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Book Review

The Muslim World Brings Forth a Counter-Jihad

Lee Smith

“Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World”

A book by Robin Wright

With the Arab Spring still unfolding, former Washington Post reporter Robin Wright’s latest book puts the popular uprisings that have swept the Arabic-speaking Middle East from North Africa and the Levant to the Persian Gulf littoral in the context of a larger movement: counter-jihad. Muslims around the world, she writes, are “increasingly rejecting extremism. The many forms of militancy — from the venomous Sunni creed of al-Qaida to the punitive Shiite theocracy in Iran — have proven costly, unproductive and ultimately unappealing.”

book cover

Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World

By Robin Wright

Simon & Schuster, 320 pages

Buy the book

In other words, Osama bin Laden’s efforts produced a result contrary to his intentions. After 9/11 dragged the United States into the Middle East in force, Muslims turned not toward extremism but moderation. According to Wright’s survey of the Muslim world, bin Laden’s message was dead long before the Navy SEALs brought him down in May. “Rock the Casbah,” then, is an introduction to the Muslim world 10 years after 9/11, and the author’s purpose is partly to illuminate and partly to instruct.

From Wright’s perspective, Americans’ view of Muslims and Islam hasn’t caught up to the reality. In spite of developments in the Middle East and elsewhere in the Muslim world, she argues, the past decade here in the United States was “shaped largely by fear of everything from a global clash of civilizations to a new neighborhood mosque.” What’s now required of Americans and their elected officials “is moving beyond fear as the most influential factor in decisions.” And that, she argues, “means more exposure to Muslims or education about Islam.”

Regarding this last, Wright’s book succeeds handsomely. As one of this country’s top Middle East reporters for more than four decades and author of five other books about Islam and the Middle East, she deftly escorts her readers around the region.

To see long excerpts from “Rock the Casbah” at Google Books, click here.

Wright paints broad strokes across a very wide canvas, and so it’s inevitable that the picture will have an occasional distortion. To be sure, her fellow Americans would do well to learn more about the faith of their Muslim neighbors. As we’ve all been witness to this last decade, and as Wright’s book reminds us, Muslims are already part of the fabric of this country.

Lee Smith is a senior editor at the Weekly Standard and a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

© 2011, Washington Post Book World Service / Washington Post Writers Group

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