Small Wars Journal

Constructing the Revolution

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Constructing the Revolution:

The Social Psychological Development of Radical Spiritual Leaders

by John Ty Grubbs

Download the Full Article: Constructing the Revolution

Sayyid Qutb is widely acknowledged as the unchallenged Islamist ideologue of the past century. Virtually every piece of contemporary literature about Islamic terrorism makes at least a perfunctory reference to the radical spiritual leader. The dawn of the 20th century gave birth to several movements in the Middle East. Zionism, Arab Nationalism, and Radical Islamism, all came to the world stage in varying degrees, and it was Qutb that became the godfather of Islamist thought. Due to his role as the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), he was executed by the Egyptian government in 1966. Nevertheless, his legacy lives on.

Since the British occupation in 1882, modernity, secularism, and Western-style education were becoming more prevalent in Egyptian society. The rapid infusion of commerce, political diversity, and progressive culture created friction with Egypt's Islamic traditionalists. Perceived oppression under British rule was further exacerbated by the British Mandate of Palestine, the United Nations Partition of Palestine, and the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Israelis know it as The War of Independence, while Arabs know it as al-Nakba (the catastrophe). Calls for reform could be heard in Egypt long before 1948. However, the events that unfolded after the British Mandate of Palestine engendered an unforeseen level of discontent in the Arab world. Sayyid Qutb and the MB capitalized on this anger.

Qutb was born in 1906, in the northern Egyptian farming village of Musha. His family was caring, religious, and well-respected in the community. While he may have been considered a pious child, nothing indicates his views were ever radical. Rather, the popularly-held belief is that his radicalization occurred over time. Several historical events are usually cited: the British occupation, al-Nakba, Qutb's experiences in the U.S., and the events he endured during imprisonment in Egypt. There is no doubt that all of these events played a major factor in his intellectual maturation. However, looking at these events alone reveals little about the social psychological reasons behind radicalization.

Download the Full Article: Constructing the Revolution

John Ty Grubbs is a recent graduate of Kansas State University's Security Studies M.A. program. As a Department of Defense contractor, he previously worked for the Joint IED Defeat Organization and the Multi-National Force - Iraq Strategic Communications Division. His essay "The Mongol Intelligence Apparatus" recently received an award from The International Institute for Intelligence Education

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