Bernard Lewis is Emeritus Professor of of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. He was formerly Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at SOAS, University of London, from 1949 to 1974. He is a member of the British Academy, the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and the Institut de France.
At a time when many in the world are anxious to learn more about Islam, to understand what it is that drives the likes of Osama bin Laden and his followers to commit their terrible atrocities in the name of jihad, this slim volume by one of the West's foremost historians of Islam is a welcome, indeed necessary, addition to the wealth of books on this and related issues which have been spawned by the events of September 11 2001. Islam in both its senses - religion and civilization - dates back over 14 centuries to the advent of the Prophet Muhammad. Today more than ever, though, religion remains, in most Islamic countries, a major political force; Lewis argues that it is not only a matter of faith and practice, but also 'an identity and a loyalty'. This perhaps goes some way to explain why a small minority of Muslims will go to such extreme lengths to rid the world of the forces of evil embodied by the United States of America and Zionism. Having considered the ideological background, Lewis goes on to consider the way forward - how so-called Islamic fundamentalists are likely to prosecute their cause in the future and how the West can best deal with a terrorist threat which can only be fuelled by the poverty and tyranny which affects most of the Muslim world and an exploding population of 'unemployed, uneducated and frustrated young men'. Lewis states that 'in devising means to fight the terrorists, it would surely be useful to understand the forces that drive them'; this book is a useful aid to that understanding. (Kirkus UK)