Monday, October 12, 2009

The Parallels Between Turn-Of-The Century Anarchists and Modern Islamists

Striking parallels, indeed.

"They justified their attacks to themselves by claiming they were trying to give the wealthy, or the West, a taste of how "their people" felt. Yet in both movements, intriguingly, it was largely middle class intellectuals who turned to violence. Both Emile Henry and Mohammed Atta – the leader of the 9/11 hijackings – were engineers who found in mathematics a sense of purity and order and rationality that soothed them, and seemed like a refuge from a chaotic world. The leading anarchists in Europe – Mikhail Bakunin and Peter Kropotkin – were both Russian noblemen, just as Osama bin Laden is the son of a Saudi billionaire...They were people who chose to renounce their riches and side with the embattled tribe "beneath" them, and claimed to be fighting for its survival."

Of course, as the article implies towards the end (but does not directly state), many of the demands and issues championed by the anarchists, such as the eight-hour day and injured worker's compensation, were predominantly-based on economic and physical hardship. When governments put reforms into place to address these grievances, the appeal of radical anarchism subsequently dwindled.

However, while fundamentalist Islamic groups draw on the horror of preexisting economic and physical hardships to fuel their growth and legitimacy, the basis of the overall movement lies in a strict, hierarchical interpretation of a religious tradition already espousing the perfection of it's spiritual truths and laws of human conduct. Thus, it's difficult to conceive of concessions a nation-state would need to make in order to satisfy the demands of hardcore Islamists - particularly ones that didn't infringe on groups espousing un-Islamic ideals and lifestyles.

(thanks, Global Guerrillas)

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