3ISLAM, ISLAMISMS AND THE WEST
MAKING SOCIETIES ISLAMIC:FROM AFGHANISTAN TO IRAQThe charge of Islamic fundamentalists is, precisely, that these countries are
Islamic because their legal structures, social norms, the predominant edu-cational systems, popular cultures, etc., are manifestly un-Islamic. Hence theprojects of
; they are Muslim but they are to be
Islamic.For the Sunni fundamentalist, Iran is un-Islamic for the simple reason thatit is predominantly Shia. For the neo-Wahhabi opposition, out of whichso many Saudi members of al-Qaeda have arisen, neither the ruling Houseof Saud nor the clerical establishment which legitimates it, can be calledIslamic; Saudi Arabia itself has to be recaptured for
Islam. I shall returnto the historical origins of these phenomena. Sufﬁce it to say here that thedistinguishing feature of the various Islamicist groupings which started be-coming so prominent in diverse countries from mid-1970s onwards wasthat virtually every one of them, unconnected with others, grew within itsnational milieu and sought to transform their own nation-state. (The major exception here would be the Ikhwan al-Muslimun, the Muslim Brother-hood, which started in the 1920s as a speciﬁcally Egyptian phenomenonbut was then patronized by some Gulf regimes after it was suppressed under Nasser during the 1950s and gradually became a pan-Arab phenomenon,with branches in various countries.) This was equally true of the neo-Wah-habi group in Saudi Arabia which created a world-wide media sensationwhen it captured the Mecca mosque in November 1979; of the severalIslamicist groups in Egypt which came collectively to be known as Jamaa’atel-Islamiyya and whose most spectacular act in that period was the assassina-tion of Sadat; and of General Zia ul Haq, the military dictator who initiatedthe state-led process of Islamization in Pakistan. The United States had of course been a staunch supporter of the Saudi regime despite its Wahhabiautocracy but it had also been systematically supporting the Islamicists, in avariety of countries, in opposition to communism and radical secular nation-alism since the very inception of the Truman doctrine.The singular achievement of the Carter administration was to bring to-gether personnel from many of these groups – from countries as diverse asIndonesia and Algeria, the Philippines and the Sudan, not to speak of Egyptand Saudi Arabia itself – and organize them into a single, well-trained, well-ﬁnanced, well-equipped force to ﬁght communism in Afghanistan, well be-fore any direct Soviet intervention and indeed – we have it directly fromBrzezinski, Carter’s National Security Advisor – to
the Soviet Unioninto the conﬂict.
Most of what is now called ‘Islamic terrorism’ and even