Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine
Dhu'l-Qa'dah / Zil-Hijjah 1423 H
February 2003
Volume 16-02 No : 194
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Book Review


Treasure of Wisdom

Fear of Democractic Islam

America and Political Islam
Clash of Cultures or Clash of Interests

Fawaz A. Gerges
Cambridge University Press, UK
Pages 282, Price: Bar coded

America and Political Islam

Reviewed by
Maqbool Ahmed Siraj

Coming as it does at the height of an impending US military engagement with Iraq, this book should constitute an important document on the US-Islam relations. Author Fawaz A. Gerges, a lecturer in Lawrence College and an Oxford and Harvard alumnus takes a deeper look at the US foreign policy responses in the wake of the rise of Islam as an important element of political discourse in the Arab and the Muslim world during the last three decades.

Though the author addresses the key concerns of the US foreign policy rhetoric, it misses out entirely on the special influence the Israeli, Jewish and Zionist lobby exercises in the US media, war industry, politics and administration. This significant deficiency reduces the book’s usefulness to half the subjects it deserves. The scrupulous avoidance of the subject only serves to indicate the academic terrorism that goes by the name of the anti-semitism within a state that calls itself the foremost champion of democracy.

Islam ceased to be a military threat to the West in the 17th century following which Muslim brigades were receding all over the globe. But Islam’s religious and intellectual challenge to the West continues even today. The stoppage of the oil flow to the West in 1973 and overthrow of the American puppet Reza Shah Pehalvi regime in Iran in 1979 came as two major blows to the West. To a West that had by then satisfied itself of its complete dominance, it came as a rude shock. End of the cold war and splintering of the USSR and co-option of China into the market economy, had ensured that the rest of the world was only a large market for the West based MNCs. But then the challenge of political Islam began to engage the West’s attention. Rise of democratic Islam from within the ballot box - Algeria, Iran, Turkey, Sudan being the specific examples - baffled the West even more alarmingly. It began to take notice. The British and the US media, with preponderance of Jewish interest within, almost simultaneously kicked up the terrorism bogey. Growing weight of the Muslim electorate within the United States also evoked certain symbolic gestures from the Clinton administration.

Iran which had dethroned the Shah had sent the clear signal that the pining for democracy, desire for broadening the social base of the power structure, rejection of Western cultural ethos such as commodifying the women etc had taken deep roots in the Muslim world. But the US which had for long associated democracy with peace and authoritarianism with aggression was caught in a dilemma. Democracy, of course, ensures stability, promotes human rights, pluralism, popular participation, and results in rejection of extremism. But not in the Middle East. Arab people empowered by democracy would be a threat for the key US ally, Israel in the region. Secondly, free access to the Middle Eastern oil will be a problem.

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