Makers of Contemporary Islam
by John L. Esposito and John O. Voll
New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. 257 pp. $17.95, paper.
Reviewed by Jonathan Schanzer
Middle East Quarterly
To their credit, Esposito and Voll conducted exhaustive research into the thought of nine modern Islamists. Unfortunately, in another attempt to prove that political Islam breeds democracy, not violence, they cast some of these characters in an undeservedly positive light.
The authors credit Sudan's Hasan at-Turabi for pragmatism but only by ignoring his friendship with Usama bin Ladin, an honored guest in Khartoum during Turabi's heyday before U.S. pressure wore bin Ladin's welcome thin. Esposito and Voll also neglect to mention that Turabi was Sudan's most influential Islamic ideologue as tens of thousands of Christians in Sudan's south were killed, enslaved, or forcibly converted to Islam.
American Maryam Jameelah is a marginal and discredited voice, once hospitalized for schizophrenia. She attacks Westernization as "the most pernicious and destructive force in the Muslim world" that induces "cultural schizophrenia." Further, this convert from Judaism claims that modernization is "even a greater menace than the Zionist occupation of Palestine."
That the Palestinian Ismail Ragi al-Faruqi (described by Martin Kramer as someone who "inhabited the gray zone between scholarship and political activism") was Esposito's thesis mentor at Temple University might explain how someone who deplored the "despicable Western virus" could be presented as a visionary.
The authors show better judgment in focusing on Iran's Abdolkarim Soroush (a champion of democracy and human rights), Malaysia's Anwar Ibrahim (a convert from radicalization to globalization), and Indonesia's Abdurrahman Wahid (proponent of democracy and pluralism). Unfortunately, the reader must suffer through the biographies of six persons who have contributed to the problem before arriving at the stories of three who represent a possible solution.
Related Topics: Democracy and Islam, Radical Islam | Jonathan Schanzer | Spring 2002 MEQ
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