Could you discuss the role modernity plays (as discussed in the book) in the Islamic terrorist organizations shift from the near to far enemy?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Consider the opening of the book, detailing the thoughts and ideas of Salyyid Qutb.  He is the Egyptian scholar visiting the United States in the late 1940s.  Qutb makes the argument that the conditions of modernity, such as materialism that is evident in the West and in Communist nations, will be incompatible with a spiritual embrace of Islam.  Qutb makes the argument that modern Islam and the conditions of wealth and materialism that is such an intrinsic part of modernity makes what he sees as a pure embrace of Islam impossible.  Qutb turns out to have a profound influence on the individuals who will emerge as the leaders of Al- Qaeda.  Material wealth and modernity are seen as going hand in hand with one another, making it an inviting target to those who wish to advocate a type of Islam that defines itself in opposition to it.

This helps to facilitate what Wright sees as the movement from the near to the far enemy.  Bin Laden and others like him recognize that there is much to be gained from advocating a form of Islam that seems to posit itself as "Anti- West," or "Anti- Capitalist," or "Anti- Materialist."  This creates a target that is everlasting and Wright argues that such a position increases the appeal of organizations like Al- Qaeda, making the case that the shift from near to far enemy becomes the focus on how materialism in modernity threatens a supposedly true embrace of Islam.  At the same time, it also helps to make Bin Laden a sort of martyr, as his position irks governments in Saudi Arabia, a government that he sees as embodying the wealth and materialism that makes a pure worship of Islam fundamentally impossible.  The modern conditions of wealth and materialism are critical elements that Wright sees as responsible for the shift from the near to the far enemy.


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