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Beyond Eurocentric Perspectives


Seema Alavi

CRESCENT BETWEEN CROSS AND STAR: MUSLIMS AND THE WEST AFTER 9/11
By Iftekhar H. Malik
Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2006, pp. 950, Rs. 595.00

ISLAM AND MAMMON: THE ECONOMIC PREDICAMENTS OF ISLAMISM
By Timur Kuran
Tulika Books, New Delhi, 2006, pp. 194, Rs. 395.00

VOLUME XXXI NUMBER 3 March 2007

Iftikhar H.Malik’s book, Crescent between Cross and Star: Muslims and the West after 9/11 is a passionate plea to understand the relationship between Islam and the West from the perspective of the Muslims. He argues that there is an urgent need for such an exercise because studies on the theme have been Eurocentric to the extent of silencing completely the Muslim viewpoint. According to him such neo-conservative opinions have perpetuated the Orientalist vision of Muslim societies. This is largely true of the Euro-Atlantic media, the academies of the West and the political class that taps such tainted intellectual sites. Malik locates the Islam vs West idea represented in theories like the clash of civilizations in the larger anti-Islam politico-intellectual matrix of the United States of America. He argues that issues like those of Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and Pakistan need to be addressed against this wider context of Islamophobia that underlines American intellectual and political response to the non-western societies.   One set of essays historicizes the western anti-Islam rhetoric. Malik traces the beginning of this diatribe to the Crusades and moves to the period of western expansion into the non-European world—the high period of colonialism and orientalism. He discusses the works of authors from Shakespeare, Goethe to Marshall Hodgson so as to show how Islamic studies got structured into western universities and hints at its political undertones. Moving into current Muslim predicaments he critiques the works of the US bestseller author Bernard Lewis whom he views as epitomizing the anti-Islamic euphoria of contemporary times. He also offers a scathing critique of authors like V.S.Naipaul. He views them as representing the recent Evangelical derived efforts to malign the Muslim world, and affect state policy. The book then shifts to the more interesting theme of bringing to light recent Muslim opinion on classical Islam, modernity and western civilization. Here the focus is on Fazlur Rahman, Abul Ala Mawdudi and Abul Hasan Nadwi. And finally, the book deals in its concluding essays with discussions on West Asian regions that have become the hotbed of the war between Islam and Christianity: Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Israel and Pakistan.   Malik’s comments on the penetration of an innate Islamophobia in the US media, academies and political class is engrossing even if not surprising. This is palpable to even a casual newspaper reader of world affairs these days. But what is not so evident ...


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