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What Went Wrong?: The Clash Between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East

  • ISBN13: 9780060516055
  • Condition: NEW
  • Notes: Brand New from Publisher. No Remainder Mark.

Product Description

For centuries, the world of Islam was in the forefront of human achievement — the foremost military and economic power in the world, the leader in the arts and sciences of civilization. Christian Europe was seen as an outer darkness of barbarism and unbelief from which there was nothing to learn or to fear. And then everything changed. The West won victory after victory, first on the battlefield and then in the marketplace.

In this elegantly written volume, Bernard Lewis, a renowned authority an Islamic affairs, examines the anguished reaction of the Islamic world as it tried to make sense of how it had been overtaken, overshadowed, and dominated by the West. In a fascinating portrait of a culture in turmoil, Lewis shows how the Middle East turned its attention to understanding European weaponry, industry, government, education, and culture. He also describes how some Middle Easterners fastened blame on a series of scapegoats, while others asked not “Who did this to us?” but rather “Where did we go wrong?”

With a new Afterword that addresses September 11 and its aftermath, What Went Wrong? is an urgent, accessible book that no one who is concerned with contemporary affairs will want to miss. Review
Bernard Lewis is the West’s greatest historian and interpreter of the Near East. Books such as The Middle East and The Arabs in History are required reading for anybody who hopes to understand the region and its people. Now Lewis offers What Went Wrong?, a concise and timely survey of how Islamic civilization fell from worldwide leadership in almost every frontier of human knowledge five or six centuries ago to a “poor, weak, and ignorant” backwater that is today dominated by “shabby tyrannies … modern only in their apparatus of repression and terror.” He offers no easy answers, but does provide an engaging chronicle of the Arab encounter with Europe in all its military, economic, and cultural dimensions. The most dramatic reversal, he says, may have occurred in the sciences: “Those who had been disciples now became teachers; those who had been masters became pupils, often reluctant and resentful pupils.” Today’s Arab governments have blamed their plight on any number of external culprits, from Western imperialism to the Jews. Lewis believes they must instead commit to putting their own houses in order: “If the peoples of Middle East continue on their present path, the suicide bomber may become a metaphor for the whole region, and there will be no escape from a downward spiral of hate and spite, rage and self-pity, [and] poverty and oppression.” Anybody who wants to understand the historical backdrop to September 11 would do well to look for it on these pages. –John Miller

What Went Wrong?: The Clash Between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East


  1. (…) This book, just another in a long
    line of redundant and reductive texts he has produced, offers nothing
    new. It is about as interesting as a book that blames the fall of the
    roman empire on their ethnicity of the romans and the belief in
    christianity. That the answers like in the ‘mindset’ (read, genetic
    makeup) of these people who are just not able to cope because their
    christian religion is backward and regressive and opposed to the
    creativity being bought forward by the new emerging empires of Islam.
    I doubt that the latter thesis would even see the light of day. I
    would certainly not waste my time reading such reductive hogwash.
    Unfortunately, we live in times where a (person) like Mr. Lewis can be
    published, repeatedly, and celebrated by a handful of people because
    he published stuff about Islam and Arabs that no one would ever
    suggest publishing about another people, society, dynasty or
    ethnicity. Keep looking

    Rating: 1 / 5

  2. I don’t believe this book is completely based on true facts. Unfortunately, I found some prejiduces and subjective thouhgts.
    Rating: 1 / 5

  3. Most of this book focuses on how muslims must be mad because their civilization has been defeated by the West. This is a kind of racist argument with little logical tought involved.
    Rating: 2 / 5

  4. I selected this book from its title hoping to find answers for the ongoing problems in the Middle East. Mr Lewis dwells extensively on the history of the Ottoman Empire as the cause for everything amiss in the Arab World. Anyone who lived in the ME or read its history will attribute the current conflicts as a direct consequence of colonialism by Britain and France, the creation of the 4,000,000 Palestinian Refugees, and the Israeli occupation. These are the problems, and not the Turkish Empire. The Middle East is not in need of scapegoats to explain its conflicts. For Lewis to state that “the Anglo-French rule and American ifluence, like the Mongol invasions, were a consequence, not a cause of the inner weakness of the Middle Eastern states and societies” reveals either ignorance or prejudice. I do not know where Mr Lewis has been residing, and what he is reading. Does Mr Lewis also believe that the victims of the Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide, and the Palestinian Exodus invited these crimes upon themselves? This book is a waste of time. I suggest Michael Fromkin’s a Peace to End all Peace instead. Pat Hitchon
    Rating: 1 / 5


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