Casual Evangelist

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Posts Tagged ‘William Strauss’

Will the Next Generation of Muslims Reject Violent Extremism?

Posted by Andrew on May 28, 2008

Lately, I’ve been very intrigued with the theories put forth by William Strauss and Neil Howe regarding generational cycles that all societies and cultures experience. In short, the two assert that there are four “archetype” generations (Prophet, Nomad, Hero, and Artist). For example, the Millennial Generation (born starting in 1982) are “Heroes,” Generation X are “Nomads,” Boomers are “Prophets,” and the Silent Generation (think John McCain) are “Artists.” There are also corresponding “turnings,” or phases of society that enable each generation to make its mark. The cycle repeats, and the order is always the same. Each archetype has its own characteristics that distinguish it from the others.

While the focus of their work is on European and American generations starting with the Arthurian (b 1433-1460), the assumption is that this theory can be applied universally. Is it possible to apply these theories to the Muslim world and make forecasts regarding the future strength of violent fundamentalism? Might new generations of Muslims turn away from the extremism of their parents?

Generational marketing consultant Jessie Newburn recently posted on Twitter (I’ll link to her post when Twitter gets their act together) that the Millennial generation is at a turning point, and we should expect to see a general shift of priorities among that group. I thought about that post when yesterday I read Lawrence Wright’s piece in The New Yorker, “The Rebellion Within,” explores the current revisionist movement in radical Islam led by Sayyid Imam al-Sharif (AKA Dr. Fadl). Dr. Fadl has been engaged in a very public debate with Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Ladin‘s right hand man over whether many of Al Qeada’s terror tactics are in line with the Koran. Fadl’s movement to disavow many of the terror tactics of jihadism is gaining acceptance among many in the Muslim world. Might the next generation in much of the Muslim world be undergoing a similar “turning point?”

There may already be another example of Strauss and Howe’s theory in the Muslim world (I’ll link if there’s already information on this). In Iran, it was the young generation in the sixties and seventies that embraced religious fundamentalism, rebelled against the social and political structures of their parents and previous generations, and ousted the Shah and instituted a theocracy. Their children – Iran’s next generation – reject much of this fundamentalism and are in many ways sympathetic to the West and America.

It may be a stretch to connect the theories of Stauss and Howe with the current revisionist movement in Islam, but it sure is interesting to ponder. Notions that violent fundamentalism in Islam will continue to rise unabated are likely incorrect. But it won’t necessarily be because the West has “defeated it,” but that this cycle will run its course and the next generation will chart a new one.

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