Of course we skated across the surface of things (although under surfaces there are always more surfaces); but if we were to return now I do not think we should have much difficulty in recognizing the change in atmosphere. I doubt that people are poorer now than they were then, but they are much more desperate: for desperation is more proportionate to aspiration than it is to the objective, or measurable, situation.
So the rise of Islamism, whether Sunni or Shia”the belief that there is an Islamic answer to all of life’s little problems, and that those who do not accept Islam are the cause of those problems”is the consequence not only of religious doctrine that contains within itself the necessary justifications or rationalizations for violence, but also of an encounter with the Western idea that material change for the better is the natural order of things and the only ideal worth pursuing. This idea has been deeply, if not consciously, absorbed. Where such material progress has not been rapid, which is to say, not as rapid as hoped or expected, wickedness and sin must be the explanation, so that the removal of the wicked and sinful is the logical solution.
The Islamists, then, who have now destroyed my fantasy of Peshawar forever, are not just reactionary, though they are that; they are progressives also. They are reactionary progressives.
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