The Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization

The Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization

by Richard W. Bulliet
     
 

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A preeminent Middle East scholar argues that beginning in the 1950s American policymakers misread the Muslim world. Instead of focusing on the growing discontent with the unpopular governments, the policymakers saw only a forum for liberal, democratic reforms within those governments. By fostering slogans like "clash of civilizations," and "what went wrong,"

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Overview

A preeminent Middle East scholar argues that beginning in the 1950s American policymakers misread the Muslim world. Instead of focusing on the growing discontent with the unpopular governments, the policymakers saw only a forum for liberal, democratic reforms within those governments. By fostering slogans like "clash of civilizations," and "what went wrong," Americans to this day continue to misread the Muslim world and to miss the opportunity to focus on common ground for building lasting peace. This book offers a fresh perspective on U.S.-Muslim relations and provides the intellectual groundwork upon which to build a peaceful and democratic future in the Muslim world.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Bulliet, a history professor at Columbia University and a former director of the Middle East Institute, offers a short, insightful book about Islam and Muslims that actually provides hope for the future. The book consists of four essays arguing that Islam and Christianity have tremendous common roots and history-as much as, or more than, Christianity and Judaism. Bulliet also contends that Western Christian policymakers and commentators, when encountering Islam, have reacted with knee-jerk Islamophobia and generalizations rather than thoughtfulness. Bulliet envisions a future, 20 years off at least, where Islamic countries will have active democracies. He also debunks the popular view that Islam has an inherent separation of church and state problem; Christians have had similar issues in the past, as he shows with the Church of England and other examples. Bulliet's optimism-which is backed up by solid arguments-is alluring, particularly where his counterparts can offer only gloom-and-doom scenarios. Bulliet's most brilliant insight, which comes in the last chapter, is the recognition that those Islamic movements on the fringe eventually become the center of Islam. The new leaders of Islam-probably those on the edge now, who have shown more diverse, tolerant attitudes-have not yet been heard from, he says. Although portions are written densely, this book is a quick, informative, and encouraging read. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Foreign Affairs
What if, instead of viewing the Muslim world as a fundamentally different "other," we saw it as sharing a common cultural tradition? What if, instead of asking what went wrong in the Muslim world, we sought to find out what went on? Presenting comparatively major themes of historical development in the Middle East and the West, Bulliet argues that the two are best understood not in terms of a clash of civilizations but in terms of a "twinned relationship ... over some fourteen centuries." He cannot quite break out of the us-and-them dichotomy. In criticizing the "what went wrong" approach, he notes that it depends on one's criteria of success. Islam has, for example, won many more converts than Christianity has in the last 500 years. Furthermore, he argues, those in the West (and especially Americans) have failed to understand the deep-rooted Islamic norms governing the relationship between state and society. This little book offers a rich lode of penetrating insights encased in two quite different arguments, seemingly contradictory but better seen as complementary: Islam and the West have much in common, and each must be appreciated on its own terms.
Library Journal
While the War on Terrorism tempts Americans to perceive the relations between the West and the Islamic world as a clash of us against them, such a perspective is both inaccurate and dangerous, argues Bulliet (history, Columbia Univ.). In this clearly written book, aimed at the general reader, Bulliet subverts the confrontational "clash of civilizations" thesis, urging us to appreciate the mutually intertwined sibling relationship of the Christian and Muslim wings of a single civilization. He contends that in What Went Wrong? Bernard Lewis mistakenly presumes that contemporary Euro-American-style democracies were the goal of colonial development. Ironically, Islamic political theory, ignored by Cold War-obsessed Middle Eastern studies experts, proved prescient of the tyrannical governments common to Islamic countries today. Bulliet believes that the voices that will shape what Islam becomes in the future probably have not yet appeared but will develop from within the growing edges of Islam itself. While his interlocutors will find Bulliet insufficiently alarmed, this sane work requires a place on the library shelf alongside them. Steve Young, McHenry Cty. Coll., Crystal Lake, IL Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Future Survey

A positive and challenging proposal, underscoring the importance of the phases we use in defining our world.

The Muslim World Book Review
Obviously, this is an important book with the important proposal to familiarize everyone with the term "Islam-Christian civilization". Let us take heed.

— Murad Wilfried Hofmann

Times Literary Supplement
It deserves the widest possible readership, addressing as it does with wit and insight one of the most freighted issues of our times.

