The reluctant fundamentalist

Just read this engrossing book by Mohsin Hamid. He tells the story of how a boy from Pakistan, seduced by the US and its jobs, people, comforts etc, then turns to the other side, starting to identify with the feelings of fundamentalists even though he doesn't end up by becoming one. It was un putdownable. One of the most interesting things about the book is how the worm turns, gradually becoming more Pakistani/ Islamic, from a character who was on the fast track to success in America.

One of the things that has really annoyed me over the years is the simplistic analysis of Islamic fundamentalism by the West, in particular America, as the discontent of the have-nots against the haves. If that was indeed the sole argument, there are any number of have-nots in india or Africa or South America, all of whom should be turning towards terrorism.

In my opinion, one of the things that is leading to growing terrorism and fundamentalism is the readiness of the Western mind to consider the things it does or believes in righteous, and the only true way. When further powered by economic might, this becomes a force which sweeps other peoples' feelings and emotions away in its desire to pursue what it considers the best for everyone. The west always believes it knows best and this is the attitude which galls the rest of the world. In particular, the Arab part of the world and Afghanistan/Pakistan have been particularly badly treated, allies one minute, enemies the next, dictated to the third.

Islam feels like a religion under siege, and one that is not being allowed its due place in the world. Be it the EU, which is ignoring one of the best opportunities to defuse the Clash of civilizations by not allowing Turkey into the Union or the Catholic church which, last year, issued a warning against Islamic people, or the Bush administration which should be on Osama Bin Laden's recruitment team for the sterling work they have done in furthering Osama's argument, everywhere Muslims look, they find themselves being vilified and having to justify their stance, be they moderate or hardline. They find themselves pushed to the sidelines even in their own countries, as they become pawns in the West's Weltanschaung. The conflict dates back all the way to the Crusades and even before that, when Christianity and Islam termed each other as infidels.

The only way to defuse this is to have a genuine dialogue, to have a mind open to other peoples' ways of thinking and their priorities which may not be the same as those of the West. And to listen honestly rather than condescendingly nod just before sending a few more bombers in. To accept the people's choice of governments in their own countries even if that is not what the west would like ( remember the outraged reaction last year when Hamas won in Palestine?). I don't recall seeing anyone threatening to send in their troops when Dubya got elected?


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