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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: #750,290 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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 111 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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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Steven Reynolds on February 22, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Those who think looking for an explanation for September 11 in the unfortunate collision of American foreign policy and fundamentalist Islam is to somehow "excuse" the terrorists will find nothing to please them here - nor anything to flatter their prejudices. Tariq Ali is an atheist, and he's just as brutal in his dismissal of Islam and other religions as he is of Western imperialism. Religion is to be rejected for two reasons, he says: it is a set of ideological delusions; and it is a system of institutional oppression, with immense powers of persecution and intolerance. So don't buy or reject this book thinking Ali's an apologist for Islam and a hater of the West. "The Clash of Fundamentalisms" is about the long history of South Asia and the Middle East, the engagement of Islam and the West, and the consequences of their conflicting interests. It requires some understanding of Middle Eastern history and politics, but not a lot. It will appeal mainly to those wanting to understand the background to the current Middle East situation and the motivations for the terrorist attacks; who want to know how America's fanatical efforts to repel Communism from every corner of the globe drew it into some dangerous, secret and unlikely alliances and how we're only reaping the "rewards" of that now. You will have to be fearless enough to accept that the terrorists were not illiterate, bearded fanatics from the mountains of Afghanistan but, as Ali puts it, "highly-skilled, middle-class professionals" acting on a sincere religious conviction. That we find that conviction deplorable, and their murderous actions utterly indefensible, should not discourage us from trying to understand them. Surely understanding the enemy is an essential element of an effective strategy for defeating them?Read more ›
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