The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear is a BBC television documentary series by Adam Curtis.
The Power of Nightmares – Part 1 – ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’ – 2004 | Adam Curtis
The first part of the series explains the origins of Islamism and neoconservatism. It shows Egyptian civil servant Sayyid Qutb, depicted as the founder of modern Islamist thinking, visiting the U.S. to learn about its education system, then becoming disgusted at what he judged as the corruption of morals and virtues in western society through individualism. When he returns to Egypt, he is disturbed by westernisation under Gamal Abdel Nasser and becomes convinced that in order to save his own society, it must be completely restructured along the lines of Islamic law while still using western technology. He then becomes convinced that his vision can only be accomplished through use of an elite “vanguard” to lead a revolution against the established order.
Qutb becomes a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and, after being tortured in one of Nasser’s jails, comes to believe that western-influenced leaders can be justifiably killed to remove their corruption. Qutb is executed in 1966, but he influences Ayman al-Zawahiri, the future mentor of Osama bin Laden, to start his own secret Islamist group. Inspired by the 1979 Iranian revolution, Zawahiri and his allies assassinate Egyptian president Anwar Al-Sadat in 1981 in the hopes of starting their own revolution. However, the revolution does not materialise, and Zawahiri comes to believe that a majority of Muslims have been corrupted, not only by their western-inspired leaders, but Muslims themselves have been affected by jahilliyah and thus may be legitimate targets of violence if they refuse to join his cause. They continued to believe that a vanguard was necessary to rise up and overthrow the corrupt regime and replace it with a ‘pure’ Islamist state.