The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality?

The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality?

The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality?

The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality?

Synopsis

Are Islam and the West on a collision course? From the Ayatollah Khomeini to Saddam Hussein, the image of Islam as a militant, expansionist, and rabidly anti-American religion has gripped the minds of Western governments and media. But these perceptions, John L. Esposito writes, stem from a long history of mutual distrust, criticism, and condemnation, and are far too simplistic to help us understand one of the most important political issues of our time. In this new edition of The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality?, Esposito places the challenge of Islam in critical perspective. Exploring the vitality of this religion as a global force and the history of its relations with the West, Esposito demonstrates the diversity of the Islamic resurgence--and the mistakes our analysts make in assuming a hostile, monolithic Islam. This third edition has been expanded to include new material on current affairs in Turkey, Afghanistan, Palestine, and Southeast Asia, as well as a discussion of international terrorism.

Excerpt

Relatively little time has elapsed since the last edition of The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality? was published, but many changes have occurred since then. The government of Turkey, influenced by the military, forced its nation's first Islamist prime minister to resign and suppressed the Welfare Party. The Taliban swept across Afghanistan and gained control of 90 percent of the country. Violence and intolerance in Bosnia spread into Kosovo, where Serbian forces massacred ethnic Albanians. American military forces in Saudi Arabia and American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed. In retaliation for the bombings in Africa and to prevent or discourage future attacks, the United States undertook a preemptive strike against sites and camps in Sudan and Afghanistan allegedly supported by Osama bin Laden, whom the United States held responsible for the promotion and support of global terrorism. Israeli and Palestinian officials often blamed Hamas for acts of terrorism that undermined the peace process. Iran felt the winds of change with President Khatami's election, marked by new initiatives to build a civil society and engage the West through a civilizational dialogue. However, Khatami's reformism was countered by more conservative supporters of Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran's supreme religious leader (faqih). Muslims in the United States and Europe continued to be more visible participants at every level of society, but they also faced questions regarding their loyalty to their new homeland and their connections to militant groups overseas.

The problem today is putting into perspective relations between Islam and the West, as it was when the first edition of this book appeared. If some have spoken of the need for civilizational dialogue, others have warned of a clash of civilizations. Talk of a political and cultural conflict could be seen not only in fears of confrontation but also in assertions that Islam is incompatible with democracy and modernity. The charge that . . .

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