Political Islam from Muhammad to Ahmadinejad

By Vidino, Lorenzo | The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, Summer 2010 | Go to article overview

Political Islam from Muhammad to Ahmadinejad


Vidino, Lorenzo, The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs


Political Islam from Muhammad to Ahmadinejad REVIEW OF JOSEPH M. SKELLY, ED. Political Islam from Muhammad to Ahmadinejad (Santa Barbara: Praeger Security International, 2009) 281 pages, $50 hardcover

In 2001, Martin Kramer published a book that generated intense debate among Middle East experts. Suggestively entitled Ivory Towers on Sand: The Failure of Middle Eastern Studies in America, the book condemned what the author saw as the politicization-either by Third World biases or apologists for radical ideologies from the region-and decline in expertise in the field. Kramer, a Princeton-educated expert on medieval Islam who has divided his career between Israel and the United States, identified the beginning of the decline with the 1978 publication of Edward Said's much-celebrated book, Orientalism. Said's main thesis was that much of Western scholarship on the region was tarnished by a deep-seated prejudice against the East and that this ethnocentric bias skewed the objectivity of most analyses.

Said's writings have had an enormous impact. Several scholars opposed his views, accusing him of making politically motivated and poorly evidenced charges. But many others found Said's critique convincing and inspiring. The field of Middle East studies soon became divided between "Orientalists" and "Saidians." The latter slowly outnumbered the former and managed to control the Middle East Studies Association (MESA), the national organization that unites experts on the region. As Said himself wrote, following the publication of Orientalism "the formerly conservative Middle East Studies Association underwent an important ideological transformation," and Said's positions slowly became mainstream among American experts on the Middle East.1

Kramer's book condensed the accusations that critics leveled against Said and the course taken by MESA, whether publicly or, more often than not, privately. Orientalism, according to Kramer, "made it acceptable, even expected, for scholars to spell out their own political commitments as a preface to anything they wrote or did."2 Moreover, he charged, the dogma to follow was to see the people of the region as victims of the "three legs of the orientalist stool:" Western racism, American imperialism, and Israeli Zionism.3

Orientalists and Saidians quarrel on many issues, but in recent years no subject has divided them more than Islamism. Saidians charge Orientalists with erroneously lumping all Islamist groupings in one category, failing to see that there are reformist and democracy-prone Islamist movements that have little to do with al-Qaeda and other fringe groups. Orientalists respond by accusing Said's disciples of whitewashing Islamism, and ignoring ample evidence pointing to the undemocratic and intolerant nature of all Islamist groups, even those embraced by the Saidians. In his book, Kramer complained that the Saidian-dominated American academia's failure to understand Islamism had left a vacuum in the field and wondered what would fill it.4

The answer to this question came in 2007, six years after the publication of Kramer's book, when two of America's most senior Middle East experts, Bernard Lewis (Kramer's mentor at Princeton) and Fouad Ajami of Johns Hopkins University, founded a new organization with the not-so-hidden goal of creating a viable alternative to MESA. Since its foundation, the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa (ASMEA) has attempted both to create a network of professionals who hold views that are distinct from those espoused by MESA and to coalesce those views to counterbalance MESA's influence. The inaugural conference of ASMEA was held in Washington in 2008, and some of the papers presented during the event have been collected in the organization's first book.

Edited by Joseph Morrison Skelly, a professor of history at New York City's College of Mount Saint Vincent and ASMEA's Treasurer, Political Islam from Muhammad to Ahmadinejad is an interesting collection of a very heterogeneous assortment of articles. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Political Islam from Muhammad to Ahmadinejad
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.