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The Idea of the Muslim World: A Global Intellectual History
     

The Idea of the Muslim World: A Global Intellectual History

by Cemil Aydin
 

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When President Barack Obama visited Cairo in 2009 to deliver an address to Muslims worldwide, he followed in the footsteps of countless politicians who have taken the existence of a unified global Muslim community for granted. But as Cemil Aydin explains in this provocative history, it is a misconception to think that the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims

Overview

When President Barack Obama visited Cairo in 2009 to deliver an address to Muslims worldwide, he followed in the footsteps of countless politicians who have taken the existence of a unified global Muslim community for granted. But as Cemil Aydin explains in this provocative history, it is a misconception to think that the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims constitute a single religio-political entity. How did this belief arise, and why is it so widespread? The Idea of the Muslim World searches for the intellectual origins of a mistaken notion and explains its enduring allure for non-Muslims and Muslims alike.

Conceived as the antithesis of Western Christian civilization, the idea of the Muslim world emerged in the late nineteenth century, when European empires ruled the majority of Muslims. It was inflected from the start by theories of white supremacy, but Muslims had a hand in shaping the idea as well. Aydin reveals the role of Muslim intellectuals in envisioning and essentializing an idealized pan-Islamic society that refuted claims of Muslims’ racial and civilizational inferiority.

After playing a key role in the politics of the Ottoman Caliphate, the idea of the Muslim world survived decolonization and the Cold War, and took on new force in the late twentieth century. Standing at the center of both Islamophobic and pan-Islamic ideologies, the idea of the Muslim world continues to hold the global imagination in a grip that will need to be loosened in order to begin a more fruitful discussion about politics in Muslim societies today.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
04/03/2017
Aydin upends the common view that the West and Islam are unavoidably in conflict in this crisp history of modern Islamic international relations. He argues the notion of a unified, global Muslim community was not present until Western imperialism and racism forced a defensive posture from Muslims. Starting in the 18th century, he shows how Muslim populations often sided with European powers against other Muslims to achieve more local political goals. In discussions of both world wars and the Cold War, it becomes clear that European powers manipulated Muslims with promises of greater self-determination, using them as proxies for imperial interests. Ending with the first Gulf War, he shows how historically shallow calls for a global caliphate are. The broad scope and quick pace make this more a sketch than a definite work, though novices should be able to follow the swirl of names and events. Despite the brief mentions of Muslim-majority countries around the world, Aydin’s focus is Middle Eastern actors and thinkers to show that the current West-Islam antagonism is neither inevitable nor long-standing. This is a solid work for college classrooms and scholars on the history of global Muslim consciousness and our current world. (Apr.)
Harper’s - Yasmine Seale
In Aydin's telling, the idea of the Muslim world began in response to imperial racism, not to empire itself.
Edmund Burke III
The Idea of the Muslim World is an original and important book. Aydin provides a global lens for viewing the ways in which modernity has shaped both Muslims’ understandings of their global role, and the ways in which we understand the place of Muslims in the world.
Ebrahim Moosa
Aydin captures the formation and evolution of our reference to ‘the Muslim world’ and how this phrase came to prominence in everyday discourse. In eight superb chapters, he frames the Muslim world, and by implication Islam, as a cultural and civilizational tradition within a defined historical and political framework. A tour de force.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780674050372
Publisher:
Harvard
Publication date:
04/24/2017
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
262,621
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.80(d)

Meet the Author

Cemil Aydin is Associate Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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