Potts on Qutb in the Believer

For those out there who love music and good writing, I highly suggest the magazine The Believer. I believe (ha ha) it’s put out by the same folks who put out McSweeneys, the online version of which I pay attention to for our Friday Funny, and the dead tree version to which I subscribe. The Believer is what Rolling Stone should be, and maybe what it was for a brief period in the 60s/early 70s .But anyway, it’s a fine magazine, and Rolf Potts, as folks here know, since I blog about him every so often, is a fine writer.

In this abridged piece at the Believer Web site (you have to buy the mag to get the whole thing) Potts discusses one of Islam’s lesser-known (at least among non-Muslims) intellectuals, a man named Sayyid Qutb…and a man who did not have a lot of good things to say about America, and yet a man who actually did spend a fair deal of time here in the late 1940s. This is significant, because a lot of Americans who resist anti-Americanism say (rightly) that much of the rhetoric out there against America comes from people who have never spent time here.

Well, Qutb did live here, and he spent a majority of his 1948-50 U.S. sojourn as a scholarship student at Colorado State College of Education, living in the high-plains town of Greeley. When he returned to Egypt he wrote an essay entitled “The America I Have Seen,” a short travel memoir that appeared in the November 1951 issue of Egypt’s Al-Risala magazine. As Potts explains, Qutb’s disaffection with America stems from what he saw as a corrosive moral and spiritual primitiveness (and this BEFORE MTV?!).

I am always fascinated by others’ perceptions of us, and Potts essay here, even the abridged version, gives a taste of that fro the eyes of someone that most Americans have never heard of, but whose views, while perhaps colored by religious fanaticism, are still interesting to understand.