The Last Great Heresy Essay Research Paper

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The Last Great Heresy Essay, Research Paper The last great heresyA Fury for GodMalise Ruthven324pp, GrantaThe assaults on New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, while they seemed at the time to be thunder out of a blue sky, were preceded by portents that are now seen to be prophetic.Malise Ruthven has set himself, in the light of those burning towers, to examine the remote and proximate reasons why 19 men killed themselves and nearly 3,000 strangers that morning. A Fury for God burrows deeply into the Koran, examines the milieux in Egypt and Saudi Arabia where the killers originated, and describes the chaos in Pakistan and Afghanistan where they came of age. It is an interesting and forceful book.The world dominion of western thought, forms of organisation, technology

and military force is not God-given, nor eternal, nor greatly appreciated by the rest of the world. Yet while, the civilisations of China, say, or India seem content to buckle down and try to extract what they can from it, while biding their historical opportunity, the world of Islam threw up the lurid but objectiveless events of September 11. Why?Ruthven begins with jihad. The notion that jihad might in some way be an internal or charitable enterprise, as argued by some Muslim intellectuals living in Christian countries, gets short shrift. Islam, in its actual history, is a belligerent and domineering faith: as belligerent, if less insinuating, as the residue of Christianity now known as western culture.Islam has never treated belief as a matter of privacy, nor tolerated the

lukewarm or treated other faiths as anything but distortions or sketches of Islam. Ruthven deploys a phrase worthy of the Infidel himself, David Hume: jihad is “as essential to Islamic identity and self-definition as the Mass is to [Roman] Catholicism”. (For Hume, the one faith is fanatical and the other is superstitious, and a plague on both their houses.)The key for Ruthven is the celebrated “Sword Verse” in the Koran (9:5). “When the forbidden months are past, then kill the idolaters wherever you find them, take them captive, and beseige them and lie in wait for them in every stratagem; but if they repent, and establish regular prayers, and pay the poor tax, then open the way for them, for God is forgiving.”That verse, which is held by many scholars to have

abrogated earlier verses such as “Let there be no compulsion in religion” (Koran 2:226), is the theological basis of the bloodthirsty “Fatwa for the jihad against Jews and Crusaders” issued by Osama bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri on February 23 1998.Yet the modern Christian does not go around cursing fig trees at the roadside. The revival of jihad as warfare began as a response of a proud civilisation to the insults of colonialism, and proceeds by way of the writings of Sayyid Qutb (1906-66) in Egypt and Sayyid Abu Ala Maududi (1903-79) in the Indian subcontinent. Ruthven’s brilliant discussion of Qutb’s prison tract, Signposts on the Road (sometimes translated as Milestones), is the strongest section in the book.Qutb, who was hanged by Abdul Nasser in 1966, pronounced

the world we live in as pre-Islamic. We live in the jahiliyya, or age of ignorance. Even apparently Islamic regimes are jahili. Once this rhetorical sleight of hand is achieved, the way is open to make war on non-Muslims on the authority of the sword verse. Muhammad Atta, in the note found in his misdirected luggage at Logan Airport in Boston, used the Koranic language of Abraham’s sacrifice (Koran 37:102) to justify cutting the throats of stewardesses.Ruthven insists that much of Qutb’s style and ideology derives from European sources ranging from Nietzsche to the fascists and the revolutionary vanguardism of the 1960s left. He then overdoes it with a comparison of Atta and Ulrike Meinhof.In examining the “model young Egyptians” of the extremist groups that preceded