However, the Saudi family created modernization without any indigenous form of modernism, without an Islamic version of modernism. Its version was copied from the Western version. In addition the religious classes in society began to be wary of the short and long-term impact on religious values. Bin Laden was the product of this huge tension between Saudi modernization and Islamic values, between Saudi modernization that was imposed by the power of the tribe and Islamic values. Although he was a force in this modernization, he realized early on that it would lead to the destabilization of Islamic Saudi society, and hence his revolt against this historical alliance between the forces of capitalist modernization and the Saudi monarchy that refused to give away its financial and political positions. Bin Laden is an important phenomenon in contemporary Muslim societies; he exemplifies a charismatic generation that is the product of a tense encounter between tradition and modernity.

The Taliban is a post-colonial movement, as well. However, the Taliban movement arose in a highly traditional society that did not have a chance to modernize. The Taliban was born in a big vacuum, against the background of the disintegration of Afghani society after the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and the American, Saudi, and Pakistani intervention in support of the Mujahiddin against the Soviets. Afghanistan was the last battleground in the Cold War era, in which the USA defeated its historical enemy, the Soviet Union. After that defeat was achieved, Afghanistan was left alone to tend to its profuse wounds. The beautiful people of Afghanistan had suffered a great deal in the 20th century, and after the defeat of the Soviet Union, the superpowers forgot about Afghanistan, which disappeared from our globalized mass media.

Ten years ago, only a few people heard of the Taliban. But as a movement, it arose, not just out of the ranks of traditional Islamic madrasas, but in response to the violence of the state represented by the Afghani state that was the ally of the Soviet Union. The Taliban stress in their historical narrative of their origin that there main aims were: to stop violence and chaos in the country, to stop any form of foreign intervention, and to restore the dignity to the common people, to the masses, refugees, and women. Ordinary people began to raise their voices. Those who were victims of atrocities committed by the warlords turned their attention to those who first issued the Fatwa (religious order) of Jihad, i.e., the religious scholars, and those who led them in the prosecution of this order, i.e., the Taliban. The people asked: " Why do our religious scholars and students, who preach justice and peace, not do something to save us from injustice and war?" The Taliban, who were students of religion and who thought that learning the religious text was more sacred than martyrdom, took upon themselves to restore order to the shattered Afghani society.

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.

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus