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The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity Paperback – 13 Mar 2003

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Product details

  • Paperback: 342 pages
  • Publisher: Verso Books; New edition edition (13 Mar. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 185984457X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1859844571
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 3.3 x 20.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 137,571 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

After the events of September 11, 2001, the veteran writer, filmmaker and political activist Tariq Ali has been in great demand to provide his own radical perspective on the significance of the attacks, and the result is The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity. Ali's book explores the history that preceded these events, and deals directly with the political history of Islam, its founding myths, its origins, its culture, its riches, its divisions. However, this is no dry history book, but a powerful and wide-ranging polemic that interrogates the hypocrisy of Islamist politics and religion, while also denouncing the double standards of US and UK foreign policy towards Islamic states over the last century.

The result is a remarkably broad if sometimes awkward and episodic book, that moves from Ali's idyllic childhood in Lahore, playing tennis and avoiding mullahs, via discussions of the origins of Islam, the rise of the Ottoman Empire, the status of women in Islam, to detailed critiques of the recent history of western involvement in Egypt, Palestine, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Kashmir. Ali is at his best in the later sections, attacking the Pakistani madrasas as indoctrination nurseries designed to produce fanatics, and condemning the Pakistani army as one of the Pentagon's spoilt brats in Asia. The Clash of Fundamentalisms argues that the rise of political and religious intolerance lies in the fact that all the other exit routes have been sealed off by the mother of all fundamentalisms: American imperialism. His call for "an Islamic Reformation that sweeps away the crazed conservatism and backwardness of the fundamentalists" and which "opens up the world of Islam to new ideas which are seen to be more advanced than what is currently on offer from the West" is a bold and provocative call; while some may disagree with Ali's politics or interpretation of history, there is little doubt that The Clash of Fundamentalisms is an angry but valuable response to the events that took place in the US on September 11, 2001. --Jerry Brotton --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"In this timely and important book, Tariq Ali puts the events of September 11 into sweeping historical perspective. As we have come to expect from him, he is lucid, eloquent, literary, and painfully honest, as he dissects both Islamic and Western fundamentalism." Howard Zinn "The book is an outstanding contribution to our understanding of the nightmare of history from which so many people are struggling to awake, and deserves serious engagement and consideration. Ali broadens our horizons, geographically, historically, intellectually and politically. His mode of history telling is lyrical and engaging, humane and passionate." -- Anthony Arnove, The Nation "Ali's style is vigorous, his narrative compelling, showing that the short-term, self-interested and oil-greedy policies of the British and Americans in such countries as Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Iran must make our much-vaunted ideals of democracy and equity seem like a bad joke." -- Karen Armstrong, The Times "It will not open doors at the White House because it makes for uncomfortable reading ... a wide-ranging and powerfully argued critique, that gives pause for thought." - Financial Times "[Ali] finds little to distinguish between the organised violence of the United States and that of those who oppose it..." - Sydney Morning Herald "Urbane, highly intelligent and vividly written. One hopes this fine study will earn no fatwa." -- Richard Sennett, Times Literary Supplement

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57 of 63 people found the following review helpful By Carool Kersten on 20 Sept. 2002
Format: Hardcover
For those who want to understand how such seemingly disparate issues like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Kashmir question, and the situation in Afghanistan fit together in the Post-Cold War world this latest book by Tariq Ali is almost mandatory reading.
This is surely a very personal account of world affairs, and in many instances the author is driven just as much by his own convictions as by a desire to explain. For this is not an unbiased analysis. But to be fair to the author, the iconoclastic Tariq Ali makes no attempt to hide this and would be the first to admit that he has his own political agenda.
Readers who do not share Ali's political ideology, and this reviewer is one of them, should nevertheless not be put off by this. For the very value of THE CLASH OF FUNDAMENTALISMS is that it captures a mood, a mood prevalent among scores of people in what we like to call the Third World. And as the anthropologist Clifford Geertz has explained in an entirely different context, moods are just as potent as driving forces for human behavior as the more focussed motivations.
Another quality that the author can not be denied is courage. The opening sentence of the first chapter is namely: I never really believed in God. Not many people of Muslim extraction would have dared to make such a confession, at least not since the Salman Rushdie Affair.
Tariq Ali is indeed not your average representative of the Third World citizen. Born in a family of feudal landowners in the Punjab province of British India, which was divided after the partition between Pakistan and India, his relatives played a role in politics before and after independence: a grandfather was chief minister, and others held senior positions in the armed forces or served in parliament.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By "Belgo Geordie" on 11 July 2012
Format: Paperback
I remember Mr Ali as an activist, a man who appeared to have the guts to take on issues and challenge the mainstream thinking in politics. Not an easy companion, not always right but worth hearing the discussion. In looking at the reviews of this book there was a certain predictability of responses. Not much in the we need to understand what is happening across the globe currently and to face some less palatable facts face on. Such as do we want to coexist in a world where the rights of women and children and those of differing opinions are invalidated to the extent of being brutalised. Fundamentalism is fundamentilism regardless of the creed. Brutalisation of people's basic rights is that no matter how it is dressed. In Australia it is how Anglo Australia confronts Aboriginal rights, how we engage in the debate on "boat people" and the many migrant groups recently taking root in this country. So, I found this book thought provoking because it challenged the bigger picture often controlled by one aspect of the debate (such as Murdoch and our middle of the road, self serving political leaders). Although I do not agree with everything Mr Ali has to say, I enjoyed that he made me think and at times uncomfortably so. As for lacking answers. I think there is. Make no mistake liberalistaion in the sense of achieving emancipation and achieving basic human rights across the globe is the enemy of fundamentilism and of consumerism (the modern face of capital). Is it a worthy aim to say that the rights of women, children, the vulnerable are as important for people where-ever they are in the globe, under whatever system political or religious. I think it is, and this book left me with the impression, so is Mr Ali.
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40 of 54 people found the following review helpful By abasu1979 VINE VOICE on 6 July 2002
Format: Hardcover
A fascinating and moving work, Tariq Ali's book combines the early history of Islam, the recent history of the Middle East, the current situation in South Asia, and an analysis of the world after September 11th to make an impassioned case against both religious fundamentalism and American imperialism.

Unfortunately he fails. His anti-fundamentalism leads him to provide excessively negative portrayals of Islamic Iran and of the Gulf States. He virtually ignores the considerable economic progress and the maintenance of social order in the latter, and does not credit the former for maintaining its sovereignty in the face of considerable US pressure, calling it instead 'the anti-imperialism of fools'. This reduces the credibility of his writing, and leads one to wonder whether he is pandering to Western stereotypes.

Similarly, his anti-fundamentalist zeal leads him to condemn Zia-ul-Haq and to suggest that he may have been killed by his own people. In fact, most Pakistanis suspect the Americans took him out. Likewise, Tariq Ali's condemnation of Nawaz Sharif, and his claim that Musharraf's coup was done against American wishes, border on the absurd. It is all too clear now that Sharif was punished for defying America - first by testing nuclear weapons and then by improving ties with India. His replacement on the other hand, opened the gates for the American occupation of Central Asia.

Mr. Ali also shows a considerable anti-Indian bias, with his chapter on Kashmir echoing Pakistani state propaganda. His remarkable insensitivity to the sufferings of the Hindus - from the Turkish invasions of India to the partition of the fatherland to the ethnic cleansing in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Kashmir, are telling.
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