Radical Islamism as Reaction to Modernization Essay

Radical Islamism as Reaction to Modernization

Rise of Radical Islamism

            Radical Islamism as one of the movement behind terrorism was also seen by the western world as a resistance or reaction to the rapid change in economic and cultural values brought by modernization, globalization and secularization.

            In the earlier discussions, terrorism was said to be the solution to threats against one’s religious ideologies. Islamism or Islamic movement is not just a religion it is more of a fundamentalist, revivalist movement which is known for their literal interpretation of the Koran. It attempts to implement the Islamic values and ideologies to all aspect of human life. It is also a form of conservatism.

Some believed that the war on terrorism is not all about religion though it plays a significant role. There is a much deeper reason behind the use of terrorism. From Old Paradigms: Modernization and Dependency Theory by Joyce McKnight it discussed important facts about the role of modernization and dependency on the rise of Islamism.

            Islamism has roots and historical development to trace. In an article, it mentioned that Islamism as an ideology has a final goal to conquer the world by all means.  Somehow this is similar to totalitarian ideology like Communism and Nazism. Islamism has evolved in the years that past forming into an oriental totalitarianism. Before, Islamic terrorism was just an internal terrorism use to eliminate political adversaries. During the Fall of Shah regime in Iran in 1979 because of a terrorist attack the incident marked the beginning of attacks to civilians. Now, the world had witness Osama Bin Laden’s spectacular terror attacks.

Modernization Theory

            How does modernization theory contributed in the rise of Islamism? The terror attack of 9/11 had shown that the terrorists’ group targets or have something against modernization especially in nations like the US. For many people modernization is a good sign of progress and development of a nation. People may not see anything bad about modernization. But in the Islamic world this changes in the way of life and the society impose a threat to their lives and ideologies in some way.

            Modernization was said to be an inevitable product of historical change that cannot be stop. In the discussion it was said that modernization has its political roots in the Enlightenment in Europe during the 1650 to 1800. This phenomenon was characterized by “industrial revolution” where there are transformations from agricultural to more industrialized and technological nation. From depending on agriculture and rural or country life people moved to urbanized and industrialized areas for a greater chance for material prosperity.

            From this point of view also comes the belief or notion that modernization will result into more evils in the society. These beliefs may include the fear for the highly modernized nations to control and oppressed people in other parts of the world similar in the time of colonialism. They also fear that materialism will be promoted and the traditional way of life will be totally eliminated to give way to modernization. Modernize nations tend to influence the way of life of most people around the world. As a religious fundamentalist and also known to promote conservatism the changes can greatly affect them.

            On the other hand it was mentioned that modernization should not be regarded as evil by the Islamic people.  Modernization in fact can be good to help different people to bring them out from extreme poverty and have them experience greater material prosperity. They believe modernization aims to promote better quality of life through economic progress.

 Dependency Theory

            Another theory aside from modernization is the dependency theory. What is its difference with modernization theory? Modernization theory simply explains that poor nations are always behind with rich nations in terms of technology and progress. Dependency theory now explains that the rich nations get their wealth by exploitation of the resources of poor nations. It was also mentioned that the poor nations are poor mainly because of the legacy of colonialism.

            The capitalist economies or the core economies of the world seemed to make the poor economies or peripheral economies even poor than before. This happened when this multinational companies based in the core nations exploit poor nations by buying few cash crops from them. Historically they also have been using the poor nations as the source of raw materials like the oil in the Middle East.

The lack of industrial capacity of poor countries forced them to buy or purchase what they need form these rich nations. Because of the unequal trade patterns and opportunities poor nations plunged into massive debt which later also resulted into unemployment and rapid inflation.

            It also argued that the rich nations become highly or overly developed because of the continued exploitation and manipulation of the rest of the world. It seemed that poverty is direct result of the unfair distribution of wealth between those who “haves” and those who “have nots”.

            The theory is quite convincing to say that the poverty of some nations is cause directly by the capitalist nations. This may be true since people know that during the time of colonialism westerners or conquerors look for lands where they can exploit natural wealth or resources for their personal use. But this theory is not applicable to nations like Singapore, Korea and Hong Kong which prospered because of their western connections.

Alternative to Terrorism and Violence

            Now that people learned some possible reasons behind the rise of radical Islamism and the use of violence against civilians we can think of ways to help reduce or prevent this violence to ever happen again. If I were an average Arab leader, what strategies would I use to assure a high quality of life for people without recourse to violence/terrorism? Is there any alternative to the use of violence and terrorisms to fight against modernization and secularization?

            First people should remember that terrorism for this group was their last resort and desperate move to achieve their objectives. If the wealthy nations will be really more altruistic and fair with this “oppressed” nations then terrorism will not be useful.

            There are other strategies that can be used that are less violent and not as bloody as terrorism. But since terrorism may bring faster or more dramatic result, an Arab leader may continue to insist in employing terrorism.

            It would be helpful to know that based on the Koran of the Muslim believers the use of violence against their enemies is normally encourage. This is the reason why Muslim leaders have no second thought when it comes to expending on terrorism and violence to protect their political and religious ideologies.

            From these beliefs we can say that Islamism values terrorism as a viable option for success. But if an Arab leader has different values he would choose a way that is not as violent as terrorism. There could be other ways for these Arab nations to send their message across the globe without sacrificing the lives of innocent people.

            By using diplomacy, Arab leaders can express their needs to other nations without using threats and violence. There are peaceful means to achieve what they want. As a leader there is no need to be desperate and one must have wise judgment of the situation. Islamic world leaders should be more realistic of their perceptions of their enemies.

Deflecting Radical Islamism

            How can we fight or stop radical Islamism? What is the best way to do? Is there hope to change the situation? In the article Is It Possible to Combat Radical Islamism without Combating Islam? by Mehdi Mozaffari, the author explained how the world needs to deal with Radical Islamism.

            First it is important to realize that the war against terror is not just about religion since Islamism is connected to Islam. If people will focus on the religious aspect of the war it will not be easy to abolish it as quickly as they can. No matter what restrictions they give in the practice of Islamism it is certainly not easy to stop them completely.

            The vision of Islamism is holistic and based on the absolute indivisibility of the trinity of Religion, Way of Life and The State. Islamism as compared to totalitarianism is also all violent with beliefs in the cult for a mythical leader. They are conquerors that are considered as anti-democratic.

            If modernization or globalization is the main target of Islamism then the best option to do now is to hasten the modernization process in the Islamic world by more modernization and more globalization program for them. This would mean more efforts to support and expand capitalism and the free market in the Arab countries.

            Like in other parts of the world, Muslim people tend to suffer discrimination and unequal recognition in the society. Muslims because of their unique religion and culture tend to make them a minority group and their way of life is simply out of place with the modern day society.

People can say that conflict comes in different levels of the society both in the local and international level. Nations and cultures tend to have conflicting interest and sometimes we are not aware that we are sending wrong messages to the Islamic world.  Nations should start to develop the values of understanding, cooperation and respect to one another.

Work Cited

McKnight, Joyce. “Old Paradigms: Modernization Theory and Dependency Theory”. 2005

Kagan, Robert. “From End of Dreams, Return of History”. 11 December 2008


Mozaffari, Mehdi “Is It Possible to Combat Radical Islamism Without Combating Islam?”  17 November 2003. Harvard News Network. 11 December 2008< http://hnn.us>



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