In the twentieth century, Islam has not often proved fertile ground for democracy and its virtues. On the other hand, Islamic culture has not been hospitable to Nazism, fascism, or communism, unlike Christian culture (as in Germany, Italy, Russia, Czechoslovakia), Buddhist culture (Japan before and during World War II, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, Vietnam, North Korea), or Confucian culture (Mao’s China). The Muslim world has never yet given rise to systematic fascism and its organized brutalities. Hafiz al-Assad’s Syria and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq have been guilty of large-scale violence, but fascism also requires an ideology of repression that has been absent in the two countries. And apart from the dubious case of Albania, communism has never independently taken hold in a Muslim culture.
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Ali A. Allawi, The Crisis of Islamic Civilization (Yale University Press, 2009)
The book explores how Islamic civilization began to unravel under colonial rule, as its institutions, laws, and economies were often replaced by inadequate modern equivalents. Allawi also examines the backlash expressed through the increasing religiosity of Muslim societies and the spectacular rise of political Islam and its terrorist offshoots. Assessing the status of each of the building blocks of Islamic civilization, the author concludes that Islamic civilization cannot survive without the vital spirituality that underpinned it in the past. He identifies a key set of principles for moving forward, principles that will surprise some and anger others, yet clearly must be considered.
M. Shahid Alam, Challenging the New Orientalism (IPI, 2007).Over the past few decades, a new form of Orientalism has been developing. It points to the Islamicate as the West's archenemy. The rise of political Islam and its opposition to Western domination of the Islamic world are seen as evidence of a deep, abiding hatred of all things Western. Accordingly, the new Orientalists call for thorough reforms, among them regime changes, wars, and the imposition of 'democracy' on Islamic societies. They warn that if the West shrinks from this challenge, the Islamists will surely gain power and destroy the West. The essays in this book "written after 9-11" dispute the new Orientalist presumption of an unchanging Islam, opposed to "Western" values and incapable of adapting to the modern world. Alam argues that the new Orientalists claim of a categorical split between Islam and the West is based on a biased, inaccurate interpretation of history. While recognizing the political and economic failings of the Islamic world, Alam shows that they are - in large part - legacies of two centuries of Western imperialism and are shared by all regions at the periphery of the prevailing global capitalism. If the Islamic world lags behind China and India, it is because of two factors that have given a new edge to Western involvement in West Asia and North Africa: oil and Zionism. In Alam's view, Israel is a powerful destabilizing force in the region, whose survival depends upon turning the Western-Islamic conflict into a hot war. Not surprisingly, many of the new Orientalists are strong partisans of Israel.
S. Sayyid, A Fundamental Fear: Eurocentrism and the Emergence
of Islamism (Zed Books, 2003)
Read a review of the book by Anas Malik.
Richard W. Bulliet, The Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization
(Columbia University Press, 2004)
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.
Read a review of the book by Sonia Nettnin
Bernard Lewis, What Went Wrong? (Oxford University Press, 2001).
In this elegantly written volume, Bernard Lewis, a renowned authority an Islamic affairs, examines the anguished reaction of the Islamic world as it tried to make sense of how it had been overtaken, overshadowed, and dominated by the West. In a fascinating portrait of a culture in turmoil, Lewis shows how the Middle East turned its attention to understanding European weaponry, industry, government, education, and culture.
He also describes how some Middle Easterners fastened blame on a series of scapegoats, while others asked not "Who did this to us?" but rather "Where did we go wrong?"
Read a review of the book by M. Shahid Alam.