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Islamic Imperialism

A History


Efraim Karsh (View Bio)
Hardcover: Yale University Press, 2006.

Islamic Imperialism

From the first Arab-Islamic Empire of the mid-seventh century to the Ottomans, the last great Muslim empire, the story of the Middle East has been the story of the rise and fall of universal empires and, no less important, of imperialist dreams. So argues Efraim Karsh in this highly provocative book. Rejecting the conventional Western interpretation of Middle Eastern history as an offshoot of global power politics, Karsh contends that the region's experience is the culmination of long-existing indigenous trends, passions, and patterns of behaviour, and that foremost among these is Islam's millenarian imperial tradition. The author explores the history of Islam's imperialism and the persistence of the Ottoman imperialist dream that outlasted World War I to haunt Islamic and Middle Eastern politics to the present day. September 11 can be seen as simply the latest expression of this dream, and such attacks have little to do with U.S. international behaviour or policy in the Middle East. The House of Islam's war for world mastery is traditional, indeed venerable, and it is a quest that is far from over.

"He has produced an impeccable history of how the Muslim mainstream has behaved towards its neighbors…. The chapters on the Ottomans and Iran…are masterpieces of concise historical writing…. I could not recommend this magnificent effort of reportage and analysis more highly. It ought to be not only on our shelves, but also on our desks and bedside tables. Efraim Karsh is well on his way towards claiming the crown of a new generation of scholars of Islam and I wish him luck. We need him. In Muslim lands, his book ought to be translated into every local language and distributed free of charge. Alas, it will be banned. " — Hazhir Teimourian, The Literary Review

"Anyone interested in the debate about the place of Islam in the modern world should read this book…. Karsh offers a new approach. He rejects the condescending approach of the apologists and the hateful passion of the Islamophobes. Instead he presents Islam as a rival for Western civilization in what is, after all, a contest for shaping the future of mankind. Karsh does not hide whose side he is on in this contest. Muslim readers would respect him because, while he designates Islam as an adversary, he respects them. Being disliked for the right reasons is better than being liked for the wrong ones…. What does Islam want? Karsh poses the question and answers it unambiguously: it wants to reshape the world after its own fashion just as Christianity did in its heyday. The message is clear: the world would do well to take Islam's ambitions seriously." — Amir Taheri, Daily Telegraph

"Only a shrewd and talented revisionist, a professor with curiosity and nerve, could take on the clichés of Middle East scholarship and insist that they be reconsidered. That describes Efraim Karsh, a much-published and much-admired professor at the University of London. His new book, ISLAMIC IMPERIALISM deserves serious consideration by anyone who cares about this debate. He challenges not only our favorite ideas about the Middle East but even our notions of imperialism…. Karsh's view of rising Islamic imperialism chills the blood. Multiculturalism looks different through the lens of his scholarship, and so does the future for global politics. " — Robert Fulford, National Post

"Karsh's thesis is disclosed in the book's arresting title. From its beginnings, he argues, Islam was a creed that made no separation between temporal and religious power. Mohammed never thought of ruling solely in men's hearts: he ruled in Medina. He set out to conquer the Arab world, and he laid down a justification for all conquest everywhere…. I like Karsh's robust refusal to accept Muslim history as a sob story against us in the West. His narrative helps explain the rage and the sheer hopelessness of so much Muslim engagement with modern politics." — Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph

"This book is a vigorous refutation of the oversimplified analysis of Middle Eastern woes which piles responsibility for all these troubles on to the West and its imperialist policies, past and continuing…. Karsh's thesis is that, by its very nature, Islam is ineluctably imperialist in its vision of a world in which God's command in the Koran to the Prophet Muhammad, to fight against the unbelievers until they are exterminated, or submit to a subordinate status in society, has to be fulfilled…. It is refreshing to have the case so trenchantly argued against those who, whether in the West or in the Islamic world, hold the West responsible for all the Middle East's ills. Efraim Karsh's narrative in ISLAMIC IMPERIALISM does much to explain the frustrated, irrational nature of so much of contemporary Islam's engagement with the modern world. His analysis will not convince Western liberals with minds fixated on their own guilt, let alone any Muslims, but he has performed a signal service in providing an explanation for much of what has been going on in the Middle East during the last century or so." — Edmund Bosworth, Times Literary Supplement

"Lively, clearly written and well-researched…. The crisp manner with which he disposes of accepted wisdom will delight the reader." — Ralph Amelan, The Jerusalem Post

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