Holy Lands: Reviving Pluralism in the Middle East

Nicholas Pelham. Columbia Global Reports, $13.99 trade paper (176p) ISBN 978-0-9909763-4-9
Pelham (A New Muslim Order) poses a troubling question: Can a region once known for its vibrant pluralism and religious cooperation return from the brink of sectarianism and a cycle of hyper-nationalistic violence? He recounts distressing vignettes from the Middle East before offering a nostalgic and analytic recommendation for remedy that emerges from the region's own history. To make his case, Pelham surveys snapshots of tension from Israel to Iran and Iraq to Turkey, juxtaposed with anecdotes of a fragile hope that are rising out of the rubble of lost history and recent regional turmoil. Proposing that hyper-nationalism and a legacy of Western incursion are particularly problematic, Pelham suggests that a return to a form of Ottoman militocracy might prove the pacifier. The reportage is well-grounded in textured life histories, interviews, and relevant historical narratives and statistics. Pelham offers impressively nuanced interpretations of entangled political rivalries and the hazy religious boundaries that crisscross the Middle East. Readers will find his investigation of the region's intolerance and aspirations for peace refreshing, particularly in the context of increasingly pessimistic headlines and political rhetoric. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/21/2016
Release date: 04/01/2016
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