Monday, October 29, 2007

The Quiet Revolution of Middle Eastern Greed

S. Gregg posits an interesting observation in Islam’s Quiet Revolution:

Coherence is not something expected from fundamentalist terrorists. But Osama bin-Laden's latest missive (September 7th) to the rest of humanity attained new lows in confusion by articulating ideas normally associated with unrepentant Western European leftists trapped in the 1960s.

Amidst the usual denunciations, al-Qaeda's leader developed a new theme: an attack on globalization, multinational corporations and capitalism alongside praise of hard-left conspiracy theorist Noam Chomsky.

In bin-Laden's words, "I tell you: as you liberated yourselves before from the slavery of monks, kings and feudalism, you should liberate yourselves from the deception, shackles and attrition of the capitalist system."

Leaving aside bin-Laden's somewhat inadequate grasp of basic Western economic history, he's probably aware -- and worried -- that several thousand miles to the southwest of his Afghan-Pakistani hideaway, small but important Muslim countries are gradually embracing features of those very same market-systems he despises ...

Economic liberalization is not a panacea for all the Muslim-Arab world's problems. These go far beyond economic issues. But while economic liberty and free markets are not sufficient for societies to be free, they are essential.

Fifty percent of new entrepreneurs in the UAE, Sheika Lubna Al Qasimi claims, are women. In all four countries, religious liberty restrictions are also loosening as a concession to non-Muslim expatriates.

Presumably neither bin-Laden nor the Taliban are thrilled by these transformations. Not long ago, such changes would have been considered revolutionary in the Gulf.

But as the nineteenth-century French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville observed long ago, economic freedom has a way of loosening those bonds that unjustly diminish other legitimate expressions of human liberty -- including, it seems, in Muslim cultures.

Whether or not capitalism can bring purely secular, multiculturalist goals of gender and ethnic equality is one question. In the West, as Belloc and Chesterton foresaw, it ushered in newer and more lethal forms of pagan barbarism -- look around. Is it a "strong horse" that bin Laden would rather Muslims not admire in his neck of the woods, er, dunes? That looks like a big yes.

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