The quote below is from Sayyid Qutb, who many consider to be something like the intellectual godfather of radical Islam. Over the next week or so I hope to do several blog entries about Qutb’s most prominent book, Milestones, which has been described as the manifesto of radical Islamism – one that is quite influential today. A report on Wikipedia actually traces a connection from Qutb to Osama bin Laden, though I’ve not researched it to verify it. But you get the idea.
I found Milestones to be a fascinating book. I began with the quote below about family values to show that, in several ways, there are interesting similarities between Christian fundamentalists, maybe even Evangelicals, and the rhetoric of radical Islam. Now, many in the Western media have been tripping over themselves to draw these kinds of direct parallels, but don’t worry, there are plenty of other fundamental differences – obviously in terms of belief but also in terms of goals and programs for what to do with these beliefs.
Sayyid Qutb was one of the intellectual leaders and shapers of what is today thought of as radical Islam. Born in Egypt, he was a literary critic who eventually became an official in the Ministry of Education. He spent 1948-1950 in the United States in order to study the educational system here. Those years were seminal for Qutb, for it was largely the result of his time in the United States and his disgust with its society that led him to embrace a more radical, fundamentalist Islam.
Upon his return to Egypt, Qutb became involved with the Muslim Brotherhood, an activist Islamic organization that began in Egypt. He was critical not only of the West, but also of the governments of most Muslim countries, including that of Egypt under Gamal Nasser. His activism eventually led to his arrest in 1954 on charges of political conspiracy, leading to ten years of imprisonment – years which served to refine his thinking and during which he did much writing. It was during these years that he wrote Ma’alim fi-l-Tariq, which may be translated “Milestones Along the Way,” but is more commonly known in English as “Milestones.”
Qutb was arrested again in 1964, shortly after the publication of Milestones, and largely because of the content of the book itself. He was hanged by the Egyptian government in August of 1966.