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The radical politics of Islamic fundamentalism: The new threat

3/5/2006 The New Republic
Political Islam–aggressive, totalitarian–is now fully on the offensive. On January 3, Iran announced it would restart its nuclear program, which, despite its formal denials, is transparently meant to produce a nuclear weapon. On January 25, Palestinians gave a resounding electoral victory to the avowedly annihilative Islamic messianic political party Hamas, which has now turned to Iran for assistance. And, in the last days of January and first days of February, four quiescent months after a Danish newspaper printed political cartoons of Mohammed, violent mass protests against Denmark and other European countries erupted in the Islamic world. However disturbing each of these three developments is individually, we would miss their greater significance if we did not see their fundamental relatedness. In fact, they are ominously more important than the sum of their parts.

Within a blink of the political eye, we have witnessed political Islam’s most widespread social mobilization–from Europe, through the Middle East, and into Asia–in response to the cartoons; political Islam’s most significant assumption of political power since the Iranian Revolution a quarter-century ago, in the Palestinian community; and political Islam’s most threatening military development since Saddam Hussein’s attempt to put a stranglehold on the Gulf (and thereby the world), with his invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and contemporaneous nuclear weapons program.