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 4

The American model of globalization has been in the making since the end of the 18th century, when most countries in the Muslim world were struggling against European encroachments. One of the major foundations of American globalization is American English and its gradual constitution in a way that became different from British English. Webster termed this the two streams of English. English became the language of a new people, expressing their engagement with the new world, expressing a high capitalist culture in the making and inculcating in its structure high literary and scientific values. No one was talking about the stagnation of English in the 19th century. Most linguists and grammarians were speaking of a lively and dynamic English.

English matured to become the language of science and civilization. It has become the lingua franca of the world. However, in the 20th century, that came at a price. During the height of the Vietnam Era, most professors of English protested against the war. That is to say that the masters of English refused for their language to be deployed in a military engagement against the Vietnamese people. The situation has changed dramatically since the 1970s.

This leads us to speak about Arabic. Arabic is the language of the Qur'an and although one may argue that at one time it was the lingua franca of the world, Arabic has lost this status a long time ago. The Arab and Muslim world has not been able to reconstitute Arabic as a major global and hegemonic language in the same way as English has been constituted in the modern era.


Besides the issue of language, the second major question is the relationship between the Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism. The formation of a liberal, aggressive Protestant and capitalist culture in the west had a global agenda. Simply, this culture dismissed any tension between the spirit of capitalism and that of religion, and it did not find any problem with the question of secularism. Secularism was embraced by religion. In the Muslim world, the situation is different.

Other factors must be mentioned: Globalization out of economic strength. WWII and the Marshall Plan. The reconstruction of Europe. And the beginning of the Cold war era. One major facet of globalization is the privatization of education.

Also, the creation of a nation-state against the backdrop of imperialism. The nation-state sought political, economic, and intellectual emancipation from the Center. Two movements vied for emancipation: nationalism and Islamism.

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