Courtesy Reuters

The Persian Gulf: Resurgent Islam

A populist ferment is surging across Islam, from Yugoslavia and Morocco on the West to Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines on the East. Fragmented in form, cohesive in ideology, this Islamic reassertion has been reflected in the 1978-79 Iranian revolution, the occupation of the Great Mosque in Mecca in Saudi Arabia in November 1979, the four-year war in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan, the assassination of President Anwar el-Sadat in Egypt in October 1981, and violent resistance in Lebanon through 1983 and 1984.

Often described as "Islamic fundamentalism," this popular force cuts across geographical boundaries, transcending political ideologies and national regimes. Radical governments such as in Algeria and Syria, and traditional monarchical regimes such as in Morocco, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia have witnessed a growing Islamic political activism. Scattered incidents in Soviet Central Asia, the home of an estimated 60 million Muslims, as well as the Muslim guerrilla war of resistance against the Soviet-backed government in Afghanistan demonstrate that communist systems are no more immune to the challenge of this Populist Islam than are the pro-Western conservative states in the region.

The fundamental impulse for resurgent Islam comes from the grassroots of society. Hence the designation "Populist."1 It is a force generated by the mass citizenry, those referred to as the downtrodden and the deprived. Sweeping upward from the angry, alienated and frustrated, Populist Islam has now penetrated the middle classes. It is called al-Islam al-Sha'bi, and it directly confronts the various ruling elites in the Muslim world, the Islam of Sadat, of the Al-Saud family of Saudi Arabia, and of Mohammad Zia ul-Haq and Gaafar Nimeiri of Pakistan and Sudan. These leaders represent al-Islam al-Rasmi, or Establishment Islam, which seeks to preserve the political status quo.

Even the largely secular Palestinian movement-badly battered in both regional and international politics and deeply divided against itself-is showing clear signs of interest in Islam. On the Jordan West Bank, in its 17th year of Israeli occupation, the younger generation of stateless Palestinians are forming Islamic organizations of all kinds, alongside their

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