Islam Through Western Eyes: From the Crusades to the War on Terrorism

Overview

Despite the West's growing involvement in Muslim societies, conflicts, and cultures, its inability to understand or analyze the Islamic world threatens any prospect for East--West rapprochement. Impelled by one thousand years of anti-Muslim ideas and images, the West has failed to engage in any meaningful or productive way with the world of Islam. Formulated in the medieval halls of the Roman Curia and courts of the European Crusaders and perfected in the newsrooms of Fox News and CNN, this anti-Islamic discourse...

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Islam Through Western Eyes

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Overview

Despite the West's growing involvement in Muslim societies, conflicts, and cultures, its inability to understand or analyze the Islamic world threatens any prospect for East--West rapprochement. Impelled by one thousand years of anti-Muslim ideas and images, the West has failed to engage in any meaningful or productive way with the world of Islam. Formulated in the medieval halls of the Roman Curia and courts of the European Crusaders and perfected in the newsrooms of Fox News and CNN, this anti-Islamic discourse determines what can and cannot be said about Muslims and their religion, trapping the West in a dangerous, dead-end politics that it cannot afford.

In Islam Through Western Eyes, Jonathan Lyons unpacks Western habits of thinking and writing about Islam, conducting a careful analysis of the West's grand totalizing narrative across one thousand years of history. He observes the discourse's corrosive effects on the social sciences, including sociology, politics, philosophy, theology, international relations, security studies, and human rights scholarship. He follows its influence on research, speeches, political strategy, and government policy, preventing the West from responding effectively to its most significant twenty-first-century challenges: the rise of Islamic power, the emergence of religious violence, and the growing tension between established social values and multicultural rights among Muslim immigrant populations.

Through the intellectual "archaeology" of Michel Foucault, Lyons reveals the workings of this discourse and its underlying impact on our social, intellectual, and political lives. He then addresses issues of deep concern to Western readers -- Islam and modernity, Islam and violence, and Islam and women -- and proposes new ways of thinking about the Western relationship to the Islamic world.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Booklist

[ Islam Through Western Eyes] offers an excellent and engaging opportunity for critical self-reflection.

Boston Globe - Rayyan Al-Shawaf

Lyons takes a chisel to the ancient and venerable edifice that is the anti-Islam discourse and patiently chips away, hoping to demolish what he considers the chief obstacle obscuring the West's view of real-life Islam and Muslims.

Choice

Lyons has made a very significant contribution to the study of Islam and Muslims in the 21st century across disciplines...A must read for those interested in the subject.

H-Diplo - Cemil Aydin

Jonathan Lyons offers a very readable and thought-provoking account of the roots and characteristics of Islamophobia. This book should be added to the reading lists of undergraduate and graduate courses on contemporary world affairs and American foreignpolicy.

Choice

Lyons has made a very significant contribution to the study of Islam and Muslims in the 21st century across disciplines...A must read for those interested in the subject.

Publishers Weekly
Lyons, a foreign correspondent and scholar of Islamic civilization, explains how the dominant Western view of Muslims as irrational and incorrigible fanatics, obsessed by sex and violence, was forged at the time of the First Crusade and has been remarkably consistent and unchanging since then, promoted throughout the centuries largely by self-appointed “experts” who had little experience interacting with actual Muslims. This scholarly if sometimes overly pedantic book presents a well-researched and referenced case that “the West’s ‘conversation’ with Islam has always been a one-sided affair, essentially a dialogue with itself, revealing much about the subject but little or nothing about the object in question.” In sections on Islam and science, religious violence, and the rights of women, Lyons (with an intellectual debt to Foucault and Said) meticulously catalogues how the narrative of Islam as a rapacious and ungodly “other” was constructed and reinforced, all the while obviating the need for any meaningful dialogue with Muslims themselves, who are placed “irretrievably outside the bounds of civilized society, reduced in status to little more than animals.” A useful corrective to the powerful voices of those who intersperse claims of Islam’s innate bloodthirstiness with advocacy for suppression of the rights of Muslims at home and abroad. (Jan.)
Lewis H. Lapham

Jonathan Lyons joins the wisdom of a scholar with the knowledge of a journalist in a timely and necessary book. A much-needed light unto the gentiles wishing to understand the truth and consequences of the Arab Spring.

Mark Juergensmeyer

Islam Through Western Eyes is as timely as it is informative, helping us understand the history of understanding -- and misunderstanding -- between Muslims and non-Muslims over the centuries, patterns that continue today. This is a book that should be read by people of all faiths, not only for edification but also for healing in a religiously fractured world.

Boston Globe
Lyons takes a chisel to the ancient and venerable edifice that is the anti-Islam discourse and patiently chips away, hoping to demolish what he considers the chief obstacle obscuring the West's view of real-life Islam and Muslims.

— Rayyan Al-Shawaf

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231158954
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 1/1/2014
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 1,402,931
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Jonathan Lyons spent twenty years as a foreign correspondent and editor for Reuters, much of it in the Islamic world. He holds a Ph.D. in sociology from Monash University and lives in Portland, Oregon. His publications include The House of Wisdom: How the Arabs Transformed Western Civilization and (with Geneive Abdo) Answering Only to God: Faith and Freedom in Twenty-First-Century Iran.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

1 War Without End? 1

2 Foucault's Toolbox 21

3 The Western Idea of Islam 43

4 Islam and Science 73

5 Islam and Violence 111

6 Islam and Women 155

7 What's Wrong with Us? 191

Notes 197

Bibliography 205

Index 249

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