Seyyed Hossein Nasr
What I see today is that you have several opposite currents existing at the same time. On the one hand you talk about the secular West. Yes, it gets more and more secular at one level, but there’s also greater and greater interest in religion in certain circles on the other level. A 100 years ago there weren’t as many people in the city of Washington interested in serious spirituality or Hinduism and Sufism and things like that, or their own, let’s say, Medieval and Renaissance mystical tradition as there are today.1 There’s no doubt about it. So, you have these two going in the opposite direction in the West, and then globally on the one hand the West through what’s called modernism, seems to be dominating over the global village and so forth.
On the other hand, it’s crumbling from within itself at the same time. So, there’s a race actually between the two, and I don’t think that for the next generation or so, one of these currents will completely destroy the other. I believe that on the one hand all these external needs, computer, television and so forth and so on spread the idea of the global village dominated by Western secularized ideas to a large extent, but at the same time religion will grow and spirituality will grow even within the Western world which is producing all of these things. And in other countries, for example, you have — each country of course has its own dynamics. Iran was the most modernized of all Islamic countries, at least intellectually. Turkey was also modernized in another way.
But these two — but Iran became the Islamic Republic of Iran, and then everything had — Egypt was more religious than Iran, did not become the Islamic Republic of Egypt in the same way. So, you have this phenomenon I think in place in the Islamic world right now. There’s a great deal of reaction against a wave of modernism that began to come from the 18th century onwards, and the Americans and the Europeans tried everything possible to prevent this reaction from taking place, so they could continue to have influence on the Islamic world. In India, there’s a great struggle going on within the country. They call themselves a great democracy, but between the revival of Hinduism, which is going on remarkably in India, what is called Hindu fundamentalism, nobody talks about it, because the press wants to limit the use of all fundamentalism for Muslims, but there’s as much Hindu fundamentalism as Muslim or Buddhist or Christian fundamentalism even more so than the others, except for Islam.2
And so, in India, you have a rise actually of belief in Hinduism, more than during the British Raj in many ways. But at the same time, you have the secular classes in Delhi who are trying to spread modernism to the Indian villages and build roads and bring radio and television and things like that, with which would come secularism. So, I see two opposite currents and other smaller currents going on globally, each region of the world having its own dynamics.3 You cannot generalize.