With tensions between the West and the Islamic world running high—from xenophobic rhetoric about immigrants in Europe to President Bush’s call for a “crusade” against terrorism—it is more important than ever that we understand the role of religion and political culture in everyday Muslim society.
In Varieties of Muslim Experience, anthropologist Lawrence Rosen explores aspects of Arab Muslim life that are, at first glance, perplexing to Westerners. He ranges over such diverse topics as why Arabs eschew portraiture, why a Muslim scientist might be attracted to fundamentalism, and why the Prophet must be protected from blasphemous cartoons. What connects these seemingly disparate features of Arab social, political, and cultural life? Rosen argues that the common thread is the importance Arabs place on the negotiation of interpersonal relationships—a link that helps to explain actions as seemingly unfathomable as suicide bombing and as elusive as Quranic interpretation.
Written with eloquence and a deep knowledge of the entire spectrum of Muslim experience, Rosen’s book will interest not only anthropologists and Islamicists but anyone invested in better understanding the Arab world.