“Terrorism requires only a few. Obviously the West must defend itself by whatever means will be effective. But in devising means to fight the terrorists, it would surely be useful to understand the forces that drive them.”
—from the Introduction
“Remarkably succinct . . . It offers a long view in the midst of so much short-termism and confusing punditry. Lewis has done us all—Muslim and non-Muslim alike—a remarkable service.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“Inestimable . . . replete with the exceptional historical insight that one has come to expect from the world’s foremost Islamic scholar.”
—The Wall Street Journal
“A timely and provocative contribution to the current raging debate about the tensions between the West and the Islamic world.” —BusinessWeek
“No scholar of Islam in the Western world has more thoroughly earned the respect of generalists and academics alike than Bernard Lewis. . . . An excitingly knowledgeable antidote to today’s natural sense of befuddlement. . . . History with electric immediacy.”
The acclaimed Middle East scholar and bestselling author of What Went Wrong? examines the historical roots of Islamic extremism and the rampant anti-Americanism permeating the modern-day Muslim world.
The Crisis of Islam is rich with the eloquence and erudition for
which Lewis has become known and admired, even by his critics. Where
this book is at its best is in showcasing his knowledge of the history,
historiography, jurisprudence and customs of Islamic society in the
Middle East. For this reason, his chapter ''The House of War,''
describing the theological basis for jihad and martyrdom, as well as
their distortion by some fundamentalists to justify terrorism, is a gem.
So too is ''Double Standards,'' which deals with America's own sordid
relationship with Middle East tyrants. — Kenneth M. Pollack
Lewis elegantly and concisely tracks the crisis that is besetting the Muslim world, particularly in the Middle East, soberly explaining that if al Qaeda's leaders "can persuade the world of Islam to accept their views and their leadership, then a long and bitter struggle lies ahead." Bin Laden has acquired a mantle of respectability among certain sections of the Muslim world because other Middle Eastern leaders are seen as compromised. By contrast, his sizable fan base sees him as courageous and incorruptible. For that reason, al Qaeda is not only a terrorist organization but also is morphing into something that approximates a mass movement subscribing to bin Laden's Manichean view that the West really is the enemy of Islam. One can only hope that the conduct of U.S. policy in Iraq, both during the war and afterward, will help to invalidate that view. — Peter Bergen
This lean, muscular volume, an expansion of Lewis's George Polk Award-winning New Yorker article, sheds much-needed light on the complicated and volatile Middle East. To locate the origins of anti-American sentiment, Islamic scholar Lewis maps the history of Muslim anxiety towards the West from the time of the Crusades through European imperialism, and explains how America's increased presence in the region since the Cold War has been construed as a renewed cry of imperialism. In Islam, politics and religion are inextricable, and followers possess an acute knowledge of their own history dating back to the Prophet Mohammed, a timeline Lewis revisits. By so doing, the bestselling author of What Went Wrong? is able to cogently investigate key issues, such as why the United States has been dubbed the "Great Satan" and Israel the "Little Satan," and how Muslim extremism has taken root and succeeded in bastardizing the fundamental Islamic tenets of peace. Lewis also covers the impact of the Iranian Revolution and American foreign policy towards it, Soviet influence in the region and the ramifications of modernization, making this clear, taut and timely primer a must-read for any concerned citizen. (171 pages; 4 maps) (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, myriad articles and books have been published to explain how certain interpretations of Islam have led to the rise of terrorist groups in the Muslim world. In this book, well-known historian Lewis (emeritus, Princeton) continues the debate about the nature of Islam and the implications of politicized Islam for the West. An updated and expanded version of an article he wrote for The New Yorker in November 2001 (for which he received the prestigious George Polk Award), this, in many ways, continues the discussion of topics covered at greater length in the author's recent What Went Wrong?: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response. Here, Lewis covers the historical roots of contemporary malaise in the Muslim world, the role of Saudi Arabia in Islamic radicalism, and how grievances of radical Muslims against the West and its local allies-real or contrived-are formed. Recommended for large public libraries, but those already holding the more scholarly and historical What Went Wrong? may not need this.-Nader Entessar, Spring Hill Coll., Mobile, AL Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Adult/High School-This is a clear, evenhanded overview of the geopolitical events and religious/cultural belief systems that underlie current tensions between the West and Muslim populations around the globe. An amplification of an article Lewis wrote for the New Yorker, the book spans more than 13 centuries but primary emphasis is on key happenings from the early 20th century to the present. Four pages of maps precede the text, illustrating the dramatic expansion of Islamic influence from the Age of the Caliphs (632-750 C.E.) to its zenith during the Ottoman Empire, followed by attrition and decline through the Age of Imperialism to current boundaries. Among the themes the author tackles are grievances over the modern-day presence of foreigners and "infidels" in holy lands, a discussion he places in historical context to explain the rise of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia, albeit without excusing the excesses of that movement's adherents. Fundamental differences in the way Islamic societies and the West approach religion and government are elucidated, with commentary on the ramifications for power structures. The issues are complex, but the writing is accessible to older high school students. John L. Esposito's The Oxford Dictionary of Islam (Oxford, 2003) is a valuable companion resource for academically reliable, paragraph-length identification of concepts, geographic place names, and people in the Lewis volume.-Lynn Nutwell, Fairfax City Regional Library, VA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
The dean of Islamic studies in America ponders the current state of what is both a religion and a political system, and finds it wanting. Mainstream Islam, at least in its ideal form, is at a far remove from the headline-conquering visions of the Islamicists, whether they be the ayatollahs of Iran or the terrorists of al-Qaeda. But, suggests Lewis (Near Eastern Studies Emeritus/Princeton Univ.; The Multiple Identities of the Middle East, 1999, etc.), the fundamentalists may be well along in shifting the center toward the extreme: "The medieval assassins were an extremist sect, very far from mainstream Islam," he writes. "That is not true of their present-day imitators." Witness, Lewis writes, the ever-growing power of Wahhabism, the conservative strain of Islam that now dominates Saudi Arabia, which Lewis persuasively likens to the Ku Klux Klan. "The custodianship of holy places [in Saudi Arabia] and the revenues of oil have given worldwide impact to what would otherwise have been an extremist fringe in a marginal country," writes Lewis-an extremist fringe among whose notable products is Usama bin Ladin, as Lewis spells it, whose "declaration of war against the United States marks the resumption of the struggle for religious dominance of the world that began in the seventh century." The Islamicists have been able to turn the disaffection of the young and impoverished against not merely America, writes Lewis, but against their home governments, which, after all, have done little to produce healthy societies. (For in every measurable respect of social and material well-being, Lewis writes, the Islamic world lags "ever farther behind the West. Even worse, the Arab nations also lag behind themore recent recruits to Western-style modernity, such as Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore.") Small wonder that so many young Muslims are so eager to fulfill the Quranic obligation of jihad, or "holy war," by striking out against the West-though, Lewis is quick to add, "at no point do the basic texts of Islam enjoin terrorism and murder." Expanded from Lewis's prizewinning New Yorker commentary following 9/11: an illuminating brief overview of Islam today.