The Many Faces of Islam
Perspectives on a Resurgent Civilization
by Nissim Rejwan
Gainesville, Fla.: University Press of Florida, 2000. 260 pp. $55.
Reviewed by Jonathan Schanzer
Middle East Quarterly
At first glance, it appears that Rejwan, of the Hebrew University's Truman Institute, is in over his head, attempting to cover too much Islamic landscape in a mere 260 pages. Drawing intelligently on the authority of experts, however, he manages in The Many Faces of Islam deftly to take up theological, political, and historical questions. His topics concern the Islamist surge, the dhimmi status (of Christians, Jews, et al.), the decline of Islam, and the challenge of modernity.
Rejwan does interesting things. Exploiting the many years modern Islam has taken to develop, he plays with time and space. Within the pages of an essay written in the 1950s by the radical Muslim Brethren thinker Sayyid Qutb we find a CNN interview with Iranian president Muhammad Khatami conducted forty years later. Further, Rejwan constructs a roundtable discussion between apologists for militant Islam (such as John Esposito, Edward Said) and critics (Bernard Lewis, P.J. Vatikiotis). Indeed, for every liberal analysis coming from the likes of Graham E. Fuller or Oliver Roy, there are rebuttals grounded in realism from such scholars as Daniel Pipes or E.I.J. Rosenthal.
What is particularly striking about Rejwan's work is his ability consistently to pick appropriate passages and to introduce them with pithy editorials. Packed with complex kernels and academic entendres, a deep appreciation of Islam is a prerequisite to appreciate this work fully; it may be too ambitious for the novice in matters Islamic. Readers with the preparation who are ready to jump into the complex world of Islam in the public sphere will find a delicately balanced, high caliber, scholarly work that has much to teach.
Related Topics: Islam | Jonathan Schanzer | Winter 2002 MEQ
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