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The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror
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The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror

3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  1,651 ratings  ·  144 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 (first published January 1st 1975)
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I read Bernard Lewis' The Crisis of Islam as part of a seasonal challenge at the College Students group on Goodreads. I have never embraced Lewis' approach to the Middle East—or more specifically, the Arab World—or Islam, thinking that he often takes a reductionist point-of-view that serves to reify Westerners' beliefs about Arabs and Muslims. I would not recommend this book to anyone who does not already know some basics about Islam or the Middle East. Lewis confirms American suspicions of the ...more
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 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
Nathaniel James
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 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
David Palmacci
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.
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.

If you want to understand why America is hated not only by Islamic extremists but by much of the Muslim world, then you'll find clear answers in this book.
Paul Miller
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
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
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
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.
Mike Porter
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
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.
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
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
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A great primer on the history of Islam through the 20th century. Very good for the first 8 chapters, but weaker in the final chapter ("The Rise of Terrorism"), and the Afterword could have been assembled from Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld speeches. The public debate in the U.S. would be miles more productive if everyone in the country read this book.
Samuel Boyle
This book is on the Chief of naval operations essential reading list:

A primer on Islamic history and culture. Helps westerners grasp the arguments terrorists are making. Shows suicide, targeting civilians, and killing fellow Muslims are clearly Islamic sins.
This is a great and informative book, short but to the point. Lewis has an in depth knowledge about the religion and the issues it currently faces. For anyone who is looking to learn more about islam as well as islamic extremists and terrorists, this book is a must read.
Historical overview of the conflicts over the last, oh, 1400 years or so between Islam and "the West." It was written in 2003, so a lot has happened since then: the "completion" of American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the so-called Arab Spring, civil wars in Libya and Syria, the killing of Osama bin Laden, the rise of ISIS, just to name a few. But, given that most of the book is devoted to giving a historical perspective, it's still valuable. And, most of Lewis's themes and conclusions don't s ...more
Great read, Lewis packs a lot in this little book (140 p). He gives background history of Islam and the Middle East. He then brings the situation up to present day events and application. A must read to get the pulse of current day events in the Middle East & Islam.
simple overview of the history of islam, what they believe, and the motivation behind radical jihad. interesting to learn that at one time the islamic empire was strong and thriving and has since been the victim of poverty in an industrialized western world.
Dennis Wilson
This guy is billed as a conservative, but he seems to have a solid knowledge of Islam and the Middle East. This book is short, easy to read, and a good introduction to the thoughts and actions that have brought us to the present situation.
Sep 05, 2007 Bella rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
A great, objective, and succinct review of the history of the relationship and attitudes between the Arab world and the West, the US in particular. Good history to know. Thought-provoking. Easy-to read.
May 02, 2007 Michael added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Interesting notion of why Islam is in the crisis it is today with the rest of the world. Not prescribing any answers, but, information that everyone needs to know.
Ed Pluimer
This book is NOT an easy read. But it does more than other books to help explain the increasing gap between fundamentalist Muslims and the rest of the world.
Bryan Duffy
Sep 28, 2007 Bryan Duffy rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who think they undestand "TERRORISTS!"
This book really helped me understand the war a lot more. I had so many questions about Islam and this just really cleared everything up. Informative.
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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
More about Bernard Lewis...
What Went Wrong? The Clash Between Islam & Modernity in the Middle East The Middle East The Assassins: A Radical Sect in Islam The Arabs in History Islam and the West

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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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