Magazine article Foreign Affairs

The Islamic Enlightenment: The Struggle between Faith and Reason, 1798 to Modern Times

Magazine article Foreign Affairs

The Islamic Enlightenment: The Struggle between Faith and Reason, 1798 to Modern Times

Article excerpt

The Islamic Enlightenment: The Struggle Between Faith and Reason, 1798 to Modern Times BY CHRISTOPHER DE BELLAIGUE. Liveright, 2017, 432 pp.

De Bellaigue is an erudite journalist and historian who takes on a vast subject: the Middle East's incomplete coming to terms with the Enlightenment. His book tells a sweeping story of how the three great centers of Middle Eastern society and religion-Cairo, Istanbul, and Tehran-have ridden a roller coaster in dealing with the West, and he peppers his tale with marvelous portraits of leaders, thinkers, and activists. De Bellaigue blurs the plot a bit by using terms such as "Enlightenment," "modernity," and "liberal values" interchangeably. But he makes a strong case that, contrary to the conventional wisdom, the Middle East has not suffered from intellectual torpor but in fact often creatively incorporated and developed many ideas that originated in the West. …

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