Titles in this series

Akbar S. Ahmed, Islam Under Siege

Zygmunt Bauman, Community: Seeking Safety in an Insecure World

Zygmunt Bauman, Globalization: The Human Consequences

Norberto Bobbio, Left and Right: The Significance of a Political Distinction

Alex Callinicos, Equality

Diane Coyle, Governing the World Economy

Andrew Gamble, Politics and Fate

Paul Hirst, War and Power in the 21st Century

Bill Jordan and Franck Duüvell, Migration: The Boundaries of Equality and Justice

James Mayall, World Politics: Progress and its Limits

Ray Pahl, On Friendship

Shaun Riordan, The New Diplomacy

Islam Under Siege

Living Dangerously in a
Post-Honor World



Copyright © Akbar S. Ahmed 2003

The right of Akbar S. Ahmed to be identified as Author of this Work has been asserted in accordance with the UK Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

First published in 2003 by Polity Press in association with

Blackwell Publishing Ltd

Reprinted in 2008

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All rights reserved. Except for the quotation of short passages for the purposes of criticism and review, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher.

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Ahmed, Akbar S.

Islam under siege : living dangerously in a post-honor world / Akbar Ahmed.

p. cm. — (Themes for the 21st century)

Includes bibliographical references and index.

ISBN 978-0-7456-2210-1 (hb) — ISBN 978-0-7456-2210-0 (pbk.)

1. Islam—20th century. 2. Islam and world politics. 3. Globalization—Religious aspects—Islam. I. Title. II. Series.

BP161.3 .A35 2003



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For Larry

in continuation of our discussion about civilizations;
and in gratitude for his scholarship and friendship



Introduction: God’s Gamble

1    Islam Under Siege

i    The Return of Anthropology and the Final Crusade

ii   The Sense of Muslim Siege

2    What is Going Wrong?

i    Is it about Islam or is it Globalization?

ii   A Post-Honor World?

3    Ibn Khaldun and Social Cohesion

i    The Khaldunian Breakdown

ii   The Man in the Iron Cage

4    The Failure of Muslim Leadership

i    Muslim Leaders

ii   Veiled Truth: Women in Islam

5    Searching for a Muslim Ideal: Inclusion

i    Case Study One: The Scholarship of Inclusion

ii   Inclusivists in America: Islam in Toledo, Ohio

6    Searching for a Muslim Ideal: Exclusion

i    Case Study Two: The Scholarship of Exclusion

ii   Exclusivists in America: The Debate in Cleveland, Ohio

7    Toward a Global Paradigm

i    The Challenge for Islam

ii   Questions for our Time





Some of the ideas in this book have been developed from lectures, in particular at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, London, and subsequent articles published in its journal The World Today; from the inaugural address of the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University, Washington DC, which was published in The Middle East Journal (Washington); and from articles published in The Chronicle of Higher Education (Washington), History Today, Ethnic and Racial Studies, the Independent, and the Guardian (London). The aforementioned are gratefully acknowledged. A special thanks to Religion News Service, USA.

I am grateful to the following for their comments: Amineh Ahmed, David Godwin, Louis Goodman, Carole O’Leary, Peter Lewis, James Mittelman, Joe Montville, Mustapha Kamal Pasha, Chris Rojek, Todd Sedmak, and Tamara Sonn. I wish to acknowledge Kathleen Cahill of the Washington Post for her invaluable assistance in helping to edit the book and making suggestions to clarify the issues it raises. As always my wife, Zeenat, inspired me with her commitment to my work, oversaw the writing of the book and helped me in refining my ideas. The book is dedicated to our friend Professor Lawrence Rosen of Princeton University in acknowledgment of his scholarship and friendship.

Akbar S. Ahmed