|not in my hood
Everyone should read this article! This despite my usual boycott of promoting the Times. Here's the lowest graphics version of the text. This should be required reading in America.
Oh yeah, fmhreader will work as both name and password at the Times if you have to sign in (thanks to Follow Me Here.)
Well, I already gave my impression of Berman, but I'm curious why you like this article so much. It's interesting as a history of Islamofascist "intellectual roots" but it doesn't convince me this particular, deceased thinker (Qutb) has the potential to weld all Moslems into the Nazi-like power Berman seems so afraid of. I just think Berman's helping the Right find its new cold war threat to justify constant military expenditure.
I don't know enough to be convinced of anything one way or another. I'm just starving for any sort of depth about the "enemy". I think it's laughable that we are at "war" with a group most American's know absolutely nothing about! Berman may not be correct, but at least he's at the right depth.
I'm guilty of not knowing much about Islam myself. But I feel that the "spiritual centeredness" Berman praises is skewed by its unfair treatment of women, simplistic punishments for crimes, and failure to separate church and state. We should know more about Muslims as trading partners and fellow inhabitants of the globe, yes. Unfortunately Bush & Co have made it necessary for us to understand them as enemies.
But I think Berman is preachy. I don't personally feel that I or my friends or the way we do things are "out of balance," at least not in a way that can't be fixed (through increased consciousness of our place in the ecosystem etc). Maybe Berman should become a rabbi. Anyway, I'm just struck by the contradiction between his pleas to understand the Moslem world and calls to go in and "fix" it militarily.
this is a good look at islamic ideologies and peoples. Naipaul traveled through Iran, Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia after the Shah was overthrown.
Whatever Berman's faults, don't shoot the messenger. Qutb's writings lay out the groundwork for waging violent struggle against secular society. For him, the tolerance advocated in the Quran can only come after the political victory of the faithful and the establishment of the Muslim state. He was obsessed with purity (both spiritual and physical) and with the decadence not just of the West but also of Pan-Arab Nationalists like Nasser. That he was tortured and executed in Egyptian prisons doesn't (or shouldn't) make one sentimentalize or marginalize him.
Still, Berman's message, much as he tries to avoid stating it clearly, is "Invade Iraq." I can't get behind it, and I think "Islamofascism," however scary, is a neoconservative canard. That rift between pan-Arabs and Islamists is huge, and ought to keep them fighting among themselves for years, without our direct involvement. I'll be posting more later on why I think liberal hawks are so creepy.
I'll even go so far as to say that our meddling in the Middle East, which Berman craves, is doing more to unite the two factions than the slow assimilation of al-Qutb's teachings.
Agreed. Facts on the ground like Iraqi Freedom will usually trump ideas. But there is a real question as to how Islam will accomodate, compromise or reconcile with the secular world. On what terms? For that discussion, Al-Qutb was in some ways closer to Nihilists like Nechayev than to "fascist" intellectuals.
I don't know Nechayev, but I'll google him (OK, now I'm an expert). I can't resist a joke here. One of my favorite lines from The Big Lebowski was John Goodman's: "Nihilists! Fuck me. I mean, say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it's an ethos."
I disagree with Big Jimmy that there is no "third way" between Islamic fundamentalism and military elites. Turkey, Iran, and to a much lesser extent Pakistan all have democratic elements in their systems. These are big countries. Young Iranians have made great strides to scale back the influence of the mullahs, and Ataturk, back in the day, was smart enough to follow the US model and keep religion the hell out of goverment. The gains made are fragile, though, and are not served by US attempts to remake the region through military force. As I've said, we're uniting not just pan-Arabists and Islamists but ancient tribal rivalries that would otherwise keep the region in chaos.
Ellen Willis reviews Berman's book in Salon today, and also says he's wrongheaded to support Bush's war--she calls him "naive." Berman treats Bush as a mere instrument to bring Enlightenment to spiritual-but-ignorant Arabs, but Willis reminds us that Bush has a fundamentalist agenda of his own. Berman is doing Bush's intellectual spadework: in his research and exegesis on Qutb, he's trying to forge a link between Iraq and al-Qaeda that Bush has so far been unable to prove. Berman says the antiwar movement is making fascism abroad possible, but by giving Bush philosophical legitimacy, I'd say he's abetting its spread here at home.
Tom, thanks for your notes on Berman. This feels like it's getting into the heart of the matter now. Very good post above.
Yes. The possibility of a "third way" (or multiple ways) for Islam cope with modernization is a real philosophical and political issue and al-Qutb isn't the answer. Iran and Turkey (and don't forget Indonesia) face this issue today, domestically and in foreign policy. Maybe the discussion deserves its own thread...
The New York Times magazine has featured Berman twice, as some kind of important theorist of the left. If he thinks the antiwar movement is a bunch of appeasers, that's interesting. I've excerpted a big chunk of his Salon Premium interview here (in which he completely mischaracterizes Chomsky, BTW). Here are a couple of lines I have problems with:
There really is a long history of excellent people with the best of hearts and the best of intentions ending up inadvertently collaborating with the worst of totalitarians.