Tuesday, September 23, 2003


Another superb article in The Guardian by Karen Armstrong - a first-rank academic in the area of interreligious studies and theology, a former nun, and (as if that wasn't enough) one of the best commentators working in the journalistic medium. She will not let us off the hook:

"How do we account for the rise of this religious violence in the post-Enlightenment world? Ever since 9/11, President Bush has repeatedly condemned Islamist terror as an atavistic rejection of American freedom, while Tony Blair recently called it a virus, as though, like Aids, its origins are inexplicable. They are wrong, on both counts. The terrorists' methods are appalling, but they regard themselves as freedom fighters, and there is nothing mysterious about the source of these extremist groups: to a significant degree, they are the result of our own policies. [...]

"Ironically, we tend to become like our enemies. In describing his war against terror as a battle between good and evil, President Bush has unwittingly reproduced the rhetoric of Bin Laden, who subscribes to a form of Sunni fundamentalism that divides the world into two diametrically opposed camps in just the same way. The last thing the Israelis intended was to create "Palestinian Zionism", and yet in the early days Israel aided and abetted Hamas, which virulently opposed the secularist ideology of the PLO, in order to undermine Arafat. They should have learned from the tragic fate of Egypt's Anwar Sadat, who, at the beginning of his presidency, sought to create an independent power base by courting the Islamists who eventually killed him.

"The west has also cultivated its future enemies, by arming Bin Laden and other Arab mujahedin in Afghanistan during the cold war and by giving initial support to the Taliban. These exploitative policies reflect a thinly veiled contempt; the religious ideas of these groups were dismissed as beneath serious consideration. Yet to those who had studied these movements it was clear long before 9/11 that fundamentalists all over the world were expressing fears and anxieties that no government could safely ignore."
(From: 'Our Role In The Terror')

See also Karen's fine book, The Battle for God: a History of Fundamentalism.

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