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56 of 62 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dissecting the World
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...
Published on 20 Sep 2002 by Carool Kersten

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24 of 51 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A fundamentalist refutes fundamentalists
The problem with Ali's book is in while he attacks the twin fundamentalisms (US and Islamic) he himself is a fundamentalist of the marxist-leninist type (a doctrine which has incidentally killed more than America and Islam put together). He attacks the madrassas in Pakistan for brainwashing kids but he himself blindly follows the marxists beliefs he was indoctrinated with...
Published on 9 Jan 2005


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56 of 62 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dissecting the World, 20 Sep 2002
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. Ali's parents, however, became staunch Marxists, while he himself is a self-confessed Trotskyist. Since his student-days he has been at the forefront of many political activities at the extreme left of the political spectrum.

His family background and his own political activism have made Tariq Ali a uniquely well-connected man, and this book has benefited from that. Throughout the years the author has had access to the military and political establishment in Pakistan, worked for the Russell Tribunal, traveled in worn-torn Northern Vietnam and visited Palestinian refugee camps. He shows himself not only very well read in Islamic history, but is also conversant with the writings of political radicals of both left and right. He augments his account with examples from literature: critical writers such as Abd al-Rahman Munif and Nizar Kabbani are or were personal acquaintances.
All this makes his book an important read for everybody who wants to at least attempt to view the world through the eyes of 'the Wretched of the Earth'.
In the first part Tariq Ali gives a genealogy of the heritage of Islamic civilization. Taking us from his personal introduction to Islamic learning, via the days of the Prophet Muhammad and early conquests to the crusades and the Ottoman Empire. This is followed by two more thematic chapters on the wide diversity of Islamic doctrines - meant to dispel the incorrect image of Islam as a monolithic bloc - and a very interesting discourse on gender issues in Islam.
In the second part of the book the author introduces us into the modern Middle East. Here Ali explains the way a puritanical strand of Islam ends up making common cause with the imperialistic designs of the West, and how the founding of Israel turned the Middle East into a political quagmire, both because of irreconcilable differences and outside manipulations. It is the author's accomplishment to give a readable account of how Zionism, the experiments with socialism in Arab countries such as Egypt and Syria, the trauma caused by the 1967 war, the rise and fall of Anwar Sadat and the Shah, have all been instrumental in creating a mood, which in 1987 exploded into the Intifadah. The result was that during the last decades of the twentieth century virtually the whole Middle East was submerged in an 'Ocean of Terror'.
In the next part, Ali shifts his attention back to his region of origin: South Asia. Because I am not as familiar with this part of the world as with the Middle East, I found this the most informative part of the book. The author explains how the tensions between India and Pakistan can be traced back to the undesired partition of former British India. During the run-up to independence the leaders of the Congress Party and Muslim League did not envisage the horror and atrocities to which they would expose the people they were suppose to represent. Later on it lead to a bloody war in Bangladesh, while Tariq Ali qualifies the Kashmir issue as the unfinished business of partition. Continued interference by the post-Word War II superpowers did nothing to improve the situation. Pakistani and Indian politics became already hopelessly corrupt, even before the situation got completely out of hand in Afghanistan.
While in the previous parts the author has tried to give an explanation for the rage that is holding large parts of the Islamic world in its grip, his final section starts with a chapter entitled 'A Short-Course History of US Imperialism'. In many instances Ali hits the nail on the head - the doctrine of Neo-Liberalism is just as fundamentalist in character as Islamic radicalism. His comparison between the theses presented by two high priests of post-Cold War doctrine, Francis Fukuyama and Samuel Huntington, I found particularly insightful. But at the same time the author's personal political predilections come to the fore as he can not resist filling us in on the involvement of these two 'state intellectuals' in some of America's unsavory political actions. Kissinger, Brzezinski and Madeleine Albright are taken to task for this as well. A few quotations from Leon Trotsky, by contrast, serve to present him as a visionary, and there is unfortunately also little or no real analysis of what made Marxism-Leninism fail in the end.
But in short, THE CLASH OF FUNDAMENTALISMS is a very valuable book for those who want to look beyond the scare mongering of myopic politicians and sensationalist media. In addition to that, Tariq Ali is an entertaining writer as well.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five stars for courage in tackling something so complex and heated, 11 July 2012
This review is from: The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity (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
5.0 out of 5 stars Twilight of the Trotskyite, 6 July 2002
By 
abasu1979 "abasu1979" (Doha, Qatar) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
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. Similarly, his claim that Hindus converted to Islam to escape the caste system rings hollow - both Buddhism and Jainism had rejected the caste system long before Islam entered the subcontinent. Nonetheless, despite all that India has suffered at the hands of Pakistan and its ancestors, Ali still calls on India to take the lead in seeking peace with Pakistan. Such naivete is expected from an adolescent, but not from a man in his fifties.

The fundamental problem in Ali's work, that comes out clearly at the end, is his acceptance of an ancient-medieval-modern scheme of history. This prevents him from seeing the close parallels between the English Puritans and the early Muslims, the Glorious Revolution and the Shia-Sunni split, the age of the Umayyads and the European Enlightenment, the rise of the populist Abbasids and the French Revolution, Ibn Rawandi and Nietzsche, the Crusaders and the Bolsheviks, and ultimately, the Turkish and American empires. Hence his call for an Islamic Reformation completely misses the point - like the Puritans, Islam came after the Reformation in its respective civilization. Likewise, his arguments for separating state and mosque are untenable. In the Middle East, religion and politics have always been united - be it in Israel, (a Jewish State for a Jewish People,) Saudi Arabia, or Iran, (a state for all Shias.) Indeed, it was true of the Byzantines as well. The separation of church and state is a feature of Western civilization - and a product of the continuous conflict between the priesthood and aristocracy in that culture. Other cultures have different relations between religion and politics.

