Pervez Hoodbhoy in Himal Southasian:
Many of us in the left, particularly in Southasia, have chosen to understand the rise of violent Islamic fundamentalism as a response to poverty, unemployment, poor access to justice, lack of educational opportunities, corruption, loss of faith in the political system, or the sufferings of peasants and workers. As partial truths, these are indisputable. Those condemned to living a life with little hope and happiness are indeed vulnerable to calls from religious demagogues who offer a happy hereafter in exchange for unquestioning obedience.
American imperialism is also held responsible. This, too, is a partial truth. Stung by the attacks of 11 September 2001, the United States lashed out against Muslims almost everywhere. America’s neoconservatives thought that cracking the whip would surely bring the world to order. Instead, the opposite happened. Islamists won massively in Iraq after a war waged on fraudulent grounds by a superpower filled with hubris, arrogance and ignorance. ‘Shock and Awe’ is now turning into ‘Cut and Run’. The US is leaving behind a snake pit, from which battle-hardened terrorists are stealthily making their way to countries around the world. Polls show that the US has become one of the most unpopular countries in the world, and that, in many places, George W Bush is more disliked than Osama bin Laden. Most Muslims see an oil-greedy America, in collusion with Israel, as a crusader force occupying a historic centre of Islamic civilisation. Al-Qaeda rejoices. Its mission was to convince Muslims that the war was between Islam and unbelief. Today it brags: We told you so!