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.
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.