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Religion And The State

by Samuel T. Spear

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From Library Journal
Brown (foreign affairs, emeritus, Princeton), editor of Imperial Legacy: The Ottoman Imprint on the Balkans and the Middle East, has studied and lived among Muslims of the Middle East and North Africa since 1953. Here he provides more of a historical and sociological and less of a theological approach to Muslim politics. He argues that to achieve a better understanding of present-day Muslim politics, it is crucial to accept the reality of historical diversity among Muslims and to identify what is distinctive in relation to political thought and action through a comparative study of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. In the first seven chapters, Brown covers the historical basis for traditional Muslim and Christian political theory and dispels some popular false notions: he notes that radical Islamic fundamentalists and many non-Muslims typically view Islam outside of a historical context and thus see it as unchanging, and both Muslims and non-Muslims tend to overemphasize Islam in the Middle East while paying less attention to the majority of Muslims who live in the rest of the world. The bibliographical essay on Islam and politics is a plus. Recommended for academic libraries.DMichael W. Ellis, Ellenville P.L., NY
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Foreign Affairs
A balanced, scholarly assessment of Islamic politics. . .


"A balanced, scholarly assessment of Islamic politics.... A subtle and skilled rejoinder to the conventional schools of thought -- and to fashionable assumptions about the 'post-Islamist' era." -- Foreign Affairs

"Brown... is one of the giants of Middle Eastern studies and his books get better and better.... A well-written and lucid study." -- Middle East Quarterly

" Religion and State destabilizes entrenched conventional thinking about Islam and politics. This alone makes the book worth reading." -- The Journal of Religion

"Paves the way for grasping the Islamist phenomenon in its diverse forms in the contemporary Muslim world." -- History of Religions


"An indispensable overview of religious and political ideas and practice in the Muslim majority world from the early Islamic centuries to the present. Brown vividly depicts the diversity of Muslim belief, practice, and experience with comprehensiveness, accessibility, and style." -- Dale F. Eickelman, Dartmouth College

"A grand synthesis of the relationships between religion and political life in the Muslim world, revealing both the continuities with premodern times and the distinctive dimensions of modern Muslim experiences." -- John Voll, Georgetown University

The Middle East
...a fascinating, historical overview of the relationship between religious and political life in the Muslim world...

Book Description

If Westerners know a single Islamic term, it is likely to be jihad, the Arabic word for "holy war." The image of Islam as an inherently aggressive and xenophobic religion has long prevailed in the West and can at times appear to be substantiated by current events. L. Carl Brown challenges this conventional wisdom with a fascinating historical overview of the relationship between religious and political life in the Muslim world ranging from Islam's early centuries to the present day.

Religion and State examines the commonplace notion -- held by both radical Muslim ideologues and various Western observers alike -- that in Islam there is no separation between religion and politics. By placing this assertion in a broad historical context, the book reveals both the continuities between premodern and modern Islamic political thought as well as the distinctive dimensions of modern Muslim experiences. Brown shows that both the modern-day fundamentalists and their critics have it wrong when they posit an eternally militant, unchanging Islam outside of history. "They are conflating theology and history. They are confusing the oughtand the is," he writes. As the historical record shows, mainstream Muslim political thought in premodern times tended toward political quietism.

Brown maintains that we can better understand present-day politics among Muslims by accepting the reality of their historical diversity while at the same time seeking to identify what may be distinctive in Muslim thought and action. In order to illuminate the distinguishing characteristics of Islam in relation to politics, Brown compares this religion with its two Semitic sisters, Judaism and Christianity, drawing striking comparisons between Islam today and Christianity during the Reformation. With a wealth of evidence, he recreates a tradition of Islamic diversity every bit as rich as that of Judaism and Christianity.

About the Author

L. Carl Brown, Garrett Professor in Foreign Affairs Emeritus at Princeton University, is editor of Imperial Legacy: The Ottoman Imprint on the Balkans and the Middle East.



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