‘Culture war is not liberation”:
I recently intended an informal gathering that featured a long lecture on Islamic politics. One of the points made during this talk really struck me as typical of the problems of Muslim political thought in the current era. The speaker said that Islam was currently the only force capable of resisting the onslaught of Western imperialism and that this was because, to paraphrase, Muslims don’t drink liquor and their women don’t follow western modes of dress. This, of course, was in a room with many women, at least half of whom were dressed in western clothes.
I talked to the him later and asked him to clarify his remarks. He then gave me a more nuanced, if flawed, explanation of his words: Western Capitalism is constantly seeking out new markets for its products and the social restrictions peculiar to Islam hamper this expansion significantly. The glaring flaw of this statement is that the one country that, more than any other, imposes all of these social restrictions “with extreme prejudice” is also the most integrated into the global capitalist system. I am writing, of course, of Saudi Arabia. While subjecting women to the most restrictive controls of any country on the planet and imposing strict forms of censorship various cultural practices, they not only function as a leading petroleum exporter but as a major investor as well. They’ve been more than willing to invest massive amounts of money in the American economy to keep it going, fueling the very culture it is intent on resisting.