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The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror

3.69  ·  Rating Details ·  2,163 Ratings  ·  197 Reviews
In his first book since What Went Wrong? Bernard Lewis examines the historical roots of the resentments that dominate the Islamic world today and that are increasingly being expressed in acts of terrorism. He looks at the theological origins of political Islam and takes us through the rise of militant Islam in Iran, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, examining the impact of radical ...more
Hardcover, Modern Library edition, 217 pages
Published March 25th 2003 by Modern Library
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Listened to this traveling to and from St. Louis on our recent Thanksgiving trek back to visit family. The author is also the reader and he does an excellent job.

Learned so much* it was hard to take it all in with just one listen. Want to return to it again. And yet even one listen was eye-opening. Given my limited understanding of the long and complex Middle East political situation, Mr. Lewis seemed to do a fair job presenting many sides, not just the Western perspective. In fact, he was ofte
Jan 07, 2008 Anthony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone with interest in world views
Recommended to Anthony by: Herbal T
I am trying to gain a better understanding of why some Islamic nations and people of those nations have an intense hatred of American ideals, culture, and foreign policy. I think this book did an excellent job better informing me about the complex hisotry of Islam,the role the Soviet Union played in the Middle East, the Jewish/Arab conflict, the priciples of jihad, and explained about the various sects of Islam and their extremest teachings.

I now better understanding about how Islamic fundamenta
Jun 16, 2016 Arvind rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A short 125-page focused book that honestly and hence in a balanced manner analyses Islam's relationship with the West. So many cobwebs cleared, so many things learnt; unbelievably in such a short book !
Feb 03, 2011 Emma rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-it
This is very bad journalism. Stacked with miss-quotes, and downright lies. Pure fear mongering. Book like this appeared ib the 1930's in Hitler's time. The author should be called to account. This is not just an opinion its propaganda.

Nathaniel James
Jul 04, 2014 Nathaniel James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have been on the lookout for a brief and concise book about Islam for some time now, and this is it. To really understand what is going on in the world right now with regards to the “rift” between the Arab world and the west, you must at least have some fundamental understanding of history, both short and long term. It is possible to empathize with a view without agreeing with it, in fact it is essential if you really want to understand what is going on. It is also important to draw distinctio ...more
Sherif Hazem
I liked that that author is greatly knowledgeable about the Arab history and Islam, he should have been much able to detect the reasons for this crisis that Islam currently passes through.

Yet, I felt that book is a kind of being propagandist to Israel and its unconditional support by the U.S., instead of considering them as a main pillar of the crisis.

The title of the book isn't really focusing on Islam and its crisis as such. It rather focuses on the U.S. handling to this problem.

The book also
Jun 23, 2008 MG rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in political and Cultural Science
Recommended to MG by: A LTC in the US Army
Princeton's Bernard Lewis is one of the most respected subject matter experts on the Middle East, well known the world over. This book was written three years after the War on Terror began, and does a masterful job of explaining the cultural rifts between Islam and the West, and the rise of Islamofascism.

If you want to know the real reason victory in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in the entire Global War on Terror is so critical for global security, this book is a must read.

I have read this book at
Sep 08, 2007 Kahilidoc rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing review of muslim history as it relates to the western world. Lewis is one of, if not the best Western scholars on the muslim world. Middle eastern college kids get sent by their parents to his classes to learn their history. Anyhow, this is a concise, well written book on a very difficult topic. It really gives you a much better understanding of the origins of the conflict between Arabs and the West and Muslims and the West. I'd say this is a must read for anyone in the armed forces. Rea ...more
Dec 23, 2015 Drtaxsacto rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lewis is perhaps the foremost scholar on Islam and the Middle East. Right after 9/11 he did a couple of quick books - What Went Wrong and then this book.

He makes a series of generalizations about Islam including:

1) Islam fits historically between Judaism and Christianity. But it is different in some key ways. First, the key text in Islam is attributed to one prophet - both the new and the Old Testament have many writers. Second, Islam does not have ordination in a formal sense - that allows for
David Palmacci
Aug 18, 2007 David Palmacci rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wish this book was a bit longer, but it gets right to the point and makes you feel like an idiot for following the mainstream public stereotyping of Islam. If you want to know why so many muslim extremists hate the west (especially United States) read this book.
Jan 15, 2016 Matthew rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
While an adequate introduction to some of the major issues facing Islam and the world in the 21st century, this book felt dated in more ways than one. As it was published in 2003, readers must wryly grin when Lewis asserts, "There is, after all, no Vietnam in the Middle East." And although Lewis is a reputable scholar in the field, his political leanings (and, perhaps, generational biases) peek through often in the tone and content. The book starts strong and fair, describing the making of the m ...more
Paul D.  Miller
Jul 03, 2012 Paul D. Miller rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lewis is among the foremost scholars of the Middle East in the world. In recent years it has become fashionable to cast doubt on him because of his supposed support for the Iraq War or his advising the Bush administration. Such doubt is nonsense. Read his work and judge it for yourself. He knows his stuff.

This book is his attempt to explain, in brief, what cultural and historical factors could lead to 9/11. The amount of learning he brings to bear is massive, but his thesis is relatively straig
Oct 08, 2007 John rated it liked it
I finally got back to Bernard Lewis’ The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror after making it through Oren’s much lengthier (and much better) tome. Lewis’ work is an amplification of a magazine article for The New Yorker, and it reads like one. There are few references and the cohesiveness of the argument or line of thought fades in the last few chapters. On the upside, the first one hundred pages provide a good summary of the history of Islam and its reaction to Western Imperialism. Two ...more
The Epicurean
Jan 29, 2011 The Epicurean rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bernard Lewis is certainly one of the most renowned and respected scholars of Islam and the Middle East. This book, unfortunately, was not as long as I would have liked it to be. That being said, he does cram a great wealth of information into such a small volume.

The greatest strength of this book is it's organization and historical content. He does not pull many punches and tells the story of the middle east and Islamic relations with the West bluntly (for the most part.)

The only criticism I h
Oct 25, 2014 Naftoli rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: islam
This is an evenhanded and insightful explication of Islam in our time. Lewis masterfully threads a combination of perspectives together into a tightly woven cloth: history, Islamic jurisprudence, contemporary developments, the implications of terrorist activity, and the plight of the Muslim people if their fundamentalist overlords win their battle with the West.
Fred Kohn
Aug 08, 2015 Fred Kohn rated it really liked it
Shelves: political
Judging from other reader reviews, Lewis is certainly a love him or hate him kind of guy. Regardless of what you think of him personally and whether you agree with him or not, his scholarship is excellent and his opinions should be taken seriously.
Aug 09, 2016 Rhonnie rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2016
Makes sense that this was a long article adapted into a short book. Interesting subject matter, the history gets way too complicated to actually be able to follow, and then he spends about ten pages on modern day terrorism which is most relevant. Interesting points about how America gets blamed, justifiably and then not, by a lot of the Arab world for their tyrants and strife. Trying to understand foreign diplomacy makes my head spin but I learned a few things. Just wish he'd have written it for ...more
Michael Gerald
This is a concise book that explains a brief history of the expansion of Islam in the first centuries of its founding, revealing many facets behind the selective allusions to the Koran used by recent Islamic fascism as exemplified by Al-Qaeda and Daesh.
Jul 05, 2016 Aakar rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The most rational and sane analysis of Islam's relations with the West. Highly recommended for anyone who wants to know the real reasons behind the current gloomy terror scene. Far from the ostrich like attitude of most commentators, this is straightforward and to the point. Must read.
Jul 28, 2016 Matthew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a must read for all Americans and Europeans.

Given the poor quality of American education regarding Islam and the Middle East, the pathetic level of current political discourse for the past 15 years, and the importance of the subject to modern events - turning to eminent scholar Bernard Lewis for an educational primer is strongly recommended.

Written and published within a few years of 9/11 (so the work is subsequent to "What Went Wrong" - which is another Bernard Lewis book that was
Feb 25, 2016 Peter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, philosophy
Bernard Lewis is one of the world’s experts on all things Middle-East. Now near the end of his 100th year, he is Professor Emeritus Near-Eastern Studies at Princeton University, where he taught since 1974. Lewis has also been involved in some public political disputes, among them his alleged encouragement of the Iraq invasion in 2003, and his assessment that the 1915 Armenian massacres occurred but were not at the level of “genocide.”

The Crisis in Islam (2003) is Lewis’s brief history of the cha
Matheus Freitas
Procurei livros do Bernard Lewis após assistir um vídeo do Filipe Figueiredo, do canal "Xadrez Verbal", sobre indicações de literatura de Oriente Médio. Estava para ler o "What Went Wrong?" primeiro, mas por interesse primário na religião e também devido ao tamanho do livro, preferi começar por este. Embora tenha tido a impressão, ao terminar, que este livro tenha sido um complemento.
Como esperado, percebi que o autor é realmente um especialista devido a simplicidade com que detalha termos e a
Mike Porter
Jan 27, 2015 Mike Porter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This one book is the best I've read so far on the topic. Only Bernard Lewis' other book, "What Went Wrong" comes close. This subject book is a concise, clearly written summary of the history of Islam and linked to todays' events. Now, this book was published just after 9/11, but it is completely relevant to recent events.

From this book, I get the distinction between Islamic teachings and the justification that the terrorists use in their actions. From this book I get the connection claimed by t
Apr 30, 2016 Mehdi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
برنارد لويس، الاسم الذي اقترن بمخطط لتفتيت العالم الإسلامي، يستعرض في هذا الكتاب العلاقة التاريخية التي جمعت بين المسلمين وغير المسلمين منذ تأسيس الدولة الإسلامية مرورا بعصر الفتوحات والحروب الصليبية والفترة الإمبريالية التي خلقت حدودا جديدة للعالم الإسلامي وخلفت ديكتاتوريات وحكومات دمى بيد الغربيين وأنظمة حكم جديدة كانت من بين أسباب معاداة العالم الإسلامي للغربيين وعلى رأسهم الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية، وصولا إلى أحداث 11 شتنبر.

الكتاب جدير بالقراءة ويقدم نبذة تاريخية مختصرة للعلاقة بين العالم ال
This was similar to "The Art of War" in that it was chock full of common sense. And if you possess common sense, you don't need to be told why certain groups hate Americans and our ideologies (hell I'm not so crazy about us either, at times), why World Powers will always need an enemy, and why Holy Wars are older than the Muslim world. I'm not questioning the author's validity, but if you are seeking an in-depth history lesson of the Middle-East (as I was), this is not it.
Jul 21, 2016 Mkcheung001 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A reminder to never judge a book by it's cover or title.

I was very hesitant to pick this up as I thought the book was a polemic or, at best, a heavily biased read. However, when I started flipping through the pages, I was pleasantly surprised to see it being presented as a scholarly work rather than a 'call to action'. It covers the Middle East and Islam through sociological, political and of course, religious angles, providing nuanced views on the incredible complexity between the interplay of
This is a very interesting view West from the perspective of Islam. The title is a bit sensationalist and inaccurate. The book does a great job of arguing against the idea as viewing the West and Islam as 'sides', while also assessing the historical antagonism between people who view them both as sides. It especially charts the role of the US when viewed as The Great Satan, not for its actions, but for its alluring culture of excess and individualism. He provides a great historical view of suppo ...more
Jan 04, 2012 Nicholas rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
interesting, but ultimately unbalanced. this ended up on a lot of "professional reading lists", which without any sort of counter-balance is unfortunate. there's no denying that Lewis knows a lot about the Middle East--and in many ways loves it deeply--but there's also no denying that Lewis (to quote Edward Said) is writing from the perspective of a guy that hadn't "set foot in the Middle East in 40 years."
Noor Najjar
Feb 06, 2014 Noor Najjar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bernard Lewis very nicely illustrates and outlines the root of islamic fundamentalism in his work, aimed at depicting Islamic fundamentalism to an interested western reader. He described many ill events which have occurred in the western and eastern world and tied islamic beliefs to many of the issues as a means of better understanding middle eastern politics and the terrorism faced by westerners, as they relate to this islamic fundamentalist movement. he notes the state of this muslim movement ...more
Aug 16, 2009 Angelique rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 50-in-2008
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Bernard Lewis, FBA (born May 31, 1916) is a British-American historian, scholar in Oriental studies, and political commentator. He is the Cleveland E. Dodge Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. He specializes in the history of Islam and the interaction between Islam and the West, and is especially famous in academic circles for his works on the history of the Ottoman ...more
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“Different groups in the [Middle East] drew two lessons from [return of the shah in Iran] - one, that Americans were willing to use both force and intrigue to install or restore their puppet rulers in Middle Eastern countries; the other, that they were not reliable patrons when these puppets were seriously attacked by their own people, and would simply abandon them. The one evoked hatred, the other contempt - a dangerous combination.

Clearly, something deeper is involved than these specific grievances, numerous and important as they may be, something deeper which turns every disagreement into a problem and makes every problem insoluble. What we confront now is not just a complaint about one or another American policy but rather a rejection and condemnation, at once angry and contemptuous, of all that America is seen to represent in the modern world. (76)”
(Note: The following was written in 2003, before the full implication of US military commitment in Afghanistan and Iraq could be fully appreciated. The passage also predates US drone attacks against targets in Pakistan and Yemen - to say nothing of Israeli affairs since 2003. It is unknown if and how the author's comments would change if he were writing the same today.)

The value of Israel to the United States as a strategic asset has been much disputed. There have been some in the United States who view Israel as a major strategic ally in the region and the one sure bastion against both external and regional enemies. Others have argued that Israel, far from being a strategic asset, has been a strategic liability, by embittering U.S. relations with the Arab world and causing the failure of U.S. policies in the region.

But if one compares the record of American policy in the Middle East with that of other regions, one is struck not by its failure but by its success. There is, after all, no Vietnam in the Middle East, no Cuba or Nicaragua or El Salvador, not even an Angola. On the contrary, throughout the successive crises that have shaken the region, there has always been an imposing political, economic, and cultural American presence, usually in several countries - and this, until the Gulf War of 1991, without the need for any significant military intervention. And even then, their presence was needed to rescue the victims of an inter-Arab aggression, unrelated to either Israelis or Palestinians. (99)”
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