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 on Making Movies with Oliver Stone

    July 23, 2010

    Tariq Ali interviewed by Kaleem Aftab for The List, July 23, 2010

    The appearance of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez alongside Oliver Stone at the Venice Film Festival for the premiere of documentary South of the Border was one of the most surreal moments on any red carpet in recent memory. In the background making much less of a fanfare was Tariq Ali, the Lahore-born British commentator who was a prominent figure of the New Left in the 70s and 80s. Ali has published numerous books on history and politics, one of which caught Stone’s eye when he decided that he wanted to make a documentary on Chávez.

    ‘I got a call from Stone when I was in Paraguay,’ recounts Ali when we meet in Doha. ‘He’d read my book Pirates of the Caribbean: Axis  …

  • ‘Mid-Point in the Middle East?’

    March 1, 2006

    ‘Mid-Point in the Middle East?’ by Tariq Ali for New Left Review, Mar-Apr 2006

    Looking down on the world from the imperial grandeur of the Oval Office in the fall of 2001, the Cheney–Bush team was confident of its ability to utilize the September events to remodel the world. The Pentagon’s Vice Admiral Cebrowski summed up the linkage of capitalism to war: ‘the dangers against which US forces must be arrayed derive precisely from countries and regions that are “disconnected” from the prevailing trends of globalization’. Five years later, what is the balance sheet?

    On the credit side, Russia, China and India remain subdued, along with Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia. Here, despite the attempts of Western political science departments to cover the instrumentalist twists of US policy with fig-leaf conceptualizations—‘limited democracies’, ‘tutelary democracies’, ‘illiberal democracies’, ‘inclusionary autocracies’,  …

  • Tariq Ali on history and fiction

    November 28, 2013

    James Saville writes for the Dhaka Tribune:

    On Sunday evening Tariq, who came here to attend the Hay Festival Dhaka 2013, captivated an audience of students and professors at ULAB with a talk entitled ‘History and Fiction’

    Always eloquent, and by turns sombre and witty, Tariq Ali, the renowned British Pakistani writer and journalist, beguiled his audience with a potted history of capitalism since the fall of the Soviet Union.

    Tariq, who came here to attend the Hay Festival Dhaka 2013, captivated an audience of students and professors at ULAB with a talk entitled ‘History and Fiction.’

    He told of the astonishing success of China’s particular brand of capitalism, and how he believes this has turned it into such an unequal society.

    “More so than the United States of America, or any western European capitalist country, the gap between rich and poor  …