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

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

ISBN13: 9780231158947
ISBN10: 0231158947
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Despite the West's growing involvement in Muslim societies, conflicts, and cultures, its inability to understand or analyze the Islamic world threatens any prospect for East--West rapprochement. Impelled by one thousand years of anti-Muslim ideas and images, the West has failed to engage in any meaningful or productive way with the world of Islam. Formulated in the medieval halls of the Roman Curia and courts of the European Crusaders and perfected in the newsrooms of Fox News and CNN, this anti-Islamic discourse determines what can and cannot be said about Muslims and their religion, trapping the West in a dangerous, dead-end politics that it cannot afford.

In Islam Through Western Eyes, Jonathan Lyons unpacks Western habits of thinking and writing about Islam, conducting a careful analysis of the West's grand totalizing narrative across one thousand years of history. He observes the discourse's corrosive effects on the social sciences, including sociology, politics, philosophy, theology, international relations, security studies, and human rights scholarship. He follows its influence on research, speeches, political strategy, and government policy, preventing the West from responding effectively to its most significant twenty-first-century challenges: the rise of Islamic power, the emergence of religious violence, and the growing tension between established social values and multicultural rights among Muslim immigrant populations.

Through the intellectual archaeology of Michel Foucault, Lyons reveals the workings of this discourse and its underlying impact on our social, intellectual, and political lives. He then addresses issues of deep concern to Western readers — Islam and modernity, Islam and violence, and Islam and women — and proposes new ways of thinking about the Western relationship to the Islamic world.

Review:

"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." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Bryce Johnson, February 18, 2012 (view all comments by Bryce Johnson)

"Islam through Western Eyes" presents a fascinating and well written attempt to explain to contemporary western audiences who benefits? when we construct an anti-Islamic discourse. In other words, what fuels the fire and explains why it can be so persistent from the time of the crusades right up to the present moment in our press, cable news and children's literature.

Lyons describes how Pope's armies have been formed, philosophers and historians have advanced their careers and even new crusaders have used the old tried and true (but highly effective) vocabulary. In doing so, he draws in many theoretical threads, from Max Weber and C.W. Mills to Michal Foucault, Edward Said and other contemporary theorists.

Particularly fascinating is his documentation of our post-9/11 discourse in the USA, delicately choosing the right words (jihad, crusade, etc.), while constantly disavowing any anti-Muslim sentiments on the part of our leadership.

The strongest section of the book to some readers may be his chapter on Islam and Women. It is easy to document for both Christianity and Islam over the past 1000 years that women's place and relative strength in the family and society ebbed and flowed with different periods of time. Yet our popular discourse on the subject chooses to compare some relatively idealized ideas about women in the USA in the 20th century, contrasting them with (mostly inaccurate) travelers' accounts of brief visits to Islamic societies.

Most westerners have been raised on visions of the hammam (bath) with naked slave girls and fully clothed sultans and eunuchs, perpetuated by our novels, movies and even children's cartoons. The hammam is one place that has never been available for study to western eyes. Instead, Lyons tells us visiting westerners resorted to hiring dancing girls and prostitutes to construct the vision they wanted to convey. Men's baths were fully available to the western visitors, and they appear to have never been mentioned.

President George W. Bush's avowal that we were invading Iraq in order to help its women seems particularly comical, when much of the energy of his campaign had been devoted to squelching nascent women's issues in the US. Lyons writes:

"The White House chose to invoke the established discourse of Islam and women in what effectively amounted to a massive propaganda campaign in the guise of "public diplomacy". And so in September 2005, Bush dispatched his most trusted aide and adviser-the Texas television reporter turned White House counselor Karen Hughes-to tour three leading Muslim countries, Egypt, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, to press the U.S. line that its policies, including the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, were in the best interests of Muslim women everywhere."

This is a significant addition to our thinking about and feelings towards the Islamic world.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780231158947
Author:
Lyons, Jonathan
Publisher:
Columbia University Press
Subject:
Politics-United States Foreign Policy
Subject:
Sociology-Islamic Studies
Publication Date:
20120131
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Language:
English

Related Subjects

Featured Titles » History and Social Science
History and Social Science » Politics » United States » Foreign Policy
History and Social Science » Sociology » Islamic Studies
History and Social Science » World History » Middle East
Religion » Eastern Religions » Islamic Studies
Religion » Islam » General

Islam Through Western Eyes: From the Crusades to the War on Terrorism New Hardcover
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$32.50 In Stock
Product details pages Columbia University Press - English 9780231158947 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "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." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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