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Engaging the Muslim World Paperback – September 14, 2010
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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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“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
“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 written a gripping, accessible and elegant book. One of its great strengths is its weaving together a wealth of data into compelling historical vignettes and anecdotes. The author is an excellent storyteller and this book is a pleasurable and entertaining read.” ―Ziad Fahmy, H-Levant
Top customer reviews
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. His comparison between the social conditions that gave rise to Mohammad Atta and Timothy McVeigh is an important one, and useful for destroying the pigeon-hole thinking that declares one a "terrorist," and the other a " murderous misfit," or some synonym, as long as it doesn't start with a "t."
Cole's clipped no-nonsense writing style is in basic "primer" fashion, which is, in many ways what this book is, and would be an important read for not only the "interested observer" but also anyone in a policy making or implementing position. His title "overreaches" a bit, since much of the Islamic world, Indonesia, Bangla Desh, Syria, North Africa, are omitted. The remaining chapters focus on some of the most critical countries: Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran. I lived in Saudi Arabia over a period of a quarter of a century, and although many books on the Kingdom are riddled with errors and out and out fantasies, I found NONE in Cole's account. In fact, that applies to the entire book.
The folly of American actions in Iraq is covered, for sure. Cole's account did not provide me with any new insights that were not covered in Thomas Ricks Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq But I did find fascinating the author's description of the Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It is rich and insightful. Cole says that CBS's "60 minutes" made him look more extreme than he is. The author credits "Larry King Live" with doing the best job of presenting him frankly and honestly! Cole goes on to skewer the British Orientalist, and Princeton professor, Bernard Lewis, saying:"Lewis's beliefs about Iran are even more bizarre than Ahmadinejad's about Israel..." Also, as Cole points out, Iran's military budget is on the order of Singapore's, so we need a much more clear-sighted approach instead of trying to shoehorn the Muslim world into the role of the new "Soviet Union."
My main reservation of Cole's account is his citing of opinion polls in Islamic countries without caveats. From my experience, the results are far more problematic than the now well-honed and defined polls in the United States. I'd feel much more comfortable if Cole had been qualifying them with an error rate of "plus or minus five, or even, twenty percent."
Cole's account is current, and does much to debunk the myths and propaganda promoted by those who would prefer endless war against "the other." Humankind once had a hundred or so year war of religion. For those who might consider that one is sufficient, particularly since nuclear weapons could become widely available if the latest one drags on for a hundred years, then this is an account to read, for you and your children. His book is as topical at today's headlines from Egypt. 5-stars.