The Sum of All Heresies: The Image of Islam in Western Thought

The Sum of All Heresies: The Image of Islam in Western Thought

The Sum of All Heresies: The Image of Islam in Western Thought

The Sum of All Heresies: The Image of Islam in Western Thought

Synopsis

Current global tensions and the spread of terrorism have resurrected in the West a largely negative perception of Islamic society, an ill will fueled by centuries of conflict and prejudice. Shedding light on the history behind these hostile feelings, Frederick Quinn's timely volume traces the Western image of Islam from its earliest days to recent times.
Quinn establishes four basic themes around which the image of Islam gravitates throughout history: the Prophet as Antichrist, heretic, and Satan; the Prophet as Fallen Christian, corrupted monk, or Arab Lucifer; the prophet as sexual deviant, polygamist, and charlatan, and the Prophet as Wise Easterner, Holy Person, and dispenser of wisdom. A feature of the book is a strong portrayal of Islam in literature, art, music, and popular culture, drawing on such sources as Cervantes's Don Quixote ; the Orientalism of numerous visual artists; the classical music of Monteverdi and Mozart; and more recent cultural manifestations, such as music hall artists like Peter Dawson and Edith Piaf; and stage or silver screen representations like The Garden of Allah , The Sheik, Aladdin, and The Battle of Algiers. Quinn argues that an outpouring of positive information on basically every aspect of Islamic life has yet to vanquish the hostile and malformed ideas from the past. Conflict, mistrust, and misunderstanding characterize the Muslim-Christian encounter, and growing examples of cooperation are often overshadowed by anger and suspicion.
In this important book, Quinn highlights long-standing historical prejudices but also introduces the reader to some of the landmark voices in history that have worked toward a greater understanding of Islam.

Excerpt

Islam has become a major topic in international relations in recent years, triggered by the 9/11 disaster, sustained warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan, the spread of terrorism in the guise of Islamic jihad, and increasing global tensions. Behind these difficult East–West political encounters are a general lack of knowledge about Islamic history, beliefs, and politics and a sharply negative image of Islam often held by policy makers, religious leaders, and the general public. This topic in its emotional complexity—the image of Islam as it has developed in the West—is the subject of this book.

Some of the subject matter discussed in this work is porous— we are talking about images and attitudes about Islam in locations with changing topographies like the Orient and Middle East; and their inhabitants, variously described as Turks, Persians, Arabs, and Moors, can be equally elusive. Authors in various periods had different “Orients” in mind, most of them more cerebral entities than geographic realities. Todd Kontje used the concept of “German Orientalisms” to cover the multiple uses of Orientalist images in that country. L. P. Harvey, in Islamic Spain, 1200 to 1500 and Muslims in Spain, 1500 to 1614, highlighted the difficulty of using even such apparently obvious words as “Moor,” “Spain,” or “Morisco,” and Maxime Rodinson’s provocative study Europe and the Mystique of Islam and Thierry Hentsch in Imagining the Middle East argued for the interrelationship of “Occident” and “Orient” and asked if in the . . .

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