Comedy Film Triggered 21st Century Terrorism
by LT. COLONEL JAMES G. ZUMWALT, USMC (RET)June 19, 2013
Championship swimmer and film star Esther Williams died on June 6th at age 91. Never under the illusion her unique genre of "aqua ballet" films were designed to win her an Oscar, she probably died unaware a song earning an Oscar from one of her movies provided the spark for 21st century terrorism!
Williams starred in the 1949 musical romantic comedy "Neptune's Daughter." The song "Baby, It's Cold Outside," written for the film by Frank Loesser, became an immediate hit.
Around the same time, Islamist Egyptian educator Sayyid Qutb came to the U.S. to pursue a master's degree at a college in Greeley, Colorado. Qutb's pursuit of a degree in the U.S. was motivated by his conflict with the Cairo government over his strict Islamic beliefs and efforts to implement them in Egypt.
The introverted Qutb was welcomed in Greeley where townspeople invited him to a church social. After dinner, the lights were turned down low and "Baby, It's Cold Outside" was played. Men and women began slow dancing. The act of couples embracing in such a manner with their bodies closely entwined, skin touching skin, ran contrary to the morals of Islam. This observation so upset Qutb that, upon returning to Egypt in 1950, he wrote extensively about America's decadence.
Qutb's essay "The America That I Have Seen" included a description of what he saw at the church social. It reads like a cheap novel rather than an academic's attempt to analyze a foreign culture. Particularly critical of women, Qutb wrote, "The American girl is well acquainted with her body's seductive capacity. She knows it lies in the face, and in expressive eyes, and thirsty lips. She knows seductiveness lies in the round breasts, the full buttocks, and in the shapely thighs, sleek legs-and she shows all this and does not hide it." (Unsurprisingly, Qutb remained a life- long bachelor, claiming no woman worthy of him.)
This essay triggered a litany of works by Qutb in which he addressed the ills of Western society and the need to impose Shariah law to cleanse Muslim society of any Western influence. Soon after his return home, he joined the Muslim Brotherhood, which held very similar anti-Western views.
Eventually, Egyptian President Gamal Nasser tired of Qutb's continuing efforts to impose an Islamist state upon his government, for it ran afoul of his own secular nationalist ideology. Nasser eventually had Qutb arrested in 1966 and executed.
But the story did not end with Qutb's death.
It was only years after the fundamentalist's death that his writings gained interest among Muslims. His teachings impacted two very prominent students-Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. The former, who declared war against the United States in 1998, led al-Qaeda until his death in 2011; the latter has since replaced him. Heavily influencing the two as well was "Milestones"-a book written by Qutb in 1964.
"Milestones" was a treatise on advancing and spreading Islam's moral code-Shariah-to the Middle East, and ultimately globally, in order to save mankind. A review of "Milestones" last year by Edward Cline found the work disturbing.
Cline notes about Qutb, "How does one go about discussing with a straight face the pathological meanderings of a very disturbed and malevolent man, knowing that his meanderings have served as an intellectual sanction for terrorism, death, destruction, and the ongoing Islamic jihad against the West?...(Milestones is) the Islamic equivalent of the mental ravings of psychotic murderers...The book is actually a manifesto for nihilism that guarantees man's enslavement and the eradication of any and all who refuse to submit to Islam." Such enslavement is achieved as Qutb calls for "the surrender of logic, reason, and intellect...in favor of blind, submissive faith. In essence, Islam does not want men who think."
Also notable in Qutb's writings was his obsession for using Islam as both a political and religious sword to impose upon all non-Muslims.
There is tragedy in the unintended consequence of an Esther Williams' comedy film and a friendly effort by the Greeley community 64 years ago to reach out to Qutb in a welcoming gesture of friendly inclusion. But, because of a social misfit's rantings, they became a catalyst for Islamic violence and anti-Western hatred now accepted by a Muslim mainstream community incapable of independent thought.
We did not understand the dark side of Islam then; we still struggle to understand it today.