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What Went Wrong?: The Clash Between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East

What Went Wrong? The Clash Between Islam & Modernity in the Middle East - Bernard Lewis This book was prominently displayed in every bookstore when it came out in January 2003, because the public was still hungry for something to help them make sense of 9/11. This book probably disappointed most people on that count. Even though it features the word "Clash" in the title, it is really about the sort of cultural competition that goes on between neighboring cultures the world over. Only in the broadest and vaguest terms can it be applied to September 11, the war in Iraq, Palistine, or any other current issue in the Middle East. What it does address is the eclipse of the Muslim world by Europe over the past 300 years in terms of scientific innovations and the development of music and literature. One thousand years ago, Islam flourished while Europe languished. Lately the roles have been somewhat reversed, although the radicalism and instability currently extant in the Middle East aren't precisely the same thing as a "Dark Ages". I don't agree with the title's premise that "something must have gone wrong" to explain the role reversal. Before the globe was united in a tight telecommunications network and an interlocking global economy, different civilizations experienced their peaks and declines independently. The reasons for these occilations are myriad, and often unique to the culture being examined. In the 1300's, the Mongol Empire was at its peak, while Japan was a backwater. Today Japan is a powerhouse, and Mongolia is a satellite of China. What went wrong? Nothing, really. That's just the ebb and flow of history.Lewis makes some interesting observations comparing secular Turkey to zealous Arabia, and also provides some interesting letters from the few Muslims (mostly ambassadors) living in and observing Europe during the 1800's and early 1900's. I found the author's writing style to be difficult to follow, and overall the book strikes me as a bit directionless. Maybe it should have been called something like "Scattered Musings About the Shifting Power Dynamic Between Europe and the Near East During the Past 300 Years". The marketing department at Harper Perennial would probably object to that.