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The essence of Islamist resistance
The essence of Islamist resistance
Most Western analysts of political Islam make the same mistake. They instinctively assume that conflict with the West has mainly to do with specific foreign policies, particularly of the US with respect to Israel, the Arab world and Iran, and, if those changed, all would be well.
Wednesday, June 10,2009 03:47
by Alastair Crooke Gulfnews.com

Most Western analysts of political Islam make the same mistake. They instinctively assume that conflict with the West has mainly to do with specific foreign policies, particularly of the US with respect to Israel, the Arab world and Iran, and, if those changed, all would be well.


In fact, my intensive contact over the years with Iranian clerics, Hezbollah and Hamas suggest that the conflict with the West is much deeper. It is rooted in radically different world views about human nature and the good society.


Failing to grasp this reality, the West continually misreads what is going on in the Muslim world. At root, the West is about individualistic, instrumental rationality and materialism; the Islamic resistance movements are about a communal and spiritual approach to life.


It has been 30 years now since the Iranian Revolution, and 50 years since the first Islamist resistance movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, was formed in Egypt.


Yet many in the West remain bemused: Why is there an Islamist resistance at all? "Against what are Muslims in revolt?" Westerners ask.


Even now, more shockingly, there seems still no clarity about the Iranian Revolution: Was it nothing more than a populist kick against power, and the Shah"s heavy-handedness that was hijacked by the Ayatollahs - as many assert?


Such explanations seem blindingly inadequate to account for events that were - and still are - mobilising and energising hundreds of millions of Muslims.


In my book Resistance: The Essence of the Islamist Revolution, I argue that the Revolution is essentially a grand refusal to accept an understanding of the self or of the worlds dominated by contemporary secular Western consciousness.


Islamism, in short, is not irrational - it is no whimsy of divine caprice; it is accessible to reasoned explanation. And it seeks to evolve an alternative to the ways of the West.


Western modernity essentially has stood on two pillars:


The first has been described by historians as the "Great Transformation". It began in Europe in the 18th century and was based on a moral philosophy that saw human welfare yoked to the efficient operation of markets.


Humans, pursuing private desires and needs, would intersect with others, through the market mechanism, to maximise not just individual welfare but community well being, too.


Closely associated with this was another idea, taken up by English Puritans, that had its roots deep in Anglo-Saxon history: It saw the "invisible hand" of Providence also at work in politics to bring about another "ideal" outcome.


This view held that the jostling and hurly-burly of political contention between the Anglo-Saxon tribes in the earliest society had given rise to a spontaneous harmony and political order.


From this political "market", English Puritans believed that the Anglo-Saxon institutions representing the epitome of personal freedom and justice had spontaneously emerged.


Such key ideas about politics and economics were transported to the Americas with the Pilgrim fathers to become the archetype for the US system of government. The concept of the nation-state, democracy and human rights all flowed from this Protestant current.


Of course the "Great Transformation" did not come about either naturally or spontaneously. The creation of a market system required massive state intervention to subordinate other important social, communal and political objectives to this overriding end.


This brought stresses that took 19th-century Europe to the brink of revolution and, by the 1920s, left the Islamic world in crisis.


Prior to the 1920s, the "Great Transformation" had been exported to the Muslim world. There was a rush by the West to create ethnically unitary nation-states in the former Western provinces of the Ottoman Empire.


A powerful nation-state was seen as the only structure with enough instrumental strength to force through the social changes required to impose market liberalisation on Muslim societies.


As in Europe earlier, the impact of "transformation" was truly traumatic. Approximately five million European Muslims were driven from their homes between 1821 and 1922 as the West created nation-states in former Ottoman provinces.


The Young Turk determination to emulate Europe"s secular liberal-market modernisation in Turkey came at terrible cost: Hundreds of thousands of Armenians and Assyrians died and one million Greek Orthodox Anatolians were expelled.


Kurdish identity was suppressed, and finally Islam was demonised and suppressed by Kemal Ataturk. Islamic institutions were closed; and the 1,400-year-old Caliphate was abolished.


Paradoxically, it was the Kemalists and Turkey"s transformation, which Westerners so admire, that inadvertently, by severing the links to the Caliphate superstructure that had provided stability to the Islamic world for centuries, created the conditions in which Islamism at the popular level could transmute and evolve into a revolutionary movement from the bottom up, including from the margins of the Shiite minority.


There is a clear line leading from the secularisation of Turkey to the Iranian revolution more than a half century later.


Alastair Crooke, a former British intelligence (MI6) agent, heads the Conflicts Forum in Beirut.


The Source

Posted in Political Islam Studies , Iran , Human Rights , Activites , MB in International press  
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