By Hicham Chehab
Technology and globalization seem to rule supreme in the West and cause in their wake religious reductionism. deconstructionism, and Nihilism (in what used to be called Christendom) that lead to more community secularization. Contrary to that, Islamic fundamentalist movements are utilizing those same means, i.e. technology and globalization, in order to mobilize Islamic communities towards more Islamic conservatism and radicalization.
East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet:
Western Culture and Islamic Fundamentalism Two Diverging Paths
Two years after Fredrich Nietzsche wrote “God is dead,” in 1882, two titans of the Pan-Islamic revivalist movement, Muhammad Abduh; Egypt’s highest Muslim cleric and Jamal al-Din al- Afghani, the Persian Islamic reformer, met in Paris (in 1884) and founded “The Most Trustworthy Hand-hold” publication.
The title of that publication is taken from a verse in the Quran where the trustworthy hand-hold means “faith in Allah.”
That influential publication went pan-Islamic, and was the spark for the Islamic revival that led later to the foundation of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in 1928. Hasan Al-Banna; the founder of the Brotherhood, was an avid disciple of Abduh and dedicated his life to the cause of Islamic revivalism.
When the Hippie movement was spreading in the West in the 1960s, the Muslim Brotherhood master philosopher, Sayyed Qutb, wrote the Brotherhood’s “manifesto,” Milestones, in which he declares that Muslims go back to the pure Islam revealed to Muhammad; their prophet: ” If Islam is again to play the role of the leader of mankind, then it is necessary that the Muslim community be restored to its original form. It is necessary to revive that Muslim community, which is buried under the debris of the man- made traditions of several generations, and which it crushed under the weight of those false laws and customs which are not even remotely related to the Islamic teachings.(…)'”
While relativism emaciated religion and transformed most moral issues into merely individualistic opinions in the West, Qutb stresses in his Milestones that Islamic values are unchanging and eternal:
“The Islamic society (…) and its civilization are based on values which are fixed historical realities. The word ‘historical’ used in this context only means that these values took concrete form in a particular period of human history. In fact, these values, by their nature, do not belong to any particular period; they are the truth which has come to man from the Divine source – beyond the sphere of mankind and beyond the sphere of the physical universe.”
This is contrary to the modern West, where, according to Martin Heidegger, technology is the realm for revealing the truth.
Hence, while the truth in the age of technology is relative and the moral values are changeable and progressive, in Islamic culture they are not. Qutb adds: “Human values and human morals are not something mysterious and indefinable, nor are they ‘progressive’ and changeable, having no roots and stability, as is claimed by the exponents of the materialistic interpretation of history or of ‘scientific socialism.’”
While the West legalizes gay marriage and abortion that destroy the main building block of the human community, Qutb emphasizes that the family provides the environment under which human values and morals develop and grow and that those values and morals he mentioned above cannot exist apart from the family.
Furthermore, the Brotherhood brain points out that if “free sexual relationships and illegitimate children become the basis of a society, and if the relationship between man and woman is based on lust, passion and impulse, and the division of work is not based on family responsibility and natural gifts; if woman’s role is merely to be attractive, sexy and flirtatious,”
the human community would lose its humanity and its main purpose for existence would be material productivity.
Qutb, before his radicalization, was an Egyptian educator, a writer and a poet, who came to the United States in the 1940s, learned English and took graduate courses at Colorado State College for Education in Greeley, Colorado, as well as Stanford University in California. The turning point in Qutb’s writings took place during his visit to America. On his return to Egypt, Qutb published an article entitled “The America that I Have Seen,” in which he criticized the United States for “its materialism, individual freedoms, economic system, racism, brutal boxing matches, “poor” haircuts, superficiality in conversations and friendships, restrictions on divorce, enthusiasm for sports, lack of artistic feeling, “animal-like” mixing of the sexes (which “went on even in churches”).”
Qutb believed that that decadence in modern times is the result of “rebellion against God,”
both in the Communist East and Imperialist West:
“Thus the humiliation of the common man under the communist systems and the exploitation of individuals and nations due to greed for wealth and imperialism under the capitalist, systems are but a corollary of rebellion against Allah’s authority and the denial of the dignity of man given to him by Allah Almighty.”
While Martin Heidegger sees the great work of art as something that opens up a world in meaningful way, a way which allows us to see the truth and to be part of it
, Qutb, on the contrary believes that the only “Truth,” is the Divine truth
; derived from the Islamic scriptures. Qutb, in his Milestones states that art needed a detailed discussion, but noted that all artistic efforts were but a reflection of a man’s concepts, beliefs and intuitions were all included in the Islamic concept, which “is not merely an abstract idea but is a living, active motivating force which influences man’s emotions and actions.”
In short, Qutb calls for an Islamic awakening that would use all the means of modern technology as a tool not an end; i.e. to fulfill the purpose of Man on Earth as the viceroy of Allah. However, Man has to depend solely on Allah’s guidance through the “revealed” words of Allah in the Quran and the sayings of Muhammad.
