by Ronald Spencer
Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World, By Robin Wright, July 2011, Simon & Schuster
In the aftermath of the 9/11 aerial attacks on the Twin Towers in New York City, the narrative emerged—especially among conservative Christians—that a preamble to Armageddon had occurred, pitting Islam against Christ in a final showdown.
In her just-released book, “Rock the Casbah” (the word Casbah or Kasbah refers to the fortified administrative center of a traditional Middle Eastern city), international journalist Robin Wright sees the 9/11 attacks as the high-water mark of a now-failed reform movement (Al Qaeda) in the Middle East, and she documents a new approach to reform based on the examples of Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King.
Far from representing Islam as a whole, she says, Al Qaeda encapsulated a particularly virulent interpretation of “jihad,” or Holy War—a view that God required deadly force to purify Middle Eastern governments and religious practice, and that this purification process required the economic destruction of the presumed puppet-master, the United States.
The current Middle Eastern Spring is a continuation of that struggle (jihad), but without the emphasis on deadly force, she says. In fact, Muslims are well aware that during its long and deadly decade of struggle, Al Qaeda killed far more Muslims than Christians or foreigners.
The author notes that the Middle Eastern Spring is by no means an Islamic movement, nor has it pitted Christians against Muslims. The fall of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, for example, was the product of efforts entered into jointly by a host of younger people, with Muslims and Coptic Christians demonstrating at times side by side.
Adventists in particular have watched the Middle East for harbingers of the Second Coming, and would do well to read “Rock the Casbah” for an up-to-the-minute contemporary understanding of the nuances of what is currently happening there. The author particularly focuses on the rapid advances of Muslim women in the Middle East.
The book’s main points can be summarized as follows: (1) September 11, 2001, was the high-water-mark of the now discredited iew that armed conflict offers the only solution for reformation in the Middle East; (2) Hard-line Islam has been extensively promoted and used by corrupt governments, as a way of holding onto power in the Middle East; (3) The current successful Reformation movement in the Middle East, while favoring Democracy, is not pro-Western but primarily pro-moderation.
"Every reliable poll since 2007 shows steadily declining support for the destructive and disruptive jihadis, even in communities where politics are partly shaped by the Arab-Israeli conflict,” she writes. This fall from grace is particularly evident among Sunni Muslims, which account for more than 80 percent of the Islamic world.
"For a decade, the outside world was so preoccupied with its ‘war on terrorism’ that it gave little credence to efforts among Muslims to deal with the overlapping problems—autocratic regimes and extremist movements—that fed off each other. Extremism emerged largely to challenge autocrats in countries where the opposition was outlawed, exiled, under house arrest, or executed. And autocrats justified not opening up politically on grounds that extremists would take over.” Now, the stalemate is broken and lightning-fast chess moves are the rule.
Though secular in viewpoint, the book contains vast amounts of factual information well worth the study of anyone interested in understanding the big picture, as well as the finer nuances, of the Middle East’s continuing struggle for religious and political reform—and how Christians can best relate with the emerging realities.