Mankind's only alternative 28   JAN.   23  
Mankind's only alternative

The Fall of The eXile For all those wondering what the "Save The eXile Fundrasier" banner is all about, here it is as simply as it can be phrased: The eXile is shutting down.
June 11, 2008 in eXile Blog

War Nerd: War of the Babies in Taki's Magazine The War Nerd talks about babies, the greatest weapon of the 20th century.
May 28, 2008 in eXile Blog

Kids, Meet Your President A website for Russian kids to learn all about President Medvedev's passion for school, sports and family.
May 22, 2008 in eXile Blog

Cellphone Democracy Cam If this girl was exposed to Jeffersonian democracy...
May 20, 2008 in Face Control

More Classy B&W Dyev Photos Yet another hot Russian babe imitating the Catpower look...
May 20, 2008 in Face Control

Proof That Genetic Memory Is Real! Sure, the Ottomans shut down the Istanbul Slavic slave markets centuries ago...
May 15, 2008 in Face Control

Russia's Orthodox Church Youth Outreach Program The priest is going, "Father Sansei is very impressed with grasshopper Sasha’s...
May 15, 2008 in Face Control

More Classy B&W Club Photos w/Russian Dyevs We took the Pepsi Challenge here...
May 15, 2008 in Face Control

Blogs RSS feed

Book Review April 17, 2003
Islamic Studies: Faculty Only
By John Dolan Browse author Email

Islam and the Myth of Confrontation (2nd Edition)
by Fred Halliday
Taurus 2003
Islam and the Myth of Confrontation (2nd Edition) by Fred Halliday Taurus 2003

At the New Zealand university where I used to teach there was a stern British academic who was famous for his way of reacting to generalizations he considered overly broad. He would sit up very straight, furrow his brow, and say, "Hang on a minute!" Reading Fred Halliday's Islam and the Myth of Confrontation was like listening to that phrase repeated for more than two hundred pages. Over and over, Halliday sets up and knocks down "myths" which attempt to offer a comprehensive explanation for contemporary Middle Eastern strife, demonstrating at great length that these explanations are facile, overly broad, ahistorical or otherwise lacking in rigor.

Is there, for example, a "Conflict of Civilizations" between "the West" and "Islam"? Halliday's response is the inevitable "hang on a minute!" followed by many pages of evidence that no such conflict actually exists. First he shows that the bloodiest conflicts of the past century have not been inter-civilizational, then he grumbles at length over the vagueness of the very concepts involved.

The trouble is that Halliday seems much less interested in helping the reader understand what really is happening in the Middle East than in discrediting the theories of non-academic writers who have tried to explain the region. You finish the book very much aware of what can't be said about Islam and Middle Eastern conflict, but without any very clear sense of what can be.

At times Halliday's hostility to generalization becomes almost comic. Reading this book was like watching an outraged professor encounter a blackboard full of a rival's lecture notes. He becomes absorbed in reading, criticizing and erasing them, one by one. At the end of the hour, he looks proudly at the now-blank blackboard and turns to his students, puzzled by the fact they seem less than satisfied.

The clearest assertion in the book is Halliday's summing up of his negative conclusion: "There cannot be a great 'Islamic challenge' [to the West], not only because the Islamic states are, and will remain, much weaker than those of the West, but also because they do not represent a coherent, internationally constituted alliance." There. That's it: the whole content of this book. One sentence-and it doesn't arrive until p. 119, after more than a hundred pages of obfuscation.

Pedantry like this might seem harmless or endearing in scholars of more arcane fields. But I actually wanted to learn something about Islam from this book. And all I learned was that Fred Halliday is an academic whose only real interest is in policing his precious field of study.

It's always the social scientists who make the most noise about maintaining the purity of their precious fields, because they know no one takes them seriously any more. Researchers in real sciences love coming up with accessible ways of explaining their work, while pillars of pseudo-sciences like "International Relations" snarl like rottweilers at the thought that mere civilians might presume to understand their arcana.

That's why Halliday's favorite figure of speech is the antithesis. On nearly every page of this book you'll read antitheses between the way Middle Eastern issues strike mere amateurs and the reality, as seen by true IR specialists. Thus Halliday's prose is full of forms of the verb "to appear." It shows up, in Italics no less, in the first sentence of the book: "In the postwar period the Middle East has consistently appeared to be the most unstable...region in the whole world." And again, a few pages later: "For all its apparent eccentricity, the Middle East ...." and yet again: "the apparent particularities of the Middle East..."

SHARE:  Digg  My Web  Facebook  Reddit

Browse author

Club Cruising in Moscow :
RPG-weilding Arab
RPG vs. M1 :

Crude: The Motherland Arises :

Who Are These People? : Reality Television Produces Fake Celebrities


Save The eXile: The War Nerd Calls Mayday
The future of The eXile is in your hands! We're holding a fundraiser to save the paper, and your soul. Tune in to Gary Brecher's urgent request for reinforcements and donate as much as you can. If you don't, we'll be overrun and wiped off the face of the earth, forever.

Scanning Moscow’s Traffic Cops
Automotive Section
We’re happy to introduce a new column in which we publish Moscow’s raw radio communications, courtesy of a Russian amateur radio enthusiast. This issue, eXile readers are given a peek into the secret conversations of Moscow’s traffic police, the notorious "GAIshniki."

Eleven Years of Threats: The eXile's Incredible Journey
Feature Story By The eXile
Good Night, and Bad Luck: In a nation terrorized by its own government, one newspaper dared to fart in its face. Get out your hankies, cuz we’re taking a look back at the impossible crises we overcame.

Your Letters
Russia's freedom-loving free market martyr Mikhail Khodorkovsky answers some of this week's letters, and he's got nothing but praise for President Medvedev.

Clubbing Adventures Through Time
Club Review By Dmitriy Babooshka
eXile club reviewer Babooshka takes a trip through time with the ghost of Moscow clubbing past, present and future, and true to form, gets laid in the process.

The Fortnight Spin
Bardak Calendar By Jared Lindquist
Jared comes out with yet another roundup of upcoming bardak sessions.

Your Letters
Richard Gere tackles this week's letters. Now reformed, he fights for gerbil rights all around the world.

13 Toxic Talents: Hollywood’s Worst Polluters
America By Eileen Jones
Everybody complains about celebrities, but nobody does anything about them. People, it’s time to stop fretting about whether we’re a celebrity-obsessed culture—we are, we have been, we’re going to be—and instead take practical steps to clean up the celebrity-obsessed culture we’ve got...


    MAIN    |    RUSSIA    |    WAR NERD     |    [SIC!]    |    BAR-DAK    |    THE VAULT    |    ABOUT US    |    RSS

© "the eXile". Tel.: +7 (495) 623-3565, fax: +7 (495) 623-5442