Run-on Sentence Summary
Despite the books provocative title, rather than exploring some alternate history, this book is more of a long form essay arguing that the clash between islamic peoples and the west is deep seated in history and has more to do with geopolitics than religion.
This book is a fascinating look at the common question, “why do they (people we think as “other", e.g. muslims) hate us (the west)?” As a westerner who is largely ignorant of islamic culture and history, this book was a revelation to me as I try to better understand the world.
The beginning of the book is a massive history lesson spanning the origins of Christianity, the great schism, the origins of Islam, the crusades and much more. One especially novel concept for me was the relationship between Rome, the Byzantine empire, Eastern Orthodox Christianity and it’s central place in modern Russian cultural identity.
The central thesis of the book is that tension between the east and the west is complicated, but has much more to do with geopolitical struggles than religious differences. The book points out how extremely similar Islam and Christianity are compared to say, Christianity and Judaism, and gently reminds us how much evil has been done by both Christians and secular groups throughout even recent history.
This book to me was reminiscent of Jared Diamond’s “Guns, Germs, and Steel,” in that is also essentially a long form essay using history to argue against prejudice. Where Guns, Germs and Steel wants you to reconsider the role of race in the origins of western civilizational dominance, A World Without Islam wants you to reconsider the role of religion in the origins of modern cultural conflict.
The book concludes with the modern era, demonstrating the causal link between islamic terrorism and western imperialism, culminating in the disastrous War on Terr. As with Guns, Germs, and Steel, the core information is excellent and compelling, but I’m left desiring an informed, nuanced dissenting opinion. For instance, his suggestion that we need to completely pull out of the middle east feels like it is oversimplified, but I am not equipped to disagree articulately.
An informative and compelling book if you want to better understand Islam and its place in the modern world.
“The attack on 9/11 was a violent, extremist, and outrageous act, but it was also almost a culmination of a preceding chain of events over many years. If we choose to see history beginning at 9/11—whereby we suddenly become the sole justifiably aggrieved party, now authorized to bring vigilante justice to the world—then we will continue to do what we have been doing all along, with disastrous consequences evident to all."