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THE ISLAMIC THREAT by John L. Esposito

THE ISLAMIC THREAT

Myth or Reality?

By John L. Esposito

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-19-507184-0
Publisher: Oxford Univ.

 Holy Cross professor (Middle East Studies) and State Department consultant Esposito calls for a more balanced and informed view of the Muslim world. For the thousand years since the Crusades, Muslim cultures have been demonized by Western writers. Muslims have been thought of as violent, irrational, and resistant to change, and the Muslim world as a monolithic bloc acting in hysterical concert. Esposito attempts to provide a more complex and sympathetic view of this globe-spanning religion, starting with its inception and including the recent spread of ``fundamentalism''--a term to which he objects. ``Liberal or mainline Christians,'' he argues, automatically think of fundamentalists as ``static, retrogressive, and extremist''; Muslim ``fundamentalism'' is more aptly termed ``revivalism'' or ``activism,'' and is often embraced by well- educated, responsible members of the community. Esposito cautions against equating modernity or intellectual sophistication with secular modes of thought, and points out that what appears to be modernization to Western eyes is seen as a legacy of colonialism by many Muslims. He includes a brief but lucid account of Islam's origins as one of the ``Abrahamic'' religions (along with Christianity and Judaism), as well as wonderful thumbnail sketches of major Muslim countries, organizations, and movements. Esposito rightfully points out that, far from being inordinately repressive, Muslim nations allowed divergent religious groups to worship under state protection, subject to a poll tax. But he does seem to underestimate the Ottoman threat to Europe in the 15th through 17th centuries, and the level of hostility to the West among Muslim countries today. He also fails to address properly the role of women in Muslim countries, but does try to explain Muslim outrage at Salman Rushdie. A much-needed and highly accessible account of an ancient and widespread culture too often presented only in terms of villainous stereotypes.