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Engaging the Muslim World Hardcover – March 17, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Trade; 1 edition (March 17, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230607543
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230607545
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #583,963 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

University of Michigan history professor and blogger Cole (Sacred Space and Holy War) takes aim at the Bush administration's Islamophobic discourse, highlighting that some of the very people who promulgated the phobia (Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld) once sang a different tune. He calls instead for evenhanded and pragmatic policy changes, not least a reckoning with the heterogeneity of the Muslim world. Yet for all his expertise, Cole fails to source some of his harshest accusations; moreover, for a scholar championing greater subtlety of thought, he too often discards nuance himself. To the extent that Cole argues against painting the Middle East with overly broad strokes, he brings a constructive addition to public discourse; his failure to be consistent is a lost opportunity. (Mar.)
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Review

"A grand new book to introduce lay American readers to the current tumult in the Middle East and South Asia. This is not just one long blog post."
 
"Cole quite correctly maintains that the distrust between what he calls the North Atlantic societies and the Muslim world have expanded exponentially in this century and it's time to stop all that. Dealing with the more irrational aspects of America's anxiety over the Muslim world and the Islam anxiety over the West is the way to start. His book was completed just before the Obama administration had a chance to get going. But judging from some of Cole's comments, he would probably believe the new president is heading in the right direction." —Star Ledger
 
"Cole has delivered an important book that members of the administration would be wise to read en route to the Middle East."--The American Prospect 
 
"[A] balanced and effective antidote to oversimplified Western views of Islam. . . . manages to prick western misconceptions without taking extremist movements entirely at their own estimation." --The Economist
 
"[Cole] brings a constructive addition to public discourse." --Publishers Weekly
 
"Intelligent, clear and erudite. This is a timely and incisive retrospective of the Bush administration's calamitous encounter with the Muslim World by one of the most noted scholars of the subject. Cole looks deep into what went wrong to show the way forward to a new engagement of the Muslim World."--Vali Nasr, bestselling author of The Shia Revival: How Conflicts Within Islam Will Shape the Future

"Juan Cole, distinguished specialist on the Muslim world, delivers his most comprehensive and erudite commentary to date -- covering imperialism, the Arab-Israeli conflict, American oil politics, radical Islam and Middle Eastern terrorism. Engaging the Muslim World is the book every educated American should read."--Chalmers Johnson, bestselling author of Nemesis and The Blowback Trilogy

"Engaging the Muslim World is a MUST read, the right book at the right time for anyone who wants to understand 'What went wrong, why, and where do we go from here.' Juan Cole is uniquely qualified to provide a critical, incisive, provocative analysis and commentary that will be welcomed by experts, policymakers and concerned citizens."--John L. Esposito, Professor of religion & International Affairs, Georgetown University and bestselling author of Who Speaks for Islam? and What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam

"Cole provides a comprehensive alternative analysis of the current situation in the Muslim world and reveals how new U.S. policies might succeed in bringing peace where wars now rage. He proves the key role of oil interests in American foreign policy and demonstrates how incorrect or exaggerated ideas now prevalent in the U.S. are about the intrinsic militancy of Islam, and the aggressiveness of Iran. Everyone should read and ponder the facts he presents and the solutions he proposes."--Nikki Keddie, Professor Emerita of History, UCLA and author of Modern Iran and Women in the Middle East

"Juan Cole's depth and breath of knowledge on the Middle East has made him the most prescient analyst of the region's politics. It might infuriate the neocons who are proven wrong again and again, but Cole's insight is invaluable to anyone interested in the truth."-- Markos Moulitsas, DailyKos

"A well-reasoned, useful vision for Western-Muslim relations."--Kirkus

"A leading American expert on the Islamic world, seeks to dispel many of the persistent myths about Islam and the Middle East. Cole convincingly demonstrates why one should not confuse Muslim activism with hidebound fundamentalism. The chapter dealing with Iran is particularly informative and evenhanded, and the analysis of myriad issues in U.S.-Iran relations is a welcome antidote to the barrage of alarmist commentaries on Iran in much of the U.S. press. This readable and intelligent book is a must read for policymakers and the informed public.--Library Journal, starred review
 
“Juan Cole’s ‘Engaging the Muslim World’ maps those fault lines, and one can only wish Bush had mulled over such material before the misadventures of the post-9/11 era began.  Like Lawrence Wright’s remarkable ‘Looming Tower’, published almost three years ago, this field guide to the politics of modern Islam traces the history of the different movements, whose violent offshoots are still morphing into new forms.” --New York Times Book Review

"The blog I turn to for insight into Middle East news is often Professor Juan Cole’s, because he’s smart, well-informed and sensible — in other words, I often agree with his take." -- Nicholas Kristof, New York Times
 
"The Obama administration, as it seeks to correct a decade of self-fulfilling phobias, will find no better guide than this nuanced, clear-headed, visionary book.“ --The Huffington Post
 
 
"Provocative and sweeping . . . Of the three books, Cole's is the most critically rigorous and empirically informed. Agree or disagree, one cannot ignore Cole's historically and sociologically driven analysis and moral courage." -- Fawaz Gerges, National Interest
 
"I cannot improve on Juan Cole’s thorough and excellent debunking of the results [of the Iranian Presidential Election]."-- Laura Secor, The New Yorker
 
"Provocative and sweeping . . . Of the three books, Cole's is the most critically rigorous and empirically informed. Agree or disagree, one cannot ignore cole's historically and sociologically driven analysis and moral courage." -- Fawaz Gerges, National Interest
 
"Cole has become one of the best-known experts on Islam, and here Cole doesn't disappoint.  Whether dealing with America's "Islam Anxiety," the Middle East's oil problem, or Afghanistan/Pakistan, he offers provocative analysis and a level of detail that goes quite beyond the mainstream media's new reports." --Amitabh Pal, The Progressive, Favorite Books of 2009
 
"Beginning with the observation that "the Muslim world and the West are at a standoff," Cole fashions conceptual tools to account for the prejudice and fear with which each thinks about the other." --Choice
 
 

“A provocative read… Cole convinc­ingly argues that misunderstanding and generalizing Islam and the Middle East has contributed to great losses of both blood and treasure in recent years.”--Military Review

 


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Customer Reviews

He presents his ideas in this book with impressive clarity.
Chris
The book is more or less a popular history of the muslim world (mostly the Middle East, which is Cole's specialty), and it is best to be read as such.
Brett
For instance there are secular Muslim societies, eg Turkey, as well as religious regimes, eg Iran.
Vincent Poirier

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

84 of 95 people found the following review helpful By Chris on March 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover
According to Dr. Cole's book, US interest in Middle East oil has been motivated by a desire to ensure a stable supply of it to Western Europe and Japan. On the other hand, it is widely believed in the Middle East that American and British oil companies have made huge profits out of Middle Eastern oil while the people of the region, at best, obtain small benefit from it. . When puppet dictators that ensure the flow of oil and petrodollars to western corporations are overthrown, the Americans get very worried. Cole discusses the US overthrow of Iranian Prime Minister Mossadegh in 1953 and the Kennedy administration's "blowtorch Bob" Komer's worries about the threat to American oil companies posed by the Kassem regime in Iraq. Cole notes that Komer was very happy when the Ba'ath party launched its successful coup against Kassem in 1963; the Ba'ath minister of interior later said that the coup was backed by the CIA.

The best part of the book is Cole's attack on American military policy in Iraq and Afghanistan. Take his analysis of US Iraq policy. What mainstream debate about the "surge" has ignored but which Cole discusses in this book, is that large scale ethnic cleansing is largely responsible for the alleged "success" of the surge. For example, Shiite death squads allied with the Iraqi government cleansed Sunnis out of Baghdad during the surge. Cole writes that Baghdad, in 2003 was 50 percent Sunni; at the end of the surge in 2008, it was 75 percent Shiite. Obviously the elimination of rival ethnic groups from Iraqi neighborhoods has reduced the justification for violence by ethnic militias. The surge dramatically increased the number of internally displaced refugees in Iraq, most of whom live in squalor: the total went from about 1.8 million in January 2007 to 2.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By S. J. Snyder on October 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Cole provides a good overview of the Middle East, and does a good job teasing out the difference between Islamic influences, oil influences, poverty influences, and more. He also does a good job of distinguishing hot just between Sunni and Shi'a Islam, but some of the major trends within each, in the different countries of his focus.

Most valuable is his take on Afghanistan and Pakistan. If President Obama DID read this book, he'd not send one more boot on the ground to Afghanistan, would give Pakistan primarily non-military foreign aid, and would rethink other things.

And yet...

First, although Cole touches on poverty here and there, he writes this whole book without touching on the explosive birthrate in the Middle East, surpassed only by some sub-Saharan African countries. If I were the American Prez, "engaging the Muslim world" would start with a frank talk about birth control, which, of course, comes in fair part from empowering women.

That, in turn, is something else Cole glosses over. He talks a bit about patriarchy, but there's no depth.

Second, he's either naive, or whitewashing, with two countries, to various degrees. (And, no, I don't count Iran as one of the two, really.)

They are Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Page 83, for example, he accepts at face value Prince Turki's claim that bin Laden chose Saudis for most of his hijackers so as to sour Riyadh-Washington relations. Next page, he flat-out claims that Wahhabism is not a sect, denomination, or whatever within Sunni Islam. Of course, he does that to preserve his "big tent" understanding of Sunni, only saying that the big tent doesn't go that far to the "right." Nonsense. Just as not all Sunnis are fundamentalists, neither are all Christians Pat Robertson, etc.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By John P. Jones III TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 2, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Juan Cole "drew me in" in the introduction when he said: "But I developed a deep personal dislike of Middle Eastern fundamentalisms (meaning scriptural literalists, who are not necessarily violent), and was more than once inconvenienced or even menaced by them. That I should now be urging understanding of and engagement with a wide range of Middle Eastern political forces, including fundamentalists, signals not an agreement with them but a pragmatic conviction that as citizens of a single globe, we have to settle our conflicts through dialogue." A viewpoint that certainly resonates with mine, since I too have "been there, done that," been threatened, but have come to the same conclusion. I also very much appreciated his next statement that addressed one of my "pet peeves"; journalists publishing "cut and paste" books from their previous works. Cole says that he wrote his perspective afresh, and I found that to be so.

Cole's postulates the reason for the conflict between the West and Islam in the first chapter in true "follow the money" style; it really is all about oil, and the West's dependency on this essential economic lubricant which is controlled primarily by Islamic countries. And this has been going on for a long time. Not only was the CIA responsible for the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Mohammad Mosaddegh in Iran in 1953, but also the democratically elected government of Shukri Quwatli in Syria in 1949. Although Syria has virtually no oil, the latter coup provided a more amenable government to the "Tapline project," an oil pipeline from Saudi Arabia to the Mediterranean which would have to pass through Syria.

In the second chapter he delineates Muslim activism from Muslim radicalism.
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