Islam Through Western Eyes: From the Crusades to the War on Terrorism

Jonathan Lyons. Columbia Univ, $32.50 (272p) ISBN 978-0-231-15894-7
Lyons, a foreign correspondent and scholar of Islamic civilization, explains how the dominant Western view of Muslims as irrational and incorrigible fanatics, obsessed by sex and violence, was forged at the time of the First Crusade and has been remarkably consistent and unchanging since then, promoted throughout the centuries largely by self-appointed “experts” who had little experience interacting with actual Muslims. This scholarly if sometimes overly pedantic book presents a well-researched and referenced case that “the West’s ‘conversation’ with Islam has always been a one-sided affair, essentially a dialogue with itself, revealing much about the subject but little or nothing about the object in question.” In sections on Islam and science, religious violence, and the rights of women, Lyons (with an intellectual debt to Foucault and Said) meticulously catalogues how the narrative of Islam as a rapacious and ungodly “other” was constructed and reinforced, all the while obviating the need for any meaningful dialogue with Muslims themselves, who are placed “irretrievably outside the bounds of civilized society, reduced in status to little more than animals.” A useful corrective to the powerful voices of those who intersperse claims of Islam’s innate bloodthirstiness with advocacy for suppression of the rights of Muslims at home and abroad. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 10/24/2011
Release date: 01/01/2012
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 213 pages - 978-0-231-52814-6
Paperback - 260 pages - 978-0-231-15895-4
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