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Islam Under Siege: Living Dangerously in a Post-Honor World

by Akbar S. Ahmed
American University, Washington DC, USA
(See also SARID People)

Polity Press, UK, May 2003,
ISBN hardback 0745622097, 224 pp, $ 54.95, £45.00
ISBN paperback 0745622100, 224 pp, $19.95, £12.99

Table of Contents
Editorial Reviews
Reviewers' Quotes
Author Biography
Other Works on & about Author

Table of Contents

Introduction: God’s Gamble
Chapter 1. Islam under Siege
i The Return of Anthropology and the Final Crusade
ii The Sense of Muslim Siege
Chapter 2. What is Going Wrong?
i Is it about Islam or is it Globalization?
ii A Post-Honor World?
Chapter 3. Ibn Khaldun and Social Cohesion
i The Khaldunian Breakdown
ii The Man in the Iron Cage
Chapter 4. The Failure of Muslim Leadership
i. Muslim Leaders
ii. Veiled Truth: Women in Islam




Chapter 5. Searching for a Muslim Ideal: Inclusion
i Case Study One: The Scholarship of Inclusion
ii Inclusivists in America: Islam in Toledo, Ohio
Chapter 6. Searching for a Muslim Ideal: Exclusion
i Case Study Two: The Scholarship of Exclusion
ii Exclusivists in America: The Debate in Cleveland, Ohio
Chapter .7 Toward a Global Paradigm
i The Challenge for Islam
ii Questions for our Time





Editorial Reviews

Polity Press, UK
In this groundbreaking book, Akbar Ahmed, one of the world’s leading authorities on Islam, who has worked in the Muslim world but lives in the West, explains what is going wrong in his society by referring to Islamic history and beliefs. Employing theological and anthropological perspectives, he attempts to answer the questions that people in the West are asking about Islam: "Why do they hate us?" "Is Islam compatible with democracy?" "Does Islam subjugate women?" "Does the Quran preach violence?" These important questions are of relevance to Muslims and to non-Muslims alike. Islam Under Siege points out the need for, and provides the route to, the dialogue of civilizations.

September 11, 2001, underlined the role of Islam in our time. In its demographic spread, its political span, and its religious commitment, Islam will be an increasingly forceful presence on the world stage in the twenty-first century. While some scholars predict that there will be a clash of civilizations, others see a need for a dialogue of civilizations.

This book will help students, scholars of politics, sociology, international relations, and cultural studies, and reporters as well as a more general audience interested in some of the most important issues of our time.

Publishers Weekly
"The 21st century will be the century of Islam," writes Ahmed, who holds a chair in Islamic Studies at American University in Washington, D.C. Moreover, the 21st century may be "a time of war between Islam and... other world civilizations." Ahmed resists easy characterizations of Islam, always striving to offer a balanced depiction: Islam is both exclusivist and inclusivist, respectful of women but also mired in some cultural traditions that oppress them. Some portions of the book are dry and theoretical, and the academic jargon makes for slow reading. Other sections are fascinating and engaging--particularly Ahmed's ethnographic explorations of different pockets of Muslim life. He shares his difficult personal experiences as a scholar who spearheaded a controversial film study of Pakistan founder M.A. Jinnah, and concludes: "Looking at the breakdown of society for a Muslim scholar is like staring into the face of despair." In the next section, however, he communicates his optimism after visiting the inclusive, tolerant Muslim community in Toledo, Ohio.


American University, USA, June 3, 2003
A new book by Muslim scholar Akbar S. Ahmed, examines the turmoil currently facing Islam around the globe. In Islam Under Siege, Ahmed explains what is going wrong in the Muslim world, why it is going wrong and how Muslims and non-Muslims can work together to create global stability.

According to Ahmed, one of the principal culprits behind the misunderstanding between Islam and the West is the media. Ahmed criticizes how the media portray the debate on Islam. He writes that the debate is “too often little more than a parading of deep-rooted prejudices.”...

Asia Times, Hongkong, June 28, 2003 - by Ahmed Faruki
Professor Akbar Ahmed's latest book, Islam Under Siege, takes head on the challenges facing the Muslims in the aftermath of the events of September 11. The book deals with the plights of Muslims from the vantage point of reflexive sociology, and certain parts of it constitute an ambassador's memoir.

After reviewing the driving forces that have placed the Muslims and the West in conflict with each other, he argues that a just, compassionate and peaceful global order would be created if both parties would become inclusive in their thinking, and engage in a dialogue of civilizations.

