A preeminent Middle East scholar argues that beginning in the 1950s American policymakers misread the Muslim world. Instead of focusing on the growing discontent with the unpopular governments, the policymakers saw only a forum for liberal, democratic reforms within those governments. By fostering slogans like "clash of civilizations," and "what went wrong," Americans to this day continue to misread the Muslim world and to miss the opportunity to focus on common ground for building lasting peace. This book offers a fresh perspective on U.S.-Muslim relations and provides the intellectual groundwork upon which to build a peaceful and democratic future in the Muslim world.
Bulliet, a history professor at Columbia University and a former director of the Middle East Institute, offers a short, insightful book about Islam and Muslims that actually provides hope for the future. The book consists of four essays arguing that Islam and Christianity have tremendous common roots and history-as much as, or more than, Christianity and Judaism. Bulliet also contends that Western Christian policymakers and commentators, when encountering Islam, have reacted with knee-jerk Islamophobia and generalizations rather than thoughtfulness. Bulliet envisions a future, 20 years off at least, where Islamic countries will have active democracies. He also debunks the popular view that Islam has an inherent separation of church and state problem; Christians have had similar issues in the past, as he shows with the Church of England and other examples. Bulliet's optimism-which is backed up by solid arguments-is alluring, particularly where his counterparts can offer only gloom-and-doom scenarios. Bulliet's most brilliant insight, which comes in the last chapter, is the recognition that those Islamic movements on the fringe eventually become the center of Islam. The new leaders of Islam-probably those on the edge now, who have shown more diverse, tolerant attitudes-have not yet been heard from, he says. Although portions are written densely, this book is a quick, informative, and encouraging read. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.