Books: Tariq's Islam Lesson; the Clash of Fundamentalism - Crusades, Jihads and Modernity by Tariq Ali (Verso, Pounds 15) Reviewed by Monica Foot
Byline: Monica Foot
Inspired by the certain knowledge that very few of us understand anything at all about the world of Islam, Tariq Ali, post-September 11, sets out to explain how it could be that such hatred of American capitalism and its values exist, and how its counterpart, such fanaticism and dedication, can exist.
He examines 'Islam, its founding myths, its origins, its history, its culture, its riches, its divisions... how did it become so petrified?'
Tariq himself, Oxford-educated student rebel, of the years of the '60s street demonstrations, comes from a well-off and patrician family of what is now Pakistan; his father was editor of the Pakistan Times , a great-grandfather Prime Minister of the Punjab.
At turning points in the recent history of Pakistan, he can usually call upon a relative or old school or college chum to provide inside information.
He himself became an agnostic at the age of five or six.
'But I was brought up in that culture (the House of Islam) and it has enriched my life. It is perfectly possible to be part of a culture without being a believer.'
The events which led up to the creation of Bangladesh in 1971 when President Bhutto brutally betrayed half his people decided Tariq 'to stay away from them ' and his permanent base is now London from whence he travels, writes, comments.
The last century saw the worldwide rise of empire, sustained by trade and with its own self-glorifying philosophies and texts. The Soviet regime was not slow to follow suit and soon the West and East were engaged in the Cold War for dominion over the hearts and minds of sundry underclasses.
In the Middle East, this conflict polarised round oil and the need for copious, cheap supplies of the same. This is history as geology.
Certainly, geology is a moveable feast. Nations were to be created at will as client states of whichever power bloc required them.
Events in Palestine started the slow and painful route to the misery of today's camps. 'Imperialism, oil and, after 1948 Israel were the three factors that gave a tremendous boost to Arab nationalism,' writes Ali. …