January 19, 2007

U.S. Cultivated Islamic Extremism in Afganistan

Concerned with promoting American interests against the Soviet Union in the mid-1980s, the Reagan administration promoted Islamic extremism in Afghanistan. In The New American Empire, Rodrigue Tremblay describes how the U.S. provided Islamic schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan with free books celebrating Islamic law, praising militant Islam, and encouraging jihad against infidels (i.e., Russian atheists). According to Tremblay, these books "contained not only exhortations to holy war, but also many drawings showing soldiers, guns, bullets, grenades, tanks, missiles and antipersonnel mines" (p. 50).

Tremblay details how this "religious aid" program, which extended into the 1990s, spent over $51 million to develop textbooks for Muslim children which "glorified war and weapons." These textbooks would later be adopted by the Taliban as they rose to power in the mid to late 1990s.
"Observers agree that religious fundamentalism was effectively inexistent (sic) in Afghanistan and Pakistan before the U.S. government decided to finance them and to furnish ideological and military arms to combat the Soviets" (p. 51)
Many prominent neoconservatives believe that America is fighting a war not simply on terrorism but also on Islamofascism. Bush himself has repeatedly referred to "Islamic fascists," and similar terms such as "Islamic extremists" are popular in American culture today. However, I can't help wondering how many Americans realize that their own government had a hand in cultivating "militant Islam," "Islamic extremism," and the like.

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