In This Review

Legacy of the Prophet: Despots, Democrats, and the New Politics of Islam
Legacy of the Prophet: Despots, Democrats, and the New Politics of Islam
By Anthony Shadid
Westview, 2001, 340 pp
Purchase

This book, based on Shadid's journalistic coverage of the Middle East throughout the 1990s, offers good reportage that is enhanced by the author's fluency in Arabic. His on-the-spot appraisals are buttressed by an impressive scouring of scholarly and media sources, including the Arabic press. He also gets the historical context right. His study, which mainly treats Islamism in Egypt but also includes Sudan, Jordan, Lebanon, the Palestinians, Turkey, Iran, and Afghanistan, offers an important thesis: Radical Islamism has peaked, despite the persistence of Osama bin Laden's terrorist network and the Taliban of Afghanistan. But more significant are those emerging Islamists who provide social services, build civil society, and willingly work within the existing system in their own countries. Furthermore, Sudan's top-down imposition of Islamism has failed. This carefully nuanced book unstintingly presents the dark side of the picture, but it is still strongly recommended to the you-can't-do-business-with-Islamists school.