I approached this volume with some hope. As an anthology compiled and edited by a scholar, and describing itself as containing a diversity of texts from a wide range of views and employing a wide range of media from editorials and religious musings to poetry, I hoped it might by virtue of range alone take us beyond the widespread tedious reiterations on this subject. If it did not shatter the stereotypes, at least it might break a cliché or two, I thought.
It was not to be.
We start with a foreword in which the prominent if somewhat overexposed Egyptian dissident, physician, author, and feminist Nawal el-Saadawi elaborates for us her fantasy: that she is a suicide bomber, killing George Bush and "all Arab leaders around him." She next shares her approach to newspapers she dislikes: "I spit on the first page." (I'll have to try that—usually I just cancel my subscription.)
Then, the editor opens the volume with her own essay, "Unholy Alliances: Zionism, U.S. Imperialism, and Islamic Fundamentalism." As she is a professor of English at Montclair University, she can be held accountable for her choice of words, which conform to a tractate but not to a serious volume. If you are planning to refute your opponents' arguments substantively, you do not refer to them with a phrase such as "the likes of." E.g.: "Many … limited, and in my opinion spurious, analyses (written and promoted by the likes of Bernard Lewis, Daniel Pipes, etc.) need to be challenged for obvious reasons."
Things continue in this dismal vein. We hear about the "imperial interests" of the West, learn that Israel is "simply an example par excellence of the oppression and injustice upon which the contemporary world class system … is based," and are informed that college campuses are wrongly thought to be bastions of liberal thought when in fact they are in the sway of "Zionist academics." It would not have surprised or overly disturbed me to find such a posture represented in an anthology since arguably these are views currently held within Arab discourse. They are not the only views, but the rest are absent, making this book, regrettably, stereotypical to the extreme. Even the poetry is not exempt. "Stopped at airport security/again/metal detector buzzes conveniently/when I walk through … they peer under hijab/unbutton, expose …" Even the metal detector is in on the evil worldwide conspiracy.
With massive doses of paranoia and a sobering amount of hostility, there is nothing new to be found in this volume.