An article in the Sunday Times from April 14th, 2002 (‘Globalisation – it pays off’ by Yergin) describes how world trade in fact doubled in the 1990s, relating this to the ‘second age’ in globalisation as beginning after the end of the cold war and the collapse of communism: ‘The advance of communications technology and the rapid fall in costs… have tied the world together in ways… practically inconceivable a decade ago’ (Yergin, 2002: 8, italics added) The use of the word tied as indicative of attitudes to globalisation is perhaps not unwholly typical.The view of futurologists and cynical social theorists point to the first great globalisation era, which resulted in the outbreak of the First World War from the terrorist act of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo.
A major parallel with contemporary fundamentalist anti-capitalists originating from the Middle East can be drawn with the ‘fragile civilisation’ discussed by von Hayek (Yergin, 2002: 8) in reference to the global currents that triggered the ‘war to end all wars’.The most dangerous facets of Islamic fundamentalism in terms of the western world’s interpretations are most clearly articulated by events reported during conflicts. The events of September 11th aside, previous examples of the seeming non-logic of militant fundamentalist groups have been reported for decades. Hoveyda describes an event in the Iran-Iraq war when tens of thousands of Iranian children marched to their deaths at the hands of land mines (Hoveyda, 1998: 183).In terms of methods of conducting war and conflict, the fundamentals of the Koran’s teachings are often taken literally by fundamentalist militant groups, so clerics encourage the reading of such maxims as the ‘glory of dying for god’ (Hoveyda, 1999: 182). All religions have different interpretations of their own holy texts.
Such is the nature of the Koran, a transcription of the oral ‘word-of-god’, interpretation is undoubtedly more than say in the Bible or Guru Granth Sahib, not least as at any one time there are ‘hundreds of millions’ of Muslims who have memorised it (Sardar, 2002: 14).The power of language and expression to influence behaviour of large groups of people is key to the success of fundamentalist militant groups. The willingness to martyr oneself in such magnitude is unique to the self-perpetuating stereotype of the Islamic terrorist in western eyes, and the actions of suicide bombers in the September 11th events gave the world a very well-defined idea of what internal clashes of culture were at issue.
Fundamentalist movements against the very symbol of capitalism in the U. S. A. had never been so obvious.In discussing the link between fundamentalism and global capitalism, other factors aside from those arising from the bare bones religious ideology and global trends need to be considered. It is only by looking at all the evidence as to why Islamic states appear opposed to capitalism that we can appreciate the sheer complexity of the problem.
Afghanistan produces roughly a third of the heroin that reaches the U. S. A. (Hoveyda, 1999: 184). Prior to the ‘War on terrorism’ centered on Afghanistan and the Taliban regime, a ‘Muslim politics report’ (1997, cited in Hoveyda, 1999: 185) says that ‘the U.S. has remained curiously passive.
.. there is little indication that the international community is prepared to offer any alternative to the fighters and opium growers’. Western, and more specifically, capitalist, nations intervention in the events in the Middle East has perhaps been the (yet equally most general) reason for conflict between the ideologies of fundamentalism and capitalism.
In masterminding the western intervention with weapons of mass destruction during Middle Eastern conflicts, such as the current campaign by the U. S.in Afghanistan, a self-fulfilling role of the western oppressor is perpetrated in the consciousness of fundamentalist movements. In Islamic faith, the principles of ‘Wahhabism’, an order characterised by the strict adherence to the puritan and literal translation of sacred Muslim texts, represent one of the more mainstream fundamentalist ideologies in existence in the religion. Wahhabism comes from Muhammed ibn-Abdal Wahhab, who was appalled by the worship of Islam in the cities in Iraq, Syria and the Ottoman Empire. He spoke publicly of this discontentment of practices, resulting in his expulsion from Iraq.This culminated in a certain brand of Islam being termed Wahhabism, a belief and method of worship that continues to persist as a Saudi Arabian representation of a solution to the political problems of Islam. Despite this fundamentalism, Saudi Arabia has been regarded as somehow essentially capitalist in the make up of its oil-based economy.
