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Sunday, May 19, 2013
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"By the early 1970s . . . two social groups were particularly susceptible to Islamist persuasion. One was the huge mass of urban young poor from deprived backgrounds whose parents had come in from the country. The other was the devout bourgeoisie, a class excluded from political power and economically hemmed in by military and monarchical regimes. These two groups were both committed to the sharia [traditional Islamic law] and to the idea of an Islamic state, but they did not view that state in quite the same way. The former imbued it with a social-revolutionary content, while the latter saw it as a vehicle for wresting power for themselves from the incumbent elites, without fundamentally disturbing the existing social hierarchies.
This divergence of interests lies at the very heart of contemporary Islamism. The Islamist intelligentsia's role was to gloss over this clash of social agendas and reconcile the two groups to the shared pursuit of power. The intellectuals did this by concentrating on the moral and cultural dimensions of religion. They won the broadest base of support-and in Iran it was broad enough to carry them to power-when they mobilized both the young urban poor and the devout bourgeoisie with an ideology that offered a vague social agenda but a sharp focus on morality . . . On the other hand, wherever the coalition between the young urban poor and the devout bourgeoisie dissolved, the more radical and more moderate elements cancelled one another out and the Islamist movement failed to seize power . . . .The essential contradiction between the radical goals of the young urban poor and the conservative goals of the bourgeoisie . . . lurked behind the apparently united front of Islamism . . ."
-- Gilles Kepel, professor of Middle East Studies at the Institute of Political Studies in Paris, in his book "Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam"
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