Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Notes: Mark Perry and Alastair Crooke, "How to lose the war on terror, Part 4: Acts of faith," Asia Times Online, June 6, 2006.

A newly elected conservative government in Canada has reinforced its commitment to America's foreign policy, and neo-conservatives are now among the most influential voices in the French cabinet.

[That sentence is just a passing observation in Perry and Crooke's detailed, article-length discussion of neo-conservatives beginning with Leo Strauss, ending with Bernard Lewis and including reluctant neocons Paul Wolfowitz and David Horowitz. Names, publications, think-tanks, intellectual roots. Presented, not as a rogue movement that has hijacked the American conservative movement, but as an important and legitimate side of today's historical dialectic. That, of course, is how they see themselves.

Perry and Crooke dismiss those who believe "modern Western political thought has been unduly influenced by the writings and teachings of University of Chicago Professor Leo Strauss" as "followers of Lyndon LaRouche, anti-Zionists, marginalized libertarians, irritated conservatives and a range of conspiracy theorists that span the political spectrum." They then go on to describe Strauss and his disciples as if they were legitimate conservatives. The problem once again is with the two-part dialectic. -jlt]


Hitler did not come to office as the result of an election. In fact, he was soundly defeated in Germany's presidential election of 1932, but was appointed chancellor in 1933 by Paul von Hindenburg. Hitler took dictatorial powers in 1933 as the result of a "soft coup", when the Nazi leadership engineered the Reichstag fire, blamed the communists, and suspended all future elections. (Weimar official Franz von Papen was later tried at Nuremberg for his role in engineering Hitler's appointment as chancellor of Germany - and was acquitted.)


In driving Islam from the state bureaucracy, the Kemalists rooted it more firmly in the street and mosque. Kemalism thus created the conditions in which Islamism transmuted and evolved, giving space to generations of new thinkers who have challenged Islamic orthodoxy. Islam's response to Kemalism included the articulation of a politics of discontent that opposed the liquidation of Muslim identity and rejected an Ataturk-imposed Western world order.

The new Islamism refused to accept that universal values could only be imported from the Western historical narrative. Instead, they searched for universal values derived from Islam, with an emphasis on the Koran and the seed community of Muslims at Medina - an alternative historical perspective outside the Western narrative. Thus was born a decades-long hostility that has shaped the character of modern political Islamists.


we are reluctantly forced to acknowledge that the words of our most important allies, those secularized pro-Western leaders of the region - Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, President General Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan and the young King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia - mean less to the vast majority of politically engaged Islamists than the words of two Islamic leaders, dead now, with disparate beliefs and followers.

Egyptian Sayyid Qutb and Pakistani Maulana Maududi explicitly rejected Ataturk's conception of a national state as a rejection of Islamic law and culture and, in the process, freed political Islam from the constraints of clerics and scholars. Qutb argued in Milestones that Muslims do not need an Islamic hierarchy to tell them how to live; all they need do is treat the Koran as both a practical personal guide as well as a political manifesto, while Maududi (Qutb's progenitor) urged Muslims - who saw their community divided by successive generations of Western diplomats - to rediscover their common political and cultural roots in Islam.

Qutb wrote that the Koran was accessible and understandable by all, a statement that is as influential in Islam today as Martin Luther's theses were to Christianity 500 years ago. Qutb and Maududi speak to Muslims across the ages, their words repeated in sermons and books throughout the Arab world. It is their vision for the future, and not Ataturk's, that remains vibrantly alive in the Muslim world today.
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