Annoy al Qaeda, Support Pro Wrestling

Here's another snippet from a book I'm slowly pecking my way through, between grading student essays and midterm exams.  The book is Jeff Leen's illuminating and nostalgia-inducing bio of wrestler Mildred Burke, The Queen of the Ring: Sex, Muscles, Diamonds, and the Making of an American Legend (2009).  In this excerpt, Leen notes an interesting connect between the global politics of today and early 1950s television wrestling, in which Gorgeous George tapped into "America's fascination with homosexuality" and lady wrestlers, into "male daydreams of lesbianism and erotic masochism":
One of the most malignant receptors of these currents coursing through mid-century America was an Egyptian academic named Sayyid Qutb.  A mild-mannered and unassuming sort, Qutb studied at the Colorado State College of Education in Greeley on a State Department grant.  He was in Greeley when Mildred Burke wrestled there, but he left no indication that he saw her.  If he had, his outrage would have been beyond the apoplectic.  As it was, he was most intensely offended by two aspects of American culture that were uniquely combined in Mildred Burke: overt female sexuality and spectator sports such as pro wrestling.  Of women he later 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, full buttocks, and in the shapely thighs, sleek legs--and she shows all this and does not hide it."  Wrestling, he wrote, evoked all that was worst in American society.  "Bloody monstrous wrestling matches" left "no room for doubt as to the primitiveness of the feelings of those who are enamored with muscular strength and desire it."  When Qutb returned to Egypt he set to writing a monumental work arguing that the only hope for civilization was a retreat into the religious strictures of seventh-century Islam.  These writings would later become the theoretical underpinnings for many radical Islamic groups, including al Qaeda.


  1. The truly sad thing is, Qutb came to America predisposed to find confirmation of his already held views. And like many religious fundamentalists, he found facile confirmation of his own prejudices, which really mask his own insecurities. Is it any wonder he never married, holding such views. Moreover, his thinking was reductive, often reducing America's best cultural products--jazz, among them--to racist stereotypes born of his own ignorance. For all the truly great contributions of Islamic culture to the world--e.g. in mathematics--current Islamist thinking tolerated by mainstream Islam sends their culture back to the Stone Age.



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