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TheRootsofMuslimRage

ByBernardLewis
September26,1990
InoneofhislettersThomasJeffersonremarkedthatinmattersofreligion"themaximofcivil
government"shouldbereversedandweshouldrathersay,"Dividedwestand,united,we
fall."InthisremarkJeffersonwassettingforthwithclassictersenessanideathathascometo
beregardedasessentiallyAmerican:theseparationofChurchandState.Thisideawasnot
entirelynew;ithadsomeprecedentsinthewritingsofSpinoza,Locke,andthephilosophers
oftheEuropeanEnlightenment.ItwasintheUnitedStates,however,thattheprinciplewas
firstgiventheforceoflawandgradually,inthecourseoftwocenturies,becameareality.
Iftheideathatreligionandpoliticsshouldbeseparatedisrelativelynew,datingbackamere
threehundredyears,theideathattheyaredistinctdatesbackalmosttothebeginningsof
Christianity.ChristiansareenjoinedintheirScripturesto"render...untoCaesarthethings
whichareCaesar'sanduntoGodthethingswhichareGod's."Whileopinionshavedifferedas
totherealmeaningofthisphrase,ithasgenerallybeeninterpretedaslegitimizingasituation
inwhichtwoinstitutionsexistsidebyside,eachwithitsownlawsandchainofauthority
oneconcernedwithreligion,calledtheChurch,theotherconcernedwithpolitics,calledthe
State.Andsincetheyaretwo,theymaybejoinedorseparated,subordinateorindependent,
andconflictsmayarisebetweenthemoverquestionsofdemarcationandjurisdiction.
Thisformulationoftheproblemsposedbytherelationsbetweenreligionandpolitics,andthe
possible solutions to those problems, arise from Christian, not universal, principles and
experience.Thereareotherreligioustraditionsinwhichreligionandpoliticsaredifferently
perceived, and in which, therefore, the problems and the possible solutions are radically
differentfromthoseweknowintheWest.Mostofthesetraditions,despitetheiroftenvery
high level of sophistication and achievement, remained or became locallimited to one
regionoronecultureoronepeople.Thereisone,however,thatinitsworldwidedistribution,
itscontinuingvitality,itsuniversalistaspirations,canbecomparedtoChristianity,andthatis
Islam.
Islamisoneoftheworld'sgreatreligions.LetmebeexplicitaboutwhatI,asahistorianof
IslamwhoisnotaMuslim,meanbythat.Islamhasbroughtcomfortandpeaceofmindto
countless millions of men and women. It has given dignity and meaning to drab and
impoverishedlives.Ithastaughtpeopleofdifferentracestoliveinbrotherhoodandpeople
ofdifferentcreedstolivesidebysideinreasonabletolerance.Itinspiredagreatcivilization
inwhichothersbesidesMuslimslivedcreativeandusefullivesandwhich,byitsachievement,
enriched the whole world. But Islam, like other religions, has also known periods when it
inspiredinsomeofitsfollowersamoodofhatredandviolence.Itisourmisfortunethatpart,
thoughbynomeansallorevenmost,oftheMuslimworldisnowgoingthroughsuchaperiod,
andthatmuch,thoughagainnotall,ofthathatredisdirectedagainstus.
We should not exaggerate the dimensions of the problem. The Muslim world is far from
unanimousinitsrejectionoftheWest,norhavetheMuslimregionsoftheThirdWorldbeen
the most passionate and the most extreme in their hostility. There are still significant

numbers,insomequartersperhapsamajority,ofMuslimswithwhomwesharecertainbasic
cultural and moral, social and political, beliefs and aspirations; there is still an imposing
Western presencecultural, economic, diplomaticin Muslim lands, some of which are
Westernallies.CertainlynowhereintheMuslimworld,intheMiddleEastorelsewhere,has
American policy suffered disasters or encountered problems comparable to those in
SoutheastAsiaorCentralAmerica.ThereisnoCuba,noVietnam,intheMuslimworld,and
noplacewhereAmericanforcesareinvolvedascombatantsorevenas"advisers."Butthere
isaLibya,anIran,andaLebanon,andasurgeofhatredthatdistresses,alarms,andaboveall
bafflesAmericans.
Attimesthishatredgoesbeyondhostilitytospecificinterestsoractionsorpoliciesoreven
countriesandbecomesarejectionofWesterncivilizationassuch,notonlywhatitdoesbut
whatitis,andtheprinciplesandvaluesthatitpracticesandprofesses.Theseareindeedseen
asinnatelyevil,andthosewhopromoteoracceptthemasthe"enemiesofGod."
Thisphrase,whichrecurssofrequentlyinthelanguageoftheIranianleadership,inboththeir
judicial proceedings and their political pronouncements, must seem very strange to the
modern outsider, whetherreligious or secular. The ideathatGodhasenemies,andneeds
humanhelpinordertoidentifyanddisposeofthem,isalittledifficulttoassimilate.Itisnot,
however, all that alien. The concept of the enemies of God is familiar in preclassical and
classical antiquity, and in both the Old and New Testaments, as well as in the Koran. A
particularlyrelevantversionoftheideaoccursinthedualistreligionsofancientIran,whose
cosmogony assumed not one but two supreme powers. The Zoroastrian devil, unlike the
ChristianorMuslimorJewishdevil,isnotoneofGod'screaturesperformingsomeofGod's
moremysterioustasksbutanindependentpower,asupremeforceofevilengagedinacosmic
struggleagainstGod.ThisbeliefinfluencedanumberofChristian,Muslim,andJewishsects,
throughManichaeismandotherroutes.ThealmostforgottenreligionoftheManicheeshas
givenitsnametotheperceptionofproblemsasastarkandsimpleconflictbetweenmatching
forcesofpuregoodandpureevil.
