A Brief History of Islamism

How The West Created Terrorism


Photographs courtesy of winston joseph

Afghan fashion designer Safia Tarzi in her studio in Kabul, circa 1969


It seems all too easy to believe the Middle East was always the way it is today, as if it is an inherent fact that a Muslim-majority country would be forever war-torn and filled with extremist factions fighting for control over regions. To many Americans who were only introduced to these countries with 9-11 terror attacks of 2001, Islam is hateful, and thus, Muslim countries have always been violent.
However, what many do not know is that, while these countries have long been Muslim, Islamic terror groups are a 20th century phenomenon that have their roots in Western civilization. In the 1960s and 70s, Afghan women drove to college in mini-skirts, and Libyan men walked the street peacefully with cleanly-shaven faces and jeans. But as the Cold War raged between the US and the Soviet Union, the Middle East was one of the many regions across the world that became the perfect space for proxy wars.
Iran’s prime minister from 1951-1953 was a man by the name of Mohammad Mosaddegh, a politician who championed secular democracy. He was overthrown by a coup carried out by the CIA in August of 1953, because he did not want Iran to be dominated by Western powers. The CIA then replaced him with a Western-loving prime minister, while changing Iran from a constitutional monarchy to a complete monarchy ruled by a pro-West Shah that became increasingly totalitarian as his reign continued.
In 1979, a revolution occurred in Iran known as the Islamic Revolution. The Iranians became angry of the West’s influence, and Islam was a form of rebellion and nationalism. A theocracy was born from the revolution, and laws such as the mandatory veil were passed.
At the same time of the Islamic Revolution, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in a power move to overthrow Afghanistan’s king and instill a communist government. The United States immediately armed those who rebelled, first known as the guerilla group the mujahideen: an Islamist group sickened by the idea of the godless Soviets. When the Soviets withdrew, the mujahideen fractured and groups like the Taliban formed, this time with the West and its puppets as their enemy and a goal of theocracy. They created what we know of the Middle East today, and the region is still suffering.
While it was glossed over during the time it occurred, the Arab Spring was truly about the Middle East breaking free from long-standing dictators that were put into power by Western states during the Cold War. Islamic terror groups would not have existed without the West, and perhaps Kabul would be a tourist destination today if not for the Cold War.

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