January 23, 2010

WE'LL SELL THEM THE THESES WITH WHICH THEY REFORM THEMSELVES:

The Shopping Cure: FORCES OF FORTUNE: The Rise of the New Muslim Middle Class and What It Will Mean for Our World By Vali Nasr (MICHAEL J. TOTTEN, 1/24/10, NY Times Book Review)

The Egyptian Islamist theoretician Sayyid Qutb believed the West — in particular the United States — posed an existential threat to Islam. He feared that globalization, spearheaded by the American colossus, might eventually destroy Islam by tempting pious Muslims with freewheeling capitalism, the separation of religion from government and the unleashing of decadent “animalistic desires.” Qutb, in word and in deed, took up the sword against Gamal Abdel Nasser’s secular government. Nasser hanged him in 1966, but Qutb’s ideas transformed the world by inspiring Osama bin Laden’s Qaeda theology.

Vali Nasr, in his outstanding new book “Forces of Fortune,” shows that Qutb was at least half wrong. Globalization, free trade and market economics aren’t a threat to Islam per se. What they are a threat to is the totalitarian vision of Islam that Qutb’s followers hope to impose.

Nasr, a professor at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy of Tufts University, writes that the Middle East will liberalize when it is transformed by a middle-class commercial revolution. “The great battle for the soul of Iran — and for the soul of the region as a whole — will be fought not over religion, but over business and capitalism,” he says.


Mr. Totten perhaps understates the degree to which Sunni (orthodox) Islam is inherently totalitarian (in a non-pejorative sense). But it is an irony of History, that the aspirations of this Islam--to build a just and decent society--require economic liberalization even at the expense of the orthodoxy.



Posted by Orrin Judd at January 23, 2010 6:56 AM
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