchamovement
wouldnotarousethesympathyoftherulersoftheIslamicRepublic.Itmighteven
alarmthem,sinceagenuinelydemocraticnationalstaterunbythepeopleofSoviet
Azerbaijanwouldexerciseapowerfulattractionontheirkinsmenimmediatelyto
thesouth,inIranianAzerbaijan.

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Anotherreasonforthisrelativelackofconcernforthe50millionormoreMuslims
underSovietrulemaybeacalculationofriskandadvantage.TheSovietUnionis
near,alongthenorthernfrontiersofTurkey,Iran,andAfghanistan;Americaand
evenWesternEuropearefaraway.Moretothepoint,ithasnothithertobeenthe
practiceoftheSovietstoquelldisturbanceswithwatercannonandrubberbullets,
withTVcamerasinattendance,ortoreleasearrestedpersonsonbailandallow
themaccesstodomesticandforeignmedia.TheSovietsdonotinterviewtheir
harshestcriticsonprimetime,ortemptthemwithteaching,lecturing,andwriting
engagements.Onthecontrary,theirwaysofindicatingdispleasurewithcriticism
canoftenbequitedisagreeable.
Butfearofreprisals,thoughnodoubtimportant,isnottheonlyorperhapseventhe
principalreasonfortherelativelyminorplaceassignedtotheSovietUnion,as
comparedwiththeWest,inthedemonologyoffundamentalism.Afterall,thegreat
socialandintellectualandeconomicchangesthathavetransformedmostofthe
Islamicworld,andgivenrisetosuchcommonlydenouncedWesternevilsas
consumerismandsecularism,emergedfromtheWest,notfromtheSovietUnion.
NoonecouldaccusetheSovietsofconsumerism;theirmaterialismisphilosophic
tobeprecise,dialecticalandhaslittleornothingtodoinpracticewithproviding
thegoodthingsoflife.Suchprovisionrepresentsanotherkindofmaterialism,often
designatedbyitsopponentsascrass.ItisassociatedwiththecapitalistWestandnot
withthecommunistEast,whichhaspracticed,oratleastimposedonitssubjects,a
degreeofausteritythatwouldimpressaSusaint.
NorweretheSoviets,untilveryrecently,vulnerabletochargesofsecularism,the
othergreatfundamentalistaccusationagainsttheWest.Thoughatheist,theywere
notgodless,andhadinfactcreatedanelaboratestateapparatustoimposethe
worshipoftheirgodsanapparatuswithitsownorthodoxy,ahierarchytodene
andenforceit,andanarmedinquisitiontodetectandextirpateheresy.The
separationofreligionfromthestatedoesnotmeantheestablishmentofirreligion
bythestate,stilllesstheforcibleimpositionofananti-religiousphilosophy.Soviet
secularism,likeSovietconsumerism,holdsnotemptationfortheMuslimmasses,
andislosingwhatappealithadforMuslimintellectuals.Morethaneverbeforeitis
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Westerncapitalismanddemocracythatprovideanauthenticandattractive
alternativetotraditionalwaysofthoughtandlife.Fundamentalistleadersarenot
mistakeninseeinginWesterncivilizationthegreatestchallengetothewayoflife
thattheywishtoretainorrestorefortheirpeople.
A Clash of Civilizations
Theoriginsofsecularisminthewestmaybefoundintwocircumstancesinearly
Christianteachingsand,stillmore,experience,whichcreatedtwoinstitutions,
ChurchandState;andinlaterChristianconicts,whichdrovethetwoapart.
Muslims,too,hadtheirreligiousdisagreements,buttherewasnothingremotely
approachingtheferocityoftheChristianstrugglesbetweenProtestantsand
Catholics,whichdevastatedChristianEuropeinthesixteenthandseventeenth
centuriesandnallydroveChristiansindesperationtoevolveadoctrineofthe
separationofreligionfromthestate.Onlybydeprivingreligiousinstitutionsof
coercivepower,itseemed,couldChristendomrestrainthemurderousintolerance
andpersecutionthatChristianshadvisitedonfollowersofotherreligionsand,most
ofall,onthosewhoprofessedotherformsoftheirown.
