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Engaging the Muslim World

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Overview

Western society is suffering from Islam Anxiety—the product of fear-mongering and misinformation. There is a desperate need to debunk the myths concerning Islam in order to improve the political and ideological understanding between Muslim countries and their Western counterparts. Juan Cole, already celebrated for his rejection of stereotypes and his insistence on taking all perspectives into account, carefully sorts through and addresses all the major issues in Western - Muslim relations, including: terrorism, ...

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Engaging the Muslim World

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Overview

Western society is suffering from Islam Anxiety—the product of fear-mongering and misinformation. There is a desperate need to debunk the myths concerning Islam in order to improve the political and ideological understanding between Muslim countries and their Western counterparts. Juan Cole, already celebrated for his rejection of stereotypes and his insistence on taking all perspectives into account, carefully sorts through and addresses all the major issues in Western - Muslim relations, including: terrorism, gas and petroleum dependence on the volatile Oil Gulf, the uncertainties of the Iraq War, and the little-understood regimes in Iran and Saudi Arabia.

With clear-eyed determination, Cole separates spin from fact, providing substantive recommendations for the next administration on how to engage with key countries such as Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran. Finally, Cole reveals how we can repair the damage of the disastrous foreign policy of the last eight years and forge ahead on a path of peace and prosperity.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
University of Michigan professor Juan Cole is an academic who can never be accused of cloistering himself in an ivory tower. This respected historian of the Middle East and South Asia is also the keeper of InformedComment, arguably the most influential blog on events unfolding in those regions. Cole's Engaging the Muslim World tackles perhaps the central question in American foreign policy: How do we sort out the problems, possibilities, and dangers in Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and other nations in the Middle East? Cole's synthesis is precise and generally optimistic (he argues, for instance, that al-Qaeda should not be confused with a mass movement like communism or fascism), but his specificity belies any view that he is simply case making. This is a valuable book, certain to widely discussed and reviewed as the Obama administration reevaluates foreign policy.
From the Publisher
"A grand new book to introduce lay American readers to the current tumult in the Middle East and South Asia. This is not just one long blog post."

 

"Cole quite correctly maintains that the distrust between what he calls the North Atlantic societies and the Muslim world have expanded exponentially in this century and it's time to stop all that. Dealing with the more irrational aspects of America's anxiety over the Muslim world and the Islam anxiety over the West is the way to start. His book was completed just before the Obama administration had a chance to get going. But judging from some of Cole's comments, he would probably believe the new president is heading in the right direction." —Star Ledger

 

"Cole has delivered an important book that members of the administration would be wise to read en route to the Middle East."—The American Prospect 

 

"[A] balanced and effective antidote to oversimplified Western views of Islam. . . . manages to prick western misconceptions without taking extremist movements entirely at their own estimation." —The Economist

 

"[Cole] brings a constructive addition to public discourse." —Publishers Weekly

 

"Intelligent, clear and erudite. This is a timely and incisive retrospective of the Bush administration's calamitous encounter with the Muslim World by one of the most noted scholars of the subject. Cole looks deep into what went wrong to show the way forward to a new engagement of the Muslim World."—Vali Nasr, bestselling author of The Shia Revival: How Conflicts Within Islam Will Shape the Future

"Juan Cole, distinguished specialist on the Muslim world, delivers his most comprehensive and erudite commentary to date — covering imperialism, the Arab-Israeli conflict, American oil politics, radical Islam and Middle Eastern terrorism. Engaging the Muslim World is the book every educated American should read."—Chalmers Johnson, bestselling author of Nemesis and The Blowback Trilogy

"Engaging the Muslim World is a MUST read, the right book at the right time for anyone who wants to understand 'What went wrong, why, and where do we go from here.' Juan Cole is uniquely qualified to provide a critical, incisive, provocative analysis and commentary that will be welcomed by experts, policymakers and concerned citizens."—John L. Esposito, Professor of religion & International Affairs, Georgetown University and bestselling author of Who Speaks for Islam? and What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam

"Cole provides a comprehensive alternative analysis of the current situation in the Muslim world and reveals how new U.S. policies might succeed in bringing peace where wars now rage. He proves the key role of oil interests in American foreign policy and demonstrates how incorrect or exaggerated ideas now prevalent in the U.S. are about the intrinsic militancy of Islam, and the aggressiveness of Iran. Everyone should read and ponder the facts he presents and the solutions he proposes."—Nikki Keddie, Professor Emerita of History, UCLA and author of Modern Iran and Women in the Middle East

