Kirkus Reviews QR Code


by Juan Cole

Pub Date: March 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-230-60754-5
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Want to neutralize terrorism? One step, suggests Cole (History/Univ. of Michigan; Napoleon’s Egypt, 2007, etc.), is to stop using the term “Islamofascism.”

It’s not that the phrase is inciting Muslims to act poorly so much as obscuring the issue, writes the author. “The word ‘Islamic,’ ” he says, “like ‘Judaic,’ refers to the ideals of the religion…there can be Muslim thieves and Muslim terrorists, but since Islamic principles forbid property theft and terrorism, there can logically speaking be no ‘Islamic terrorism’ or ‘Islamic burglary.’ ” Alas, as Cole suggests, there has not been much logical speaking in the mix, with the result that Muslims worry about the prospect of renewed Western imperialism while Westerners fret over Muslim immigration—and everyone worries, justly, about violence. Cole charts various issues that cause division. One involves the reality and rhetoric of dependence on oil from Muslim countries. He observes that the United States is also dependent on other countries for chromium, tin and cobalt—among other things that are critically important to the defense industry—and “yet there is no clamor for chromium independence.” Racism and xenophobia play long-standing roles in mutual misunderstanding, but much of the discord is recent. As Cole observes, in the 1950s and ’60s, “Islam” was absent from discussions of U.S. foreign policy, while Muslim nations were kept in play largely to the extent that they had valuable resources or threatened to drift into the Soviet camp. Cole examines the current situation vis-à-vis Iran, Saudi Arabia and other nations and urges engagement—by which, among other things, he means “the demotion of military responses from favored tool to last resort.”

A well-reasoned, useful vision for Western-Muslim relations.