Monday, August 20, 2012

Robin Wright on "Fearing" the "Salafi Crescent"

Robin Wright has exhibited a disturbing tendency over the years to essentialize - as in her recent coining of the term "Salafi Crescent," as if salafis are a unified mass movement now poised (as in some big game of Risk) to carve a path across the Middle East.  
I vividly remember her appearance at the University of Michigan in 1984 as part of a panel on current Middle Eastern issues.  That appearance was around the same time as the publication of her first major book, Sacred Rage: the Wrath of Militant Islam, and her comments reflected the kind of essentializing of "militant Islam" that the title reflects.  I was especially struck by how she was challenged repeatedly from the audience, by people who seemed to have a much better nuanced appreciation of current developments among militant Islamists.  By the end of her time on stage, she was reeling - and I had formed an opinion of her that led to my continuing decision to enjoy her reportage, but avoid relying on her as in any way a go-to authority on the Middle East.
Nonetheless, a lot of what she says in her new NY Times essay  here is spot-on, especially about the US's consistent choice to align itself with the Wahhabi salafi monarchy of Saudi Arabia.  As she concludes:
The Salafis represent a painful long-term conundrum for the West. Their goals are the most anti-Western of any Islamist parties. They are trying to push both secularists and other Islamists into the not-always-virtuous past.
American policy recently had its own awakening after 60 years of support for autocratic rulers. The United States opted to embrace people power and electoral change in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Yemen. Yet Washington still embraces authoritarian Gulf monarchies like Saudi Arabia, tolerating their vague promises of reform and even pledging the United States’ might to protect them.
Foreign policy should be nuanced, whether because of oil needs or to counter threats from Iran. But there is something dreadfully wrong with tying America’s future position in the region to the birthplace and bastion of Salafism and its warped vision of a new order.

1 comment:

Albert said...

The article by Robin Wright makes sense, but it doesn't mention why the Wahabbis/Salasis want to spread Salafism in the Arab Spring countries. My opinion is that they are very pragmatic and very self-interested. They are not really concerned with religion in my view. They just want to perpetrate their power at home and to safeguard their regimes from disturbing democratic influence coming from Arab Spring countries, Tunisia in the first place. Their solution is to hijack the rebellions and to orient them toward Salfism, so that democracy will not prevail and they will keep their power at home and will gain influence in the countries freed from secular authoritarian rulers. The paradoxal fact is that they are our friends, that we have been protecting them and their obscurantist regimes for decades and now we are helping them to derail the Arab Spring for the interest and the greed of few corrupted and backward families, at the damage of the peoples who aspire to a more modern approach to life and to world affairs.

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