September 11, the Global Cultural Turn and the Return of the Sacred in Islamic Civilisation: between Religious Revival and the New Totalitarianism of Political Islam

  • Bassam Tibi


No prudent observer or analyst of contemporary history can escape the fact of the return of the sacred in general, and its pertinence to the world of Islam in particular. Islam is not only a religion, but also a civilisation of its own, albeit characterised by inner-cultural diversity. Aside from the panic of the ‘war on terror’1 it is clear that ‘September 11’ was an event also related both to the politicisation and militarisation of certain Islamic concepts under the conditions of exposure to modernity. The emergence of jihadism2 did not take place outside of the context of Islam’s predicament with modernity. I state this as a Muslim experiencing myself the impact of this problematique in my own life as a scholar, born, educated and raised in Damascus, but living over the last four decades in three different civilisational worlds: Islam, North America and West Europe. The fascination the West holds for Muslims is the real existence of human rights in Western societies, while denying them to others. This is not only the guilt of the West, but also of Islamic rulers. At their essence, these rights are the freedom of expression, which I, as a scholar who fled his country of birth because of the lack of this very freedom, now enjoy. In an effort to combat prejudice against non-Western cultures — labelled as a mindset of ‘Orientalism’ or racism — it made sense at one time to place some restraints on dealing with Islam and the Middle East.


World Order Political Order Islamic World Religious Fundamentalism Islamic State 
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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bassam Tibi
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.University of GöttingenGermany
  2. 2.Cornell UniversityUSA

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