TheMartyr - Lawrence Wright The Looming Tower Al-Qaeda and...

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Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (2006) The Martyr IN A FIRST-CLASS STATEROOM on a cruise ship bound for New York from Alexandria, Egypt, a frail, middle-aged writer and educator named Sayyid Qutb experienced a crisis of faith. "Should I go to Amer- ica as any normal student on a scholarship, who only eats and sleeps, or should I be special?" he wondered. "Should I hold on to my Islamic beliefs, facing the many sinful temptations, or should I indulge those temptations all around me?" It was November 1948. The new world loomed over the horizon, victorious, rich, and free. Behind him was Egypt, in rags and tears. The traveler had never been out of his native country. Nor had he willingly left now. The stern bachelor was slight and dark, with a high, sloping fore- head and a paintbrush moustache somewhat narrower than the width of his nose. His eyes betrayed an imperious and easily slighted nature. He always evoked an air of formality, favoring dark three-piece suits despite the searing Egyptian sun. For a man who held his dignity so dose, the prospect of returning to the classroom at the age of forty-two may have seemed demeaning. And yet, as a child from a mud-walled village in Upper Egypt, he had already surpassed the modest goal he had set for himself of becoming a respectable member of the civil ser- vice. His literary and social criticism had made him one of his coun- try's most popular writers. It had also earned the fury of King Farouk, Egypt's dissolute monarch, who had signed an order for his arrest. Powerful and sympathetic friends hastily arranged his departure. At the time, Qutb (his name is pronounced kuh-tub) held a comfort- able post as a supervisor in the Ministry of Education. Politically, he was a fervent Egyptian nationalist and anti-communist, a stance that placed him in the mainstream of the vast bureaucratic middle class.
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The ideas that would give birth to what would be called Islamic funda- mentalism were not yet completely formed in his mind; indeed, he would later say that he was not even a very religious man before he began this journey, although he had memorized the Quran by the age of ten, and his writing had recently taken a turn toward more conser- vative themes. Like many of his compatriots, he was radicalized by the British occupation and contemptuous of the jaded King Farouk's com- plicity. Egypt was racked by anti-British protests and seditious politi- cal factions bent on running the foreign troops out of the country—and perhaps the king as well. What made this unimposing, midlevel gov- ernment clerk particularly dangerous was his blunt and potent com- mentary. He had never gotten to the front rank of the contemporary Arab literary scene, a fact that galled him throughout his career; and yet from the government's point of view, he was becoming an annoy- ingly important enemy. He was
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This note was uploaded on 04/01/2011 for the course HUMN 2124 taught by Professor Staff during the Spring '11 term at Arkansas.

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TheMartyr - Lawrence Wright The Looming Tower Al-Qaeda and...

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