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Islamic Imperialism: A History Paperback – April 26, 2006

4.1 out of 5 stars 60 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Middle East scholar Karsh surveys for a general audience the region's Islamic political past. Parallel to his narrative, Karsh frequently contrasts the universalistic proclamations of Islam with cycles of imperial consolidation and fragmentation. After recounting the Prophet Muhammad's religio-political establishment of Islam, and the discord about his legacy that continues today, Karsh narrates the battles over Muhammad's caliphate that eventuated in the Umayyad and Abbasid Empires. Karsh's commentary often looks forward to contemporary ideologues of Islam who ransack history to justify grievances. In Karsh's coverage, the irruption of the Crusaders into the Levant hardly provoked a jihad to eject them; that occurred, in his account, through politically ordinary processes of empire building, eventually by the celebrated Saladin. Islamic unity and zeal, however, had always to be affirmed by reestablishers of the caliphate, a theme Karsh incorporates into his chronicling of the rise and decline of the Ottoman Empire, the distribution of its territories after World War I, and varieties of pan-Arabism prevalent after World War II. An informative foundation for further exploration of Islamic history. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


"'Anyone interested in the debate about the place of Islam in the modern world should read this book... Karsh offers a new approach. He rejects the condescending approach of the apologists and the hateful passion of the Islamophobes. Instead he presents Islam as a rival for Western civilization in what is, after all, a contest for shaping the future of mankind.' Amir Taheri, The Sunday Telegraph 'His narrative helps explain the rage and the sheer hopelessness of so much Muslim engagement with modern politics.' Charles Moore, The Telegraph 'Karsh has produced an impeccable history of how the Muslim mainstream has behaved towards its neighbours... I could not recommend this magnificent effort of reportage and analysis more highly. Efraim Karsh, Professor of Mediterranean Studies at King's College London, is well on his way toward claiming the crown of a new generation of scholars of Islam and I wish him luck. We need him.' Hazhir Teimourian, Literary Review" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (April 26, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300106033
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300106039
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #919,508 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By M. D Roberts on April 10, 2006
Format: Paperback
The Professor and Head of Mediterranean Studies at King's College, University of London has here provided a fascinating insight into what he sees as the deep undercurrents permeating both the prevailing situation in the Middle East, and indeed many sections of the International community at this time.

While analysing the different mind-sets and conflicting interpretations as to the root cause behind the 9/11 attacks, the book scrutinises the contention that Islam has allegedly nurtured dreams of world conquest since it's outset in the 7th century AD.

The eminently readable & well written study, that is replete with references/maps, begins with a quotation from the farewell address of the Prophet Muhammad dated March 632AD; - "I was ordered to fight all men until they say `There is no God but Allah' ".

Defining the conquering of foreign lands and the subsequent subjugation of their populations as "imperialism", the investigation then proceeds to expound how this is what the Prophet Muhammad specifically asked of his followers after having fled from his hometown of Mecca in 622AD to Medina, where he is described as then becoming a political and military leader.

Through a detailed historical commentary, the reader is confronted with how Islam then allegedly began to strive towards the creation of what is cited as a new universal order, in which the whole of humanity would embrace Islam or live under it's domination. The book elaborating as to how Islam expanded into what is described as a "universal religion that knew or recognised no territorial or national boundaries".
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Format: Paperback
As a Moslem, I learned a great deal of truth from this book. I understand better why the "other" sees Moslems differently from the way we see ourselves. As a child in Egypt, I learned that the Fetouhat are the greatest achievement on earth; I also learned that my religion is flawless, perfect, that the Koran is exactly the word of God, while other faiths were distorted. So Moslems can feel free to put down other religions, while no one should dare touch our faith. Our Prophet, we were told, is the last Prophet on earth; Moslems therefore have the last word on any subject. This attitude brought calamities on the Middle East, and the whole planet.

The Arab conquests, the Fetouhat, are a source of pride, we were told. Yet, they are nothing other than imperialism. It was very painful to read this book, because it challenges a lot of the assumptions I grew up with.

Professor Karsh, an Israeli, opened my eyes, and I believe every Moslem should start having doubt about our imperialism. This is particularly true today since we are very tempted to use our oil wealth and violence for the sake of becoming again an imperial power that replaces the West. Every Moslem should read this book; it will make him a better person.
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Format: Paperback
For the last 100 years Academics have weaved a web of distortion regarding the role of political and temporal Islam in world history. We have been told that the `bad' West invented slavery, racism and imperialism and that because of these terrors the world's problems must all be blamed on western colonialism. This startlingly original book dares to turns the tables on this interpretation. In fact it was Islam that first colonized the West, it was Islamic armies, of African slaves, who invaded France in the 8th century, and Islam then colonized southern Italy and Spain where it created societies where the majority ethnically indigenous Christian population was discriminated against and enslaved. Then Islam colonized eastern Europe where it enslaved Slavs, then it was on to colonize central Asia and India in the 11th century. Then it was eastern Africa and areas near the west coast of Africa where Islamic empires and `sultanates' invaded Africa in order to export slaves.

By 1700 the Islamic empire in Africa and India, eastern Europe and the Middle East merely mirrored what the European empire of 1900 would look like. It was Islamic empire that first deported 11 million Africans for sexual and military slavery. When one blames American `imperialism' for Bin Laden's terrorism, one should recall that it was first Islam that colonized Europe, it was the minaret and mosque that were first symbols of oppression, not the cross and the sword. Many will find this book unsettling because it dares to challenge the traditional interpretation of history where the West is `evil' and Islam is portrayed as the victim.

Seth J. Frantzman
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Karsh starts out by explaining that there are two quite different hypotheses that are popular about why we see such opposition to the West from many Muslims. One is that there is a "clash of civilizations," in which Islam, frustrated by its recent poor performance compared to the Christian West, is fighting back. Karsh explains that he thinks this idea, while plausible and sincere, assigns too much significance to Western success. A second idea is that Muslims are actually very tame, and the West is the villain. This idea is plausible as well, but it is rarely sincere, as most of those who promote it are Muslim apologists who know full well that Islam is far from tame and who applaud Muslim aggression.

Karsh instead asks us to consider the long and continuing record of Muslim imperialism as an explanation for what we see today. And this book shows us quite a bit of that record.

I found myself wondering what I would say to those who think that Muslim imperialism is simply a good idea for everyone. Well, I think that imperialism is generally counterproductive in the long run.

First of all, it is a crime to murder, evict, or oppress others. Occasionally, folks may get away with such crimes. But typically the result is a society that has less overall freedom, less happiness, and less prosperity, even for those criminals.

Secondly, use of force tends to result in more and more wars, and that dramatically increases the chance of getting into a losing war (some of the history in this book appears to confirm this). Those who lose a war tend to wind up less prosperous and less happy.
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