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The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  2,732 ratings  ·  246 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
Paperback, 224 pages
Published March 2nd 2004 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published 2003)
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3.70  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,732 ratings  ·  246 reviews

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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 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
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 rated it it was amazing
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 !
أشرف أبوالنصر
الكاتب قارئ ومطلع جيد على التاريخ الإسلامي، أنصفنا في أكثر من نقطة، وبالأخص في فصل " ما هو الإسلام؟ " ، فهو على الأقل لم يدلس، وعرض وجهة نظر الإسلام كما هي، وإن كان كلامه في المجمل ضدنا.
حذر من إطلاق التعميم فيما يخص العالم الإسلامي، ثم أتى وخلط بين مواقف الحكام والشعوب، بين مواقف السنة والشيعة.
لكن يظل أكثر ما أثار سخريتي واستفزازي في نفس الوقت نقده لكراهية المسلمين لأمريكا، أمريكا البريئة، والتي دلل بها على تناقضنا الصارخ كمسلمين.
فذكر من الأمثلة: في الوقت الذي كانت تبطش به روسيا بمسلمي أسيا الو
Feb 03, 2011 rated it did not like it
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.

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 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 21, 2010 added it
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.
David Palmacci
May 14, 2007 rated it really liked it
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.
Jul 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is certainly a good historical account of the events that underpin the shift toward Islamic radicalism and terrorism. I wish I’d read it sooner — it was published in 2003 — but life got in the way.

Lewis does address some of the Koranic scriptures in trying to describe some of the actions of the most radical fundamentalists in Islam, so I cannot find fault there. However, I thought he could have gone much deeper by addressing the curriculum in madrassas, sermons by imams, and use of Koranic
Dec 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Paul D.  Miller
Jul 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
The Epicurean
Jan 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Howard Gardner
Jan 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I just finished reading Lewis' book. It is a source that is worthwhile for the uninformed as well as someone like me that is somewhat informed. The author strikes a fair balance between those that think the current western view of Muslims, and those that think groups like Al-Qa'ida are an extreme perverse expression of Islam. Lewis ends with a perspective that gives an understanding of the Muslim world's distrust of the West, much of it based on Europe's imperialism over the past 2 centuries. In ...more
Samuel Boyle
Apr 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
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.
Warren Benton
May 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
In most Muslim countries Islam is still the main religion where in Christian countries Christianity does not hold the power like they once did.

America was civilization without culture. mechanical, not organic. Materially wealthy but Soulless

This book tries to discuss Islam away from radical Islamic terrorist and more of the history and culture and the overall background.
Feb 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
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.
Corinne Wasilewski
May 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book made me realize I know little to nothing about the history and politics of the Muslim world. Now the current state of affairs begin to make sense. Clash of civilizations sounds about right.

Hang on to your hats and hijabs! Looks like the Muslim world and the West are in for a rough ride for quite some time.
Oct 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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.
Nov 03, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jan 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Dennis Wilson
Jul 13, 2007 rated it really liked it
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.
May 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Sep 02, 2007 rated it really liked it
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.
Fred Kohn
Aug 06, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jun 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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.
Nov 09, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
As soon as I finished this book, I took the phone off the hook, and sat in the lotus position to calm myself down.
Bob Nichols
Jun 10, 2018 rated it liked it
The book provides a nutshell overview of the background dynamics at work in the Islamic world. Though he more implies than explicitly states why we are involved, Lewis is good at describing the ineptitude of the western and U.S. policies in this part of the world – the imposition of artificial country boundaries, the taking of sides in a highly factionalized Islamic world, the backing of dictators, the turning of our backs on former allies when they no longer served our interests, etc.

Lewis ide
David Bjelland
Aug 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, religion
I sort of wish this book had come with a sticker along the lines of "DISCLAIMER: this dude was a close policy advisor of the Bush administration and favored military invasion of Iraq", but ultimately I think the blow sustained to whatever Leftist Cred/Purity I had was more than compensated for by the boost to my basic geo-political literacy.

Some commendable things about this little book:

- For a book of popular nonfiction, it's refreshingly direct and dense - I probably learned more about the Mi
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author by this name in the Goodreads database.

Bernard Lewis was the Cleveland E. Dodge Professor of Near Eastern Studies Emeritus at Princeton University and the author of many critially acclaimed and bestselling books, including two number one New York Times bestsellers: What Went Wrong? and Crisis of Islam. The Middle East: A Brief History of the Last 2,000
“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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