Monday, October 1, 2018

The Thousand-Year War

William R. Polk, Crusade and Jihad: The Thousand-Year War Between the Muslim World and the Global North. (Yale University Press, 632 pp., $37.50, 2018). ~ Reviewed by the Rev. Dr. Franklin Woo.

After the 9-11-01 attacks on the twin buildings of the World Trade Center which finally collapsed, President George W. Bush declared “War on Terror,” but not against Muslims as such. Initially his war was against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan as well as any country which harbors their terrorist network. Bush’s target was Osama Bin Laden. In 2003 Bush ordered air strikes on Iraq against Saddam Hussein who allegedly possessed weapons of mass destruction, as well as encouraging the young to be suicide bombers against Americans and others in the Global North. American leaders were able to identify the enemy against U.S. “freedom and democracy,” so Bush claimed. On May 2011 President Obama announced the death of Osama bin Laden. In 2014 the Islamic State (ISIS) appeared on the scene. In his 2018 State of the Union address, Trump pledged, “We will continue to fight until ISIS is defeated.”

Contrary to the tendency of American leaders to identify individuals who are the culprits in attacking the U.S., William Polk in his Crusade and Jihad: The Thousand-Year Between the Muslim World and the Global North is a historical study of how the Muslim world sees the millennial war between itself and the modern West. By “Global North” he means countries such as “China, Russia, Europe, Britain, and America—and Muslim societies from Central Asia to West Africa.” For this short review, I will focus only on “America,” part of Polk’s Global North.

In 1953, American CIA with British intelligence overthrew the nationalist prime minister, Mohammed Mossadegh who took over Iran’s oil industry from British control. They replaced
Mossadegh with Mohammad Reza Pahlavi who ruled with repression, corruption, and extravagance for a quarter of a century. A coup in 1979 by anti-western clerics was led by Ayattollah Khomeini, whose youth captured the U.S. Embassy and held its personnel as hostages for 444 days. The Iranian Revolution established the nation as an Islamic Republic.

In 1971, Reza Pahlavi created a tent city in the Persepolis desert to house the 60 monarchs and
heads of state of the world invited, including UK’s Duke of Edinburgh and Princess Anne and
Spiro Agnew of the U.S. Maxim’s of Paris was the caterer for the occasion, which celebrated
2,500 years of Persian Empire. The estimated cost was $250 million, which Khomeini regarded
as a wasteful “Devil’s festival.” (Not mentioned by Polk, this event can be viewed on You-tube.)

Polk devotes a chapter on Sayyid Qutb, an Egyptian Muslim fundamentalist who was a “philosopher
of the Iranian revolution.” He was executed by President Nasser in 1966. While a student in the
U.S. in 1950 Qutb saw America as “a cesspool of wasteful consumption, exaggerated sex, and
gross materialism.” ISIS may rise and fall, and the clash between Sunnism and Shiism may
persist, but Muslim fundamentalists (inspired by Qutb) will continue into the indefinite future.
Trump’s recent policy of ending the Iran deal which was jointly agreed by the U.S., UK, France,
Germany, Russia, China, and the European Union, along with Trump’s stringent sanctions
against Iran and threat of any country with commercial ties with it, plus his ban on immigration
from Muslim countries—all of these only exacerbate the “Thousand-Year War.”

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