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After the events of September 11, 2001, the veteran writer, filmmaker and political activist Tariq Ali has been in great demand to provide his own radical perspective on the significance of the attacks, and the result is The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity. Ali's book explores the history that preceded these events, and deals directly with the political history of Islam, its founding myths, its origins, its culture, its riches, its divisions. However, this is no dry history book, but a powerful and wide-ranging polemic that interrogates the hypocrisy of Islamist politics and religion, while also denouncing the double standards of US and UK foreign policy towards Islamic states over the last century.
The result is a remarkably broad if sometimes awkward and episodic book, that moves from Ali's idyllic childhood in Lahore, playing tennis and avoiding mullahs, via discussions of the origins of Islam, the rise of the Ottoman Empire, the status of women in Islam, to detailed critiques of the recent history of western involvement in Egypt, Palestine, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Kashmir. Ali is at his best in the later sections, attacking the Pakistani madrasas as indoctrination nurseries designed to produce fanatics, and condemning the Pakistani army as one of the Pentagon's spoilt brats in Asia. The Clash of Fundamentalisms argues that the rise of political and religious intolerance lies in the fact that all the other exit routes have been sealed off by the mother of all fundamentalisms: American imperialism. His call for "an Islamic Reformation that sweeps away the crazed conservatism and backwardness of the fundamentalists" and which "opens up the world of Islam to new ideas which are seen to be more advanced than what is currently on offer from the West" is a bold and provocative call; while some may disagree with Ali's politics or interpretation of history, there is little doubt that The Clash of Fundamentalisms is an angry but valuable response to the events that took place in the US on September 11, 2001. --Jerry Brotton
This is a work of truly monumental vacuity. On September 11, declares Ali (editor, New Left Review), the "subjects of the Empire had struck back." He depicts the United States as a nation bent on a "fundamentalist" foreign policy, impelled purely by economic self-interest, since its inception. The conflict now raging, then, has little to do with terrorism or with individual terrorist leaders. Rather, it is yet another in a series of struggles between the dispossessed and their imperial masters hence a clash of Islamic and American fundamentalisms. See? Well, no. The book has no bibliography and only a handful of footnotes, largely from secondary sources. Some undocumented howlers: FDR maneuvered Japan into war; the "massacre of civilian populations was always an integral part of US warmaking strategy" in Vietnam; and Harvard economists persuaded Boris Yeltsin, "an amoral and debauched clown," to adopt free-market policies that gave Russians "the most harrowing ordeal" of the postwar era presumably including the Stalin years. In short, this isn't a serious work. Libraries owning works by Edward Said (Orientalism) and Bernard Lewis (What Went Wrong?) can skip. Not recommended. James R. Holmes, Fletcher Sch. of Law & Diplomacy, Tufts Univ., Medford, MA
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
OK, let's face it: the main reason why Bush and friends get away (unquestioned) with their world policies is that the domestic media does nothing to question whether or not what... Read morePublished on July 18 2004
I would normally start a review by explaining what the book is about but for Ali's The Clash of Fundamentalisms I will have to start backwards: the book is not about... Read morePublished on May 27 2004 by Themis Matsoukas
Powerful empires in previous centuries have never understood the wrath of their subjects, says Ali, and the American Empire is no exception. Read morePublished on April 22 2004 by B. Viberg
The gist of the story that Tariq Ali tells in this book will be familiar to most people who have taken the time to learn the history behind today's global events. Read morePublished on Dec 15 2003 by Phil
I had heard quite a bit about Tariq Ali since he was a kind of icon from the 60s and 70s socialist and human rights movement. Read morePublished on Nov. 14 2003
An excellent critique of American imperialism and hypocrisy. It's definitely a book for George W's Christmas stocking.Published on Nov. 9 2003
Probably one of my best books since I read "Guns Germs and Steal" by Jard Diamond.
This book clearly lays-out the very complex dynamics of the current conflict. Read more
One can't tell a book from it's cover, but in this case, at least one can get an idea that the author has a sense of humor! Read morePublished on July 28 2003 by Giant Panda