Episode from the podcastFrom Boomers to Millennials: A Modern US History Podcast

Episode 4A - 1949: Sayyid Qutb's Bad Trip

Released Saturday, 18th January 2020
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In the late 1940s, a middle-aged Egyptian writer & civil servant named Sayyid Qutb went to study in the United States. He had recently established himself as a critic of the Egyptian government, & was traveling abroad in part to escape a potential crackdown on political dissidents by Egypt's monarchy. However, Qutb soon found that he loathed American society even more than he disliked the Egyptian status quo. He found New York, Washington DC, & California to be dens of iniquity. He even regarded a conservative small town in Colorado that he lived in for several months to be a hotbed of materialism, racism, sexual permissiveness, & spiritual emptiness. He also condemned US foreign policy as having a pro-Israel, anti-Muslim bias. Qutb returned to Egypt in 1950 with more radical views than ever, & he soon published a written account filled with his negative observations about American society. He then joined the Muslim Brotherhood movement that sought a revolution in Egypt. A revolution arrived, but it was led by the military leader Gamal Abdul Nasser, who soon established a regime that prioritized Arab-nationalist ideology & socialist economics over Qutb's preference for reviving a more fundamentalistic version of Islam. The Muslim Brothers tried to assassinate Nasser, but failed. As a result, Qutb became one of many Islamist radicals who were tortured & eventually executed by Nasser's regime. However, Qutb's writings from prison would live on after his death. They inspired Al-Qaeda leaders Osama Bin Laden & Ayman Al-Zawahiri to wage "holy war" against secular Middle Eastern governments, & would eventually help to inspire the 9/11 terrorist attacks against the United States.

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