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The price of success.

The price of success

The American-Arab response to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait is likely to focus journalistic attention once again on the nature of Islamic society, and particularly why Islamic fundamentalists regard the U.S. as the Prime Devil.

After all, the European powers were the leading imperial bad guys in the Islamic world for centuries, not the U.S. The Crusaders did not march under the stars and stripes.

Why, then, do Islamic fundamentalists single out the United States for their bitterest attacks, and at times even declare holy war against the U.S. infidels?

It's the price of success, suggests Bernard Lewis, a professor emeritus of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. When you're No. 1, everybody takes shots at you.

In an essay completed before the current Middle East crisis began, he wrote:

"Ultimately, the struggle of the fundamentalists is against two enemies, secularism and modernism. The war against secularism is conscious and explicit, and there is by now a whole literature denouncing secularism as an evil neo-pagan force in the modern world and attributing it variously to the Jews, the West, and the United States.

"The war against modernity is for the most part neither conscious nor explicit, and is directed against the whole process of change that has taken place in the Islamic world in the past century or more and has transformed the political, economic, social, and even cultural structures of Muslim countries.

"Islamic fundamentalism has given an aim and a form to the otherwise aimless and formless resentment and anger of the Muslim masses at the forces that have devalued their traditional values and loyalties and, in the final analysis, robbed them of their beliefs, their aspirations, their dignity, and to an increasing extent even their livelihood ....

"The instinct of the masses is not false in locating the ultimate source of these cataclysmic changes in the West and in attributing the disruption of their old way of life to the impact of Western domination, Western influence, or Western precept and example.

"And since the United States is the legitimate heir of European civilization and the recognized and unchallenged leader of the West, the United States has inherited the resulting grievances and become the focus for the pent-up hate and anger."

- "The roots of Muslim rage," by Bernard Lewis, The Atlantic, September 1990.

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Author:Lewis, Bernard
Publication:The Quill
Article Type:Excerpt
Date:Oct 1, 1990
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