TheKoranisofcoursestrictlymonotheistic,andrecognizesoneGod,oneuniversalpower
only. There is a struggle in human hearts between good and evil, between God's
commandments and the tempter, but this is seen as a struggle ordained by God, with its
outcomepreordainedbyGod,servingasatestofmankind,andnot,asinsomeoftheold
dualistreligions,astruggleinwhichmankindhasacrucialparttoplayinbringingaboutthe
victoryofgoodoverevil.Despitethismonotheism,Islam,likeJudaismandChristianity,was
atvariousstagesinfluenced,especiallyinIran,bythedualistideaofacosmicclashofgood
andevil,lightanddarkness,orderandchaos,truthandfalsehood,GodandtheAdversary,
variouslyknownasdevil,Iblis,Satan,andbyothernames.
TheRiseoftheHouseofUnbelief
In Islam the struggle of good and evil very soon acquired political and even military
dimensions.Muhammad,itwillberecalled,wasnotonlyaprophetandateacher,likethe
foundersofotherreligions;hewasalsotheheadofapolityandofacommunity,arulerand
asoldier.Hencehisstruggleinvolvedastateanditsarmedforces.Ifthefightersinthewar
for Islam, the holy war "in the path of God," are fighting for God, it follows that their
opponentsarefightingagainstGod.AndsinceGodisinprinciplethesovereign,thesupreme

head of the Islamic stateand the Prophet and, after the Prophet, the caliphs are his
vicegerentsthenGodassovereigncommandsthearmy.ThearmyisGod'sarmyandthe
enemyisGod'senemy.ThedutyofGod'ssoldiersistodispatchGod'senemiesasquicklyas
possibletotheplacewhereGodwillchastisethemthatistosay,theafterlife.
ClearlyrelatedtothisisthebasicdivisionofmankindasperceivedinIslam.Most,probably
all,humansocietieshaveawayofdistinguishingbetweenthemselvesandothers:insiderand
outsider,ingroupandoutgroup,kinsmanorneighborandforeigner.Thesedefinitionsnot
onlydefinetheoutsiderbutalso,andperhapsmoreparticularly,helptodefineandillustrate
ourperceptionofourselves.
IntheclassicalIslamicview,towhichmanyMuslimsarebeginningtoreturn,theworldandall
mankindaredividedintotwo:theHouseofIslam,wheretheMuslimlawandfaithprevail,
andtherest,knownastheHouseofUnbeliefortheHouseofWar,whichitisthedutyof
MuslimsultimatelytobringtoIslam.ButthegreaterpartoftheworldisstilloutsideIslam,
andeveninsidetheIslamiclands,accordingtotheviewoftheMuslimradicals,thefaithof
IslamhasbeenunderminedandthelawofIslamhasbeenabrogated.Theobligationofholy
warthereforebeginsathomeandcontinuesabroad,againstthesameinfidelenemy.
Likeeveryothercivilizationknowntohumanhistory,theMuslimworldinitsheydaysawitself
asthecenteroftruthandenlightenment,surroundedbyinfidelbarbarianswhomitwouldin
duecourseenlightenandcivilize.Butbetweenthedifferentgroupsofbarbarianstherewasa
crucialdifference.Thebarbarianstotheeastandthesouthwerepolytheistsandidolaters,
offeringnoseriousthreatandnocompetitionatalltoIslam.Inthenorthandwest,incontrast,
Muslims from an early date recognized a genuine rivala competing world religion, a
distinctivecivilizationinspiredbythatreligion,andanempirethat,thoughmuchsmallerthan
theirs,wasnolessambitiousinitsclaimsandaspirations.Thiswastheentityknowntoitself
andothersasChristendom,atermthatwaslongalmostidenticalwithEurope.
Thestrugglebetweentheserivalsystemshasnowlastedforsomefourteencenturies.Itbegan
withtheadventofIslam,intheseventhcentury,andhascontinuedvirtuallytothepresent
day. It has consisted of a long series of attacks and counterattacks, jihads and crusades,
conquestsandreconquests.ForthefirstthousandyearsIslamwasadvancing,Christendom
inretreatandunderthreat.ThenewfaithconqueredtheoldChristianlandsoftheLevantand
NorthAfrica,andinvadedEurope,rulingforawhileinSicily,Spain,Portugal,andevenparts
ofFrance.TheattemptbytheCrusaderstorecoverthelostlandsofChristendomintheeast
was held and thrown back, and even the Muslims' loss of southwestern Europe to the
ReconquistawasamplycompensatedbytheIslamicadvanceintosoutheasternEurope,which
twice reached as far as Vienna. For the past three hundred years, since the failure of the
secondTurkishsiegeofViennain1683andtheriseoftheEuropeancolonialempiresinAsia
andAfrica,Islamhasbeenonthedefensive,andtheChristianandpostChristiancivilization
ofEuropeandherdaughtershasbroughtthewholeworld,includingIslam,withinitsorbit.
