In The Strong Horse, Lee Smith describes this perpetual "cycle of violence" in the Muslim world:
But in the context of Middle Eastern history, what we have come to call radical Islam is actually not so very radical. Political violence and coercion, as [Rashid] Rida noted, had been the norm for over thirteen hundred years of Muslim history. They were also standard practice in modern Arab politics.A wrestling match that is ongoing.
...It is said that those who live by the sword must die by it as well, a tautology in a society where political power can only be won through violence. This "cycle of violence" in the Middle East is thousands of years old, the defining characteristic of a political order that Ibn Khaldun described almost eight hundred years ago.
...It is a common misperception that Arab regimes and the Islamists are sworn ideological enemies, when it is much more accurate to think of them in biblical terms as two brothers wrestling for the same share of power.[p95-96, emphasis added]
Ibn Khaldun is interesting because he not only describes how the cycle of Muslim vs. Muslim violence works--his description also explains why Islamists believe they will win out over the West:
Ibn Khaldun perceives history as a cycle in which rough, nomadic peoples, with high degrees of internal bonding and little material culture to lose, invade and take resources from sedentary and essentially urban civilizations. These urban civilizations have high levels of wealth and culture but are self-indulgent and lack both "martial spirit" and the concomitant social solidarity. This is because those qualities have become unnecessary for survival in an urban environment, and also because it is almost impossible for the large number of different groups that compose a multicultural city to attain the same level of solidarity as a tribe linked by blood, shared custom and survival experiences. Thus the nomads conquer the cities and go on to be seduced by the pleasures of civilization and in their turn lose their solidarity and come under attack by the next group of rough and vigorous outsiders-and the cycle begins again.This fits the Islamist desire to return to a "purer" Islam not only as a precursor not only of restoring Muslims to their former glory, but also to make the Muslim conquest of the 'hedonistic' West possible.
Ibn Khaldun's reflections derive from his experiences in a radically unstable time. He had seen Arab civilization overrun in some parts of the world and seriously undermined in others: in North Africa by the Berbers, in Spain by the Franks and in the heartlands of the caliphate by Timur and his Turco-Mongol hordes. He was well aware that the Arab empire had been founded by Bedouin who were, in terms of material culture, much less sophisticated than the peoples of the lands they conquered, but whose ‘asabiyah [collective solidarity] was far more powerful and who were inspired by the new faith of Islam. He was deeply saddened to watch what he saw as a cycle of conquest, decay and reconquest repeated at the expense of his own civilization.
After all, from the Islamist perspective--the real cycle is the battle between Dar al-Islam and the Dar al-harb: between where Muslim government rules and the outside world, which has not yet been subjugated
Technorati Tag: Middle East and Islam.