This is merely an extension of trends that have already transformed the Middle East. As Fareed Zakaria writes in "The Future of Freedom," until the 1970s most Middle Easterners "practiced a kind of village Islam that adapted itself to local cultures and to normal human desires. Pluralistic and tolerant, these villages often worshipped saints, went to shrines, sang religious hymns and cherished art - all technically disallowed in Islam." This indigenous form of Islam was bulldozed by urbanization and radicalization. The Iranian Revolution was a harbinger of the transformation toward a more "universal" Islam that was also more doctrinaire; "Islam of the high church as opposed to Islam of the street fair," Zakaria writes.
Reihan Salam, a co-author of one of the smartest blogs going right now, theamericanscene.com, is an American of Bengali descent who argues that the death of Mak Yong represents "globalization at its worst." He rightly notes that if the choice is between the globalization of "crass Arabization" and the globalization of "crass Westernization," then it should be no choice at all.
Although Western-style globalization may force certain technological and economic changes on indigenous cultures, it also provides those cultures with the tools and flexibility to keep much of their culture. The hard Islam coming out of Riyadh and Tehran offers no such freedom. Recall that Afghanistan was a Muslim country for centuries, but it wasn't until the jihadi thugs of the Taliban took over that the historic Bamiyan Buddhas were deemed an offense to Islam and destroyed.
Bin Laden's call to kill U.N. peacekeepers is consistent with the Islamist desire to impose a harsh, "one true Islam" across the Muslim world (and, someday, they hope, the non-Muslim world too.)
Too many intellectuals and commentators take the ignorant and condescending view that because jihadism is exotic, it is also "authentic." On the right, this often translates into the view that all strains of Islam are alike - and equally dangerous. And on the left, we get the usual knee-jerk defense of any seemingly "indigenous" foreign movement that casts America as a global villain. The reality is that in the war on terrorism, America is on the side of freedom and diversity. Bin Laden & Co. are the real crusaders.
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