Islamic Imperialism


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A History
Revised Edition

Efraim Karsh

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A fundamental challenge to the way we understand the history of the Middle East and the role of Islam in the region

From the first Arab-Islamic Empire of the mid-seventh century to the Ottomans, the last great Muslim empire, the story of the Middle East has been the story of the rise and fall of universal empires and, no less important, of imperialist dreams. So argues Efraim Karsh in this highly provocative book. Rejecting the conventional Western interpretation of Middle Eastern history as an offshoot of global power politics, Karsh contends that the region’s experience is the culmination of long-existing indigenous trends, passions, and patterns of behavior, and that foremost among these is Islam’s millenarian imperial tradition.
The author explores the history of Islam’s imperialism and the persistence of the Ottoman imperialist dream that outlasted World War I to haunt Islamic and Middle Eastern politics to the present day. September 11 can be seen as simply the latest expression of this dream, and such attacks have little to do with U.S. international behavior or policy in the Middle East, says Karsh. The House of Islam’s war for world mastery is traditional, indeed venerable, and it is a quest that is far from over.

Efraim Karsh is professor and head of the Mediterranean Studies Programme, King’s College, University of London.
“[This book] turns on its head conventional wisdom that the Arab world is a perpetual victim – whether of Western foreign policy, or of its own incompetence.”—Miriam Shaviv, Jewish Chronicle
“Anyone interested in the debate about the place of Islam in the modern world should read this book. … Karsh offers a new approach. He rejects the condescending approach of the apologists and the hateful passion of the Islamophobes.
Instead he presents Islam as a rival for Western civilization in what is, after all, a contest for shaping the future of mankind. Karsh does not hide whose side he is on in this contest. Muslim readers would respect him because, while he designates Islam as an adversary, he respects them. Being disliked for the right reasons is better than being liked for the wrong ones. . . . What does Islam want? Karsh poses the question and answers it unambiguously.”—Amir Taheri, The Sunday Telegraph

“Efraim Karsh’s thesis is disclosed in the book’s arresting title. From its beginnings, he argues, Islam was a creed that made no separation between temporal and religious power. Mohammed never thought of ruling solely in men’s hearts: he ruled in Medina. He set out to conquer the Arab world, and he laid down a justification for all conquest everywhere. . . . I like Karsh’s robust refusal to accept Muslim history as a sob story against us in the West. His narrative helps explain the rage and the sheer hopelessness of so much Muslim engagement with modern politics.”—Charles Moore, The Telegraph



"In Islamic Imperialism Efraim Karsh argues for the existence of an Islamic imperial drive and traces it from Muhammad's time to current Islamist aggressions. One can hardly imagine a thesis with larger implications for prosecuting the war on terror."—Daniel Pipes

“Only a shrewd and talented revisionist, a professor with curiosity and nerve, could take on the clichés of Middle East scholarship and insist that they be reconsidered. That describes Efraim Karsh, a much-published and much-admired professor at the University of London. His new book, Islamic Imperialism deserves serious consideration by anyone who cares about this debate. He challenges not only our favourite ideas about the Middle East but even our notions of imperialism. . . . Karsh’s view of rising Islamic imperialism chills the blood. Multiculturalism looks different through the lens of his scholarship, and so does the future for global politics.”—Robert Fulford, Canada National Post





"Karsh's lively, clearly written and well-researched account should have an appeal beyond an academic audience. The crisp manner with which he disposes of accepted wisdom will delight the reader. And in laying to rest the victim theory, he restores a measure of dignity to the Middle East."—Ralph Amelan, Jerusalem Post



“[Karsh] has produced an impeccable history of how the Muslim mainstream has behaved towards its neighbours . . . [including] masterpieces of concise historical writing… The chapters on the Ottomans and Iran…are masterpieces of concise historical writing. . . . I could not recommend this magnificent effort of reportage and analysis more highly. It ought to be not only on our shelves, but also on our desks and bedside tables. Efraim Karsh, Professor of Mediterranean Studies at King’s College London, is well on his way toward claiming the crown of a new generation of scholars of Islam and I wish him luck. We need him. In Muslim lands, his book ought to be translated into every local language and distributed free of charge. Alas, it will be banned.”—Hazhir Teimourian, Literary Review
“If Islamic history features on your to-do list, then you couldn’t hope for a more up-to-date teacher than Efraim Karsh, who offers a new approach to the place of Islam in today’s world, and a fresh look at the Crusades, with Islamic Imperialism: A History.” - The Sunday Telegraph
“Beyond its historical merits, this latest work is a solid and studious refutation of the commonly held notion that the rise of Islamism is an historical reaction to European imperialism or that U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East led to the terrorist attacks in New York City on September 11, 2001.” - Evan Daniel, Democratiya
“This is clearly going to be a highly controversial book…the central phenomenon it describes – Islamic ‘imperialism’ – needs to be acknowledged and confronted.” - Bernard Porter, Lobster 51
“A brisk, dense history of Islam for its origins to modern times…most persuasive…” - Jack Carrigan, Catholic Herald
"Confronted by the threat of Islamist terrorism, the West still does not know its enemy. Efraim Karsh's new book is a scholarly, readable, and persuasive attempt to enlighten us before it is too late. His thesis is simple: we have not paid enough attention to the history and ideology of Islamic imperialism. . . . The sobering message of this fine book will be dismissed by many Muslims merely on the pretext that its author is Jewish. The fact is, however, that the greatest experts on the Islamic world, from Ignaz Goldziher to Bernard Lewis, have very often been Jewish. Even if the House of Islam won't fact up to its own history, those in the firing line would be foolish not to know what they are up against."—Daniel Johnson, American Spectator

“The book succinctly describes the rise and spread of Islam over the centuries and relates that history to the present state of world affairs. It is well-written and amply documented. I highly recommend it.”—Diane Ravitch, New York Sun (The Year’s Best Books)

"[Karsh] makes a compelling case. . . . Throws up intriguing implications for policy makers."—Sadanand Dhume, Far Eastern Economic Review

"In this controversial, some might say inflammatory book, Karsh argues that 9/11 had little to do with foreign policy and everything to do with the fact that Islam is inherently violent and imperialist...a fascinating read..." ---The Guardian

 “Karsh offers a new approach to the debate about the place of Islam in the modern world: as a rival to Western civilisation in a contest to shape the future of mankind.”—The Sunday Telegraph

Selected as a 2007 AAUP University Press Book for Public and Secondary School Libraries.
ISBN: 9780300198171
Publication Date: September 24, 2013
304 pages, 198 x 129