For a long time now there has been a rising tide of rebellion against this Western
paramountcy, and a desire to reassert Muslim values and restore Muslim greatness. The
Muslimhassufferedsuccessivestagesofdefeat.Thefirstwashislossofdominationinthe
world,totheadvancingpowerofRussiaandtheWest.Thesecondwastheunderminingof
hisauthorityinhisowncountry,throughaninvasionofforeignideasandlawsandwaysof

lifeandsometimesevenforeignrulersorsettlers,andtheenfranchisement ofnativenon
Muslim elements. The thirdthe last strawwas the challenge to his mastery in his own
house,fromemancipatedwomenandrebelliouschildren.Itwastoomuchtoendure,andthe
outbreakofrageagainstthesealien,infidel,andincomprehensibleforcesthathadsubverted
his dominance, disrupted his society, and finally violated the sanctuary of his home was
inevitable.Itwasalsonaturalthatthisrageshouldbedirectedprimarilyagainstthemillennial
enemyandshoulddrawitsstrengthfromancientbeliefsandloyalties.
Europeandherdaughters?ThephrasemayseemoddtoAmericans,whosenationalmyths,
since the beginning of their nationhood and even earlier, have usually defined their very
identity in opposition to Europe, as something new and radically different from the old
Europeanways.Thisisnot,however,thewaythatothershaveseenit;notofteninEurope,
andhardlyeverelsewhere.
Thoughpeopleofotherracesandculturesparticipated,forthemostpartinvoluntarily,inthe
discoveryandcreationoftheAmericas,thiswas,andintheeyesoftherestoftheworldlong
remained,aEuropeanenterprise,inwhichEuropeanspredominatedanddominatedandto
whichEuropeansgavetheirlanguages,theirreligions,andmuchoftheirwayoflife.
ForaverylongtimevoluntaryimmigrationtoAmericawasalmostexclusivelyEuropean.There
wereindeedsomewhocamefromtheMuslimlandsintheMiddleEastandNorthAfrica,but
fewwereMuslims;mostweremembersoftheChristianandtoalesserextenttheJewish
minoritiesinthosecountries.TheirdepartureforAmerica,andtheirsubsequentpresencein
America,musthavestrengthenedratherthanlessenedthe Europeanimage ofAmerica in
Muslimeyes.
In the lands of Islam remarkably little was known about America. At first the voyages of
discoveryarousedsomeinterest;theonlysurvivingcopyofColumbus'sownmapofAmerica
is a Turkish translation and adaptation, still preserved in the Topkapi Palace Museum, in
Istanbul.AsixteenthcenturyTurkishgeographer'saccountofthediscoveryoftheNewWorld,
titledTheHistoryofWesternIndia,wasoneofthefirstbooksprintedinTurkey.Butthereafter
interestseemstohavewaned,andnotmuchissaidaboutAmericainTurkish,Arabic,orother
Muslimlanguagesuntilarelativelylatedate.AMoroccanambassadorwhowasinSpainat
thetimewrotewhatmustsurelybethefirstArabicaccountoftheAmericanRevolution.The
SultanofMoroccosignedatreatyofpeaceandfriendshipwiththeUnitedStatesin1787,and
thereafter the new republic had a number of dealings, some friendly, some hostile, most
commercial,withotherMuslimstates.Theseseemtohavehadlittleimpactoneitherside.
The American Revolution and the American republic to which it gave birth long remained
unnoticedandunknown.EventhesmallbutgrowingAmericanpresenceinMuslimlandsin
thenineteenthcenturymerchants,consuls,missionaries,andteachersarousedlittleorno
curiosity,andisalmostunmentionedintheMuslimliteratureandnewspapersofthetime.
TheSecondWorldWar,theoilindustry,andpostwardevelopmentsbroughtmanyAmericans
totheIslamiclands;increasingnumbersofMuslimsalsocametoAmerica,firstasstudents,
thenasteachersorbusinessmenorothervisitors,andeventuallyasimmigrants.Cinemaand
latertelevisionbroughttheAmericanwayoflife,oratanyrateacertainversionofit,before
countlessmillionstowhomtheverynameofAmericahadpreviouslybeenmeaninglessor
unknown.AwiderangeofAmericanproducts,particularlyintheimmediatepostwaryears,

whenEuropeancompetitionwasvirtuallyeliminatedandJapanesecompetitionhadnotyet
arisen,reachedintotheremotestmarketsoftheMuslimworld,winningnewcustomersand,
perhapsmoreimportant,creatingnewtastesandambitions.Forsome,Americarepresented
freedomandjusticeandopportunity.Formanymore,itrepresentedwealthandpowerand
success,atatimewhenthesequalitieswerenotregardedassinsorcrimes.
Andthencamethegreatchange,whentheleadersofawidespreadandwideningreligious
revivalsoughtoutandidentifiedtheirenemiesastheenemiesofGod,andgavethem"alocal
habitationandaname"intheWesternHemisphere.Suddenly,orsoitseemed,Americahad
becomethearchenemy,theincarnationofevil,thediabolicopponentofallthatisgood,and
specifically,forMuslims,ofIslam.Why?
SomeFamiliarAccusations
Among the components in the mood of antiWesternism, and more especially of anti
Americanism,werecertainintellectualinfluencescomingfromEurope.Oneofthesewasfrom
Germany,whereanegativeviewofAmericaformedpartofaschoolofthoughtbynomeans
limitedtotheNazisbutincludingwritersasdiverseasRainerMariaRilke,ErnstJunger,and
MartinHeidegger.Inthisperception,Americawastheultimateexampleofcivilizationwithout
culture:richandcomfortable,materiallyadvancedbutsoullessandartificial;assembledorat
bestconstructed,notgrown;mechanical,notorganic;technologicallycomplexbutlackingthe
spirituality and vitality of the rooted, human, national cultures of the Germans and other
"authentic" peoples. German philosophy, and particularly the philosophy of education,
enjoyedaconsiderablevogueamongArabandsomeotherMuslimintellectualsinthethirties
andearlyforties,andthisphilosophicantiAmericanismwaspartofthemessage.
