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The Two Faces of Islam: The House of Sa'ud from Tradition to Terror Hardcover – October 15, 2002

3.2 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Schwartz challenges President Bush's "axis of terror." "The real exporters of international Islamic extremism and terror," he says, are not Iraq or Iran, but an American ally: the Saudis. Saudia Arabia is dominated by Wahhabism, which journalist Schwartz (Kosovo: Background to a War) labels a "fascistic" cult. And the West, he goes on, has "nurtured this serpent in [its] very bosom" by supporting the Saudis in the belief that they were "moderate..
- very bosom" by supporting the Saudis in the belief that they were "moderate."
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Is Islam a tolerant and peaceful religion? Or is it embodied by the murder of civilians seen in New York and Tel Aviv? Islam is, this passionate book contends, both and more. Schwartz cautions against viewing Islam as a monolith, pointing out that even under the umbrella of "fundamentalist" Islam, there is considerable diversity. He argues that the most dangerous and oppressive brand of Islamic extremism isn't found in Iran or Iraq, but in America's closest Arab ally, Saudi Arabia. In Arabia, the spiritual legacy of Muhammad ibn abd al-Wahhab, a radical--and, Schwartz says, heretical--seventeenth-century cleric, rose to prominence when his followers, the Wahhabis, forged an allegiance to the Sa'ud family. Together, Wahhabis and Sa'uds murdered and plundered their way to the Arabian throne. Ever since, Schwartz maintains, the Saudis have worked tirelessly to export their uniquely extreme vision of Islamic piety. U.S. alliance with the Saudi regime only furthers the cause of terrorism. Provocative, detailed, and fervently written analysis. John Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1 edition (October 15, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385506929
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385506922
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,001,915 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Alexei Tsvetkov on December 3, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One of the oddest things about this book is its reviews, positive and negative alike. Apparently none of the reviewers have noticed that Schwartz, to the extent one can judge from a plethora of hints in the text (most obviously in the Acknowledgements) is, most likely, himself a Sufi. It is pointless, therefore, to guess whether he is on the Right or on the Left and whether his book is anti-Islamic - it definitely is not. It is, in fact, a polemical tract, and whereas I do not believe the picture of the contemporary Islam he paints is without merit, it is seriously flawed due to his relentless Sufi perspective.
Thus, ayatollah Homeini gets away with a mild rebuke simply because he was a Shiite and pro-Sufi. The author somehow fails to mention that the practice of suicidal martyrdom was not invented by the Wahhabites. It goes a long way back with the Shiites and was widely practiced during the Iran-Iraq war. Iranian revolution, even though not exportable per se because tainted with Shiism, was an idea and an example that went a long way.
Furthermore, Schwartz gives very different treatment to rather similar secular regimes. He professes great dislike for Kemal Ataturk but deals gently with Nasser of Egypt, pretty ugly character. Everything clears up once we recall that Ataturk banned Sufi orders, whereas Nasser who was fighting Wahhabi-like Moslem Brotherhood, left the Sufis alone. And so forth.
The history of Wahhabism and its present day worldwide influence deserve to be widely known, and Schwartz is apparently well served by his Sufi sources. Still, terms like "diabolical" do not belong in a book that purports to retain some objectivity.
To conclude, the title itself is wrong. It suggests that the diabolical face of Wahhabism is somehow balanced by the angelic face of Sufism.
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Format: Hardcover
Having finished this book just as headlines about Saudi charities and U.S. recipients emerged, Schwartz's overview appears timely. His Jewish background and interfaith efforts in the Balkans enrich his study. Too often, Christian readers receive in such journalistic introductions comparisons between their faith and Islam, while Jewish readers are often ignored--it's assumed Israeli issues suffice! Many reviews here have pointed out the strengths and weaknesses of his book already.
I might add that the attempt to pit Wahhabism against Sufi/Sh'ia interpretations does make for a rather unwieldy combination. So much of the book involves Saudi machinations, and so little by balance opens up alternative versions of Islam. Certainly his sympathies are defended, but the book cannot seem to settle for either a sustained exploration of the narrow Saudi ideology or a convincing insider's defense of the expansive Sufi/Sh'ia messages.
Too often, Schwartz seems to rely upon his earlier journalism (and it's not often the Albanian Catholic Bulletin, the Anderson Valley Advertiser [as in that great Boonville brewery!], and the Forward share bibliographical mention). His accounts of the Balkans fragment, and the reader hops with him from noted figure to infamous tragedy without really feeling the depth of the human impact of either war or enlightenment. Likewise, with his Saudi chapters, the destruction committed by the regime against its Sh'ia and other dissident Muslims lacks the telling detail needed for a new reader to this topic to enter fully into what obviously for the author is a heartfelt as well as intellectual issue of the utmost importance. His connecting the Saudi to U.S.
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Format: Hardcover
While Schwartz's book presents the reader with logical and necessary questioning regarding the Saudi role in the war on terrorism, it's relations and influence in the Middle East, its role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, etc., I seriously question the validity of his claims against the Wahhabis, a group he depicts as the sole cause of agitation in the Muslim faith and the main opponents in Islam towards the West. All faults in Islam, according to Schwarts, stem from Wahhabism - a movement that he depicts as an organized institution but one realizes it must not be since he never describes its structure, heirarchy, etc. He also fails to clarfiy and elaborate on HOW Wahhabism has managed to exist - he tells why it emerged and how it gained momentum, but then never fully explains HOW it became a transnational movement and WHY people subscribed to it's version of Islam.
Criticisms aside, I must admit the book was an "eye opener" and should be a must-read for all those who think the Saudis are truely US allies.
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Format: Hardcover
The author mendaciously presents Ottoman domination in the Balkans as begnign and illuminating. He blithely ignores the genocide represented by the Turkish devshirme system -- the "Blood Levy" of Christian boys kidnapped into the Janissary Corps -- and pretends that the murderous darkness of Ottoman misrule was somehow enlightened (and the resistance to it, notably by Balkan Christians, condemnable). This is propaganda currently designed to facilitate Turkey's entrance into the EU ("Europe"). It poisons the well from which all well meaning people need to learn about the true tragedy of non-Muslim communities ruled by Islam.
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