After the attacks of 9/11/01, many Americans yearned to understand why Muslim extremists felt such passionate animosity toward the Western world, particularly the USA. Since then there have been many books & discussions about this very question,MoreAfter the attacks of 9/11/01, many Americans yearned to understand why Muslim extremists felt such passionate animosity toward the Western world, particularly the USA. Since then there have been many books & discussions about this very question, but few of them offer such a readably relevant response as this excellent offering by historian Bernard Lewis.
For modern Westerners, Islam is an especially foreign religion & culture. Westerners typically dismiss things as unimportant when using the expression thats history. But for those raised in Muslim households, history, even ancient history, is just as important, if not more important, as the present. To better understand the hostilities rooted in this history one could start with recognizing the long-standing resentment the Islamic community harbors from having its homelands torn apart & repackaged into random political states by occupying Westerners. Or stretch back in time to the brutality of the Crusades.
Or go straight to USA political meddling in the region throughout the latter 20th century. This is not a pity fest for Muslims. Lewis evenhandedly explores the sources of Islamic antagonism toward the West while also explaining how a peace-worshipping religion could be so distorted by violent extremism. He notes that the American way of life--especially that of fulfillment thru materialism & sexual freedom--is a direct threat to Islamic values (which is why night clubs where men & women publicly touch one another are bombing targets). But its Western democracy that especially threatens Islamic extremists because within its own community more & more Muslims are coming to value the freedom that political democracy allows.
For anyone wanting an intelligently accessible primer on the Islamic-Western conflict, this is an excellent place to begin.--Gail Hudson (edited)