The New Crusades explores the historical, political, and institutional forces that have raised the specter of a threatening and monolithic Muslim enemy. Bringing together twelve of the most influential thinkers in Middle Eastern and religious studies including Edward Said, Roy Mottahedeh, and Fatema Mernissi this timely collection confronts stereotyped depictions of the Arab-Islamic world, offering instead an informed, critical, and realistic study of contemporary Islam.
As the title suggests, Western "construction" of Islam and Muslims comes in for a harsh appraisal in this impressive excursion into the history of ideas. One of the chapters is, appropriately, by Edward Said (famous for his notion of "orientalism"); others dispute Samuel Huntington's famous "Clash of Civilizations" thesis. Overall, the work of the editors and eleven additional contributors is sophisticated, subtle, richly documented, and wide-ranging. Maria Rosa Menocal shows how Western medievalists have expunged the European Arabic contribution to Western literature. Roy Mottahedeh, in a subtle critique of Huntington, brings out the complex reality that is obscured by such reifications as "Islam" and "the West." Rob Nixon presents a study of the persistent anti-Muslim bias in the works of V. S. Naipaul. Norman Cigar chillingly sets out the contribution of Serbian intellectuals to "defining and eliminating a Muslim community." Tomas Mastnak argues that, starting in the fifteenth century, anti-Islamic sentiment fostered the very idea of Europe as a political community. Others deserve mention as well, for all are scholarly, readable, and informative.