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In this informed, compelling exploration of Moslem beliefs and of the sectarian conflicts within the community, a Jewish historian paints a sympathetic portrait of mainstream Islam and exposes the centuries-old roots of Osama bin Laden’s extremism.
The difficult, protracted war against terrorism has raised unsettling questions about the nature of Islam and its influence on America’s declared enemies. In The Two Faces of Islam, Stephen Schwartz, who has devoted years to the study of Islam, explains its complex history and describes the profound philosophical and religious differences that distinguish traditional beliefs from the radical sects that have sprung up over the past fifteen hundred years. He focuses on Wahhabism, the puritanical sect to which Osama bin Laden belongs. Founded in the eighteenth century by a radical cleric, this intolerant “Islamo-fascist” sect became the official creed of the Saudi Arabian state and has been exported to Moslem countries from the Balkans to the Philippines, as well as to Islamic communities in Western Europe and the United States.
By setting the current upheavals within an historical and religious context, Schwartz demonstrates that Osama bin Laden and his followers are not really fighting a war against America. Rather, they are engaged in a revolution within Islam itself—a movement that parallels the turmoil within Christianity during the sixteenth century. Schwartz not only exposes the collusion of the Saudi Arabian government in the spread of radical Islam (which makes them at best reluctant allies of the West), he shows that the majority of Moslems have little sympathy for the Wahhabis and that many openly denounce their motivations and goals.
A riveting narrative that never smacks of propaganda, The Two Faces of Islam is essential reading for anyone who seeks to understand who we are fighting, what our enemies believe, and who our friends in the Moslem world really are.
“Schwartz provides much valuable information and insight. [His] case against Saudi Arabia and its foreign policy is irrefutable.” —The Wall Street Journal
“A major and welcome contribution on a topic that will only become more relevant. It is must reading for anybody who wants to know what exactly we are facing in the war on terror.” —National Review
“A powerful indictment of Saudi-Wahhabi duplicity. . . . A valuable study of a religious culture that could well end up in open conflict with the West (if it’s not already).” —The Washington Post
“The urgency for Americans is to place the news in context, and toward that end there is no better guide than Stephen Schwartz. . . . No writer has done more to expose Wahhabism than Mr. Schwartz has.” —Dallas Morning News
“The war against terror is a war against radical Islam—and on behalf of civilized Islam. No one has done more to expose the radical, Saudi-Wahhabi face of Islam than Stephen Schwartz. Here he also introduces us to a second, benign face of Islam, one that is a source of reassurance or at least hope.” —William Kristol, Editor, The Weekly Standard
“Islamic culture is man-made. It has created great splendors as well as great miseries. Stephen Schwartz’s work is exemplary in illuminating intra-Muslim distinctions, both historic and theological; distinctions which are of the first importance for the rest of the world to understand. He is a most articulate enemy of Islamofascism.” —Christopher Hitchens
“After September 11, author and journalist Stephen Schwartz began a long-overdue public discussion of the dangers of Wahhabism for the world. The result is this groundbreaking book, the best book on the topic yet published. Stephen Schwartz has dissected Wahhabism from the roots up and has traced its growth like no previous writer. This book will be the outstanding reference work on Wahhabism for years to come. Stephen Schwartz’s work will completely change how the world views Islam.” —Ali Al-Ahmed, Saudi Institute for Development and Studies