February 10, 2005


I suppose it's nothing more than a coincidence, but the latest rant from Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda's number two (in more ways than one, I presume), hits many of the same themes of our friend Sayyid Qutb:

Liberty as construed by the Americans was based on "usurious banks, giant companies, misleading media outlets and the destruction of others for material gain," charged the voice in the recording aired by Arabic news channel Al-Jazeera.

Real freedom was "not the liberty of homosexual marriages and the abuse of women as a commodity to gain clients, win deals or attract tourists," said the voice.

I'll update this later tonight with the exact quotes, but in Qutb's understanding, the only possible reason a woman would be in the workplace would be to flash a little flesh to win business, showing as usual his contempt for both women (who could only have merits outside the family as sexpots) and men (who are only capable of valuing them as such). In his view, all capitalism ended in monopoly (whereas monopoly is the death of capitalism). The only new item is that gay marraige has been added to the mix.

Update: Here's a couple of quotes from Qutb, to give a sense of what I had in mind, from Social Justice in Islam:

And while today we watch the materialistic West preferring women to men in some professions, particularly in commerce, in embassies, in consulates, and in information services such as newspapers and the like, we must not forget the regrettable and unsavory significance of this advancement. It is a form of slavery and servitude in an atmosphere of the smoke of incense and opium. It is the exploitation of the sex instinct of customers by the merchants; and similarly the government appoints women to embassies and consulates, all newspaper editors send women to glean news and information. All of them are merely attempting to make use of women and they know what success women can have in these fields. They know, too, what she must give to achieve her success. And even if she gives nothing -- which is unlikely -- they know what hungry passions and eager eyes encompass her body and her words. But they take advantage of women's hunger for material gain and for some slight success; for humane and noble feelings are far, far from them.

Note: First of all, nothing bothers my dry cleaner so much as the smell of opium and incense in all my sports jackets. Second, it apparently does not occur to Qutb that women might end up as bosses. Third, it appears that Qutb thinks all men regard a woman as being nothing more than what's between her legs; I presume the lifelong bachelor and onetime nudist enthusiast spoke from personal experience.

Regarding business, Qutb wrote,

Similarly, we find the medicine markets monopolized by Jews and others, so the sick undergo suffereing or are left to die, while the monopolists make their scandalous profits and thereby amass their unlawful wealth.


...when American capitalism reaches the end of its tether, when the restraints of monopolies are tightened, when the ordinary man sees that he has no longer the opportunity of himself becoming a capitalist, when wages drop because of the tightening of monopoly control or for any other reason, then the American worker is going to turn right over to communism...

There are better examples, and were it not so late (1:43 a.m. now) I'd dig them out, but it's time for bed. It is worth noting that Qutb's odd ideas about capitalism (he seemed to believe that monopoly was the goal of the capitalist system, whereas Adam Smith bitched and moaned about monopolies and even price fixing among competitors) are worthy of a post or a series of posts all by themselves...

Posted by Ideofact at February 10, 2005 05:27 PM

I notice that this post hasn't drawn the attention that the other Qutb posts often do.

Perhaps it's because Qutb isn't quoting the Qur'an...

This quote from Qutb is on the one hand very exlanatory, and on the other hand mystifying.

If it is representative of America's image to some segment of the Muslim world, then I wonder why there aren't more airplane hijackings.

If it representative of Qutb's experiences in America as a student, then I conclude that he doesn't know the first thing about studying a foreign culture.

I learned this from friends and relatives who are heavily involved in anthropology, and related fields.

The first thing to remember when studying a foreign culture is that is is foreign. These people have many of the same problems as our culture (supply of food, clothing, shelter, and an explanation for the meaning of life). However, different forces are at work. Different materials, different history, different cultural decisions all produce different cultures.

In the case of American capitalism: it appears to Qutb to produce monopoly. This impression is easy for a foreigner to gain, from examples like Coca-Cola and McDonalds. Even a visit to America is not likely to dispel this impression, unless the visitor deliberately sets out to find out the truth of his impressions and assumptions.

I, the native to America, see many more businesses on local, regional, and national levels. Several large categories of beverage sellers and restaurants exist, and a competition occurs between local, regional, and national brand names in most of those categories.

This is but one example. The larger issue of relations between the sexes, and placement of cultural boundaries--in both public life and private life--has much history behind it.

I don't criticize the changes in the American culture without trying to understand the history behind them.

I don't have any patience for foreign critics who don't at least try to understand the history of what they're critiquing.

In Qutb's case, I have even less patience with him, because he advocates the use of force to right all the wrongs in the world.

Posted by: steve h at February 13, 2005 02:41 PM