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The Future of the Moslem Mind, Part 2

| 12 Comments
Winds of Change.NET Cairo correspondent Tarek Heggy (see his article archive, and read his book "Culture, Civilization and Humanity") is back with a new series. I have some issues with his analysis, especially when it comes to his take on American culture. Nevertheless, his articles are always thought provoking and so we're always happy to present them here. The Future of the Moslem Mind, Part 2: Muslims & The Clash of Civilization by Tarek Heggy The mentality of violence is the product of internal factors, a variable that has emerged only in the last four decades, and its inclusion as a constant in the ‘clash of civilizations’ paradigm is not only forced but belongs more to the realm of science fiction than political analysis. A case in point is the famous book by Samuel P. Huntington, whose theory is closely linked to the issue of mentality of violence. First published as an article in 1992 under the title “Clash of Civilizations?” it was expanded into a book and published the following year under the same title – but without the question mark. The significance of the omission will not be lost on the reader. The book was a publishing event, selling more copies and provoking more controversy than any other book that year (with the exception of fiction bestsellers). While I cannot pass the same kind of sweeping judgment against the author, his motives, aims and intentions as those passed against him in various parts of the Arab and Islamic world, I will say that I found the book to have three major flaws:
The first is that the author talks of Islam as though the Wahhabi model is the only Islam. In fact, Wahhabism was not a major trend in Islam until the alliance that took place between Mohamed ibn-Abdul Wahab and Mohamed ibn-Saud in the second half of the eighteenth century. Prior to that, there were ideas similar to the Wahhabi interpretation of Islam but they were completely marginal. Mainstream Islam was quite distinct from the Wahabbi interpretation of Islam and its culture. The only relationship between the Ottoman Empire, which represented Islam politically as a superpower for several centuries, and Wahhabism was one of extreme animosity. I would have been willing to accept most of what Huntington wrote about the probable clash between the West and Islam if he had used the term ‘Wahhabi Islam’ instead of Islam. I can only conclude that Huntington is not very well versed in the history and factors which led to the rise of the Wahhabi interpretation of Islam. The second is that he did not present any evidence to support his theory of an impending clash between the West and what he calls ‘Confucian’ societies, making the theory closer to fiction, specifically the writings of H.G. Wells, than to political analysis. It also owes much to Noam Chomsky’s equally unfounded theory that the United States needs an enemy to survive, and that this role was filled by the eastern bloc from 1945 to 1990. Following the collapse of communism, Chomsky believes Islam is now the prime candidate for the role! But if so, how to explain the enormous progress made by the United States between 1500 and 1900, without any external conflicts and without any clear enemy during this period of the development and completion of the American Dream? How to explain that despite Winston Churchill’s efforts from 1939 to 1941 to convince the United States to join the war on the side of the Allies, it was only after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941 that his efforts were crowned with success? How could the United States have resisted the opportunity to benefit from the existence of a ready-made enemy which, according to Chomsky, it needed for its very survival? The third is that he did not devote enough space in his book to the largest conflict in the history of humanity, World War II, which was fought between forces belonging to the same Western civilization. It was also a conflict within the Christian world, but nobody ever mentioned religion as a factor in this huge conflict, which was primarily a conflict between European Fascism and European democracies. Next: The Mentality of Violence... and the Games Nations Play! » For more of Tarek Heggy's writtings in English, please visit www.t-heggy-site-contents.org and for Tarek Heggy's writings in French please visit www.metransparent.com/authors/french/tarek_heggy.htm.

12 Comments

Well, from 1500 to 1900 we had no enemies except the Indians, the French and Indians, the British, the Indians, the British again, the Indians still, the Mexicans, the Yankees (if you were Southern), the Rebels (if you were Northern), more Indians, and the Spanish. I don't think that affects the overall argument, though. There were a variety of enemies, not one big bogey man against whom we defined ourselves except maybe in the Revolutionary War. Good argument about WW II.

He makes good points. The challenge is
that Wahhabi Islam is in world-wide
control fueled by Saudi blood money.

A different model in Indonesia may
survive, but it receives little support
from hardline Jihadists such as Vice
President Hamdah Haz. Haz and his cohorts
are simply hiding behind the political
figure-head, Pres. Megawati Sukarnoputri,
for the time being.