— Malise Ruthven

Domes
Bulliet's ideas are collectively imaginative and a major contribution... No reader will see the history either of Christendom or Islam in quite the same way.

— Ronald Davis

International History Review
Great scholarship and vision... Bulliet offers rare insights in the Islamic and the (post)-Christian worlds.

— Johannes J. G. Jansen

Digest of Middle East Studies
An excellent touchstone... this is not a volume that should be ignored.

— John J. Curry, Ph.D.

Journal of World History
[A] wise and wonderful book.

— Howard J. Dooley

International Journal of Middle East Studies

[These essays] emanate from a fair-minded approach to strident debates - written, if you will, from the center.

Toronto Globe & Mail

Presents a persuasive case for viewing Islam and the West... [a]brilliant new book

— Emran Qureshi

The International Journal of Middle East Studies - Juan Cole

Richard Bulliet's The Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization re-examines most of the pieties of the West about the Muslim world and Islamic politics (and about the West itself) and finds them not only wrong but wrongly conceived.... He argues that modern European and Muslim history are deeply intertwined and that one cannot be understood in isolation from the other, thereby launching a profound challenge to teachers, historians and policy-makers.

Toronto Globe and Mail - Emran Qureshi

Presents a persuasive case for viewing Islam and the West... [a]brilliant new book

The Nation - Daniel Lazare

Seeks to bridge a gap between Islam and the West... His solution is to try to patch things up by emphasizing all that Islam and Christianity have in common.

Foreign Affairs - L. Carl Brown

Offers a rich lode of penetrating insights.

The Muslim World Book Review - Murad Wilfried Hofmann

Obviously, this is an important book with the important proposal to familiarize everyone with the term "Islam-Christian civilization". Let us take heed.

Times Literary Supplement - Malise Ruthven

It deserves the widest possible readership, addressing as it does with wit and insight one of the most freighted issues of our times.

Domes - Ronald Davis

Bulliet's ideas are collectively imaginative and a major contribution... No reader will see the history either of Christendom or Islam in quite the same way.

International History Review - Johannes J. G. Jansen

Great scholarship and vision... Bulliet offers rare insights in the Islamic and the (post)-Christian worlds.

Digest of Middle East Studies - John J. Curry

An excellent touchstone... this is not a volume that should be ignored.

Journal of World History - Howard J. Dooley

[A] wise and wonderful book.

The International Journal of Middle East Studies
Richard Bulliet's The Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization re-examines most of the pieties of the West about the Muslim world and Islamic politics (and about the West itself) and finds them not only wrong but wrongly conceived.... He argues that modern European and Muslim history are deeply intertwined and that one cannot be understood in isolation from the other, thereby launching a profound challenge to teachers, historians and policy-makers.

— Juan Cole, University of Michigan

Toronto Globe and Mail
Presents a persuasive case for viewing Islam and the West... [a]brilliant new book

— Emran Qureshi

The Nation
Seeks to bridge a gap between Islam and the West... His solution is to try to patch things up by emphasizing all that Islam and Christianity have in common.

— Daniel Lazare

Washington Monthly

As Bulliet writes... there is a far better case for 'Islamo-Christian civilization' than there is for a clash of civilizations.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780231509183
Publisher:
Columbia University Press
Publication date:
10/06/2004
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
200
File size:
2 MB

What People are saying about this

Mustapha Tlili

Only a historian as great as Richard Bulliet could offer such new daring insights into the Islamic-Christian encounter. After this book, it will no longer be possible to consider with any degree of seriousness the pop philosophy of a "clash of civilizations." All those who care about the future of the Muslim world-US relationship will do well to read this brilliant book.

Mustapha Tlili, Founder and Director, Dialogues: Islamic World-U.S.-The West, World Policy Institute, New School

Bruce B. Lawrence

Though Islamo-Christian civilization may be a neologism, it is a creative key term that this book will make into a household word. Since 9/11 Americans have been subjected to a relentless parade of experts, from missionaries to historians to special interest advocates, all of whom warn about the difference and danger of Islam. Richard Bulliet reveals the flimsiness of their arguments. Against Samuel Huntington's "clash of civilizations" and Bernard Lewis's "What Went Wrong?," Bulliet sees a future in which the screeds of American Islamophobes and the violent dreams of Muslim extremists both are eclipsed by respect and popular following for leaders of tolerant and peaceful conscience. They are the key to our collective future as members of Islamo-Christian civilization.

Bruce B. Lawrence, Professor of Islamic Studies, Duke University

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