Muslimsexperiencednosuchneedandevolvednosuchdoctrine.Therewasno
needforsecularisminIslam,andevenitspluralismwasverydierentfromthatof
thepaganRomanEmpire,sovividlydescribedbyEdwardGibbonwhenhe
remarkedthat"thevariousmodesofworship,whichprevailedintheRomanworld,
wereallconsideredbythepeople,asequallytrue;bythephilosopher,asequally
false;andbythemagistrate,asequallyuseful."Islamwasneverprepared,eitherin
theoryorinpractice,toaccordfullequalitytothosewhoheldotherbeliefsand
practicedotherformsofworship.Itdid,however,accordtotheholdersofpartial
truthadegreeofpracticalaswellastheoreticaltolerancerarelyparalleledinthe
ChristianworlduntiltheWestadoptedameasureofsecularisminthelateseventeenthandeighteenthcenturies.
AtrsttheMuslimresponsetoWesterncivilizationwasoneofadmirationand
emulationanimmenserespectfortheachievementsoftheWest,andadesireto
imitateandadoptthem.Thisdesirearosefromakeenandgrowingawarenessof
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theweakness,poverty,andbackwardnessoftheIslamicworldascomparedwith
theadvancingWest.Thedisparityrstbecameapparentonthebattleeldbutsoon
spreadtootherareasofhumanactivity.Muslimwritersobservedanddescribedthe
wealthandpoweroftheWest,itsscienceandtechnology,itsmanufactures,andits
formsofgovernment.ForatimethesecretofWesternsuccesswasseentolieintwo
achievements:economicadvancementandespeciallyindustry;political
institutionsandespeciallyfreedom.Severalgenerationsofreformersand
modernizerstriedtoadapttheseandintroducethemtotheirowncountries,inthe
hopethattheywouldtherebybeabletoachieveequalitywiththeWestandperhaps
restoretheirlostsuperiority.
Inourowntimethismoodofadmirationandemulationhas,amongmanyMuslims,
givenwaytooneofhostilityandrejection.Inpartthismoodissurelyduetoa
feelingofhumiliationagrowingawareness,amongtheheirsofanold,proud,and
longdominantcivilization,ofhavingbeenovertaken,overborne,andoverwhelmed
bythosewhomtheyregardedastheirinferiors.Inpartthismoodisduetoeventsin
theWesternworlditself.Onefactorofmajorimportancewascertainlytheimpact
oftwogreatsuicidalwars,inwhichWesterncivilizationtoreitselfapart,bringing
untolddestructiontoitsownandotherpeoples,andinwhichthebelligerents
conductedanimmensepropagandaeort,intheIslamicworldandelsewhere,to
discreditandundermineeachother.Themessagetheybroughtfoundmany
listeners,whowereallthemorereadytorespondinthattheirownexperienceof
Westernwayswasnothappy.TheintroductionofWesterncommercial,nancial,
andindustrialmethodsdidindeedbringgreatwealth,butitaccruedtotransplanted
WesternersandmembersofWesternizedminorities,andtoonlyafewamongthe
mainstreamMuslimpopulation.Intimethesefewbecamemorenumerous,but
theyremainedisolatedfromthemasses,dieringfromthemevenintheirdress
andstyleoflife.Inevitablytheywereseenasagentsofandcollaboratorswithwhat
wasonceagainregardedasahostileworld.Eventhepoliticalinstitutionsthathad
comefromtheWestwerediscredited,beingjudgednotbytheirWesternoriginals
butbytheirlocalimitations,installedbyenthusiasticMuslimreformers.These,
operatinginasituationbeyondtheircontrol,usingimportedandinappropriate
methodsthattheydidnotfullyunderstand,wereunabletocopewiththerapidly
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developingcrisesandwereonebyoneoverthrown.ForvastnumbersofMiddle
Easterners,Western-styleeconomicmethodsbroughtpoverty,Western-style
politicalinstitutionsbroughttyranny,evenWestern-stylewarfarebroughtdefeat.It
ishardlysurprisingthatsomanywerewillingtolistentovoicestellingthemthatthe
oldIslamicwayswerebestandthattheironlysalvationwastothrowasidethe
paganinnovationsofthereformersandreturntotheTruePaththatGodhad
prescribedforhispeople.
