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Conventional wisdom maintains that the differences between Islam and Christianity are irreconcilable. Pre-eminent Middle East scholar Richard W. Bulliet disagrees, and in this fresh, provocative book he looks beneath the rhetoric of hatred and misunderstanding to challenge prevailing -- and misleading -- views of Islamic history and a "clash of civilizations." These sibling societies begin at the same time, go through the same developmental stages, and confront the same internal challenges. Yet as Christianity grows rich and powerful and less central to everyday life, Islam finds success around the globe but falls behind in wealth and power. Modernization in the nineteenth century brings in secular forces that marginalize religion in political and public life. In the Christian world, this simply furthers a process that had already begun. In the Middle East this gives rise to the tyrannical governments that continue to dominate. Bulliet argues that beginning in the 1950s American policymakers misread the Muslim world and, instead of focusing on the growing discontent against the unpopular governments, saw only a forum for liberal, democratic reforms within those governments.By fostering slogans like "clash of civilizations" and "what went wrong," Americans to this day continue to misread the Muslim world and to miss the opportunity to focus on common ground for building lasting peace. This book offers a fresh perspective on U.S.-Muslim relations and provides the intellectual groundwork upon which to help build a peaceful and democratic future in the Muslim world. On "clash of civilizations" "Civilizations that are destined to clash cannot seek together a common future. Like Mathews'Islam, Huntington's Islam is beyond redemption. The strain of Protestant American thought that both men are heir to, pronounces against Islam the same self-righteous and unequivocal sentence of 'otherness'that American Protestants once visited upon Catholics and Jews." On "what went wrong" "The idea that people in the Middle East once embraced the goal of becoming like Europe and hoped that by adopting European ideas and institutions they would someday experience all of the liberal values we recognize in the Europe of today is nonsense. It assumes a historical outcome for Europe itself that no one even in Europe could have predicted."On "why do they hate us" "Those who advanced the Japanese occupation as a model for postwar Iraq seem to have baseball, Hello Kitty, and Elvis impersonators in the back of their minds rather than headscarves and turbaned mullahs...Like latter day missionaries, we want the Muslims to love us, not just for what we can offer in the way of a technological society but for who we are -- for our values. But we refuse to countenance the thought of loving them for their values." On Islam's ideological shortcomings "Jim Jones, David Koresh, and Meir Kahane do not typify Christianity and Judaism in the eyes of the civilized West but those same eyes are prone to see Osama bin Laden and Mullah Muhammad Omar as typifying Islam." On Middle East studies "The founders of Middle East studies ignored recommendations that they focus on contemporary Islam and focused instead on Middle Easterners trying to act like westerners. There weren't a lot of these, just as there hadn't been a lot of converts, but the conviction was strong that those few would be pioneers in bringing western modernity to the region...The people we supported as agents of modernity became tyrants."
Product Details

Table of Contents

Preface Chapter 1. Islamo-Christian Civilization Chapter 2. What Went On? Chapter 3. Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places Chapter 4. The Edge of the Future Appendix Works Cited

Promotional Information

A preeminent Middle East scholar argues that beginning in the 1950s American policymakers misread the Muslim world. Instead of focusing on the growing discontent with the unpopular governments, the policymakers saw only a forum for liberal, democratic reforms within those governments. By fostering slogans like "clash of civilizations," and "what went wrong," Americans to this day continue to misread the Muslim world and to miss the opportunity to focus on common ground for building lasting peace. This book offers a fresh perspective on U.S.-Muslim relations and provides the intellectual groundwork upon which to build a peaceful and democratic future in the Muslim world.

About the Author

Richard W. Bulliet is professor of history at Columbia University. A former director of the Middle East Institute and executive secretary of the Middle East Studies Association, he is the author of Islam: The View from the Edge, The Camel and The Wheel, and editor of The Columbia History of the Twentieth Century. He lives in New York City.

Reviews

While the War on Terrorism tempts Americans to perceive the relations between the West and the Islamic world as a clash of us against them, such a perspective is both inaccurate and dangerous, argues Bulliet (history, Columbia Univ.). In this clearly written book, aimed at the general reader, Bulliet subverts the confrontational "clash of civilizations" thesis, urging us to appreciate the mutually intertwined sibling relationship of the Christian and Muslim wings of a single civilization. He contends that in What Went Wrong? Bernard Lewis mistakenly presumes that contemporary Euro-American-style democracies were the goal of colonial development. Ironically, Islamic political theory, ignored by Cold War-obsessed Middle Eastern studies experts, proved prescient of the tyrannical governments common to Islamic countries today. Bulliet believes that the voices that will shape what Islam becomes in the future probably have not yet appeared but will develop from within the growing edges of Islam itself. While his interlocutors will find Bulliet insufficiently alarmed, this sane work requires a place on the library shelf alongside them. Steve Young, McHenry Cty. Coll., Crystal Lake, IL Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

"[An] insightful book about Islam and Muslims that actually provides hope for the future... this book is a quick, informative, and encouraging read." -- Publishers Weekly "A clearly written book, aimed at the general reader...requires a place on the library shelf" -- Library Journal "Presents a persuasive case for viewing Islam and the West... [a]brilliant new book" -- Emran Qureshi, Toronto Globe and Mail "Seeks to bridge a gap between Islam and the West... His solution is to try to patch things up by emphasizing all that Islam and Christianity have in common." -- Daniel Lazare, The Nation "As Bulliet writes... there is a far better case for 'Islamo-Christian civilization' than there is for a clash of civilizations." -- Washington Monthly "A positive and challenging proposal, underscoring the importance of the phases we use in defining our world." -- Future Survey "Obviously, this is an important book with the important proposal to familiarize everyone with the term "Islam-Christian civilization". Let us take heed." -- Murad Wilfried Hofmann, The Muslim World Book Review "It deserves the widest possible readership, addressing as it does with wit and insight one of the most freighted issues of our times." -- Malise Ruthven, Times Literary Supplement "Bulliet's ideas are collectively imaginative and a major contribution... No reader will see the history either of Christendom or Islam in quite the same way." -- Ronald Davis, Domes "Great scholarship and vision... Bulliet offers rare insights in the Islamic and the (post)-Christian worlds." -- Johannes J. G. Jansen, International History Review "An excellent touchstone... this is not a volume that should be ignored." -- John J. Curry, Ph.D., Digest of Middle East Studies "[A] wise and wonderful book." -- Howard J. Dooley, Journal of World History

Bulliet, a history professor at Columbia University and a former director of the Middle East Institute, offers a short, insightful book about Islam and Muslims that actually provides hope for the future. The book consists of four essays arguing that Islam and Christianity have tremendous common roots and history-as much as, or more than, Christianity and Judaism. Bulliet also contends that Western Christian policymakers and commentators, when encountering Islam, have reacted with knee-jerk Islamophobia and generalizations rather than thoughtfulness. Bulliet envisions a future, 20 years off at least, where Islamic countries will have active democracies. He also debunks the popular view that Islam has an inherent separation of church and state problem; Christians have had similar issues in the past, as he shows with the Church of England and other examples. Bulliet's optimism-which is backed up by solid arguments-is alluring, particularly where his counterparts can offer only gloom-and-doom scenarios. Bulliet's most brilliant insight, which comes in the last chapter, is the recognition that those Islamic movements on the fringe eventually become the center of Islam. The new leaders of Islam-probably those on the edge now, who have shown more diverse, tolerant attitudes-have not yet been heard from, he says. Although portions are written densely, this book is a quick, informative, and encouraging read. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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