Islamismism by Pankaj Mishra

In an incredibly well written article, Pankaj Mishra advocates that we're using old, Western paradigms to frame Islam and that we need to demonstrate a little more flexibility when talking about how to view something so new and foreign (personally, historically and culturally) to our own experiences. I wish I could write with such clarity and organization of thought. From The New Yorker:

During the Vietnam War, Hannah Arendt noted that members of the Democratic Administration had frequent recourse to phrases like “monolithic communism,” and “second Munich,” and deduced from this an inability “to confront reality on its own terms because they had always some parallels in mind that ‘helped’ them to understand those terms.” Similarly, Berman, who wasn’t known previously for his expertise on modern political movements east of Europe, identified Islamism as a derivative version of the totalitarian enemies—Fascism and Communism—that liberalism had already fought throughout the twentieth century...

A Muslim with a political subjectivity shaped by decades of imperial conquest, humiliation, and postcolonial failure does not share the world view of a liberal from Brooklyn. Yet there has long been such a chasm between Western intellectuals and their counterparts in formerly subordinate countries, an incompatibility of historical memories. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the war on terror have hardened prejudice and suspicion on all sides; now more than ever it is necessary for Western intellectuals to find real interlocutors among Muslim thinkers and activists. Tariq Ramadan may not be ideal, but the impulse to engage with him seems to exemplify the best kind of liberalism—unself-righteous and aware of its own inadequacies

Read the article at the New Yorker

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