[Mohammed] Atta’s “schizophrenic” behaviour seems to dramatise the conflict that also occurred in Sayyid Qutb’s mind after he abandoned his love affair with the west and reverted to “Islam”. In both cases, of course, this was far from being the received Islam or what scholars of religion call “cumulative tradition”; rather, it was a brand-new, invented Islam that drew on selected elements of this tradition but also incorporated, without acknowledgment, many “western” ideas – from the revolutionary puritanism of Robespierre to the “propaganda of the deed” advocated by the Baader-Meinhof gang.
The cultural and religious schizophrenia experienced by a man like...Atta is microcosmic when compared to that of a whole society. Modern Saudi Arabia (where Osama bin Laden’s father, a street-porter from Aden, made a fortune by constructing palaces for princes) exemplifies the paradox of a hi-tech society wedded to a pre-modern conservative theology. The chief religious dignitary, Sheikh bin Baz, still holds a Ptolemaic or geocentric view of the cosmos based on his reading of the Qur'an. Yet Saudi Arabia has bought into the US space programme, sending the first and so far the only Muslim astronaut into orbit.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Six years on
In openDemocracy's 11 September anniversary package, Volker Perthes outlines four scenarios for Iraq in 2012; Audrey Kurth Cronin considers Al-Qaida: end of the beginning; and Malise Ruthven looks at "Born-again" Muslims: cultural schizophrenia: