From Boomers to Millennials: A Modern US History Podcast

Episode 4A - 1949: Sayyid Qutb's Bad Trip

January 18, 2020 Logan Rogers Season 1
From Boomers to Millennials: A Modern US History Podcast
Episode 4A - 1949: Sayyid Qutb's Bad Trip
Chapters
From Boomers to Millennials: A Modern US History Podcast
Episode 4A - 1949: Sayyid Qutb's Bad Trip
Jan 18, 2020 Season 1
Logan Rogers

In the late 1940s, a middle-aged Egyptian writer & civil servant named Sayyid Qutb went to study in the United States. He had recently established himself as a critic of the Egyptian government, & was traveling abroad in part to escape a potential crackdown on political dissidents by Egypt's monarchy. However, Qutb soon found that he loathed American society even more than he disliked the Egyptian status quo. He found New York, Washington DC, & California to be dens of iniquity. He even regarded a conservative small town in Colorado that he lived in for several months to be a hotbed of materialism, racism, sexual permissiveness, & spiritual emptiness. He also condemned US foreign policy as having a pro-Israel, anti-Muslim bias. Qutb returned to Egypt in 1950 with more radical views than ever, & he soon published a written account filled with his negative observations about American society. He then joined the Muslim Brotherhood movement that sought a revolution in Egypt. A revolution arrived, but it was led by the military leader Gamal Abdul Nasser, who soon established a regime that prioritized Arab-nationalist ideology & socialist economics over Qutb's preference for reviving a more fundamentalistic version of Islam. The Muslim Brothers tried to assassinate Nasser, but failed. As a result, Qutb became one of many Islamist radicals who were tortured & eventually executed by Nasser's regime. However, Qutb's writings from prison would live on after his death. They inspired Al-Qaeda leaders Osama Bin Laden & Ayman Al-Zawahiri to wage "holy war" against secular Middle Eastern governments, & would eventually help to inspire the 9/11 terrorist attacks against the United States.

Show Notes Transcript

In the late 1940s, a middle-aged Egyptian writer & civil servant named Sayyid Qutb went to study in the United States. He had recently established himself as a critic of the Egyptian government, & was traveling abroad in part to escape a potential crackdown on political dissidents by Egypt's monarchy. However, Qutb soon found that he loathed American society even more than he disliked the Egyptian status quo. He found New York, Washington DC, & California to be dens of iniquity. He even regarded a conservative small town in Colorado that he lived in for several months to be a hotbed of materialism, racism, sexual permissiveness, & spiritual emptiness. He also condemned US foreign policy as having a pro-Israel, anti-Muslim bias. Qutb returned to Egypt in 1950 with more radical views than ever, & he soon published a written account filled with his negative observations about American society. He then joined the Muslim Brotherhood movement that sought a revolution in Egypt. A revolution arrived, but it was led by the military leader Gamal Abdul Nasser, who soon established a regime that prioritized Arab-nationalist ideology & socialist economics over Qutb's preference for reviving a more fundamentalistic version of Islam. The Muslim Brothers tried to assassinate Nasser, but failed. As a result, Qutb became one of many Islamist radicals who were tortured & eventually executed by Nasser's regime. However, Qutb's writings from prison would live on after his death. They inspired Al-Qaeda leaders Osama Bin Laden & Ayman Al-Zawahiri to wage "holy war" against secular Middle Eastern governments, & would eventually help to inspire the 9/11 terrorist attacks against the United States.

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/boomertomillennial/posts)

speaker 0:   0:00
from boomers to millennials is a modern U. S history podcast, providing a fresh look at the historic events that shaped current generations from the mid 19 forties to the present. For this supplemental episode, we will examine a foreign travelers tour of the United States during 1949 that would prove influential in shaping the distant future of U. S. Military and diplomatic policy. Some events have obvious historical significance that is evident as soon as they happen, such as the outbreak of wars, revolutions, et cetera. However, there are many other events that appear to be fairly inconsequential and unimportant at the time of their occurrence. And not until decades later do we learn how influential they turned out to become. This week's supplemental definitely falls into the latter category, something that made no headlines in the U. S when it happened, but which turned out to have major political ripple effects in another part of the world that would eventually boomerang back to change the course of U. S. History. But before we begin our story, it's time to give another update on the progress of this podcast. Our numbers indicate that we have now been downloaded in 44 U. S. States and in a total of 26 countries around the world. Our monthly podcast recommendation goes to the fire starters, podcast host Dan and Henry or two British lads who love to take an irreverent, humorous, sometimes profane, sometimes silly look. 1/20 century history based upon the work of one of the great historians of the era. Of course, I'm talking about pop star Billy Joel and his epic composition. We Didn't Start the Fire. Every episode covers one of the many historic items that Mr Jewell included in the lyrics of his surprising 1989 hit song. Check Them Out at Fire starters podcast dot l a, b s, y n dot com or wherever. Fine podcasts are sold. When I read Lawrence Wright's award winning book The Looming Tower, which is all about the historical origins of the 9 11 attacks, I was surprised that the book open not with, say, the 1979 Islamist revolution in Iran, for example, but rather with a story about a single Egyptian man's visit to a small American town. Back in 1949 the man was sayed cult of a middle aged writer and civil servant from Egypt. By the way, Kuttab's name is difficult for English speakers who are unfamiliar with Arabic to pronounce, and it is perhaps even more difficult to spell. It's actually spelled Qutb, and no, you cannot buy a vow to render it more readable. In any case, Coated would go on to become a key founding father of radical Islamist political ideas that would become influential. Two generations of Middle Eastern political movements, according to write, could have had a prominent position in the Ministry of Education in Egypt. He also had political and literary ambitions and had established himself as a somewhat well known writer. There he had grown up in a small village born to a prominent and pious Muslim family, Sayed had been a sensitive, introverted, an intellectual young man. The young could have moved to Cairo, gained an education, became a teacher and dabbled on the side in fiction, writing and literary criticism. The Cheyenne serious could have never married, socializing most closely with his sisters, brothers and extended family. His career was more successful than his social life, and he began climbing up the ranks of the Egyptian government's educational bureaucracy. However, his position was threatened when he began moving from literary criticism into political commentary. The idealistic and severe Kateb was a fervent Egyptian nationalist who had little patience for what he saw as his country's years of humiliation at the hands of Western colonialism. Co Tub, like many middle class nationalists in Egypt, felt that the government of King Farouk was corrupt, dysfunctional and under the colonial thumb of the British Empire. Farouk wasn't even ethnically an Egyptian Arab being a primarily Albanian Circassian and Turkish heritage, which irked some nationalists. More importantly, King Farouk was widely seen as a lazy and self indulgent playboy who is indifferent to foreign dominance over Egypt and the rest of the Middle East. Could've is critical commentary about Egypt's ruler soon gain the attention of the Egyptian government. Friends sent him to America toe lay low for a while because critics of the Egyptian monarchy faced the prospect of arrest. At that time, he was able to get the Ministry of Education to support his plans to study in the United States, right claims that could have quote would later say that he was not even a very religious man. before he began his journey. Close quote. This would soon change but could have been shown a tendency towards sharp political disagreement with the existing Egyptian authorities even before his sojourn in the United States could have sailed to the USA via ship to New York City and spend a few months in Washington, D. C and later toward California. Could've broke friends soon after his 1948 arrival in America that he wished he had someone quote to talk to about topics other than dollars. Movie stars, brands of cars, a really conversation on the issues of man, philosophy and soul. Close quote. Writing down his impressions of the United States, the lonely could've characterized. American culture is flashy and prosperous, but fundamentally shallow and spiritually empty. He was not impressed by the growing American prosperity, but rather viewed it as a negative and corrupting influence upon the U. S. Population. Journalist Lawrence Wright establishes that, like preacher Billy Graham and many other American Christians of the Cold War era, the Muslim could've saw Communism is a serious threat to traditional religious faith around the world. During the 20th century, like many middle class Egyptians could have viewed rising Marxist working class movements in his homeland as a powerful threat to national traditions and societal stability. Could've was too much of an Islamic exceptionalist to recognize his ideological similarity with American Christian anti communists who he felt were immoral infidels, Write notes. The U. S. Was increasingly religiously observant during the late 19 forties, but could have dismissed American spirituality. Is phony just putting pious window dressing on a fundamentally sinful, selfish and materialistic society after his stay in the United States could have came to believe that the future global struggle wasn't quote between capitalism and communism, it was between Islam and materialism. Close quote could've spent most of 1949 in the town of Greeley, Colorado. An hour or two north of Denver, Greely was a successful farming town and home of the Colorado State College of Education, now known as wth e. University of Northern Colorado. Right describes 19 forties Greeley as a relatively conservative and proper American small town, a place with many churches and few bars. As a member of Egypt's educational bureaucracy, interested in analyzing and comparing systems of learning could've took classes at the college about educational theory, right, says could have socialized mostly with his fellow foreign students. He didn't take to American culture. He found American food distasteful. Reviewed American football is barbaric, and he regarded the area's popular jazz music as primitive and animalistic. Release International students often visited local churches on Sunday nights when the college cafeteria was closed for free. Potluck dinners could have attended one of these. That was followed by a dance where he was horrified by the sound of quote unquote feverish music and the display of quote unquote dancing naked legs. One can imagine a 19 forties church dance would be pretty tame compared to what you'd find in an average night club today. But it was foreign enough to could abs proper middle class Egyptian sensibilities and expectations about gender interactions to appall the man from the conservative Muslim country. Could've was also offended by a song at the Dance Baby. It's cold outside, which apparently was causing debate and controversy even back then, when it was a recent hit tune, The ascetic and puritanical could've found that Americans relatively open expression of sexuality, at least compared to Egypt in particularly female sexuality disturbed him greatly. Kuttab's writings described Americans as quote a reckless deluded heard that on Lee knows lust and money. Close quote. When he read about the Kinsey Report, which is making headlines at the time its findings about the sexual behaviors of American men on Lee confirmed his opinions regarding the moral depravity of the American people. It is interesting to know that the very society that coated was condemning as decadent, indulgent and individualistic was almost simultaneously being denounced as conformist and repressive by other critics. These differing impressions of the same country indicate that how a society is perceived depends greatly upon the cultural viewpoints and psychological preoccupations of the beholder could. It was also greatly disturbed by American racism, which he encountered firsthand is a brown skin North African making his way across North America. He reported that during his time in the U. S, he witnessed a black man being beaten up by a group of white men. He also reported that while in Greeley, he and some Middle Eastern friends were turned away from a movie theater because the owner thought that they were black in northern states like Colorado. There weren't Jim Crow laws, but during this era, all across America, private organizations were free to discriminate. Some institutions in Greeley required separation of the races. For example, right reports that the local Catholic church was segregated, forcing Mexican American parishioners to arrive through a separate entrance and to sit only in the upstairs pews could've was quite sensitive to the hypocrisy of a country that preach democracy and equality but often practiced white supremacy. Yet the introverted and proper Egyptian writer seems to have kept his anger and disgust at American society to himself throughout his stay in the United States. Right? Finds it quote. Oddly, the people who knew could've in America say he seemed to like the country. They remember him a shy and polite political but not overtly religious, and that he rarely voiced any direct criticism of his host country. Perhaps he kept the slights to himself until he could safely broadcast them at home. Close quote. This description indicates that there may indeed be some truth in the saying. It's always the quiet ones who you have to watch out for. Kuttab's disenchantment with americansviews of Middle Eastern matters also manifested itself very quickly upon his arrival in the U. S. A. The U s had just recognized the Nation of Israel, which could have took personally as an insult to Arabs and Muslims throughout the Middle East. Could have disapproved of Jews and Zionists with at least a CZ much fervor as he condemned Christians and secular Westerners during 1949 coup. De was also disturbed to learn by American newspapers that the leader of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood movement had been assassinated. He spoke with Middle East experts in the U. S about this development and found them to be insensitive and dismissive about the violence they characterized. The Muslim Brothers movement is a backward looking obstacle to progress and civilization in Egypt. Could've was disgusted with this culturally smog Western criticism. He had not been a member of the brothers before he left Cairo, but could have said that it was during his stay in America that he decided to join the group upon his return to Egypt. Write notes that could've overtime came to reject more than just American culture, he quote, intended to show that Islam and Western style modernity were completely incompatible. Close quote, he thought quote on Lee. By restoring Islam to the center of their lives, their laws and their government. Could Muslims hope to recapture their rightful place as the dominant culture in the world? Close quote. By the end of 1949 could've was withdrawing from his classes in Greeley and preparing to return to Egypt, which he did in 1950. Some of his Egyptian friends had hoped that his time in the States would liberalize the stiff and serious minded side Kateb. But instead he became Maur, intolerant of non Islamic cultures and radicalized against the West. I don't want to exaggerate the impact of Could've Store of the United States. It's certainly theoretically possible that he may have been radicalized even if he had stayed in Egypt. But many commentators believe his trip to America was a key turning point in his thinking, and certainly that was the way could have portrayed it himself. Soon after his return to Egypt, he wrote an influential account of his unhappy encounters with American society. According to journalist David von Drehle, E writing in Smithsonian magazine, this account, entitled The America I have Seen, was published in 1951 right argues that quote could have sour impressions when published would profoundly shaped Arab and Muslim perceptions of the new world at a time when their esteem for America and its values had been high. Close quote according to Von Drehle e. Could haves account, cast the United States as offering the Arab world an instructive example of spiritually bankrupt Western modernity. He warned that quote humanity makes the gravest of errors and risks losing its account of morals if it makes America its example. Close quote Code AB, after his experience of American racism, expressed fury over European nations, lingering cultural and technological dominance over the world. Right recounts that could have offered the following lament quote. The white man crushes us underfoot while we teach our Children about his civilization, we're endowing our Children with amazement and respect for the master who tramples our honor and enslaves us. Let us instead plant the seeds of hatred, disgust and revenge and the souls of these Children. Close quote. One group that offered unqualified opposition to Western influences was the Muslim Brotherhood, which could have had recently joined in the fifties. The Muslim brothers had more than a 1,000,000 members in Egypt and were a key source of resistance to British occupation. but they were also a target of suppression by the monarchist government. The Muslim brothers were involved in social service is and charity, but they also plotted assassinations and bombings targeting Western influences and Egypt's corrupt government. In 1950 to the brothers were involved in the arson of the European Quarter of Cairo. In retaliation for a British attack on Egyptian police. The charismatic officer, Gamel Abdel Nasser, led an Egyptian military coup and overthrew King Farouk and seized power. Could it was offered a position as chief minister of education in the new regime, but he turned it down and continued writing as an independent commentator. The military clique and the Muslim brothers had cooperated as allies during the revolution against the monarchy, but tensions between these two groups grew in the uprisings aftermath. Lawrence Wright explains that quote. Nasser's political dream was a pan Arab socialism modern, egalitarian, secular and industrialized, in which individual lives were dominated by the overwhelming presence of the welfare state. His dream had little to do with the theocratic Islamic government that could have been the brothers espoused Close quote. Wright argues that the only thing Nasser and could have had in common was quote the grandeur of their respective visions and their hostility to democratic rule. Close quote. It should be noted that Nassar was personally an observant Muslim who made multiple pilgrimages to Mecca during his time as Egypt's leader. Nevertheless, his preference for separation of mosque and state was unacceptable to could've and the Muslim Brotherhood. In 1954 the Muslim brothers attempted to assassinate Nasser, feeling that his regime was too secular and that it wasn't doing enough to expel British and other European influences. The assassins, shots missed and an uninjured Nasser addressed the crowd, exclaiming Quote, Let them kill Nasser. What is Nasser? But one among many? I am alive and even if I die, all of you are. Gamel Abdel Nasser, Close quote. This display of bravery and bravado in the face of an assassination attempt enhanced Nascar's popularity in Egypt. Nasser soon consolidated his regime and took revenge on his enemies by imprisoning thousands of Muslim Brotherhood supporters after their attempt on his life. Among those sent to prison was Sayed could've for the rest of Kuttab's life, NASA would be the most prominent and admired leader in the Arab world, while the Muslim Brotherhood toiled in the shadow of official suppression, but they still maintained a significant number of followers and sympathizers throughout the period of persecution. You saw the government suppression of their movement as proof that a true, pure political Islam posed a real threat to Nasser's secular dictatorship. Could've was brutally beaten and tortured in prison. He was firm in his beliefs and ready to play the role of the martyr. The frail and aging writer suffered heart attacks and lung problems during his torturously prison stay could have expressed his rage as usual, mostly through his biting pen, writing increasingly radical works of Islamist propaganda. Hearing that Nasser's government had executed dozens of his fellow Muslim brothers could've bro that those responsible were Muslims in name only, but in fact, by their acts, they had excommunicated themselves from the Muslim community. This concept of excommunication, or tak fear, became a key influential idea to generations of Islamic radicals who soon applied the concepto large portions of the non radicalized population of Middle Eastern countries. Islamist radicals used the tack fear concept to justify violence against other nominal Muslims who by this definition weren't genuine. Muslims could've manifesto milestones sometimes translated into English as sign posts, wasn't published until 1964 when it was quickly banned for its advocacy of the overthrow of secular governments. In it, he argued that on Lee, a return to the pure primitive Islam of the Prophet Mohammed could save Egypt, the Middle East and all of mankind after being released from prison in 1964 could have tried to put his ideas into practice and became involved in another Muslim Brotherhood plot to kill Nasser, which, according to write, was covertly funded by the government of Saudi Arabia. However, Egyptian government informants within the Brotherhood tipped off the police. The plot failed and could've was again arrested and jailed. Could have been. 42 of his followers, according to write, were put on trial during 1966 journalists. Steve Call writes, that could have was now charged with quote advocating his secular governments, violent overthrow, close quote He was convicted and sentenced to death in front of a cheering crowd of pro Nasser trial. Spectators could have embraced his fate, saying quote, Thank God I perform jihad for 15 years until I earned this martyrdom. Close quote right recounts that he refused to dangle the offer of a pardon by elements within Nasser's regime, telling family members that quote, my words will be stronger if they kill me. Close quote. The Egyptian authorities executed could've via hanging during 1966. Right? Recalls that Nassar quote refused to surrender side could ABS courts to his family, fearing that his grave would become a shrine to his followers. Close quote. But it was too late and could have quickly became a legendary martyr to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and eventually to advocates of radical political Islam throughout the Middle East. Kuttab's writings providing a blueprint for an Islamic revolution to remake society coupled with his martyrdom, would be very influential on future Islamic radicals. Such a Ximen al Zawahiri, the Egyptian doctor who would go on to become the second highest ranking figure in the al Qaida terrorist organization. Also influenced by Kateb, was a young Saudi from a wealthy family by the name of Osama bin Laden. In college, a King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, bin Laden attended lectures by Mohammed Kateb, who is Sayed Kuttab's brother and who became according to write a jealous defender of science, writings and reputation. Bin Laden had also joined the Muslim Brotherhood affiliate in Arabia, where he read side Kuttab's influential book Milestones, calling for a vanguard of radical Muslims to revive the true Islamic path in the Middle East. Journalists Steve called documents that Osama bin Laden first read could ABS books in the mid 19 seventies. And he was deeply influenced by their quote provocative theories for offensive action, including violence to protect Islam from materialists and non believers. Close quote. These works helped influence bin Laden, al Zawahiri and other Al Qaeda founders to eventually engage in radical political activities in the Middle East, including acts of terrorism. According to write the al Qaida terrorist organization Behind the 9 11 attacks, quote depended on a unique conjunction of personalities, in particular the Egyptians, each of whom manifested the thoughts and ideas of co tub. Their intellectual father, close quote, good of his ideas eventually inspired violence against the country that he had found so distasteful. Over 50 years after could have returned to Cairo from the USA, Al Qaeda successfully attacked New York City in Washington, D. C. On September 11th 2001 and act that change the history of both the United States and the Middle East for decades to come. The U. S government's bipartisan 9 11 commission research the causes of the attack and in 2004 published their results in the official 9 11 Commission report. The report discussed the significance of code abs 1949 stay in the United States, saying that quote bin Laden relies heavily on the Egyptian writer side. Could've, when sent by the Egyptian government to study in the United States in the late 19 forties, could have returned with an enormous loathing of Western society in history. Close quote. Such elite attention brought could abs, journeys and ideas out of obscurity to the English speaking world and establish them as a significant part of the geopolitical historical record. The 9 11 attacks did not result in the retreat of the West from the international scene, nor did it inspire a tide of assertive Islamist governments. But it did put fundamentalist Muslim groups on the national security radar of the United States for years to come. The attacks also help motivate the U. S. A. To make major military commitments in the Middle East during the first decade of the 21st century, the U. S. Had some success battling radical Islamist groups. It waged war against Al Qaeda and allied groups like the Taliban in Afghanistan. In 2011 the U. S military located and assassinated Osama bin Laden. Nevertheless, more organizations emerged that were inspired by could've streams for a return to the political, legal and cultural norms of the Quranic era of Muslim history. The most infamous recent example is the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, better known as ISIS, which became known for itself publicized beheadings of civilians and other such violent atrocities. This group emerged out of the destabilized Middle East in the aftermath of the American invasion and overthrow of the Iraqi government. During the mid to thousands, Isis attempted to establish a caliphate and imposed within its territories. Aah Harsh and fundamentalist IQ interpretation of Islamic law. It reached its peak of power around 2015 but since then an international coalition has expelled Isis from most of its former strongholds. Nevertheless, the ideas of co Tub and his successors, while still far outside the mainstream of Muslim thought, continue to inspire extremist movements in many parts of the world, like the pro Takamitsu Karl Marx a century earlier, could've was a gloomy, argumentative and marginalized intellectual, godfather of the movement that would create great chaos in the world once men of action seized the ideas promoted by these men of contemplation. Indeed, after the decline of Third World Marxist groups following the collapse of the Soviet Union, could haves concept of a revolutionary political Islam became probably the most popular militant ideology within the Muslim world. It channeled regional and sectarian grievances against Western geopolitical dominance. Who could have guessed that ideas that emerged out of an international students loneliness and culture shock in small town Colorado 70 years ago would have such a dramatic, long term impact on the world? Next time on, from boomers to millennials, we will return to our main narrative and examine the final year of the Truman administration, the conclusion of the Korean War and the presidential election of the year 1952. As usual, we encourage users of Twitter and Instagram to follow us if you haven't done so already, support the show on Patri On with the donation will help us grow by leaving a review on iTunes or stitcher. Let us know if you have thoughts about our show, including suggestions for topics about the 19 fifties that you would like us to cover in one of our supplemental episodes. Send us an email at boomer to millennial at outlook dot com. We hope you will continue to spread the word about our show and, as always, thank you for listening.