Tariq Ali's book is ultimately the swansong of an idealistic, revolutionary epoch that reached its climax with the Russian, Chinese and Vietnamese revolutions, and died with the collapse of the USSR. As such, it is a masterpiece - but not a guide to the future. Indeed, for a generation like Ali's, that shared the values of the 1960s, the coming decade will be a nightmare. But for the rest of us, it is history in the making.
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14 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprised me - fluent and pleasurable writing, 10 Sep 2004
By 
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This review is from: The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity (Paperback)
For migrants who live in the West and whose education, especially history, has been focused only on the west, this book is a revelation.
Yes, I had vaguely heard of Ali as a communist (and I never believed in communism as workable) but I gave this book a chance.
To learn that there is a history that doesnt focus on the West, a magnificent history over 1300 years old, a tragic history made pitiful by the events of the last 100 years, but a history also full of human achievements, is a revelation.
Yes, there are other writers out there, western and arab, but none seem to me to make it so accessible.
What Tariq Ali reveals about Islam is that once upon a time, it flourished in a culture that was open and tolerant. It was influenced heavily by non-Arab cultures, and the centre of gravity moved rapidly out of Arabia towards Baghdad, Spain, Persia and India. Only after 1300 years, because the US wanted cheap oil, and did a " Oil-for-protection" deal, did the centre of gravity return to Arabia under the brutal tyranny of Ibn Saud and the Wahabi sect. Ergo, the USA and Saudi Arabia directly supported and grew islamic fundamentalism.
I never knew this, but I do now. Excellent.
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11 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book, 3 Feb 2004
This review is from: The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity (Paperback)
"Clash of Fundamentalisms" is a particularly well written and informative analysis of both types of extremism most prevalent in the world today - namely US led imperialism and religious fundamentalism. The erudite Ali is at his best during his commentary of the India-Pakistan partition and also the horrific US instigated shift of power in Indonesia from the nationalist Soekarno to the brutal military dictatorship of Suharto. In addition to analysis of current events, Ali provides an educational insight into the history and culture of Islam, and also women's role within the religion. The only negative comment is that the book can occasionally be slightly difficult in these sections where Ali is providing a detailed historical commentary.
Overall this is a fascinating and relevant book which should provide an interesting alternative to the work of Pilger etc.
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11 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An eye-opener, 10 Oct 2004
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This review is from: The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity (Paperback)
They dont teach you this in school.
Rather than go back to the last media report from Fox news which is as far back as commentators want to go today, Ali takes us back to the beginiings of christianity and islam. By giving us the context of key events he leads us naturally and straight up to 9/11. If like me you are ignorant of what has been happening in the middle east this is a great primer.
I would recommend that before you read Bernard Lewis, or people whose focus is just ion todays news, read Ali.
Then read the papers and you'll see why the political boundaries, and world power, is shaped like it is.
Highly recommendde.
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24 of 51 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A fundamentalist refutes fundamentalists, 9 Jan 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity (Paperback)
The problem with Ali's book is in while he attacks the twin fundamentalisms (US and Islamic) he himself is a fundamentalist of the marxist-leninist type (a doctrine which has incidentally killed more than America and Islam put together). He attacks the madrassas in Pakistan for brainwashing kids but he himself blindly follows the marxists beliefs he was indoctrinated with in childhood. His claim the self-same madrassas are breeding grounds for terrorism is palpably false - of Al Qaida members only 9% went to madrassa the rest having secular education like Ali's. His section on Islam is marred by polemicism -selective quoting to back his arguments and spurious theories presented as facts without proof. He misquotes and misunderstands texts for example he quotes the Prophetic maxim as "Pray 5 times and tie your camel" and suggests this was said for fear of camel's being stolen whilst praying - in fact the hadith is "Trust in God, but tie your camel" and is usually understood to mean that while a believer should rely only on God He or She shouldnt also act recklessly and endanger themselves or others.

While Ali is an interesting alternative voice he's hard to take seriously.
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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Informative, yet, not conclusive, 13 April 2007
By 
Dtg Renwick "Daniel Renwick" (London, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity (Paperback)
Ali, like Chomsky and others is extremely Anti-American. The book is a brilliant critique of western foreign policy, and Islamism. While Ali criticises the West for the effects upon Eastern culture, he also criticises Islam for not going through the reformation. In this respect Ali does well.

However, there are major short comings throughout the argument, and like many on the left Ali raises all the questions, but offers no real answer. Given the instability of South Asia and the middle east, how are the west to act? Ali says himself that Pakistan is in danger of becoming a nuclear fundamentalist state, yet does not offer a solution to the problem, or any other for that matter...

The facts that arise from the book mean that it is definately worth a read, and it is well written. However, if you are Islamic, or pro war, prepare to be offended. Ali does raise contentious issues, for example the belief that the prophet Mohammed was a political ideologue and produced Islam in a bid to refute Paganism, and that Franklin Roosevelt instigated war with Japan.

All in all a good book, if you're prepared to think beyond what Ali purports.
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