Order and Justice in International Relations

By Rosemary Foot; John Gaddis et al. | Go to book overview

10 Order, Justice, and Global Islam

James Piscatori

Islam's place in the wider world has been subject to periodic and fierce controversy. In the mid-nineteenth century, Palmerston, in a back-handed compliment, spoke of the then 'dormant fanaticism of the Musulman race'. 1 Only some 20 years later Thomas Carlyle, who is often credited with a sympathetic depiction of the Prophet Muhammad, juxtaposed the 'unspeakable Turk' with the 'honest European'. 2 The supposed fanaticism of Muslims became more apparent from the 1880s as nationalist movements stirred in Egypt and Mahdism appeared in the Sudan. The agitation in India in the twentieth century compounded anxieties over Muslim hostility to the British Empire. The rise of Third World claims to distributive justice in the 1970s set the stage for more recent doubts about non-Western compliance with the norms of international order. The advent of the Iranian revolution engendered lively debates in the early 1980s over whether Islam was naturally revolutionary and subversive of interstate norms. To some extent, this mirrored mid-century Cold War fears of secular Arab nationalism in the Middle East, but Islam was thought to be an especially inflexible and demanding ideology precisely because of its religious core. At the demise of the Cold War, the debate was built on these earlier precedents and unabashedly conducted in terms of culturally induced international conduct. Some now saw Islam itself or its politicized sub-category, Islamism, as hostile to the West—'the West versus the Rest', in Samuel Huntington's formulation 3 —or at least to Western-dominated globalization—'Jihad vs McWorld', in Benjamin Barber's evocative terminology. 4

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