AfterthecollapseoftheThirdReichandthetemporaryendingofGermaninfluence,another
philosophy,evenmoreantiAmerican,tookitsplacetheSovietversionofMarxism,witha
denunciation of Western capitalism and of America as its most advanced and dangerous
embodiment. And when Soviet influence began to fade, there was yet another to take its
place,oratleasttosupplementitsworkingthenewmystiqueofThirdWorldism,emanating
fromWesternEurope,particularlyFrance,andlateralsofromtheUnitedStates,anddrawing
attimesonboththeseearlierphilosophies.Thismystiquewashelpedbytheuniversalhuman
tendencytoinventagoldenageinthepast,andthespecificallyEuropeanpropensitytolocate
itelsewhere.AnewvariantoftheoldgoldenagemythplaceditintheThirdWorld,where
theinnocenceofthenonWesternAdamandEvewasruinedbytheWesternserpent.This
viewtookasaxiomaticthegoodnessandpurityoftheEastandthewickednessoftheWest,
expandinginanexponentialcurveofevilfromWesternEuropetotheUnitedStates.These
ideas,too,fellonfertileground,andwonwidespreadsupport.
Butthoughtheseimportedphilosophieshelpedtoprovideintellectualexpressionforanti
WesternismandantiAmericanism,theydidnotcauseit,andcertainlytheydonotexplainthe
widespread antiWesternism that made so many in the Middle East and elsewhere in the
Islamicworldreceptivetosuchideas.
ItmustsurelybeclearthatwhatwonsupportforsuchtotallydiversedoctrineswasnotNazi
racetheory,whichcanhavehadlittleappealforArabs,orSovietatheisticcommunism,which
canhavehadlittleappealforMuslims,butrathertheircommonantiWesternism.Nazismand

communismwerethemainforcesopposedtotheWest,bothasawayoflifeandasapower
intheworld,andassuchtheycouldcountonatleastthesympathyifnotthesupportofthose
whosawintheWesttheirprincipalenemy.
Butwhythehostilityinthefirstplace?Ifweturnfromthegeneraltothespecific,thereisno
lackofindividualpoliciesandactions,pursuedandtakenbyindividualWesterngovernments,
thathavearousedthepassionateangerofMiddleEasternandotherIslamicpeoples.Yetall
toooften,whenthesepoliciesareabandonedandtheproblemsresolved,thereisonlyalocal
and temporary alleviation. The French have left Algeria, the British have left Egypt, the
Westernoilcompanieshavelefttheiroilwells,thewesternizingShahhasleftIranyetthe
generalizedresentmentofthefundamentalistsandotherextremistsagainsttheWestandits
friendsremainsandgrowsandisnotappeased.
The cause most frequently adduced for antiAmerican feeling among Muslims today is
AmericansupportforIsrael.Thissupportiscertainlyafactorofimportance,increasingwith
nearnessandinvolvement.Buthereagaintherearesomeoddities,difficulttoexplaininterms
ofasingle,simplecause.IntheearlydaysofthefoundationofIsrael,whiletheUnitedStates
maintainedacertaindistance,theSovietUniongrantedimmediatedejurerecognitionand
support,andarmssentfromaSovietsatellite,Czechoslovakia,savedtheinfantstateofIsrael
fromdefeatanddeathinitsfirstweeksoflife.Yetthereseemstohavebeennogreatillwill
toward the Soviets for these policies, and no corresponding good will toward the United
States.In1956itwastheUnitedStatesthatintervened,forcefullyanddecisively,tosecure
the withdrawal of Israeli, British, and French forces from Egyptyet in the late fifties and
sixtiesitwastotheSoviets,notAmerica,thattherulersofEgypt,Syria,Iraq,andotherstates
turnedforarms;itwaswiththeSovietblocthattheyformedbondsofsolidarityattheUnited
Nationsandintheworldgenerally.Morerecently,therulersoftheIslamicRepublicofIran
haveofferedthemostprincipledanduncompromisingdenunciationofIsraelandZionism.Yet
eventheseleaders,beforeaswellasafterthedeathofAyatollahRuhollahKhomeini,when
theydecidedforreasonsoftheirowntoenterintoadialogueofsorts,founditeasiertotalk
toJerusalemthantoWashington.Atthesametime,WesternhostagesinLebanon,manyof
themdevotedtoArabcausesandsomeofthemconvertstoIslam,areseenandtreatedby
theircaptorsaslimbsoftheGreatSatan.
Another explanation, more often heard from Muslim dissidents, attributes antiAmerican
feelingtoAmericansupportforhatedregimes,seenasreactionarybyradicals,asimpiousby
conservatives,ascorruptandtyrannicalbyboth.Thisaccusationhassomeplausibility,and
could help to explain why an essentially innerdirected, often antinationalist movement
shouldturnagainstaforeignpower.Butitdoesnotsuffice,especiallysincesupportforsuch
regimeshasbeenlimitedbothinextentandastheShahdiscoveredineffectiveness.
Clearly,somethingdeeperisinvolvedthanthesespecificgrievances,numerousandimportant
astheymaybesomethingdeeperthatturnseverydisagreementintoaproblemandmakes
everyprobleminsoluble.
