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Chapter 7 The Global Islamic Resistance Movement The global Islamic resistance movement has endured despite a multinational effort to eradicate it after 9/11. To some observers, militant Islam, or Islamism, is a retrograde phenomenon, a rearguard action against the inexorable march of modernity and globalization.1 To its supporters, however, it represents an effort to return humankind to the righteous guidance of Allah as expressed in the Koran. Islamists seek to revitalize the universalistic fervor of early Islam and repackage it as viable political ideology. Islamism offers a vanguard philosophy with a complete program to improve people and remake society. It is an Islamic attempt to come to terms with the challenge of modernity.2 Even with the death of its key figurehead— Osama bin Laden—militant Islam continues to inspire disaffected Muslims around the world. Background In the second half of the nineteenth century, the impact of Western ideas in the Middle East brought new definitions of identity there, and consequently new aspirations and allegiances. Western notions of freedom and political participation gained currency, first largely among Christians and other minorities, and later among the Muslim majority. At the same time, pan-Islamism emerged as a movement . An early proponent, Jamal al-Din al-Afghani (1839–1897), urged his co­ religionists to apply the European concept of nationhood to the Muslim world so that it could develop into a major global power.3 Afghani, along with his student Mohammed Abdu, led an intellectual movement to modernize Islam.Together they sought to create a moderate synthesis of Islam and modernity for the Muslim world. After World War I, a secularizing trend swept parts of the Middle East, exemplified by the Turkish leader Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who saw Islam as a hindrance to the modernization of Turkey. Blaming the religion for his nation’s defeat in World War I, he derided Islam as “the absurd theology of an immoral Bedouin.” To distance Turkey from the Arab world, he adopted the Latin alphabet, abolished the Koranic system of education, and declared religion to be a matter of individual concern only.4 Today Atatürk is considered the bête noire of Islamists, as the collapse of the Ottoman Empire is generally recognized as the genesis of the crisis 119 in the contemporary Muslim world. Secularization engendered a backlash against Westernization and modernization, and as a result, intensified the fledgling Islamist movement. The Muslim Brotherhood The collapse of the caliphate troubled much of the Islamic world. Many Muslims were aghast as they witnessed how Atatürk had transformed Turkey into a secular state, and feared that such a development might spread to their nations. With the fall of Turkey, Egypt assumed the fulcrum position in the Islamic world. The most enduring institution of Islamism—the Muslim Brotherhood (Al-Ikhwan Al-­ Muslimun)—was founded by Hassan al-Banna in Egypt in 1928, and the movement it spawned spread rapidly throughout the Islamic world.The Egyptian branch also served as a vehicle of national liberation by seeking to extricate Egypt from Western control and non-Islamic influences.5 Eventually al-Banna ran afoul of the regime, and he was assassinated in 1949 on the orders of King Farouk. However, Farouk’s days as the leader of Egypt were numbered. Arab nationalism proved to be a dynamic force the monarch could not squelch. When a coup by the army colonel Gamal Adbel Nasser and his Free Officers deposed Farouk in 1952, the Muslim Brotherhood initially supported Nasser and its relations with him were amicable. By 1956, Nasser had taken over full control of the state, and not long into his tenure some Islamic fundamentalists began to criticize his regime. Relations broke down irrevocably between the government and the Muslim Brotherhood in 1954 when a member, Mahmud Abd al-Latif, attempted to assassinate Nasser while he gave a speech in Alexandria. Soon thereafter , the regime fiercely repressed the Brotherhood, imprisoning many members and driving the movement underground. Yet rather than silencing the group, these measures only emboldened it. Chief among the Brotherhood’s critics of the regime was Sayid Qutb. Sayid Qutb and Milestones The ideological roots of al Qaeda can be traced to Egypt’s prisons of the 1960s and 1970s, where some of the most prominent Islamist thinkers were detained.6 The chief ideologist of Islamism, Sayid Qutb (1906–1966) inspired some of Islam’s most prominent leaders, including Osama bin Laden and Ayatollah Khomeini. Early in his career, Qutb gained prominence as...


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