Ultimately,thestruggleofthefundamentalistsisagainsttwoenemies,secularism
andmodernism.Thewaragainstsecularismisconsciousandexplicit,andthereis
bynowawholeliteraturedenouncingsecularismasanevilneo-paganforceinthe
modernworldandattributingitvariouslytotheJews,theWest,andtheUnited
States.Thewaragainstmodernityisforthemostpartneitherconsciousnor
explicit,andisdirectedagainstthewholeprocessofchangethathastakenplacein
theIslamicworldinthepastcenturyormoreandhastransformedthepolitical,
economic,social,andevenculturalstructuresofMuslimcountries.Islamic
fundamentalismhasgivenanaimandaformtotheotherwiseaimlessandformless
resentmentandangeroftheMuslimmassesattheforcesthathavedevaluedtheir
traditionalvaluesandloyaltiesand,inthenalanalysis,robbedthemoftheir
beliefs,theiraspirations,theirdignity,andtoanincreasingextenteventheir
livelihood.
ThereissomethinginthereligiouscultureofIslamwhichinspired,ineventhe
humblestpeasantorpeddler,adignityandacourtesytowardothersnever
exceededandrarelyequalledinothercivilizations.Andyet,inmomentsof
upheavalanddisruption,whenthedeeperpassionsarestirred,thisdignityand
courtesytowardotherscangivewaytoanexplosivemixtureofrageandhatred
whichimpelseventhegovernmentofanancientandcivilizedcountryeventhe
spokesmanofagreatspiritualandethicalreligiontoespousekidnappingand
assassination,andtrytond,inthelifeoftheirProphet,approvalandindeed
precedentforsuchactions.

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Theinstinctofthemassesisnotfalseinlocatingtheultimatesourceofthese
cataclysmicchangesintheWestandinattributingthedisruptionoftheiroldwayof
lifetotheimpactofWesterndomination,Westerninuence,orWesternprecept
andexample.AndsincetheUnitedStatesisthelegitimateheirofEuropean
civilizationandtherecognizedandunchallengedleaderoftheWest,theUnited
Stateshasinheritedtheresultinggrievancesandbecomethefocusforthepent-up
hateandanger.Twoexamplesmaysuce.InNovemberof1979anangrymob
attackedandburnedtheU.S.EmbassyinIslamabad,Pakistan.Thestatedcauseof
thecrowd'sangerwastheseizureoftheGreatMosqueinMeccabyagroupof
MuslimdissidentsaneventinwhichtherewasnoAmericaninvolvement
whatsoever.Almosttenyearslater,inFebruaryof1989,againinIslamabad,the
USIScenterwasattackedbyangrycrowds,thistimetoprotestthepublicationof
SalmanRushdie'sSatanicVerses.RushdieisaBritishcitizenofIndianbirth,andhis
bookhadbeenpublishedvemonthspreviouslyinEngland.Butwhatprovokedthe
mob'sanger,andalsotheAyatollahKhomeini'ssubsequentpronouncementofa
deathsentenceontheauthor,wasthepublicationofthebookintheUnitedStates.
Itshouldbynowbeclearthatwearefacingamoodandamovementfar
transcendingthelevelofissuesandpoliciesandthegovernmentsthatpursuethem.
Thisisnolessthanaclashofcivilizationstheperhapsirrationalbutsurelyhistoric
reactionofanancientrivalagainstourJudeo-Christianheritage,oursecular
present,andtheworldwideexpansionofboth.Itiscruciallyimportantthatweon
oursideshouldnotbeprovokedintoanequallyhistoricbutalsoequallyirrational
reactionagainstthatrival.
