In This Review

Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World
Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World
By Robin Wright
Simon & Schuster, 2011, 320 pp


In a long career covering this troubled region, Wright has consistently pictured its politics as more nuanced and more positive than most other observers. Rock the Casbah continues in that tradition, opening with a chapter on the beginnings of the Arab Spring in Tunisia and Egypt and then tracing the origins of what Wright dubs a “counter-jihad,” in which Muslims have turned their backs on the excesses of both al Qaeda and the theocrats in Iran. Wright also takes on subjects that seldom figure in high politics -- hip-hop, standup comedians, and poetry, as well as the new technology that produces what she calls “satellite sheikhs and YouTube imams.” She emphasizes throughout the important role of Muslim youth, who compose more than half the region’s population and even higher proportions in several Muslim-majority countries. Although not overlooking setbacks -- such as the quickly squelched movement protesting the 2009 Iranian presidential election and the stalled reform movements in Bahrain and Yemen -- Wright’s admittedly “counter-intuitive” interpretation sees the promise of progress toward a democratic modernity in the Muslim world. U.S. policies addressing these ongoing changes, she concludes, have been behind the curve.