Ahmed has penned a must-read book. Part memoir and part exposition in social science, it should be required reading for scholars, policy makers and opinion leaders in both the Muslim world and the West.

Dawn, Karachi, June 28, 2003 - by Bapsi Sidhwa
Islam Under Siege is a compelling and cogent book, and most importantly, given the current misrepresentation surrounding Islam, written in a language that is understood in the west, and respected by its intellectuals.

He explains convincingly the moral collapse of societies in what he calls our "Post-Honor World" in which the Muslims feel that the west has humiliated them and stripped them of dignity and honour. The equation of honour with violence is one consequence of this confusion.

He addresses many of the key issues surrounding western perceptions of Islam: Islamic attitudes toward Christianity and the West, Islam and democracy, Islamic attitudes toward women, and the Quran's stance on violence. These issues are enormously significant to Muslims and non-Muslims alike and, with this in mind, Ahmed points out the need for, and provides the route to, the dialogue of civilizations.

This book will appeal to all those interested in the future of the complex relationship between East and West and its implications for both cultures.

South Asia Tribune , August 24, 2003
Prof. Ahmed's lucid and sensitive work has most brilliantly put an end to any simplistic concepts that have long viewed all Muslims as "terrorists" or Islam as the "enemy of the West.

"This brief but brilliant book should be required reading for all Members of Congress and our Nation's Cabinet, as well as for most of the Pentagon's top brass. Prof. Ahmed has shed light on a subject too long dealt with in doomsday cliches that he has most wisely dispelled, giving us hope for a brighter future of Peace and civilized reconciliation rather than endless War and violent hatred. He has left all literate people the world over in his debt. more reviews

Douglas Johnstone, August 26, 2003
For all the scholarship and pseudo-scholarship that has been written about Islam in the two years since September 11th, there are many fundamental questions about the state of the world and the cause for the violence of that day that remain unanswered. Perhaps no question has been more tortured than President Bush’s now famous rhetorical muse: “why do they hate us?” The plethora of answers from all corners has provided little solace, and even less peace.

Jane Lampman, September 11, 2003
Two years after that fateful day that unsettled American lives and radically shifted national priorities, it appears that little has been accomplished in one area crucial to shaping a secure future: Even as the country's resources are focused on the war on terrorism and rebuilding Iraq, 68 percent of Americans say they know little or nothing at all about Islam. Yet rising numbers (44 percent, up from 25 percent in March 2002) say that Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence among its followers, according to a Pew Research Center poll released last week. Americans seem willing to reach conclusions, though admittedly with little knowledge.

Omar Safi, Winter 2003
Islam has been an almost endless topic of discussion since 9/11, through a multitude of parallel (yet independent) discourses. Rare has been the project that attempts to document these various perspectives and simultaneously rise above them. This is precisely what Akbar Ahmed succeeds in doing, and he does so brilliantly.

Reviewers' Quotes

"This is the most important book to date on life in the post 9/11 world. Islam Under Siege goes beyond assigning guilt, to understanding the world that has produced such hatred and misunderstanding. In this sometimes personal and consistently courageous meditation on the uncertainties of our time, Akbar Ahmed offers hope by focusing on shared notions of honor and human dignity.”
Tamara Sonn, President of the American Council for the Study of Islamic Societies

“Akbar Ahmed is one of the wisest and bravest writers on Islam. This work confirms his reputation as a savant in the field.” Chris Rojek, Nottingham Trent University

“Akbar Ahmed’s understanding of the relationship between politics and culture sets him apart from other analysts of contemporary Islam.”
Louis W. Goodman, Dean, School of International Service, American University

Author Biography

Professor Akbar Ahmed is probably the world's best known scholar on contemporary Islam. He is the former High Commissioner of Pakistan to Great Britain, and has advised Prince Charles and met with President George W. Bush on Islam. He is now Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies and professor of International Relations at American University in Washington, DC.

Dr. Ahmed is the author of many books on contemporary Islam, including Discovering Islam: Making Sense of Muslim History and Society, which was the basis of the BBC six-part TV series called Living Islam. His Postmodernism and Islam: Predicament and Promise was nominated for the Amalfi Award, and his "Jinnah Quartet," a four-part project on Pakistan's founding father, M.A. Jinnah, has won numerous international awards.

Other works by & on Akbar Ahmed
(See SARID People, Interfaith Dialogue, Religious Dimension: Interfaith Dialogue)


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