When the Soviet Union was in her death throes, Osama Bin Laden and his mentor, Abdullah Yusuf Azzam; dubbed “the father of global jihad,” founded al Qaeda Organization in 1988.
In the early 1980s, Western intelligence agencies recruited and supported Jihadists in Afghanistan and taught them new techniques to make roadside bombs in order to face the Red Army that invaded Kabul in 1979.
The same cause was used by Bin Laden and Azzam to recruit followers from all over the world. Globalization, modern means of communication in particular, helped Bin Laden and his ilk in recruiting young Muslims from all over the world to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. I was 19 and living in Beirut, Lebanon when I was offered a military engagement in Afghanistan, but I had other plans then.
In 1992 , after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Francis Fukuyama published his book The End of History and the Last Man. Fukuyama proclaimed that the collapse of the Soviet Union was not just “the end of the Cold War …but the end point of mankind’s ideological development and the universalization of Western liberal democracy.”
Apparently, Fukuyama, when he wrote those words, did not think of Islamic globalization and the upcoming challenge that the new/old front that the West would fight again at. The clash between the West and Islam that started in the 8th century A.D with the Arab conquests came back to the front in the 21st century.
One year after Fukuyama published his work, Al Qaeda perpetrated its first attack on the World Trade Center in New York, in 1993. Five years later, Bin Laden would claim that Jihadist were the ones who tore down the Soviet Union.
Obviously, Islamists view time and history completely different from the modern West. I think George Grant rightly notes that those who study history would be concerned with the occurrences of passed times, while those who “conceive time as history are turned to what will happen in the future.”
Muslims in general, and Islamists in particular glorify the past, and believe that the first three generations of Muslims were the most pious Muslims who have lived and will ever walk the earth. Prophet Muhammad said:“Verily the best among you (to follow) is my generation (the Messenger Muhammad and his Companions), then those who follow, and then those who follow them…”
In this context, Grant quotes Fredrich Nietzsche who said that man who embraces progressivism would desire to transform every “it was” into “this is what I wanted,” adding that Nietzsche calls that “redemption.”
However, as noted above, Islam glorifies the “it was,” and a Muslim, wants the “it was,” because Islam is submission and surrender to Allah who revealed His Kingdom on earth through the Islamic state founded by Muhammad.
While modern man suffers from “oblivion of eternity,” as Grant says, quoting Leo Strauss
, Islamists strive to relive Islamic history and believe that their efforts to establish Islamic divine law are part of Allah’s eternal plan for humanity.
Islam’s eschatological views have a lot of bearing on the lives of many Muslims today. Most reports emphasize that the Boston bombers who perpetrated the terrorist attack on April, 15, 2013, were radicalized through Youtube clips of Jihadists that preached the same ideology of Bin Laden.
Timothy Furnish, an expert on Islamic eschatology, describes the mindset of the Boston bombers as Islamists who were motivated by and engaged in the Islamic narrative of the end of times.
Many Islamic traditions explain that an Islamic mundane messiah would come, would rectify the world, i.e. spread Islam all over the world, and re-establish the global Islamic kingdom. Furnish quotes a Pew poll which indicated that some 42 percent of the world’s Muslims expected the coming of the Mahdi in their current lifetimes.
It is ironical that while the West is heading towards more secularization, the Islamic world is heading towards more radicalization because of Muslim’s attachment to Islamic history, and believe that it is sacred history. therefore, the radical Islamic mindset today, is that of the Middle Ages. Hence, Islamists would have boundaries on the philosophy of science and technological progress; boundaries dictated by the Islamic divine truth.
In this sense, contrary to radical Islam, Grant notes that Americans excelled in employing time as progress because they considered America a tabula rasa.
This could partially explain why Americans have been leading the world in modernity. In this context, the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, on the World Trade Center, and what the twin skyscrapers signify in terms of progressivism, speak volumes about the divide between the two cultures.
In the same context, two Years after the American “prophet” of globalization, Thomas Friedman, published his book; The Lexus and the Olive Branch, (in 1999), Al Qaeda attacked New York and Washington. Nineteen young Muslim men, mostly students who went to colleges in the West committed those attacks. Some of those young men took flying lessons, and used the technology they learned to hijack those planes they used in the attacks. Even though most of them lived more than a decade in the West, they blamed the “Great Satan,” the United States, for all the decadence and corruption in the West, as well as Western foreign policies in the Middle East and South East Asia.
When the United States and her allies invaded Afghanistan, in an attempt to root out Islamic terrorism, Washington declared that she is not in a battle with Islam. Jihadists who flocked to Afghanistan and later Iraq, to fight the American forces, declared that they are in a battle for Islam.
Obviously, the West and Islamism have two incompatible world views. While the West sees democracy, freedom of speech, the liberation of women, free markets, and technology as progressive, Islamists see this as mostly corruption of the world, and alienation from Man’s purpose as a viceroy of Allah. Qutb describes this attitude vividly: “Look at this capitalism with its monopolies, its usury and whatever else is unjust in it; at this individual freedom, devoid of human sympathy (..) at this materialistic attitude which deadens the spirit; at this behavior, like animals, which you call ‘Free mixing of the sexes’ at this vulgarity which you call ’emancipation of women,’ (..).”
Qutb stresses that Islam is the solution, with “its logic, beauty, humanity and happiness….. It is a practical way of life and its solutions are based on the foundation of the wholesome nature of man.”
While Americans re-elected President Barack Obama, in 2012, who embodies the triumph of liberal forces and their agendas in the West, including progressivism, Egyptians elected the first Muslim Brotherhood president, using all the means of technology in order to summon their Brotherhood members and supporters who lived in diaspora since former Egyptian presidents clamped down on the Brotherhood members, beginning with the 1960s.
While the West seems to be on a quest for dominance through implementing technology, globalization and world markets, Islamic fundamentalism strives for the same goal through revival and re-educating the Muslim masses, using the same means. Noteworthy is that the most prominent television “evangelist” for the Brotherhood lives in Qatar (his exile before the former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was toppled in February, 2011), and gives a weekly session on Al Jazeera Network; the most influential Arab TV channel. It is interesting that those Muslim preachers often point out at the dehumanization the corruption of the human soul that resulted from Western modernity, and suggest that embracing Islam’s eternal truth fulfills man’s humanity, not embracing modernity as an end.
We Are Men Not Mountains
In spite what seems like doom and gloom, God calls Muslims to faith in Christ in many ways. I planted Salam Christian Fellowship in 2007, in Chicagoland. Twenty one people from the Middle East and South East Asia were baptized in five years. Christian evangelists are also using technology to reach the lost. I, as a missionary, often use Facebook and Youtube in order to connect with Muslims.
However, technology in itself is not the solution for bridging the gap between Muslims and Christians (not Westerners). The solution lies in going back to God, the Church, and the Great Commission. Without prayer and the intensification of human relations of love and friendship, we cannot bridge the divide between Christianity and Muslims (not Islam). We need first to admit that it is basically a spiritual battle that has been going on for centuries, and that we need the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit in order to tackle this issue. Let us pray with Saint Paul, in Ephesians 1:
15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.- ESV.
1 Rudyard Kipling ,The Ballad of East and West (Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ballad_of_East_and_West).
2 Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jamal_ad-Din_al-Afghani).
3 Tafsir Ibn Kathir (http://www.qtafsir.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=137&Itemid=36)
4 Encyclopedia of the Middle East (http://www.mideastweb.org/Middle-East-Encyclopedia/hassan_al-banna.htm)
5 Qutb, Sayyid. Milestones (http://www.kalamullah.com/Books/Milestones%20Special%20Edition.pdf), p. 25
6 Qutb, Milestones, p. 118
7 White, David A.The Examiner Life, Advanced Philosophy for Kids (Texas, Prufrock Press, 2005), p. 108
8 Qutb, Milestones, p. 109
9 Qutb, Milestones, p. 110
10 Qutb, Milestones, pp. 110-111
11 Qutb, Milestones, pp. 110-111
12 Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sayyid_Qutb)
13 Qutb, Milestones, p. 27
14 Qutb, Milestones, p. 27
15 Martin Heidegger on Art (http://www.lotsofessays.com/viewpaper/1703340.html)
16 Qutb, Milestones, p. 27
17 Qutb, Milestones, p. 121
18 Former Central Intelligenec Agency (CIA) Operative Robert Baer on CNN’s Pier Morgan Program (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IKM65ksZemg), April 16. Baer noted that the Boston bombers on April 15, 2013 used the same technology the CIA taught to the Mjahideen in Afghanistan.
19 Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/progress/)
20 The last attempt by the Ottomans to invade Western Europe was in the 17th century, when they stopped at the walls of Vienna in September, 1683.
21 “The Road to 911,” PBS Production, 2005.
22 Grant, George. Time as History (Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1995) p. 16
23 An authentic Hadith from Saheeh Muslim (http://unitedummah.wordpress.com/2008/10/29/the-best-three-generations/)
24 Grant, Time as History. p. 54
25 Grant, Time as History. p. 63
26 Furnish, Timothy. The Ideology Behind the Boston Marathon Bombing. History News Network (http://hnn.us/articles/ideology-behind-boston-marathon-bombing), April 22, 2013
27 Furnish (http://hnn.us/articles/ideology-behind-boston-marathon-bombing), April 22, 2013
28 Grant, Time as History. p. 21
29 The Road to 911 (A DVD production by the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), 2005)
30 Qutb, Milestones. p. 155
31 Qutb, Milestones. p. 155
32 Qutb, Milestones. p. 155
33 Russian proverb