Enemy in the Mirror: Islamic Fundamentalism and the Limits of Modern Rationalism

By Tompkins, Daniel P. | Academe, July/August 2002 | Go to article overview

Enemy in the Mirror: Islamic Fundamentalism and the Limits of Modern Rationalism


Tompkins, Daniel P., Academe


Enemy in the Mirror: Islamic

Fundamentalism and the

Limits of Modern Rationalism

Roxanne L. Euben. Princeton, N.J.:

Princeton University Press, 1999

DANIEL P. TOMPKINS

Reading in the summer, we can move outside our fields and study topics of general importance. I've chosen to emphasize Islam in my reading this summer. We teach increasing numbers of Muslim students, increasingly see Islam in the news, and repeatedly encounter instant experts on television, so there is every reason to educate ourselves in this area.

Of recent books on Islam, Euben's has the most appeal. The fundamentalism she describes is a hot topic right now, but the book has deeper utility, too. It presents the Egyptian thinker Sayed Qutb in a way that makes us want to read more. Qutb reacted to modernism in much the same way that the European conservatives described by Hungarian sociologist Karl Mannheim did in the nineteenth century. Euben shows how and why Qutb moved from accommodation to antagonism and from belief in earthly sovereignty to insistence on divine sovereignty, rejecting all speculative philosophy-- even Islamic philosophy-as an arrogant encroachment on divine authority along the way and insisting on the importance of community and unity. …

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