Alastair Crooke’s elegant and measured book is a much-needed response to the viewpoint that equates Islam with mindless violence and terrorism, encapsulated in the lazy neologism ‘Islamofascism’. The task Crooke sets himself is audaciously ambitious: to tease out the roots of Islamist revolution, from its inception in Egypt with the agitator and pamphleteer Sayyid Qutub, through the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and the tumultuous events of the Iranian Revolution up to the present-day Hezballah and Hamas movements. Any doubts that Crooke is equal to the task of addressing such a vast and contentious subject are dismissed by his opening chapter. In a magisterial overview of his project, he traces the development of the Western mindset in which the West stands for enlightenment and progress, and its enemies are unarguably and irredeemably evil.
In examining the Islamic world’s response to this Manichean world view, Crooke explores some surprising byways. Using South African writer JM Coetzee’s novel Waiting for the Barbarians as an example, he shows how fear of ‘the other’ shapes both individual thought and public policy. There is also a fascinating disquisition on Islamic economics and its use as a bulwark against human excess and avarice.
Resistance is the product of a subtle and informed mind, unafraid to range widely in search of answers and, just as important, more probing questions. It is recommended reading for anyone interested in how the interface between ‘Western’ values and Islamic thought came about and, crucially, how it may develop in the future.