The terrible fear within militant Islam, and its possible terrible consequences

It is said that Mahmoud Ahmadenijad, who rouses crowds to frenzies with apocalyptic rhetoric, believes we are living in the last days. He may be more right than he thinks. It is our view that Islamism has a pretty limited time frame in which to succeed in its mission of domination. The reasoning was laid out in Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations more than a decade ago:

[T]he processes of economic modernization and social change throughout the world are separating people from longstanding local identities. They also weaken the nation state as a source of identity. In much of the world religion has moved in to fill this gap, often in the form of movements that are labeled “fundamentalist.” Such movements are found in Western Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism, as well as in Islam. In most countries and most religions the people active in fundamentalist movements are young, college-educated, middle- class technicians, professionals and business persons.

We believe that it is perfectly understandable that the fundamentalist movements are populated by ardent members of the educated middle class; they are the ones with the most to lose in the accommodation of their traditional civilizations to modern life. They experience the change and loss most intensely. No wonder they are worked up. Expecting them to stay that way is quite a different matter entirely, however; we see no reason that their cohort should not exhibit a typical pattern of Adaptation to Life over time.

We in the West have little appreciation of how disorienting are the changes from traditional life to modern society. As we have written previously, Westerners in large numbers have no clue about how their great-grandparents lived, about living in a world without the most luxurious creature comforts. They understand nothing about dependence on nature, the power of grinding poverty and the presence of early death. These changes are taking place in real time at various places in the Islamic world, as technology continues to spread. Spengler has noted one of the most dangerous aspect of these changes, the increase in literacy, of which secularization is a large byproduct:

Once the literacy rate reaches 90%, the percentage of non-religious jumps into two digits. That is as true for Muslim countries as well as for non-Muslim countries. Because the Muslim literacy rate is so far below the average, though, few Muslim countries have a high proportion of non-religious people.

So the clock is ticking on militant Islam as decades move increasing numbers of Muslims away from their primitive, pre-literate, existences, and as the educated, middle-class generation most discomfitted by the dislocations of modernity finds some balance between religion and the modern world. That’s the good news.

The bad news is this. There is a way to stop the march toward freedom of thought dead in its tracks, and it is rather simple. Destroy capitalism, the engine of freedom, and the Islamists destroy the West, and preserve illiterate masses dependent upon the Islamists’ depraved view of God and man. Crippling capitalism would not, in our view, require too much destruction in a world built on leverage — what happens, for example, if housing prices were to plummet by half across America when people have 90% mortgages? Chaos and mass unemployment are plausible answers. A little smallpox or a few nukes might do the trick.

As long as capitalism increases wealth, technology, and mobility, traditional societies will have to find a way to accommodate themselves to these new, freer, realities, or wither away. We believe it is in the interest of millenarian Islamists like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to hasten the showdown with the West, before having to confront the internal contradictions between modernity and Islam. There is no reason to assume that Iran, or a like-minded state, would categorically rule out actual use of nuclear weapons or other WMD, when it could both realize the hopes of the Islamists and conquer their deepest fear.

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