May 16, 2015

Why we need to know Sayyid Qutb

There is no such thing as the End of History or the inevitable ascent of man and liberal democracy. Ideas are in sempiternal competition and anyone can win out and dominate, but there is no such thing as hegemonic finality. Triumph and Disaster are two impostors just the same. People make a particular fetish out of claiming their generation as particularly afflicted, and of their epoch of especially violent and unstable. W.B. Yeats wrote about "the growing murderousness of the world." Those words apply today; proving that history teaches us we learn nothing from history; and that madness and murderousness is inevitable and unavoidable. All we need to ensure is that good men do not do nothing.
That said, you get a lot of pathetic posts on social media that says the threat posed by islamism is unique in its potency; yet context demonstrates that this is patently false. You also get posts on social media that say the west made Islamic extremism, like here.

I'm open to the argument, something I've looked at in my post here, 'Blowback.' However it is not unanimous and singularly the genesis of the west. Islamism is it's own a priori ideology and worldview, not the reaction to George Bush. As Christopher Hitchens said:
"I’m very dubious about the root cause argument with terrorism… The cause of Islamist terrorism is the ideology of islamic terror, that’s what its root cause is."
The life of Sayyid Qutb is an illustration of this. Andrew Sullivan and Christopher Hitchens had a discussion about islamic extremism, and Andrew Sullivan said:
"There is a dynamic between modernity itself and the primordial resistance too it, right? I mean, some of what we’re talking about in terms of this religious fundamentalism and its political ambitions seems to have intensified in modernity. The hijackers were—it’s not as if bin Laden had no knowledge of the United States, it’s not as if Mohamed Atta was not aware of what this was like, it always like, the closer they get to it, the more they’re repelled, the more they have to force it out of their consciousness and destroy it."
And Christopher Hitchens responded using the example of Sayyid Qutb:
"This is famously true of Sayyid Qutb, one of the founders, who appears to have been, it’s actually very fascinating, originally drawn to the United States precisely by the magnetic elements that draw everybody to it. But when he got there he was appalled by its immorality, and its amorality as well, and its hedonism. And when you look up the events he attended and the scenes that he witnessed you find that it’s some university in the Midwest, I forget where it was: he was invited to a party where women mingled openly and I think perhaps smoked cigarettes and wore what he thought was provocative apparel.
When one goes back to check what that party was like… [Andrew laughs] it was a sort of mixer on some rather dull campus where I don’t believe anyone was showing any cleavage and there was no alcohol served, even! It was one of those, sort of fruit juice, “maybe we’ll be really daring and put a disc-sized record on a gramophone and maybe someone will dance if we, if one couple starts maybe we”—a pretty deadly evening. For him, profanity to the utmost extent."
Hitchens then explained what he was about and what it tells us:
"I mention it for two reasons: 1) anecdotally I think it’s very important, 2) it shows that there isn’t a way of being that one could adopt that would be less provocative. Many are saying “We are offending them, we’ve upset them, we disrespected them,” and so on. Well, exactly what would you have to do to not to incur their wrath? This man, Sayyid Qutb, was no mild critic of the United States; he came back having seen this profane campus mixer, that neither of us would’ve bothered to go to, determined to destroy the United States and as far as he could the whole concept of “Western civilization” as we know it, whatever cliché you like. It was no mild critique he was making of this Babylon. What I object to the most I think, at present, in our culture is the masochism of people who say, “Well if only we hadn’t upset them.” They have no idea of how strenuous a condition this is”."

 Hitchens also said:
"[Ronan Bennett] refers to the “Muslim dead from Iraq to Afghanistan” and conscripts them for what he imagines is his side. How dare he? Has he even begun to tot up the number of Muslims murdered by the Taliban? Or the total slaughtered in Iraq since al-Qaida began its campaign to level the Shi'a mosques? Does he think that the forces of the Northern Alliance, or the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, who fight on “our” side against barbarism, are somehow inauthentic Muslims because they prefer Bush and Blair to Mullah Omar or Abu Musab al-Zarqawi? Something in his tone makes me suspect that this may well be his problem, just as I might have preferred him to mention that it was also the Provisional IRA, and not just the 1974 Prevention of Terrorism Act, that left “the Irish community in Britain feeling like a suspect nation”."
Read my post here, 'Christopher Hitchens - "Islamic fundamentalism is not created by American democracy".'
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