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The Crisis of Islam

I finally got back to Bernard Lewis’ The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror after making it through Oren’s much lengthier (and much better) tome. Lewis’ work is an amplification of a magazine article for The New Yorker, and it reads like one. There are few references and the cohesiveness of the argument or line of thought fades in the last few chapters. On the upside, the first one hundred pages provide a good summary of the history of Islam and its reaction to Western Imperialism. Two other good parts are Lewis’ speculations about why Islam treats the U.S.A. differently from the Soviet Union and his description of the Islam’s lack of modernization (or the failure of modernity).

I do not understand the crisis in Islam, but I do have more knowledge about more factors in the crisis. So I’m glad I had time this morning to read this. To be fair(er) to Lewis, I have not yet read any of his main works, just this one and What Went Wrong? Before I read any of his real books though, I’m going to balance things a bit by reading Edward Said. Oren does a nice job towards the end of PF&F of describing how Lewis and Said represent the two major schools of thought in Middle Eastern studies now. I have no idea what that means right now. We’ll see if reading Said helps.


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