The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity / Edition 1by Tariq Ali
Pub. Date: 04/17/2003
Publisher: Verso Books
The aerial attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, a global spectacle of unprecedented dimensions, generated an enormous volume of commentary. The inviolability of the American mainland, breached for the first time since 1812, led to extravagant proclamations by the pundits. It was a new world-historical turning point. The 21st century, once greeted triumphantly as marking the dawn of a worldwide neo-liberal civilization, suddenly became menaced. The choice presented from the White House and its supporters was to stand shoulder-to-shoulder against terrorism or be damned.
Tariq Ali challenges these assumptions, arguing instead that what we have experienced is the return of History in a horrific form, with religious symbols playing a part on both sides: ‘Allah’s revenge,’ ‘God is on Our Side’ and ‘God Bless America.’ The visible violence of September 11 was the response to the invisible violence that has been inflicted on countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Palestine and Chechnya. Some of this has been the direct responsibility of the United States and Russia. In this wide-ranging book that provides an explanation for both the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and new forms of Western colonialism, Tariq Ali argues that many of the values proclaimed by the Enlightenment retain their relevance, while portrayals of the American Empire as a new emancipatory project are misguided.
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I had a very good time reading this book.Even though I thought that it was going to be a little bit partial to the Muslim community,I was surprised to see how balanced and objective he could remain. Using this technique,he was much more persuasive in his criticism of the West as well,since nobody could say that he was favoring his own particular group. I would strongly recommend it!
One can't tell a book from it's cover, but in this case, at least one can get an idea that the author has a sense of humor! Perhaps it may be well that such a serious topic as terrorism and religious fundamentalism be approached with a some humor. At the same time, it is a serious book, one of the few books on terrorism that actually delve into the roots of it all to discern a solution. The book is quite voluminous, nearly 330 pages, packed with information and deep analysis, with many notes. The author's brilliant writing style makes it an incredibly difficult book to put down. I ended up finishing the whole book over the Christmas / New Year holiday, with many sleepless nights, that is. The book is divided into 4 major parts: one on the early history of Islam; one on the last 100 years of relations with the West, marked by colonialism and upheavals; a special part focusing on South Asia (India and Pakistan) the region about which the author is most familiar; and the last part on the United States and it's relations with the Islamic world. The book is fascinating not only because it draws upon the author's deep knowledge of the history of Islam, but also because he punctuates it with poetry and quotations from diverse literary works over the ages. The book exhibits a deep understanding of the subject, and posits a thesis directly confronting the much-touted 'clash of civilizations' model. A major strength of this book, however, is that the author is daring enough not to stand with the crowd. While many intellectuals from the Muslim world do little to explain current events beyond laying the blame on the West, Tariq Ali is not afraid to look squarely at his own culture with the same critical eye he uses to examine Western imperialism. In this day and age, I would say this is a must-read!