ThisrevulsionagainstAmerica,moregenerallyagainsttheWest,isbynomeanslimitedtothe
Muslimworld;norhaveMuslims,withtheexceptionoftheIranianmullahsandtheirdisciples
elsewhere,experiencedandexhibitedthemorevirulentformsofthisfeeling.Themoodof
disillusionmentandhostilityhasaffectedmanyotherpartsoftheworld,andhasevenreached

someelementsintheUnitedStates.Itisfromtheselast,speakingforthemselvesandclaiming
to speak for the oppressed peoples of the Third World, that the most widely publicized
explanationsandjustificationsofthisrejectionofWesterncivilizationanditsvalueshave
oflatebeenheard.
Theaccusationsarefamiliar.WeoftheWestareaccusedofsexism,racism,andimperialism,
institutionalizedinpatriarchyandslavery,tyrannyandexploitation.Tothesecharges,andto
others as heinous, we have no option but to plead guiltynot as Americans, nor yet as
Westerners,butsimplyashumanbeings,asmembersofthehumanrace.Innoneofthese
sinsarewetheonlysinners,andinsomeofthemweareveryfarfrombeingtheworst.The
treatmentofwomenintheWesternworld,andmoregenerallyinChristendom,hasalways
beenunequalandoftenoppressive,butevenatitsworstitwasratherbetterthantheruleof
polygamyandconcubinagethathasotherwisebeenthealmostuniversallotofwomankind
onthisplanet.
Is racism, then, the main grievance? Certainly the word figures prominently in publicity
addressed to Western, Eastern European, and some Third World audiences. It figures less
prominently in what is written and published for home consumption, and has become a
generalized and meaningless term of abuserather like "fascism," which is nowadays
imputedtoopponentsevenbyspokesmenforoneparty,nationalistdictatorshipsofvarious
complexionsandshirtcolors.
Slavery is today universally denounced as an offense against humanity, but within living
memoryithasbeenpracticedandevendefendedasanecessaryinstitution,establishedand
regulatedbydivinelaw.Thepeculiarityofthepeculiarinstitution,asAmericansoncecalled
it,laynotinitsexistencebutinitsabolition.Westernerswerethefirsttobreaktheconsensus
of acceptance and to outlaw slavery, first at home, then in the other territories they
controlled,andfinallywhereverintheworldtheywereabletoexercisepowerorinfluence
inaword,bymeansofimperialism.
Isimperialism,then,thegrievance?SomeWesternpowers,andinasenseWesterncivilization
asawhole,havecertainlybeenguiltyofimperialism,butarewereallytobelievethatinthe
expansionofWesternEuropetherewasaqualityofmoraldelinquencylackinginsuchearlier,
relativelyinnocentexpansionsasthoseoftheArabsortheMongolsortheOttomans,orin
morerecentexpansionssuchasthatwhichbroughttherulersofMuscovytotheBaltic,the
BlackSea,theCaspian,theHinduKush,andthePacificOcean?Inhavingpracticedsexism,
racism, and imperialism, the West was merely following the common practice of mankind
throughthemillenniaofrecordedhistory.Whereitisdistinctfromallothercivilizationsisin
havingrecognized,named,andtried,notentirelywithoutsuccess,toremedythesehistoric
diseases.Andthatissurelyamatterforcongratulation,notcondemnation.Wedonothold
Western medical science in general, or Dr. Parkinson and Dr. Alzheimer in particular,
responsibleforthediseasestheydiagnosedandtowhichtheygavetheirnames.
Ofalltheseoffensestheonethatismostwidely,frequently,andvehementlydenouncedis
undoubtedlyimperialismsometimesjustWestern,sometimesEastern(thatis,Soviet)and
Westernalike.ButthewaythistermisusedintheliteratureofIslamicfundamentalistsoften
suggeststhatitmaynotcarryquitethesamemeaningforthemasforitsWesterncritics.In
manyofthesewritingstheterm"imperialist"isgivenadistinctlyreligioussignificance,being

usedinassociation,andsometimesinterchangeably,with"missionary,"anddenotingaform
of attack that includes the Crusades as well as the modern colonial empires. One also
sometimesgetstheimpressionthattheoffenseofimperialismisnotasforWesterncritics
the domination by one people over another but rather the allocation of roles in this
relationship. What is truly evil and unacceptable is the domination of infidels over true
believers.Fortruebelieverstorulemisbelieversisproperandnatural,sincethisprovidesfor
themaintenanceoftheholylaw,andgivesthemisbelieversboththeopportunityandthe
incentive to embrace the true faith. But for misbelievers to rule over true believers is
blasphemousandunnatural,sinceitleadstothecorruptionofreligionandmoralityinsociety,
andtothefloutingoreventheabrogationofGod'slaw.Thismayhelpustounderstandthe
currenttroublesinsuchdiverseplacesasEthiopianEritrea,IndianKashmir,ChineseSinkiang,
and Yugoslav Kossovo, in all of which Muslim populations are ruled by nonMuslim
governments.ItmayalsoexplainwhyspokesmenforthenewMuslimminoritiesinWestern
EuropedemandforIslamadegreeoflegalprotectionwhichthosecountriesnolongergiveto
Christianity and have never given to Judaism. Nor, of course, did the governments of the
countriesoforiginoftheseMuslimspokesmeneveraccordsuchprotectiontoreligionsother
thantheirown.Intheirperception,thereisnocontradictionintheseattitudes.Thetruefaith,
basedonGod'sfinalrevelation,mustbeprotectedfrominsultandabuse;otherfaiths,being
eitherfalseorincomplete,havenorighttoanysuchprotection.
