Modernization of the Islamic World

The historical forces that produced Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, and a look at U.S. involvement in the Muslim world.

Continued from page 3

Out of that sense of deep suffering resulting from a long period of violence in contemporary Afghani history, the Taliban took a drastic step, which is not Islamic in my view, to order all women to stay at home, without having any chance to advance their learning or to pursue any type of work. According to the Taliban, "The Islamic State decided to pay the salaries of these women at their homes, so that they could stay home and take care of their families and children. The purpose of this policy is to help revive the Afghan family and household, as the foundation of the Afghan society, a foundation that was intentionally destroyed by the communist regime." Taliban is the only group in modern Afghanistan that has become successful in mobilizing violence to control violence in society and create a new social and political order that is based both on fear of God and the possibility of a fresh of outbreak of violence in Afghani society. They have been able to create `a primitive egalitarian society' that is suspicious not just of communism, capitalism and the West, but of the city and the urban Afghani intelligentsia that was, in their views, responsible for the borrowing of foreign ideas with which it destroyed the traditional bases of Afghani society.

A third post-colonial movement is the Egyptian Jihad that grew up in Egyptian prisoners in the 1960s.


Where does all of this lead us when we speak about the United States and the Muslim world in the 20th century? This is a very interesting question.

The American interest in the Muslim world goes back to the early part of the 19th century, especially through the efforts of the Protestant missionary movement from New England. Those missionaries saw it as a divine call to the Middle East and to missionize. However, they realized that the Orientals, especially Muslims and Jews, were a hard nut to crack, and from thence on the missionary movement concentrated its efforts on converting the indigenous Christians, such as the Armenians, Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Melchites, and Chaldenians. Another effort was building universities and colleges, such as the American University in Beirut and Cairo that led to the education of many a nationalist figure. The State Department depended on the Arabists who spent many years in the Middle East.

I have said that the American Protestant missionary movement in the Muslim world in the 19th century was the product of American globalization in that century. What is American globalization in the 19th century?

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