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Islam Through Western Eyes: From the Crusades to the War on Terrorismby Jonathan Lyons
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"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 Ã¢Â€Â˜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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