Faith Misplaced: The Broken Promise of U.S.-Arab Relations: 1820-2001

Faith Misplaced: The Broken Promise of U.S.-Arab Relations: 1820-2001

by Ussama Makdisi
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

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

…  See more details below

Overview

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.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A history of foreign policy gone wrong, Makdisi’s study argues convincingly that Americans have rarely engaged with the Arab nations as autonomous peoples with cultures and histories of their own--they’ve preferred "glib generalizations"--and that such myopia is at the core of much of the Middle East’s animosity toward the U.S. In his history of the Middle East, Makdisi (Artillery of Heaven) privileges Arab voices and, for the most part demonstrates an impressive ability to render societies and individuals as multifaceted. He efficiently debunks the Huntingtonian belief in an inevitable clash of civilizations and resurrects a forgotten history of mutual curiosity and cultural cross-pollination between the East and West. It’s unfortunate, then, that he reduces Zionism and Zionists to a cog in the machinations of Western power politics, rather than presenting a more complex, messy, and accurate picture of competing narratives and their impact on American policy making. His pat simplification undermines his otherwise commendable effort to defuse the "mutual incomprehension" and "mutual demonization" between the U.S. and the Arab world. (July)
From the Publisher
Kirkus, a STARRED review
”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.”

Kirkus Reviews
A sage, evenhanded look at the souring of a once-promising relationship. Makdisi (History/Rice Univ.; Artillery of Heaven: American Missionaries and the Failed Conversion of the Middle East, 2008, etc.) reaches back to the early Protestant missionary work in the Holy Land to underscore the positive, benevolent model of America to which Arabs were first exposed. The establishment of a mission in Beirut by evangelicals Pliny Fisk and Levi Parsons was one of the first American attempts to "reclaim" the biblical lands and convert the Muslim communities. Though it failed-the Americans were "culturally deaf and arrogant"-they instilled their values of education (especially for girls), anti-colonialism and altruism. With the inauguration of Syrian Protestant College in 1866-the precursor to the American University of Beirut-the idea of converting souls had gently transformed into a more secular vision of tolerance and scientific inquiry. American humanitarian efforts for Greek independence and Armenian refugees of Turkish genocide rendered the United States as a promised land, and Arab emigration to America increased, giving rise to a rich tradition of exile, or mahjar, literature. In his 14 points, Woodrow Wilson set out "an inspiring new template for the world," which included self-determination for the remnant peoples breaking away from Ottoman rule, a vision that was later cited by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in his famous 1974 UN speech. So what happened? In a word, Israel. 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. He pinpoints a pivotal moment during the Suez Crisis, when American president Eisenhower rebuked the imperial powers and Israel for attacking Egypt, and America still held the moral card-before capitulating to Cold War and oil interests. Ultimately, the author is optimistic that relations can improve when Americans begin to shed biases about and ignorance of Arab culture and history. A work of impressive clarity and scholarship. Agent: Jeff Gerecke/Gina Maccoby Literary Agency

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781586486808
Publisher:
PublicAffairs
Publication date:
06/22/2010
Pages:
432
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.60(d)

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.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >