In This Review

Shattering the Myth: Islam Beyond Violence
Shattering the Myth: Islam Beyond Violence
By Bruce B. Lawrence
Princeton University Press, 1998, 229 pp

Duke University scholar Lawrence shatters the myth of a uniform Islamic culture by presenting quite different examples from the Maghrib to Southeast Asia. The core and best part of the book offers overviews of Islamism and politics in Pakistan, Egypt, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, and Iran and a survey of the status of women in Muslim countries, with compelling, contrasting examples from the Indian subcontinent. Many other subjects are addressed. The last chapter, for example, is not a conclusion but a new subject -- Muslim responses to the challenge of creating a "corporate culture," concentrating on Malaysia. Lawrence offers no single myth or paradigm to replace the myth he shatters. This book is most usefully read as a rich serving of perceptive insights marred by a few minor errors (for example describing King Ibn Saud as a "Hijazi chieftain" or conflating Iran's Tobacco Revolt of the early 1890s and the Constitutional Revolution of the following decade) and debatable assertions ("If Christians are ill at ease with power, Muslims recoil at profit"). Isn't Islam, in Charles Issawi's classic mot, the only world religion founded by a successful businessman?