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After Jihad: America and the Struggle for Islamic Democracy Hardcover – April 15, 2003


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1 edition (April 15, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374177694
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374177690
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,436,775 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Feldman is careful to distinguish his first book from some of the spate of recent works with the word "jihad" in the title, which contend that anti-Western, violent brands of Islam are growing in strength and bravado. Feldman argues, on the contrary, that September 11 and more recent sporadic attacks mark "the last, desperate gasp of a tendency to violence that has lost most of its popular support." Violent jihad, or struggle, he asserts, has lost its luster in the Muslim world except in cases of self-defense, and most Muslims find both Islamic ideals and democratic values appealing. The question then becomes, "Would democratically elected Islamic governments be good or bad for Western interests?" His answer is that we shouldn't fear the worst. Feldman, a professor at New York University's School of Law with a doctorate in Islamic thought from Oxford, notes that both Islam and democracy are based on human equality and are highly flexible, and disputes claims that they are incompatible. About a third of the book is taken up with overviews of Islam and democratic development in specific countries and regions, such as Iran and Indonesia; these chapters cover well-hashed territory, but make useful summaries for nonexperts. Diehard proponents of a separation between mosque and state may remain unconvinced that elected Islamic governments would support such liberal notions as women's rights or religious freedom. But the strength of Feldman's work lies in his consistent and simple reminder that the emergence of democracy in some countries will not necessarily bring about Islamist rule, and that suppressing it would itself be downright undemocratic.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

An NYU law professor with a doctoral degree in Islamic studies considers whether Islamic nations can also be democratic.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

Noah Feldman is currently Bemis Professor of International Law at Harvard University. Esquire named him among 75 influential figures for the 21st century and New York magazine designated him as one of three top "influentials in ideas." In 2003, he served as senior constitutional advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq and subsequently advised members of the Iraqi Governing Council on the drafting of an interim constitution. Feldman is the author of four previous books: The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State (2008); Divided By God (2005); What We Owe Iraq (2004); and After Jihad (2003); as well as numerous articles for The New York Times Magazine.

Customer Reviews

The endnotes are of great interest to any reader of this excellent study.
Mary E. Sibley
Both Islam and democracy share a universal belief in the principle of basic human equality, a very good starting point.
Tim F. Martin
It is nice, so to say, to praise Islam's capacity for adaptation but it is also terribly wrong and highly dangerous.
Jaysonrex

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Ahmed on May 29, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Noah Feldman's book amounts to a restatement of arguments made in the '90s by one of his apparent mentors, John Esposito, who argues thatIslamists should be allowed to win elections. The trouble is, most Muslims in the Arab Middle East disagree with them, particularly women, who stand to suffer the most under the rule of clerics. Although I disagree with Feldman's argument, my main gripe with the book is its striking lack of originality. One might as well go to the source and read books by Esposito and Akbar Ahmed.
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26 of 35 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 4, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The negative reviewers here have not read this book. In response to some of their claims: Other than Saudi Arabia, all Muslim nations allow churches/synagogues/temples for their minority faiths. Don't judge all Muslim nations by the behavior of the Saudi Wahabis. In Bangladesh, which is a Muslim democracy, Christmas is a public holiday, even though Christians make up less than 1 percent of the population. In the United Arab Emirates many malls display Christmas decorations and play Christmas carols. Christians also conquered, massacred and oppressed other peoples. Look at the treatment of natives in US, Canadian, South American and Australian history.
But now to the book. Feldman says that the West should not fear democracy in Muslim nations because even if Islamic parties come to power (they usually don't) the people will soon get tired of them because they won't deliver on basics, such as education, infrastructure and jobs. Islamic parties tend to promise Utopia if they get elected but will always fail to deliver on their promises. There is a lot of evidence to support Feldman's argument. You only have to look at Iran to see how quickly most people tired of Islamic rule. Muslims in Northern Nigeria are already starting to grumble about Islamic rule. In Pakistan, an Islamic party recently won power in one state (only because of outrage over the then impending US invasion of Iraq). Many now say that they regret their vote for this party and feel that crackdowns on freedoms and women's (already limited) rights have gone too far. In Malaysia Islamists recently lost control of one state they controlled.
Feldman also claims that Islamic Law can exist alongside democracy. Islamic Law is not actually Islamic.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Eagle Eye on April 5, 2007
Format: Paperback
Feldman propounds a solution to a crucial problem of U.S. policy toward the Middle East: the fact that almost all the Arab regimes we support have scant legitimacy in the eyes of their people. The thrust of his argument is that things are so bad now that the U.S. doesn't have much to lose in supporting Arab democracies, even those that would be anti-American. As it stands, he believes that Arab governments are able to stifle freedom of thought and speech and manipulate public opinion against Israel and the U.S., to deflect attention away from their own fragile legitimacy. Why not, he proposes, just withdraw U.S. support for these regimes and truly support open political systems. Even if Islamists take over, the necessities of rule and the realities of power would force them to moderate their rhetoric. Arabs would have a channel to vent their political frustrations, and would no longer have any reason to attack the U.S. to get at their own regimes, as was the case in 9/11. Feldman also assumes that in open political systems, Arabs would pay more attention to their own local concerns and that the Palestinian-Israeli dispute would become less important.

Feldman's internal logic is consistent and he argues well, but how realistic are his assumptions? Are Islam and democracy as compatible as he believes?

His views are important because he was among the drafters of the interim Iraqi constitution.
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17 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Tron Honto on July 7, 2003
Format: Hardcover
There is little exceptional in this book that distinguishes it from others written by similar authors. In many ways it is yet another clone of the sympathetic approach towards both nascent and moribund Islamist movements. Those who are well read in the field may find yet another standard attempt to answer the old question, "Is Islam/ism compatible with democracy?" tedious.
As a legal scholar at New York University, Noah Feldman is not by any means a mediocre scholar; however, his position does little to distinguish itself from the likes of Graham Fuller and John Esposito with the exception of a few personal features giving his position some idiosyncratic flair. One, Feldman is an orthodox Jew who is pushing forward arguments always associated with a position (wrongly) stigmatized as anti-Israel and pro-Arab. Secondly, he's incredibly politically active-having worked for Al Gore during the Florida vote recount and having been recently chosen [undoubtedly for his well-known expertise both in Islamic and American Constitutional Law] by G W Bush to help draft a new Iraqi constitution.
If you are familiar with the often-repeated argument that the US is stuck between choosing whether or not to support the definitely-evil autocracies or the not-as-evil-as-is-often-portrayed Islamists, wherein the bloody fanaticism is depicted only as a passing tendency and not essential to the movements, then you can predict the outcome of Feldman's argument. In other words, US foreign policy should be sympathetic to Islamists movements as social reformers. Feldman is quite bold in claiming that we should encourage the emergence of `Islamic' democracies, which will not be secular, while simultaneously endorsing active US interventionism in the region into seeing it happen.
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