The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity

Published by Verso, 2003

In The Clash of Fundamentalisms, Tariq Ali puts the events of September 11 into sweeping historical perspective. As we have come to expect from him, he is lucid, eloquent, literary, and painfully honest, as he dissects both Islamic and Western fundamentalism.

The aerial attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, a global spectacle of unprecedented dimensions, generated an enormous volume of commentary. The inviolability of the American mainland, breached for the first time since 1812, led to extravagant proclamations by the pundits. It was a new world-historical turning point. The 21st century, once greeted triumphally as marking the dawn of a worldwide neoliberal civilization, suddenly became menaced. The choice presented from the White House and its supporters was to stand shoulder-to-shoulder against terrorism or be damned.

Tariq Ali challenges these assumptions, arguing instead that what we have experienced is the return of History in a horrific form, with religious symbols playing a part on both sides: ‘Allah’s revenge,’ ‘God is on Our Side’ and ‘God Bless America.’

The visible violence of September 11 was the response to the invisible violence that has been inflicted on countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Palestine and Chechnya. Some of this has been the direct responsibility of the United States and Russia.

In this wide-ranging book that provides an explanation for both the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and new forms of Western colonialism, Tariq Ali argues that many of the values proclaimed by the Enlightenment retain their relevance, while portrayals of the American Empire as a new emancipatory project are misguided.

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Reviews:  Socialism Today, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

From the archive

  • Tariq Ali interviewed by Kashif Ahmed about The Islam Quintet

    February 8, 2012

    In conversation with Kashif Ahmed, Tariq Ali discusses the themes and characters of his set of novels The Islam Quintet. In a wide-ranging interview, Ali talks about why he chose to start writing fiction, and its relation to his opinions on Middle Eastern sovereignty, attacks on Islam, the way to defend Islamic culture, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Along the way he touches on his experiences of the left in the ‘60s and now, and what kind of political action is most effective today.

  • Tariq Ali’s speech at the National Demonstration for Gaza on 8th August, London.

    August 13, 2014

    Here is a video of Tariq Ali’s speech at the largest UK demonstration for Gaza on 8th August, London.

  • ‘Where Were They When Musharraf Sacked the Judges?’

    February 1, 2008

    ‘Where Were They When Musharraf Sacked the Judges?’ by Tariq Ali for Counterpunch, February 1, 2008

    “And when a leading Pakistani journalist at a London news conference asked a reasonable question about the security services, Mr. Musharraf implied that he was an enemy of the state. Such intimidation is especially chilling coming from a leader whose chief political rival, Benazir Bhutto, was recently assassinated. In a nation with democratic aspirations, journalists have every right to question leaders. He still doesn’t seem to get that.”

    Editorial in New York Times, February 1, 2008

    You have to hand it to the New York Times. With so much to write about they can still find time to kick General Musharraf where it doesn’t really hurt. It’s not that the sentiments expressed in the editorial are wrong. Obviously journalists should and must  …