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Considering Islam from the West

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 March 2006

European University Institute (Florence), RSCAS, Villa La Fonte, Via delle Fontanelle 20, 50016 San Domenico di Fiesole (FI), Italy.


Richard W. Bulliet, The Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004), 192 pp., $24.50 (hb), ISBN 0231127960.

Henry Laurens, Orientales II. La IIIe République et l'Islam (Paris: CNRS éditions, 2004), 376 pp., €29.00, ISBN 2271062071.

William E. Watson, Tricolor and Crescent: France and the Islamic World (London: Praeger, 2003), 295 pp., £31.99 (hb), ISBN 0275974707.

But there is a difference between knowledge of other peoples and other times that is the result of understanding, compassion, careful study and analysis for their own sakes, and knowledge that is part of an overall campaign of self affirmation. There is, after all, a profound difference between the will to understand for purposes of co-existence and enlargement of horizons, and the will to dominate for the purposes of control. It is surely one of the intellectual catastrophes of history that an imperialist war confected by a small group of unelected US officials was waged against a devastated Third World dictatorship on thoroughly ideological grounds having to do with world dominance, security control, and scarce resources, but disguised for its true intent, hastened, and reasoned for by Orientalists who betrayed their calling as scholars.

Review Articles
© Cambridge University Press 2006

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Valérie Amiraux is Senior Research fellow at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS). Her main lines of research have been Turkish-Islamic transnational mobilisations in Europe (see her book Acteurs de l'islam entre Allemagne et Turquie, 2001), the institutionalisation of Islam in non-Muslim societies, the comparative study of headscarf controversies and the constitution of Islam as public problem in European contexts (Valérie Amiraux and Olivier Roy, eds., Etre musulmane être musulman au Caire, à Dakar, Téhéran, Istanbul et Paris, 2004). She is currently a Marie Curie fellow at the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies in Florence (European University Institute).