American lawn care
American lawn care and slow dancing caused Islamic fanaticism, or so claims a "documentary" airing on the BBC:
COULD 9/11 have its roots in one man's visit to a dance in Colorado in 1949? Could the current terrorist threat stem from the same man's belief that gardening was a selfish Western pastime? Could the invasion of Iraq have its origins in the cowboy TV series, Gunsmoke?
Intriguing ideas, and they were thrown up by a new documentary series, The Power of Nightmares. Its central thesis was that politicians exaggerated the terrorist threat in order to retain power, and its starting-point was the observation that, instead of delivering dreams, politicians now promise protection from nightmares. Thus far thus arguable.
More dubious seemed the claim that radical American neo-conservatives and militant Islamicists had similar roots. In 1949, we learned, a middle-aged Egyptian school inspector arrived in Colorado. Sayyid Qutb saw crassness, corruption and vulgarity everywhere. Americans' devotion to lawn-maintenance epitomised this: a selfish, shallow activity designed only for show.
But worse took place indoors. One summer night, Qutb attended a dance in a church hall. The pastor at the gramophone put on a song called Baby, It's Cold Outside, and shameless couples danced chest to chest, desire forming like fire in their minds. Qutb was appalled. The following year, he returned to Egypt, only to find American ways spreading in his own country. Determined to stem such selfish individualism, he set up the Moslem Brotherhood, which spawned the current generation of fanatics.