Edward Said, pursuing a theme of his earlier work, Orientalism, exposes clichés and myths which have marked the coverage of Islam in the Western media and literature, especially in this period of Islamic resurgence in Iran and elsewhere. He makes many good points, although his tendency toward overstatement and his hectoring tone are a bit wearing. Rodinson, writing a kind of primer for the intelligent general reader, spends much time and space on definition and clarification without oversimplification, seeking above all, like Said, to dispel popular misconceptions about the Arabs. Always stimulating, often provocative, Rodinson seems more mellow here than in some of his earlier works. Bassam Tibi, an Arab scholar now teaching in Germany, gives his explanations and his own thoughts on Islam, its past and future as cultural heritage and political force, in a book addressed to Western readers. He rejects fundamentalism and pleads for a secularization of Islamic society that, although not based on Western models, will be consistent with the scientific-technological realities of the modern world.
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