This form of capitalism is not necessarily akin to a western global capitalism, particularly as their government has taken steps to ‘reduce global flows in an effort to preserve state-national communities’ (Scholte, 2000: 165).Other theorists take a causal-relationship view on the link between fundamentalism and global movements, such as ‘The growth of fundamentalist regimes has been greatest whenever globalisation results in the oppression or exclusion of those from a particular ethnic group…
fundamentalism strengthens a sense of national identity. ‘ (Fulcher & Scott, 2000: 348) In conflict with this idea of fundamentalism strengthening national identity comes from the increasingly employed ‘reduced’ concepts of ‘jihad’ (‘holy war’) and the term for the Muslim spiritual community, ‘umma’.The reductionist rhetoric that arises from using umma identity over national identity points to why there needs to be changes to Islamic fundamentalism if such sayings as ‘Islam is the best religion because it is the best adapted to the nature of man’ are to persist (Roy, 1999: 73). Sardar (2002) discusses the fact that jihad as a word has itself been reduced to meaning just ‘holy war’, leaving behind its spiritual, intellectual and social components.Public awareness of jihad has increased since the reporting of intra-racial feeling between the Shi’ite and Wahhabs in Saudi Arabia, where acts of violence have been justified by this basic concept of Islam alone (Hoveyda, 1998: 147).
In other words, scholars feel the world-opposing nature of some of Islam’s most fundamental teachings have been taken out of context and translated into political violence against an unseen enemy. More explicitly erudite exponents of opposition to globalisation and capitalism of the West were voiced by Motaheri, an aide of the vastly western-opposed Shi’ite leader Khomeini:’The west represents the last attempts by Satan to destroy monotheism on Earth’ (Hoveyda, 1998: 149) And by Khomeini himself: ‘The Koran teaches us how to treat those who are not Muslims: it teaches us to hit them, throw them in jail, and kill them’ (Hoveyda, 1998: 162) The recurrent ideas of the Sunni (the dominant form of Islam), Shi’ite and Wahhabists are voiced in the chilling statement by bin Laden: ‘The Americans [of all the western civilizations] are the main enemy’ (Hoveyda, 1998: 149)Rather than dwelling on particular examples of Islamic fundamentalist feeling toward the West and globalization, we should perhaps ask whether or not this religious feeling represents a threat to global capitalism. What appears clear since the conflict post September 11th is that the ideology of Muslim fundamentals spreading throughout the main geographical areas of the Middle East, the Indian sub-continent and South-East Asia is not the immediate concern of the Western superpowers. Hoveyda discusses the immediate threat, with the view that fundamentalists represent a risk more to themselves than others:’Unless they get hold of weapons of mass destruction, Islamic fundamentalists will remain a limited threat to the rest of the world’ (Hoveyda, 1998: 188) It can be said that even if history has shown us that globalisation or global capitalism will eventually lead to worldwide conflict, Islamic fundamentalism may not be such a significant threat. Further to this, by reifying and attaching preferential labels to global capitalism, theorists may have overlooked whether or not the form of economy in existence in Islamic states owes anything to global capitalism.If the most publicised and extreme forms of fundamentalism have such anti-capitalist sentiments, why do such situations as the Saudi Arabian oil-processing and Afghan heroin industries continue to frustrate the West? This may be regarded as nai?? ve, but the answer lies in many more complex issues embroiled in world economic systems and ideological struggles arising from centuries-old stereotypes. In other words, the past 50 years has seen a rise in religious fundamental belief in Islamic states, but this alone does not represent a significant threat to global capitalism, rather a threat to the Muslim world itself (Hoveyda, 1998).
Despite the organic nature of Islam, and the trend to resort to ‘religious revivalism’ (another term for religious fundamentalism, see Scholte, 1999: 187) in all world religions, the opposite causal relationship exists: where global capitalism was both chiefly responsible for the formation of fundamentalist movements in Islamic states, and can be seen as liable to be the most likely cause of its fragmentation and downfall.Bibliography Fulcher, J. & Scott, J. (2000) Sociology.
Oxford University Press: Oxford. Hoveyda, F. (1998) The broken crescent: the ‘threat’ of militant Islamic fundamentalism.Praeger: London Marshall, G.
(ed) (1999) Oxford dictionary of sociology. Oxford University Press: Oxford Roy, O. (1999) The failure of political Islam.
I. B. Tauris Publishers: London Sardar, Z.
(2002) ‘Islam: resistance and reform’. New Internationalist, 345: 8-14 Scholte, J. A. (2000) Globalization: a critical introduction. Palgrave: New York Tomlinson, J. (1999) Globalization and culture. Polity Press: Cambridge Yergin, D. (2002) ‘Globalisation – it pays off’.
The Sunday Times, 14/4/02: 8 Joe Cooper BA Combined Arts Year 2 Contemporary Societies 2 SY206 Shirley Beller.