ThereareotherdifficultiesinthewayofacceptingimperialismasanexplanationofMuslim
hostility, even if we define imperialism narrowly and specifically, as the invasion and
domination of Muslim countries by nonMuslims. If the hostility is directed against
imperialisminthatsense,whyhasitbeensomuchstrongeragainstWesternEurope,which
hasrelinquishedallitsMuslimpossessionsanddependencies,thanagainstRussia,whichstill
rules,withnolighthand,overmanymillionsofreluctantMuslimsubjectsandoverancient
Muslimcitiesandcountries?AndwhyshoulditincludetheUnitedStates,which,apartfrom
abriefinterludeintheMuslimminorityareaofthePhilippines,hasneverruledanyMuslim
population? The last surviving European empire with Muslim subjects, that of the Soviet
Union,farfrombeingthetargetofcriticismandattack,hasbeenalmostexempt.Eventhe
mostrecentrepressionsofMuslimrevoltsinthesouthernandcentralAsianrepublicsofthe
USSRincurrednomorethanrelativelymildwordsofexpostulation,coupledwithadisclaimer
ofanydesiretointerfereinwhatarequaintlycalledthe"internalaffairs"oftheUSSRanda
requestforthepreservationoforderandtranquillityonthefrontier.
Onereasonforthissomewhatsurprisingrestraintistobefoundinthenatureofeventsin
SovietAzerbaijan.Islamisobviouslyanimportantandpotentiallyagrowingelementinthe
Azerbaijanisenseofidentity,butitisnotatpresentadominantelement,andtheAzerbaijani
movement has more in common with the liberal patriotism of Europe than with Islamic
fundamentalism.SuchamovementwouldnotarousethesympathyoftherulersoftheIslamic
Republic.Itmightevenalarmthem,sinceagenuinelydemocraticnationalstaterunbythe
people of Soviet Azerbaijan would exercise a powerful attraction on their kinsmen
immediatelytothesouth,inIranianAzerbaijan.
Another reason for this relative lack of concern for the 50 million or more Muslims under
Sovietrulemaybeacalculationofriskandadvantage.TheSovietUnionisnear,alongthe
northernfrontiersofTurkey,Iran,andAfghanistan;AmericaandevenWesternEuropearefar

away. More to the point, it has not hitherto been the practice of the Soviets to quell
disturbances with water cannon and rubber bullets, with TV cameras in attendance, or to
releasearrestedpersonsonbailandallowthemaccesstodomesticandforeignmedia.The
Sovietsdonotinterviewtheirharshestcriticsonprimetime,ortemptthemwithteaching,
lecturing,andwritingengagements.Onthecontrary,theirwaysofindicatingdispleasurewith
criticismcanoftenbequitedisagreeable.
Butfearofreprisals,thoughnodoubtimportant,isnottheonlyorperhapseventheprincipal
reasonfortherelativelyminorplaceassignedtotheSovietUnion,ascomparedwiththeWest,
inthedemonologyoffundamentalism.Afterall,thegreatsocialandintellectualandeconomic
changesthathavetransformedmostoftheIslamicworld,andgivenrisetosuchcommonly
denouncedWesternevilsasconsumerismandsecularism,emergedfromtheWest,notfrom
the Soviet Union. No one could accuse the Soviets of consumerism; their materialism is
philosophicto be precise, dialecticaland has little or nothing to do in practice with
providingthegoodthingsoflife.Suchprovisionrepresentsanotherkindofmaterialism,often
designatedbyitsopponentsascrass.ItisassociatedwiththecapitalistWestandnotwiththe
communistEast,whichhaspracticed,oratleastimposedonitssubjects,adegreeofausterity
thatwouldimpressaSufisaint.
NorweretheSoviets,untilveryrecently,vulnerabletochargesofsecularism,theothergreat
fundamentalistaccusationagainsttheWest.Thoughatheist,theywerenotgodless,andhad
in fact created an elaborate state apparatus to impose the worship of their godsan
apparatus with its own orthodoxy, a hierarchy to define and enforce it, and an armed
inquisitiontodetectandextirpateheresy.Theseparationofreligionfromthestatedoesnot
meantheestablishmentofirreligionbythestate,stilllesstheforcibleimpositionofananti
religiousphilosophy.Sovietsecularism,likeSovietconsumerism,holdsnotemptationforthe
Muslim masses, and is losing what appeal it had for Muslim intellectuals. More than ever
before it is Western capitalism and democracy that provide an authentic and attractive
alternativetotraditionalwaysofthoughtandlife.Fundamentalistleadersarenotmistakenin
seeinginWesterncivilizationthegreatestchallengetothewayoflifethattheywishtoretain
orrestorefortheirpeople.
AClashofCivilizations
TheoriginsofsecularisminthewestmaybefoundintwocircumstancesinearlyChristian
teachingsand,stillmore,experience,whichcreatedtwoinstitutions,ChurchandState;and
in later Christian conflicts, which drove the two apart. Muslims, too, had their religious
disagreements, but there was nothing remotely approaching the ferocity of the Christian
struggles between Protestants and Catholics, which devastated Christian Europe in the
sixteenthandseventeenthcenturiesandfinallydroveChristiansindesperationtoevolvea
doctrineoftheseparationofreligionfromthestate.Onlybydeprivingreligiousinstitutions
of coercive power, it seemed, could Christendom restrain the murderous intolerance and
persecution that Christians had visited on followers of other religions and, most of all, on
thosewhoprofessedotherformsoftheirown.
