In this impassioned, erudite, and deeply moving book, Abdelwahab Meddeb, born and raised in Tunis and now living in Paris, details the breadth and scope of the Arab intellectual tradition and dismantles common preconceptions held by the Islamic and Western worlds. He describes the growing resentment between the West and the Islamic world as being due, in large part, to Islam's drift away from its own pluralist tradition. Tracing the history of the "conquering" of the Arab world by the West, he provides a detailed history of the ways in which Islamic fundamentalism has come to compensate for Western dominance. Directly addressing the terrorist attacks of September 11, he challenges us to reconsider the presumption that the gulf between the Islamic world and the West is too wide to breach.The "malady" of Islam lies in its alienation from the West and the corrosive influence that fundamentalism has wrought. This book is a correction of the historical record, a passionate description of the best of Islamic thought and culture, and an absolutely necessary read for those seeking a better understanding not only of Islam but also ourselves.
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(229mm x 153mm x 19mm)
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US Kirkus Review »
If fanaticism was the sickness in Catholicism, if Nazism was the sickness in Germany, then surely fundamentalism is the sickness in Islam." So writes homme de lettres Meddeb (Comparative Literature/Univ. of Paris X-Nanterre) by way of an opening salvo in a polemic sure to irk the ayatollahs. Fundamentalism, he argues, has taken hold of the Islamic world since 1979-the year of Khomeini's triumphant revolution in Iran and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, events more than coincidentally linked-for any number of reasons, not least of them the decline of secular education and the proliferation of "semi-literate" followers of "candidates who claim the authority to touch the letter." Other factors, by Meddeb's account, are the general withering away of the Islamic world as an important place vis-a-vis the rest of the globe, a marginalization that began at least as far back as the 15th century and the transference of what he calls the "world-capital" "ever further away from the Islamic space"; the repudiation of Enlightenment-influenced attitudes on such matters as the liberation of women and universal suffrage; the failure of the Islamic world to develop any kind of meaningful, modern democratic tradition, and the failure of revolutionary leaders such as Ataturk of Turkey and Bourguiba of Tunisia "to rid themselves of the despotic tradition they had inherited"; and the rise of a strange kind of American imperialism that has done too little to remove the conditions conducive to creating "the man eaten away by resentment, a candidate for terrorist and insurrectional fundamentalism." Meddeb's analysis is provocative if touched by flights of rhetorical confoundedness of the sort beloved only by French philosophers. The payoff: Meddeb's crystal-clear assurance that "al Qa'ida is destined to fail just as the Assassins failed . . . just as every similar movement throughout history has failed." For those seeking a window onto the Islamic world, though of tertiary importance at best. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Meddeb Abdelwahab
Abdelwahab Meddeb is a prolific novelist, poet, translator, and essayist and the editor of the journal Dedale. The author of ten books, he is Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Paris X--Nanterre. He lives in Paris, France.