Faith Misplaced: The Broken Promise of U.S.-Arab Relations: 1820-2001by Ussama Makdisi
In this riveting account of U.S.-Arab relations, award-winning author Ussama Makdisi explores why Arabs once had a favorable view of America and why they no longer do. Firmly rejecting the spurious notion of a civilizational clash between Islam and the West, Makdisi instead demonstrates how an initial zealous American missionary crusade was transformed across the nineteenth-century into a leading American educational presence in the Arab world, and how the advent of the idea of Wilsonian self-determination, amidst wide-scale Arab emigration to the United States, further bolstered a positive, foundational Arab idea of America. However, a series of subsequent political turning points—beginning with the British and French colonial partition of the Arab world in 1920 and culminating in the U.S.-backed creation of Israel in 1948 at the expense of the Palestinians—systematically alienated Arabs from America.
Drawing on both American and Arab sources, Makdisi brings to the fore for the first time a wide range of hitherto marginalized Arab perspectives on their multifaceted cultural and political encounters with America. Unearthing this neglected history puts current politics and Arab attitudes toward the United States in a crucial historical perspective. By tracing how American missionaries laid the basis for an initial Arab discovery of America, and then how later U.S. policy decisions fueled anti-Americanism, Makdisi tells a powerful historical tale brimming with contemporary relevance.
”A sage, evenhanded look at the souring of a once-promising relationship… While numerous recent books delve more deeply into the Arab-Israel crisis of the modern era, Makdisi maneuvers through this minefield with a steady hand… A work of impressive clarity and scholarship.”
Stephen Walt, Foreign Policy, July 29, 2010
“Makdisi is a distinguished historian at Rice University, who's written a fascinating and spirited account of the tragic deterioration in U.S. relations with most of the Arab and Islamic world…If you're still curious about "why they hate us?" this book is a good place to start.”
Christian Science Monitor, July 19, 2010
“While Makdisi’s narrative is lopsided – focusing on how ties to Israel undermined US-Arab relations without mentioning how Arab nations themselves have undermined relations – his well-written book offers fresh insight into the American evangelical presence in the Middle East.”
The Palestine Note, June 30, 2010
“[Makdisi] succeeds in constructing a history that is pointed and deliberate but still represents the larger realities of Arab-American relations over the past two centuries. The book is a welcome and helpful resource for any reader wishing to understand how Arab-American relations have fallen to the nadir they are at now.”
Jerusalem Fund, August 31, 2010
“Ussama Makdisi's book tells an important story about a relationship which, in its early years, had tremendous potential based on commonalities and tolerance, but it ultimately soured over time as the spirit of cooperation embodied in the academic institutions established by missions in the Arab world, was replaced with a spirit of domination and dictation from an aspiring superpower to a peoples in the midst of anti-colonialist resistance.”
Salon, December 8, 2010
“It is a sad tale, and Makdisi writes it with verve and elegance.”
CHOICE, April 2011
“This comprehensive, informative, well-researched, and well-written book has an excellent bibliographical essay.”
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Meet the Author
Ussama Makdisi is Arab American Educational Foundation Professor of History at Rice University. In April 2009 the Carnegie Corporation named Makdisi a 2009 Carnegie Scholar for his contributions to enriching the country’s discourse on Islam. His previous book, Artillery of Heaven, won the 2009 John Hope Franklin Prize.
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