Muslims experienced no such need and evolved no such doctrine. There was no need for
secularisminIslam,andevenitspluralismwasverydifferentfromthatofthepaganRoman
Empire,sovividlydescribedbyEdwardGibbonwhenheremarkedthat"thevariousmodesof

worship,whichprevailedintheRomanworld,wereallconsideredbythepeople,asequally
true;bythephilosopher,asequallyfalse;andbythemagistrate,asequallyuseful."Islamwas
neverprepared,eitherintheoryorinpractice,toaccordfullequalitytothosewhoheldother
beliefsandpracticedotherformsofworship.Itdid,however,accordtotheholdersofpartial
truthadegreeofpracticalaswellastheoreticaltolerancerarelyparalleledintheChristian
worlduntiltheWestadoptedameasureofsecularisminthelateseventeenthandeighteenth
centuries.
AtfirsttheMuslimresponsetoWesterncivilizationwasoneofadmirationandemulation
an immense respect for the achievements of the West, and a desire to imitate and adopt
them.Thisdesirearosefromakeenandgrowingawarenessoftheweakness,poverty,and
backwardnessoftheIslamicworldascomparedwiththeadvancingWest.Thedisparityfirst
becameapparentonthebattlefieldbutsoonspreadtootherareasofhumanactivity.Muslim
writersobservedanddescribedthewealthandpoweroftheWest,itsscienceandtechnology,
itsmanufactures,anditsformsofgovernment.ForatimethesecretofWesternsuccesswas
seen to lie in two achievements: economic advancement and especially industry; political
institutionsandespeciallyfreedom.Severalgenerationsofreformersandmodernizerstried
to adapt these and introduce them to their own countries, in the hope that they would
therebybeabletoachieveequalitywiththeWestandperhapsrestoretheirlostsuperiority.
Inourowntimethismoodofadmirationandemulationhas,amongmanyMuslims,givenway
tooneofhostilityandrejection.Inpartthismoodissurelyduetoafeelingofhumiliationa
growing awareness, among the heirs of an old, proud, and long dominant civilization, of
havingbeenovertaken,overborne,andoverwhelmedbythosewhomtheyregardedastheir
inferiors.InpartthismoodisduetoeventsintheWesternworlditself.Onefactorofmajor
importancewascertainlytheimpactoftwogreatsuicidalwars,inwhichWesterncivilization
toreitselfapart,bringinguntolddestructiontoitsownandotherpeoples,andinwhichthe
belligerentsconductedanimmensepropagandaeffort,intheIslamicworldandelsewhere,
todiscreditandundermineeachother.Themessagetheybroughtfoundmanylisteners,who
wereallthemorereadytorespondinthattheirownexperienceofWesternwayswasnot
happy.TheintroductionofWesterncommercial,financial,andindustrialmethodsdidindeed
bringgreatwealth,butitaccruedtotransplantedWesternersandmembersofWesternized
minorities,andtoonlyafewamongthemainstreamMuslimpopulation.Intimethesefew
becamemorenumerous,buttheyremainedisolatedfromthemasses,differingfromthem
evenintheirdressandstyleoflife.Inevitablytheywereseenasagentsofandcollaborators
withwhatwasonceagainregardedasahostileworld.Eventhepoliticalinstitutionsthathad
comefromtheWestwerediscredited,beingjudgednotbytheirWesternoriginalsbutby
their local imitations, installed by enthusiastic Muslim reformers. These, operating in a
situationbeyondtheircontrol,usingimportedandinappropriatemethodsthattheydidnot
fullyunderstand,wereunabletocopewiththerapidlydevelopingcrisesandwereonebyone
overthrown. For vast numbers of Middle Easterners, Westernstyle economic methods
brought poverty, Westernstyle political institutions brought tyranny, even Westernstyle
warfarebroughtdefeat.Itishardlysurprisingthatsomanywerewillingtolistentovoices
tellingthemthattheoldIslamicwayswerebestandthattheironlysalvationwastothrow
aside the pagan innovations of the reformers and return to the True Path that God had
prescribedforhispeople.

Ultimately, the struggle of the fundamentalists is against two enemies, secularism and
modernism.Thewaragainstsecularismisconsciousandexplicit,andthereisbynowawhole
literature denouncing secularism as an evil neopagan force in the modern world and
attributing it variously to the Jews, the West, and the United States. The war against
modernityisforthemostpartneitherconsciousnorexplicit,andisdirectedagainstthewhole
processofchangethathastakenplaceintheIslamicworldinthepastcenturyormoreand
has transformed the political, economic, social, and even cultural structures of Muslim
countries.Islamicfundamentalismhasgivenanaimandaformtotheotherwiseaimlessand
formlessresentmentandangeroftheMuslimmassesattheforcesthathavedevaluedtheir
traditionalvaluesandloyaltiesand,inthefinalanalysis,robbedthemoftheirbeliefs,their
aspirations,theirdignity,andtoanincreasingextenteventheirlivelihood.
There is something in the religious culture of Islam which inspired, in even the humblest
peasant or peddler, a dignity and a courtesy toward others never exceeded and rarely
equalled in other civilizations. And yet, in moments of upheaval and disruption, when the
deeper passions are stirred, this dignity and courtesy toward others can give way to an
explosivemixtureofrageandhatredwhichimpelseventhegovernmentofanancientand
civilizedcountryeventhespokesmanofagreatspiritualandethicalreligiontoespouse
kidnappingandassassination,andtrytofind,inthelifeoftheirProphet,approvalandindeed
precedentforsuchactions.