The author does need to brush up on US history from 1500 to 1900. First, it doesn't really begin until May 1787, nearly 300 years into the aforementioned 400 year span. Before then, you aren't talking about the US; you are talking about colonial and indigenous cultures. During the period marked by progress of an actual USA, there were numerous wars and a great deal of public focus and participation in and on those conflicts. The indigenous population as represented by North American tribes or by Mexico was a particular focal point of conflict. Given that the US was in an economic crunch, you'd forgive it for avoiding for three years a fight in which it had no dog, especially when the memories of WWI (the Great War) and the Philippines Insurrection were relatively fresh in the minds of leaders and voters.

This isn't to say that Chomsky et all aren't off-base. It would seem that the US would avoid the Mid-East as it does Africa if the populations there were not obnoxiously inclined to export violence. The reasons for this may be many, but a simple explanation is that it is an expression manefest destiny of Islam, the same thing that propelled it out of Arabia and across Africa and South Asia, well before the relatively static latter period of the Turks (Ottomans).

For a history of Wahhabisim go to :http://www.shianews.com" although there is a great amount of animosity between the two sects.

I think Adolph is right about the economic rationale behind the US non-entry into WW2. It is maybe also helpful to consider that, while having a defined enemy/other can give meaning to our lives, it isn't always necessary to actually fight a war against that enemy.

This is an aside to Fred's commentary: Consider that there was far less regional communciation between the 1500 - 1900. So the Big Enemy didn't have to be as big. This point is valid up to about the 1800s, when the telegraph was spreading. Incidentally, we'll notice that the last of the native american massacres occured at the end of the 19 century, validating Chomsky's point.

Re. validating Chomsky's point:

Tarek Heggy's series looks at elements of modern Mideast history that have contributed to the strong influence in many Arab Muslim societies of "oppression, absence of social mobility, spread of incompetence, despair, reactionary educational systems and corruption."

Many readers, myself included, will not have thought about the modern echoes of Ottoman-Wahhibi antagonism, or British policies in Egypt of divide-and-conquer and rule-by-proxy. This sort of analysis allows us to answer the important (if poorly phrased) question, "why do they hate us?" in more insightful ways.

In contrast, Chomsky's belief that "the United States needs an enemy to survive" is religious in nature. When such beliefs are dressed up as historical fact, discussion is rarely insighful. For example, in the comments above, the US entry into World War 2 in December 1941 is given once as refutation and once as validation of this axiom.

Whatever the stopped-clock merits of Chomsky's individual observations, Armed Liberal had the right of it when he described this sort of philosophical approach. Bad.

Booget,

Two points: First, you have a point about regional communication. However, during the Mexican War, we were simultaneoulsy fighting Mexico and some Indian tribes in more or less the same region. Against which did we define ourselves?

Second, even the most cursory glance at human history shows there is never any need to go looking for an enemy. They'll find you. We are the richest, most powerful country in the world. It is hardly surprising that some "others" will see it as in their interests to defy or try to undermine our interests. That's not ideology, that's a fact of life, an inextricable part of the human condition. We live in a world of material limitations. EVERY society is trying to grab as much of that limited material as possible. In the process, many of them are willing to kill anyone or any society that stands in their way. Any individual or society unwilling or unable to defend itself will die. It's that simple.

If I had seen the part of AMac's post on Chomsky, I could have saved myself some trouble. "Religious belief" is a good way to describe it.

'The last half of the 18th century' of course also corresponds to the beginning of the clear defeat of the Islamic cultures by the West. Their technical and military incompetence is detailed by Bernard Lewis. And in 1683 the peaceful Islamic Turks without a shred of Wahhabism were besieging Vienna...sure makes me believe everything he has to say.

The wahabi from of Islam maybe the most extreme
but the other forms sustaints the backward economic
and social structures which acts as a breeding grounds
for terrorists who are aligned with the wahabi cult.
The other forms do not allow women rights and
is very anatagonistic to other religions (particularly
so called idol worshipers). Their prophet executed
the men of a whole jewish tribe and sold the
women into sexual slavery. Is this in an example
of moral behaviour ?

Actually the Islamic civilization is not up against Christanity; it is up against the civilization created by the French revolution. Very soon there will be an article on this topic on http://rk_articles.blogspot.com

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