Week 5 Blog

In a recent reading for another summer class of mine, Osama bin Laden was analyzed as a ‘transformational leader’.  According to this reading from Robert A. Cropf, a transformational leader is a vividly charismatic person that can convince individuals to abandon their own self-interests for the sake of a greater purpose.  Osama bin Laden used religion as a tangible motive for the murderous acts he persuaded others to execute; religion was the veil used to cover the greater purpose of triumph over the United States.

In Robert S. Snyder’s, “Hating America: Bin Laden as a Civilizational Revolutionary” he discusses similar themes in Huntington’s, “Clash of Civilizations”; particularly in respect to the Arab civilization feeling left behind in comparison to the United States’ modernization and industry.  In the face of a more lucrative oil industry, the Arab world needs to transition away from an autocratic political system to a more democratic one to accommodate rapid social development.  This is yet another comparison to the Western world, which the Arab Islamic states vehemently resist.  Culture is the most important reason why Arab states reject democratization, because it reflects a liberal way of life that defies the patriarchy.

Snyder states, “Arab society is stuck between two poles: a traditional one and a modern world symbolized by America.  In representing an idealized version of tradition, Islamists present themselves as genuine revolutionaries attempting to pull Arab society toward their pole of authenticity and against the alternative pole cast as corruption (“apostates”) and imperials (“infidels”) (339).  This excerpt exemplifies the pressure Arab society faces from the looming shadow that is the modern influence of the United States.  Perhaps this is why extremism can become so outrageous; traditional people desperately clinging to their values in the face of external sources pushing them into a future they’re not ready for.  The West is such an extraordinary power at this point that it can use military, political, and economic resources to protect their interests and economic values.  Knowing this, bin Laden’s idea of jihad as a force against internationalization shows how this apocolyptic terrorism is the most effective stance they can take against such an expansive entity.

“McJihad: Islam in the U.S. Global Order” summarizes this thought quite well, in the inventive, catchy title alone.  “McWorld” is us, a culture dominated by capitalism, while Jihad is what Benjamin Barber defines as “the variety of tribal particularisms and narrowly conceived opposed to the homogenizing force of capital”(3).  I understand the resistance to this universal force, because the homogenization of capitalism wipes out cultural individualism and revered cultural values.  This reminds me of the small mom-and-pop businesses falling prey to the beast that is capitalism.  Their quirky store-fronts are replaced by yet another uniform McDonald’s.  While this provides more convenience to a certain extent, I have noticed a resurgence among our generation for the distinctive, small businesses that have gone away.  Militant Islamists, though their methods are often extreme and inexcusable, have a valid reason to fear the extinction of their religious values from the secular West.  Snyder’s ultimate call for greater liberalization in the Middle East, to extinguish political repression because it breeds political extremism while making political institutions transparent, is a realistic tactic to reform modern Islam.

Works Cited:

Mitchell, Timothy. “McJihad: Islam in the U.S. Global Order.” Duke University Press, Winter 2002. Web. 11 June 2016.

Huntington, Samuel P. Clash of Civilizations. No. 3 ed. 72 vols. N.p.: Council on Foreign Relations, 1993. Print.

Snyder, Robert S. “Hating American: Bin Laden as a Civilizational Revolutionary.” Cambridge University Press, Autumn 2003. Web. 11 June 2016.



3 thoughts on “Week 5 Blog

  1. In response to the statement of “traditional people desperately clinging to their values in the face of external sources pushing them into a future they’re not ready for […] bin Laden’s idea of jihad as a force against internationalization shows how this apocalyptic terrorism is the most effective stance they can take against such an expansive entity.”, I wonder why they didn’t see their failures against moderate Muslims as a sign that their message wasn’t one that was supported by the regular population. It wasn’t until they shifted to an anti-American/anti-western message that they were successful at radicalizing more people to their cause. Why are primarily Islamic governments like Saudi Arabia, whose state religion is Wahhabis, also not acceptable to traditionalists like Bin Laden?


  2. You’re right about religion as a “veil” here in this context. I think ultimately it was also used for the purpose of triumphing over the Arab world though. It’s interesting to examine the relationship between bin Laden, the US, and the regions of interest to him in the Middle East. It’s also really interesting to think about bin Laden’s “success”? In a practical sense, he was really a failure through the 90’s – he didn’t topple the moderate regimes, he didn’t establish the caliphate, and he didn’t really sway a large scale mass revolution of though among the masses. However, out of desperation, he was successful in finally eliciting the huge U.S. response after 9/11.

    I think the transition you discuss in paragraph 2 would be much easier if there was more diversification from oil. The elite class will always control this and absorb most of the profits, and when that’s essentially one industry it always helps to keep the elite removed from anything that can challenge it. Unless of course the industry itself fails…as we’ve seen in other regions. I guess a sort of “catch-22” exists though, as revolution generally requires discontent on such a large scale that a booming, diversified economy might not make for such fertile grounds.


  3. In response to the original post and bak66, I think Osama bin Laden has had a focus on the U.S. since the early 90s, and I don’t think this U.S. focus has helped him to gain more followers as Islamic extremists seem to be more concerned with the local regimes directly affecting their ability to gain political power. n my opinion its not really a clash of civilizations, I think deeming it a conflict due to values fails to recognize the correct reasoning behind the attacks and Western focus. Bin Laden was a “revolutionary” in a way as he was a key leader in the extremists’ fight against the Soviets when they invaded Afghanistan. His primary goal was to unify jihadists and Bin Laden pointed to the U.S. as the root cause of the local problems because of their funding of the oppressive regimes.


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