NotalltheideasimportedfromtheWestbyWesternintrudersornative
Westernizershavebeenrejected.Somehavebeenacceptedbyeventhemost
radicalIslamicfundamentalists,usuallywithoutacknowledgmentofsource,and
sueringaseachangeintosomethingrarelyrichbutoftenstrange.Onesuchwas
politicalfreedom,withtheassociatednotionsandpracticesofrepresentation,
election,andconstitutionalgovernment.EventheIslamicRepublicofIranhasa
writtenconstitutionandanelectedassembly,aswellasakindofepiscopate,for
noneofwhichisthereanyprescriptioninIslamicteachingoranyprecedentinthe
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Islamicpast.AlltheseinstitutionsareclearlyadaptedfromWesternmodels.
Muslimstateshavealsoretainedmanyoftheculturalandsocialcustomsofthe
Westandthesymbolsthatexpressthem,suchastheformandstyleofmale(andto
amuchlesserextentfemale)clothing,notablyinthemilitary.TheuseofWesterninventedgunsandtanksandplanesisamilitarynecessity,butthecontinueduseof
ttedtunicsandpeakedcapsisaculturalchoice.FromconstitutionstoCoca-Cola,
fromtanksandtelevisiontoT-shirts,thesymbolsandartifacts,andthroughthem
theideas,oftheWesthaveretainedevenstrengthenedtheirappeal.
ThemovementnowadayscalledfundamentalismisnottheonlyIslamictradition.
Thereareothers,moretolerant,moreopen,thathelpedtoinspirethegreat
achievementsofIslamiccivilizationinthepast,andwemayhopethattheseother
traditionswillintimeprevail.Butbeforethisissueisdecidedtherewillbeahard
struggle,inwhichweoftheWestcandolittleornothing.Eventheattemptmight
doharm,fortheseareissuesthatMuslimsmustdecideamongthemselves.Andin
themeantimewemusttakegreatcareonallsidestoavoidthedangerofanewera
ofreligiouswars,arisingfromtheexacerbationofdierencesandtherevivalof
ancientprejudices.
Tothisendwemuststrivetoachieveabetterappreciationofotherreligiousand
politicalcultures,throughthestudyoftheirhistory,theirliterature,andtheir
achievements.Atthesametime,wemayhopethattheywilltrytoachieveabetter
understandingofours,andespeciallythattheywillunderstandandrespect,evenif
theydonotchoosetoadoptforthemselves,ourWesternperceptionoftheproper
relationshipbetweenreligionandpolitics.TodescribethisperceptionIshallendas
Ibegan,withaquotationfromanAmericanPresident,thistimenotthejustly
celebratedThomasJeersonbutthesomewhatunjustlyneglectedJohnTyler,who,
inaletterdatedJuly10,1843,gaveeloquentandindeedpropheticexpressionto
theprincipleofreligiousfreedom:

TheUnitedStateshaveadventureduponagreatandnobleexperiment,
whichisbelievedtohavebeenhazardedintheabsenceofallprevious
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precedentthatoftotalseparationofChurchandState.Noreligious
establishmentbylawexistsamongus.Theconscienceisleftfreefromall
restraintandeachispermittedtoworshiphisMakerafterhisown
judgement.TheocesoftheGovernmentareopenaliketoall.Notithes
areleviedtosupportanestablishedHierarchy,noristhefallible
judgementofmansetupasthesureandinfalliblecreedoffaith.The
Mahommedan,ifhewilltocomeamonguswouldhavetheprivilege
guaranteedtohimbytheconstitutiontoworshipaccordingtotheKoran;
andtheEastIndianmighterectashrinetoBrahmaifitsopleasedhim.
SuchisthespiritoftolerationinculcatedbyourpoliticalInstitutions....
TheHebrewpersecutedanddowntroddeninotherregionstakesuphis
abodeamonguswithnonetomakehimafraid....andtheAegisofthe
Governmentisoverhimtodefendandprotecthim.Suchisthegreat
experimentwhichwehavetried,andsucharethehappyfruitswhich
haveresultedfromit;oursystemoffreegovernmentwouldbeimperfect
withoutit.
Thebodymaybeoppressedandmanacledandyetsurvive;butifthe
mindofmanbefettered,itsenergiesandfacultiesperish,andwhat
remainsisoftheearth,earthly.Mindshouldbefreeasthelightorasthe
air.

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