"Juan Cole's depth and breath of knowledge on the Middle East has made him the most prescient analyst of the region's politics. It might infuriate the neocons who are proven wrong again and again, but Cole's insight is invaluable to anyone interested in the truth."— Markos Moulitsas, DailyKos

"A well-reasoned, useful vision for Western-Muslim relations."—Kirkus

"A leading American expert on the Islamic world, seeks to dispel many of the persistent myths about Islam and the Middle East. Cole convincingly demonstrates why one should not confuse Muslim activism with hidebound fundamentalism. The chapter dealing with Iran is particularly informative and evenhanded, and the analysis of myriad issues in U.S.-Iran relations is a welcome antidote to the barrage of alarmist commentaries on Iran in much of the U.S. press. This readable and intelligent book is a must read for policymakers and the informed public.—Library Journal, starred review

 

“Juan Cole’s ‘Engaging the Muslim World’ maps those fault lines, and one can only wish Bush had mulled over such material before the misadventures of the post-9/11 era began.  Like Lawrence Wright’s remarkable ‘Looming Tower’, published almost three years ago, this field guide to the politics of modern Islam traces the history of the different movements, whose violent offshoots are still morphing into new forms.” —New York Times Book Review

"The blog I turn to for insight into Middle East news is often Professor Juan Cole’s, because he’s smart, well-informed and sensible — in other words, I often agree with his take." — Nicholas Kristof, New York Times

 

"The Obama administration, as it seeks to correct a decade of self-fulfilling phobias, will find no better guide than this nuanced, clear-headed, visionary book.“ —The Huffington Post

 

 

"Provocative and sweeping . . . Of the three books, Cole's is the most critically rigorous and empirically informed. Agree or disagree, one cannot ignore Cole's historically and sociologically driven analysis and moral courage." — Fawaz Gerges, National Interest

 

"I cannot improve on Juan Cole’s thorough and excellent debunking of the results [of the Iranian Presidential Election]."— Laura Secor, The New Yorker

 

"Provocative and sweeping . . . Of the three books, Cole's is the most critically rigorous and empirically informed. Agree or disagree, one cannot ignore cole's historically and sociologically driven analysis and moral courage." — Fawaz Gerges, National Interest

 

"Cole has become one of the best-known experts on Islam, and here Cole doesn't disappoint.  Whether dealing with America's "Islam Anxiety," the Middle East's oil problem, or Afghanistan/Pakistan, he offers provocative analysis and a level of detail that goes quite beyond the mainstream media's new reports." —Amitabh Pal, The Progressive, Favorite Books of 2009

 

"Beginning with the observation that "the Muslim world and the West are at a standoff," Cole fashions conceptual tools to account for the prejudice and fear with which each thinks about the other." —Choice

 

 

“A provocative read… Cole convincingly argues that misunderstanding and generalizing Islam and the Middle East has contributed to great losses of both blood and treasure in recent years.”—Military Review

David E. Sanger
Like Lawrence Wright's remarkable Looming Tower, published almost three years ago, this field guide to the politics of modern Islam traces the history of the different movements, whose violent offshoots are still morphing into new forms. Along the way, Cole, a historian at the University of Michigan, explores what he sees as the twin dynamic of "Islam Anxiety" in the United States and "American Anxiety" in the Arab world. Readers of Cole's blog, Informed Comment, will find many of the arguments familiar, though they are well assembled here, with essays on the myths surrounding Saudi Wahhabism, the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the unintended side effects of American meddling in Iran.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

University of Michigan history professor and blogger Cole (Sacred Space and Holy War ) takes aim at the Bush administration's "Islamophobic discourse," highlighting that some of the very people who promulgated the phobia (Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld) once sang a different tune. He calls instead for evenhanded and pragmatic policy changes, not least a reckoning with the heterogeneity of the Muslim world. Yet for all his expertise, Cole fails to source some of his harshest accusations; moreover, for a scholar championing greater subtlety of thought, he too often discards nuance himself. To the extent that Cole argues against painting the Middle East with overly broad strokes, he brings a constructive addition to public discourse; his failure to be consistent is a lost opportunity. (Mar.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

