The devastating September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon left us stunned, angry, and uncomprehending. As it became clear that these horrifying acts had been committed in the name of Islam, we struggled to understand how religion could be used to justify the slaughter of innocents. The media, the government, and ordinary citizens alike sought answers to questions about Islam and its adherents. Who are the Muslim extremists who perpetrate such deeds? Why do they hate us? What do they hope to achieve? Does Islam really teach that such terrorists are holy warriors who will be rewarded with everlasting bliss?
In this level-headed and authoritative book, John L. Esposito, one of the world's most respected scholars of political Islam, provides answers to these and many other questions that have arisen in the wake of the attacks. He clearly and carefully explains the teachings of Islamthe Quran, the example of the Prophet, Islamic lawabout jihad or holy war, the use of violence, and terrorism. He chronicles the rise of extremist groups and examines their frightening worldview and tactics. Anti-Americanism (and anti-Europeanism), he shows, is a broad-based phenomenon that cuts across Arab and Muslim societies. It is not just driven by religious zealotry, but by frustration and anger at U.S. policy. Moreover, many Muslims are repelled by aspects of Western culture, and alarmed at its impact around the world. It is vital to understand, however, that the vast majority of Muslims are appalled by the acts of violence committed in the name of their faith. It is essential that we distinguish between the religion of Islam and the actions of extremists like Osama bin Laden who hijack Islamic discourse and belief to justify their acts of terrorism.
How can we continue the fight against terrorism without precipitating a global clash of cultures? This is perhaps the most important question we face in this time of crisis. The terrorists behind the September 11 attacks must be brought to justice, their cells eradicated, and their bases destroyed. But this war against terror must not be used to justify erosion of important values at home, or become a green light to authoritarian regimes in the Muslim world to repress non-violent opposition. Only by understanding and addressing the issues that breed hatred and radicalism, argues Esposito, can we defuse the conflicts that will otherwise continue to confront future generations.
This brief, clear-sighted and accessibly written book reflects twenty years of study, reflection, and experience on the part of a scholar who is equally respected in the West and in the Muslim world. It will prove to be the best single guide to these urgent questions that have suddenly forced themselves on the attention of the entire world.
Notwithstanding the recent avalanche of popular writing on Islam, most Americans still know very little about this misunderstood faith and its 1.2 billion adherents worldwide. In American popular culture today, terrorism and Islam have become synonymous. In this engaging, evenhanded, and highly readable book, one of America's foremost experts on contemporary Islam seeks to correct popular misconceptions about this faith. A professor of religion and international affairs and director of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University, Esposito (editor, The Oxford Illustrated History of Islam) does an admirable job of explaining sociopolitical and cultural developments in the Muslim world in a fashion that is easily accessible to nonspecialist readers. Issues such as the rise of militant Islam and its key personalities, including Sayyid Qutb and Osama bin Laden, are fully explained. This is essential reading for every concerned citizen and all those who wish to gain a deeper understanding of contemporary Islam and its internal struggles. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries. Nader Entessar, Spring Hill Coll., Mobile, AL Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.