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3.6 out of 5 stars
What Went Wrong?: The Clash Between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East
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on March 2, 2015
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
If you really wondered why hell is breaking out in the Middle East and what on earth can we do about it then you should read this book. If you are wondering why peace is so hard to to make in the Middle East you should read this book. If you really want to understand the core of the culture clash between the West and Islam you should read this book.
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on February 27, 2015
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still reading it
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2015
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This book by a well-known (and CNN consultant) on Islam was very timely and helps to clarify the seemingly inevitable conflict that must exist between extreme radical islamists and all other cultures. It was truly scary to consider their point of view and overall goals and intolerance of any other points of view.
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on February 17, 2015
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My husband, who is from a country close to what is happened, was very pleased with the reliability of the facts.
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on February 15, 2015
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Great read. Brings today into focus by way of understanding through experience different cultural beliefs adopted through time. Highly recommend
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on February 11, 2015
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Now I understand!! Explanations very clear and enlightening History so essential in the whole picture.
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on December 23, 2014
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Well written and factual
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 12, 2014
Format: Paperback
Bernard Lewis' What Went Wrong was published shortly before the events of 9/11. That he had a popular history of the Muslim world and was a well-established British American scholar of the Middle East made him one of the major "talking heads" of the post 9/11 period. It also gave him access to policy makers. Both of these facts may color some of the reviews of this book. It is popular history , meaning it is not as scholarly as it could be. It is brief and must needs be less than comprehensive. It draws from earlier works and his lectures and for readers with a deeper background; it is not entirely ground breaking. Finally it is focused on the Ottoman Turks. His unspoken hypothesis being that Muslim Turkey was the Center of the Muslim world and represented the peak achievements of that religion and culture. It is for others to make or deny that argument; I lack the scholarship to address this point.

The question Professor Lewis wished us to understand is one that has been frustrating Muslims for almost 200 years. At its height as represented by the Ottoman Empire, the center of culture, scientific and technical learning was the Muslim world. What would become the Renaissance in Europe was based in part, on the math (algebra) the art and protected learning from many cultures including lost (To the West) Greek and Roman texts

And so generations of Muslims students would learn of the great achievements, military victories and scientific advancement of generations gone to dust. These same students would find that their present world was as rarely respected, often suppressed clientele states under western domination. From medicine to machinery, western products were desired and comparable Middle Eastern items despised. National boundaries would be imposed with no thought to historic or religious boundaries and all of the rest of the second class status of a people being exploited. Naturally the contrast between being the conqueror and the conquered, the leader and follower demand the question: What Went Wrong?

In part the balance of this book is an effort to answer this question and in part it is a warning as to kind of resentment created by having to ask these questions. That so few of the then Middle Eastern leadership was working to answer or to improve upon these conditions fed into a growing preference for action outside of then existing political institutions.

In brief the answers Dr Lewis suggest is to describe an Ottoman Empire, both the political and the social body that was complacent and self-satisfied. Foreign travel was discouraged, because no foreign nation had anything to teach, or worth visiting. The study of foreign languages was a waste as no foreign languages had books worth reading. From the point of view of the Ottoman, Non-Ottoman populations had an inferior, corrupt religion, effete culture and could only contaminate rather than uplift.

Eventually the The Ottoman would come to respect western arms and military, allowing this technology into the realm, but this would be one of a very few exception. For the rest, Studies of non-Ottoman peoples and acquisition of non-Ottoman learning was suspect and unlikely to raise one in the government or society of the Middle East.

Intended or not, I think What Went Wrong can also serve as a warning. Many of the same attitudes that promoted stagnation in the Muslim word can be experienced in the US. There is in the US, a flavor of religious based strictures against learning and science. Topics that require tolerance and free flow of information may face a parallel attitude that contributed towards the slide of the Ottoman Empire into the "Sickman of Europe".

It is not yet common, but I can introduce you to people who think the rest of the world has nothing to teach us. There are American who actively resent the idea of learning foreign languages and look sideways at those who readings cross linguistic boundaries. Of course any science, from any place that makes for better weapons and war fighting is welcome But there is also a trend to treat all other science as suspect and prefer religion based or homeopathic alternatives.

A person unschooled in the history of the Middle East can learn much from What Went Wrong. All of us should consider which of these lessons play-out today, here and not just there.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 7, 2014
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I read this shortly after 9/11. Slammed by the liberal academic media as shallow and simplistic, they fail to see in their vapid commentary that this book speaks the truth. Arab culture, long burdened by Islam, and empowered by easy oil money does not see that the separation of church and state, a secular educational system, the empowerment of women, and the embracement of science is the path to nation building and becoming a member of the world community. We now have almost 300 years of experience in such building. Japan and Germany got it wrong in WW II and had to be bombed back to the Stone Age to realize their mistakes. I don't think the Islamic world understands how bad it can me. And guess what? the oil money is in the process of drying up.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 30, 2014
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Excelent!
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