The instinct ofthemassesisnotfalse in locatingtheultimatesourceofthesecataclysmic
changesintheWestandinattributingthedisruptionoftheiroldwayoflifetotheimpactof
Western domination, Western influence, or Western precept and example. And since the
United States is the legitimate heir of European civilization and the recognized and
unchallengedleaderoftheWest,theUnitedStateshasinheritedtheresultinggrievancesand
becomethefocusforthepentuphateandanger.Twoexamplesmaysuffice.InNovember
of 1979 an angry mob attacked and burned the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan. The
statedcauseofthecrowd'sangerwastheseizureoftheGreatMosqueinMeccabyagroup
of Muslim dissidentsan event in which there was no American involvement whatsoever.
Almosttenyearslater,inFebruaryof1989,againinIslamabad,theUSIScenterwasattacked
by angry crowds, this time to protest the publication of Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses.
Rushdie is a British citizen of Indian birth, and his book had been published five months
previouslyinEngland.Butwhatprovokedthemob'sanger,andalsotheAyatollahKhomeini's
subsequentpronouncementofadeathsentenceontheauthor,wasthepublicationofthe
bookintheUnitedStates.
Itshouldbynowbeclearthatwearefacingamoodandamovementfartranscendingthe
levelofissuesandpoliciesandthegovernmentsthatpursuethem.Thisisnolessthanaclash
ofcivilizationstheperhapsirrationalbutsurelyhistoricreactionofanancientrivalagainst
ourJudeoChristianheritage,oursecularpresent,andtheworldwideexpansionofboth.Itis
cruciallyimportantthatweonoursideshouldnotbeprovokedintoanequallyhistoricbut
alsoequallyirrationalreactionagainstthatrival.
NotalltheideasimportedfromtheWestbyWesternintrudersornativeWesternizershave
beenrejected.SomehavebeenacceptedbyeventhemostradicalIslamicfundamentalists,
usuallywithoutacknowledgmentofsource,andsufferingaseachangeintosomethingrarely

rich but often strange. One such was political freedom, with the associated notions and
practices of representation, election, and constitutional government. Even the Islamic
Republic of Iran has a written constitution and an elected assembly, as well as a kind of
episcopate,fornoneofwhichisthereanyprescriptioninIslamicteachingoranyprecedent
intheIslamicpast.AlltheseinstitutionsareclearlyadaptedfromWesternmodels.Muslim
stateshavealsoretainedmanyoftheculturalandsocialcustomsoftheWestandthesymbols
thatexpressthem,suchastheformandstyleofmale(andtoamuchlesserextentfemale)
clothing,notablyinthemilitary.TheuseofWesterninventedgunsandtanksandplanesisa
militarynecessity,butthecontinueduseoffittedtunicsandpeakedcapsisaculturalchoice.
From constitutions to CocaCola, from tanks and television to Tshirts, the symbols and
artifacts,andthroughthemtheideas,oftheWesthaveretainedevenstrengthenedtheir
appeal.
ThemovementnowadayscalledfundamentalismisnottheonlyIslamictradition.Thereare
others,moretolerant,moreopen,thathelpedtoinspirethegreatachievementsofIslamic
civilizationinthepast,andwemayhopethattheseothertraditionswillintimeprevail.But
beforethisissueisdecidedtherewillbeahardstruggle,inwhichweoftheWestcandolittle
ornothing.Eventheattemptmightdoharm,fortheseareissuesthatMuslimsmustdecide
amongthemselves.Andinthemeantimewemusttakegreatcareonallsidestoavoidthe
dangerofaneweraofreligiouswars,arisingfromtheexacerbationofdifferencesandthe
revivalofancientprejudices.
Tothisendwemuststrivetoachieveabetterappreciationofotherreligiousandpolitical
cultures,throughthestudyoftheirhistory,theirliterature,andtheirachievements.Atthe
sametime,wemayhopethattheywilltrytoachieveabetterunderstandingofours,and
especially that they will understand and respect, even if they do not choose to adopt for
themselves,ourWesternperceptionoftheproperrelationshipbetweenreligionandpolitics.
To describe this perception I shall end as I began, with a quotation from an American
President,thistimenotthejustlycelebratedThomasJeffersonbutthesomewhatunjustly
neglectedJohnTyler,who,inaletterdatedJuly10,1843,gaveeloquentandindeedprophetic
expressiontotheprincipleofreligiousfreedom:
TheUnitedStateshaveadventureduponagreatandnobleexperiment,whichisbelievedto
have been hazarded in the absence of all previous precedentthat of total separation of
ChurchandState.Noreligiousestablishmentbylawexistsamongus.Theconscienceisleft
freefromallrestraintandeachispermittedtoworshiphisMakerafterhisownjudgement.
The offices of the Government are open alike to all. No tithes are levied to support an
establishedHierarchy,noristhefalliblejudgementofmansetupasthesureandinfallible
creed of faith. The Mahommedan, if he will to come among us would have the privilege
guaranteedtohimbytheconstitutiontoworshipaccordingtotheKoran;andtheEastIndian
mighterectashrinetoBrahmaifitsopleasedhim.Suchisthespiritoftolerationinculcated
by our political Institutions.... The Hebrew persecuted and down trodden in other regions
takes up his abode among us with none to make him afraid.... and the Aegis of the
Governmentisoverhimtodefendandprotecthim.Suchisthegreatexperimentwhichwe
have tried, and such are the happy fruits which have resulted from it; our system of free
governmentwouldbeimperfectwithoutit.

Thebodymaybeoppressedandmanacledandyetsurvive;butifthemindofmanbefettered,
itsenergiesandfacultiesperish,andwhatremainsisoftheearth,earthly.Mindshouldbe
freeasthelightorastheair.