The Arts and Popular Culture After 9/11


By David Eaton

david_eatonIt’s been nearly 15 years since the attacks of September 11, 2001. With the rise of Islamic terrorist groups like ISIS, and the tragedies late last year in Paris and San Bernardino, Americans continue to seek answers and insights to make sense of the heinous acts that have changed their lives in unthinkable ways.

As we learned more about Islam and the resentments many in the Arab world directed toward the West, it became apparent that a serious point of contention among Muslims — fundamentalists and moderates — was the pervasive influence of Western popular culture in the Muslim world. This has resulted in a spate of collective soul searching as the motivations of artists, producers and production entities were called into question in ways that heretofore had rarely been experienced.

Weighed against long-standing American support of Israel, or other Western economic or geopolitical influences, it is difficult to ascertain the degree to which Western cultural and artistic endeavors actually have had on breeding the resentments that motivated the planners of 9/11 and later attacks. Yet it cannot be denied that the influence of certain cultural expressions produced by our commercially-oriented and highly secularized entertainment industry have contributed significantly to the antagonisms Muslims feel toward the West in general and the United States in particular.

In his 1951 tome, Milestones, the Egyptian Muslim scholar, Sayyid Qutb, wrote extensively about what he viewed as the hypocrisies of Western Christian culture, especially racism and sexual immoderation. Qutb’s indictments regarding the secularization and immorality of the West and its “pagan ignorance and rebellion against God” became the seeds of radical Islamic resentment. In Milestones, he states:

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