Sunday, May 07, 2006

History: It's Still Over

Lots of good stuff in this essay by Francis Fukuyama. Plenty to argue with, plenty to agree with, whoever you are. I could excerpt any chunk of it to illustrate. Here, after suggesting Islam is not the matrix of the problem he makes an even less PC suggestion: Arab culture is the matrix of the problem.

Alfred Stepan points out that the real exception to the broad pattern of democratisation during what Samuel Huntington labeled the "third wave" of democratic transitions from the 1970s to the 1990s is actually not a Muslim exception, but more of an Arab exception; it would appear that there is something in Arab political culture that has been more resistant. What that could be is subject to debate, but it might well be a cultural obstacle that is not related to religion, such as the survival of tribalism. And the contemporary challenge that the world faces in the form of radical Islamism or jihadism is much more political than religious, cultural, or civilisational.

As Olivier Roy and Roya and Ladan Boroumand have argued, radical Islamism is best understood as a political ideology. The writings of Sayyid Qutb, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, or Osama bin Laden and his ideologues within al-Qaida, make use of political ideas about the state, revolution, and the aesthetisation of violence that do not come out of any genuine Islamic tradition, but out of the radical ideologies of the extreme left and right – that is to say, fascism and communism – from 20th-century Europe.

These doctrines, which are extremely dangerous, do not reflect any core teachings of Islam, but make use of Islam for political purposes. They have become popular in many Arab countries and among Muslims in Europe because of the deep alienation that exists in these communities. Radical Islamism is thus not the reassertion of some traditional Islamic cultural practice, but should be seen in the context of modern identity politics. It emerges precisely when traditional cultural identities are disrupted by modernisation and a pluralistic democratic order that creates a disjuncture between one's inner self and external social practice.