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Over the past few decades a new, more predatory Orientalism has taken root. Led by Elie Kedourie and Bernard Lewis, the new Orientalists seek to resurrect Islam as the West's menacing "Other." They see the rise of political Islam and its opposition to Western domination of the Islamic world as products of a primordial Islamic hatred of all things Western. Accordingly, the new Orientalists call for deep reforms in Islam, requiring regime changes, wars, and the imposition of "democracy" on Islamic societies. They warn that if the West shrinks from this historic challenge, the Islamists will gain power and destroy the West.
The essays in this book, written after 9-11, challenge the new Orientalists at several levels. They show that their essentialist construction of an unchanging Islam, opposed to "Western" values and incapable of adapting to the modern world, is misleading and dangerous. The not-so-hidden objective of the new Orientalism is to package the US and Israel's imperialist thrust into the Islamic world as both a security imperative and a civilizing mission. Alam argues that the new Orientalist's claim of clashing dichotomies between Islam and the West is based on a tendentious reading of the history of Islam and the West. While recognizing the political and economic failings of the Islamic world, Alam shows that these are legacies of two centuries of Western imperialism and are shared – to varying degrees – by all regions at the periphery of global capitalism. If the Islamic world lags behind China and India, this is because of two factors that have given a new edge to Western imperialism in West Asia and North Africa over recent decades: oil and the Zionism. Alam argues that Israel is a powerful destabilizing factor in this region, whose survival depends upon turning the West-Islam conflict into a hot war. Not surprisingly, many of the new Orientalists are strong partisans of Israel.