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The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity Paperback – April 17, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

This is a work of truly monumental vacuity. On September 11, declares Ali (editor, New Left Review), the "subjects of the Empire had struck back." He depicts the United States as a nation bent on a "fundamentalist" foreign policy, impelled purely by economic self-interest, since its inception. The conflict now raging, then, has little to do with terrorism or with individual terrorist leaders. Rather, it is yet another in a series of struggles between the dispossessed and their imperial masters hence a clash of Islamic and American fundamentalisms. See? Well, no. The book has no bibliography and only a handful of footnotes, largely from secondary sources. Some undocumented howlers: FDR maneuvered Japan into war; the "massacre of civilian populations was always an integral part of US warmaking strategy" in Vietnam; and Harvard economists persuaded Boris Yeltsin, "an amoral and debauched clown," to adopt free-market policies that gave Russians "the most harrowing ordeal" of the postwar era presumably including the Stalin years. In short, this isn't a serious work. Libraries owning works by Edward Said (Orientalism) and Bernard Lewis (What Went Wrong?) can skip. Not recommended. James R. Holmes, Fletcher Sch. of Law & Diplomacy, Tufts Univ., Medford, MA
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“Ali’s style is vigorous, his narrative compelling, showing that the short-term, self-interested and oil-greedy policies of the British and Americans in such countries as Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Iran must make our much-vaunted ideals of democracy and equity seem like a bad joke.”—Karen Armstrong, The Times

The Clash of Fundamentalisms is well worth reading ... it shows that the harshest critics of fundamentalism are often exponents of a rival fundamentalism.”—John Gray, Independent

“In this timely and important book, Tariq Ali puts the events of September 11 into sweeping historical perspective. As we have come to expect from him, he is lucid, eloquent, literary, and painfully honest, as he dissects both Islamic and Western fundamentalism.”—Howard Zinn

“It will not open doors at the White House because it makes for uncomfortable reading ... a wide-ranging and powerfully argued critique, that gives pause for thought.”—Financial Times

“... urbane, highly intelligent and vividly written.”—Richard Sennett, Times Literary Supplement

“The book is an outstanding contribution to our understanding of the nightmare of history from which so many people are struggling to awake, and deserves serious engagement and consideration. Ali broadens our horizons, geographically, historically, intellectually and politically ... His mode of history telling is lyrical and engaging, humane and passionate.”—Anthony Arnove, The Nation

“[Ali] finds little to distinguish between the organised violence of the United States and that of those who oppose it ...”—Sydney Morning Herald

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 342 pages
  • Publisher: Verso; New edition edition (April 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 185984457X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1859844571
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #257,024 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

105 of 117 people found the following review helpful By Carool Kersten on June 16, 2002
Format: Hardcover
For those who want to understand how such seemingly disparate issues like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Kashmir question, and the situation in Afghanistan fit together in the Post-Cold War world this latest book by Tariq Ali is almost mandatory reading.
This is surely a very personal account of world affairs, and in many instances the author is driven just as much by his own convictions as by a desire to explain. For this is not an unbiased analysis. But to be fair to the author, the iconoclastic Tariq Ali makes no attempt to hide this and would be the first to admit that he has his own political agenda.
Readers who do not share Ali's political ideology, and this reviewer is one of them, should nevertheless not be put off by this. For the very value of THE CLASH OF FUNDAMENTALISMS is that it captures a mood, a mood prevalent among scores of people in what we like to call the Third World. And as the anthropologist Clifford Geertz has explained in an entirely different context, moods are just as potent as driving forces for human behavior as the more focussed motivations.
Another quality that the author can not be denied is courage. The opening sentence of the first chapter is namely: I never really believed in God. Not many people of Muslim extraction would have dared to make such a confession, at least not since the Salman Rushdie Affair.
Tariq Ali is indeed not your average representative of the Third World citizen. Born in a family of feudal landowners in the Punjab province of British India, which was divided after the partition between Pakistan and India, his relatives played a role in politics before and after independence: a grandfather was chief minister, and others held senior positions in the armed forces or served in parliament.
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94 of 112 people found the following review helpful By Samuel Day Fassbinder on April 6, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Tariq Ali puts forth a history of Islamic fundamentalism, from Muhammad onward, through the emergence of Wahhabism (Saudi Arabia's state religion, once Afghanistan's) from its inspirer Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab in the 18th century under Ottoman rule, through the present. In between, Ali sandwiches a discussion of Islamic heresy, including the Islamic world's most prominent medieval intellectuals. What's more, he also takes on American imperialism as another form of religious fundamentalism, with its history of domination, manipulation, and extermination, and uses the resulting paradigm of a "clash of fundamentalisms" to explain the current situation in the Middle East and in South Asia. Ali takes on a discussion of the Iranian Revolution, of the Iran-Iraq war, of the history of Pakistan, and of Palestine, amongst other things. The result is detailed, informative, stimulating, and honest. Ali ends with a "Letter to a Young Muslim," where he confronts the viewpoints of desperate Muslims living under US proxy regimes throughout the world.
I can hardly wait to read the next hundred denunciations of this book, for all that it is chock-full of blood-boiling heresies from beginning to end. A must-read.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Giant Panda on July 28, 2003
Format: Paperback
One can't tell a book from it's cover, but in this case, at least one can get an idea that the author has a sense of humor! Perhaps it may be well that such a serious topic as terrorism and religious fundamentalism be approached with a some humor. At the same time, it is a serious book, one of the few books on terrorism that actually delve into the roots of it all to discern a solution. The book is quite voluminous, nearly 330 pages, packed with information and deep analysis, with many notes. The author's brilliant writing style makes it an incredibly difficult book to put down. I ended up finishing the whole book over the Christmas / New Year holiday, with many sleepless nights, that is.
The book is divided into 4 major parts: one on the early history of Islam; one on the last 100 years of relations with the West, marked by colonialism and upheavals; a special part focusing on South Asia (India and Pakistan) the region about which the author is most familiar; and the last part on the United States and it's relations with the Islamic world. The book is fascinating not only because it draws upon the author's deep knowledge of the history of Islam, but also because he punctuates it with poetry and quotations from diverse literary works over the ages. The book exhibits a deep understanding of the subject, and posits a thesis directly confronting the much-touted "clash of civilizations" model. A major strength of this book, however, is that the author is daring enough not to stand with the crowd. While many intellectuals from the Muslim world do little to explain current events beyond laying the blame on the West, Tariq Ali is not afraid to look squarely at his own culture with the same critical eye he uses to examine Western imperialism.
In this day and age, I would say this is a must-read!
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43 of 53 people found the following review helpful By on May 4, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is a peculiar hybrid of a book. Much of it was written before the attacks of September 11, others were written after it in response to the American-Afghanistan war. Tariq Ali has been for decades both a leading British Trotskyist and the author of justifiably well-regarded books on Pakistan and the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty that has ruled India. He is also one of the leading voices against American interventionism, both in Afghanistan and in Kosovo. The title is somewhat misleading, more provocative than descriptive, since five-sixths of the book deals with the fate of Islam. It starts off with Ali's atheist boyhood back in his native Pakistan, a description of the origins of Islam, the rise of Israel and the failure of Nassar's Egypt to provide a secular leftist politics, and the rise of fundamentalism in Iran and elsewhere as the toxic alternative. It goes on to describe the miserable fate of secular politics in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Kashmir.
The result overall is mixed. The best pages are Ali's chapter on the complicated question of Kashmir, how the stubborness and venality of the Congress Party has helped Hindu and Moslem bigots make things so much worse. The autobiographical chapters are fascinating, and one learns how many Pakistani view Islamic clerics as little more than child molesters. He helpfully includes Isaac Deutscher's prescient comments on the the six day war, and there is a good comment against Ian Buruma. Ali is willing to criticize his own side, and the pages on the Iranian Communist Party's attempted appeasement of the Khomenei regime, followed by its own liquidation and inglorious public "confession" make grim reading.
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