One of the most talked about but least successful undertakings by Western countries in recent years have been policies designed to engage the Muslim world. Similarly, the Muslim-majority countries have largely failed to change stereotypes of Islam and the Middle East in the West's subconscious. In this excellent book, Cole (Richard P. Mitchell Professor of History, Univ. of Michigan), a leading American expert on the Islamic world, seeks to dispel many of the persistent myths about Islam and the Middle East. The author systematically analyzes many major topics, such as terrorism, oil, Wahhabism, and the Iraq war, and highlights popular myths and prejudices associated with these issues. Cole convincingly demonstrates why one should not confuse Muslim activism with hidebound fundamentalism. The chapter dealing with Iran is particularly informative and evenhanded, and the analysis of myriad issues in U.S.-Iran relations is a welcome antidote to the barrage of alarmist commentaries on Iran in much of the U.S. press. This readable and intelligent book is a must read for policymakers and the informed public. Highly recommended for all academic and public libraries.
—Nader Entessar

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780230607545
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 3/17/2009
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 9.52 (w) x 6.44 (h) x 1.01 (d)

Meet the Author

Juan Cole, internationally respected historian and celebrated blogger at Informed Comment, is the Richard P. Mitchell Professor of History at the University of Michigan. He has written numerous books, including Sacred Space and Holy War and Napoleon’s Egypt. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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Table of Contents

Introduction

The Struggle for Islamic Oil

Muslim Activism, Muslim Radicalism: Telling the Two Apart

The Wahhabi Myth

Iraq and Islamophobia: How Fearmongering Got Up a War and Kept it Going

Pakistan and Afghanistan Beyond the Taliban

Ayatollahs and Caviar: The Iranian Challenge

Conclusion

Notes

Index

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 12 )
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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2014

    Liberal propoganda

    These people cant be hugged unto submission. They have to be comepletly and utterly destroyed. Im not talking about the magority. Im talking about the terrorists and those who dupport them.

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  • Posted July 18, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Cultural and Political Master Piece

    For those concerned about current events where the U.S. and Muslim issues collide, "Engaging the Muslim World" provides a no wholes barred analysis of looking past governmental and media spin. Communication avenues are the salvations required to get to lasting solutions to the Middle East and U.S. relationships, while restoring America's powerful and necessary leadership role. Juan Cole takes readers to areas of behavior Americans should pressure their elected officials to step into.

    Highly intellectual and great for discussions regarding the Middle East.

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  • Posted July 13, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Blazing a Path through Mutual Prejudices to Build a Brighter Future Together

    Juan Cole succeeds in his endeavor to shine a penetrating light on some widely misunderstood dimensions of the Islamic world. Mr. Cole would like to reduce what he terms "Islamic Anxiety" that holds sway over the hearts of many Westerners, especially many Americans. That Islamic anxiety derives from the growing dependence of the world on the oil from the Middle East, terrorism, and misunderstood regional powerbrokers such as Iran and Saudi Arabia. At the same time, the Islamic world is in the grip of what Mr. Cole dubs "American Anxiety." The U.S. Middle Eastern policy has been suboptimal for a long time due to its over-reliance on some unsavory regimes, some attention-deficit disorder, a strong dose of wishful thinking, and some short-term thinking.

    Mr. Cole comes up with some viable proposals to further strengthen a partnership between North Atlantic and Muslim countries to tackle the most pressing problems. Those problems are the future of energy markets, the neutralization of religious fundamentalists, the stabilization of both Afghanistan and Iraq, the resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict, and the engagement of Iran. Mr. Cole's viable proposals are for example a grand compromise among the main players in Iraq after the Taif agreement for Lebanon, less money for the "toys" of the Pakistani military in favor of an expansion of the government school system, the development of the civilian infrastructure in Afghanistan, or the delicate balancing of Israeli and Palestinian legitimate interests. Some of Mr. Cole's other proposals are not realistic, i.e., convincing Israel to give up its nuclear arsenal or the swift transition from hydrocarbons to solar energy in the biggest energy-consuming states.

    In conclusion, Mr. Cole proposes that the North Atlantic and Muslim countries work better together to address some of the most pressing issues that the world will continue to face in the coming decades.

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  • Posted May 16, 2009

    Excellent insight into the Muslim world and how U.S. should engage

    Professor Juan Cole is one of the few knowledgeable people who can provide in-depth advice or analysis of the Muslim world and how the U.S. should interact with these countries. His deep knowledge of the languages, history and culture, as well as having lived in the Middle East truly qualified him as an expert.

    This book is an excellent example of his work and is vital for every American to read. Our Foreign Policy for the past 8 years, especially in the Middle East has been a disaster and is in desperate need of repair. Professor Cole provide the guidance and how to do this.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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