Philobiblon: The more things change

Monday, September 06, 2004

The more things change

Reading the Guardian Review review of Imperial Hubris, about militant Islam, I was moved to go back for another look at Malise Ruthven's A Fury of God: The Islamist Attack on America, which I still think is one of the most original and perceptive approaches to the topic.

Two of the main points that I got out of it are how much radical Islam has been influenced by radical Western thought, from Lenin to the Baader-Meinhof gang, and how its members almost always come from a science/engineering, that is very Western-influenced objectivist educational tradition, which encourages them to read religious texts in a highly literal way.

There's much more to it than that - it also contains a history of the intellectual tradition that led to al-Qa'ida (yes there is one) - but well, I'd recommend you read the book.

In a broader sense it is a reminder that human nature and the human condition can produce very similar reactions in widely varying circumstances. Indeed, you could probably draw some parallels between some of the radical groups in 1650s England and al-Qa'ida - the Fifth Monarchists are perhaps the best candidates - which brings me to the new novel Havoc in its Third Year, which is being glowingly reviewed everywhere, e.g. the Guardian. It is set in Puritan England, but is being, so far as I've seen, universally regarded as a parable for our times.

I bet back in paleolithic Europe there was a group of young men running around destroying cave paintings because they thought they were dangerous perversions ... well something like that anyway.

Plus ca change ...


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