July 11, 2004

Western roots of Islamism (cont)

I noticed that Samizdata had a post on the subject over the weekend; the piece seems to be short on specifics; I suggested some potential lines of transmission below.

In this context, it's worth considering that ideas have histories, and are subject to historical forces as well. I proposed that perhaps Sayyid Qutb's Islamist ideology had been determined in part by what he was reacting to and competing with: the Arab Nationalist doctrine as espoused by Sati' al-Husri, which derived fairly directly from the likes of Fichte and Herder.

I vaguely recalled reading something in Nahiz Ayubi's Political Islam: Religion and Politics in the Arab World which seemed to bear this out. Here's the passage:

...it should not be forgotten that Sayyid Qutb was not outsider to the revolution. He had met Nasser before the coup, and pinned great hopes on his movement. Indeed he had cooperated directly with the revolution from the beginning and had an office at the headquarters of the Revolutionary Command Council, where he was in charge of restructuring school curricula for the new regime. He was also later appointed as secretary-general to the Liberation Rally which had been announced in 1953 as the regime's first experiment with the single political organization formula. Qutb also knew Kamal al-Din Husain, the Free Officer with Ikhwan (that is, Muslim Brotherhood--ideofact) sympathies who proposed him as a Minister of Education and who required the teaching of his nationalist hymns in government schools. Indeed, Qutb's support for the revolution was so strong that he sent an open letter to Muhammad Nagib asking the latter to establish a 'just dictatorship' in the land through the revolution...

Thus, when the Free Officers and the Muslim Brothers fell out with each other, Qutb's frustration at the mutual accusations of treason and despair over the regime's execution, torture and imprisonment (presumably not in that order -- ideofact) of the Ikhwan must have been shattering. The confrontation between the two forces developed not as a religious disagreement, for example over interpretations, but as a political struggle over power.

Ayubi says that Qutb, who soon was imprisoned himself (his health was such that he was in a hospital far more than a cell), grew disillusioned and embittered and ever more radical, adding that if the Nasserist state sanctified the political, Qutb's response was to politicize the divine.

Posted by Ideofact at July 11, 2004 11:54 PM