Islamic Exceptionalism: How the Struggle Over Islam Is Reshaping the World

Shadi Hamid

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Islamic Exceptionalism: How the Struggle Over Islam Is Reshaping the World

Islamic Exceptionalism How the Struggle Over Islam Is Reshaping the World In Islamic Exceptionalism Brookings Institution scholar and acclaimed author Shadi Hamid offers a novel and provocative argument on how Islam is in fact exceptional in how it relates to politics w

  • Title: Islamic Exceptionalism: How the Struggle Over Islam Is Reshaping the World
  • Author: Shadi Hamid
  • ISBN: 9781250061010
  • Page: 406
  • Format: Hardcover
  • In Islamic Exceptionalism, Brookings Institution scholar and acclaimed author Shadi Hamid offers a novel and provocative argument on how Islam is, in fact, exceptional in how it relates to politics, with profound implications for how we understand the future of the Middle East Divides among citizens aren t just about power but are products of fundamental disagreements oIn Islamic Exceptionalism, Brookings Institution scholar and acclaimed author Shadi Hamid offers a novel and provocative argument on how Islam is, in fact, exceptional in how it relates to politics, with profound implications for how we understand the future of the Middle East Divides among citizens aren t just about power but are products of fundamental disagreements over the very nature and purpose of the modern nation state and the vexing problem of religion s role in public life Hamid argues for a new understanding of how Islam and Islamism shape politics by examining different models of reckoning with the problem of religion and state, including the terrifying and alarmingly successful example of ISIS.With unprecedented access to Islamist activists and leaders across the region, Hamid offers a panoramic and ambitious interpretation of the region s descent into violence Islamic Exceptionalism is a vital contribution to our understanding of Islam s past and present, and its outsized role in modern politics We don t have to like it, but we have to understand it because Islam, as a religion and as an idea, will continue to be a force that shapes not just the region, but the West as well in the decades to come.

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    One thought on “Islamic Exceptionalism: How the Struggle Over Islam Is Reshaping the World

    1. Murtaza on said:

      The "End of History" was a period that we were all supposed to enter together. Western democracies would lead the way, with the countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America following soon after into an era of ideology-free technocratic governance. After centuries of conflict over fundamental differences over how to order society and of what constitutes the good, humanity had transcended its need to even hold deep beliefs. Having shed the past in entirety, it would now enter an era of simple mater [...]

    2. Cappy on said:

      The strength of this book is that it calls into question the critical assumptions of both the American Left (that Arab nations are moving inexorably towards secularism) and Right (that Islamist movements around the Arab world are monolithic and brutalizing). That it does so in the key of invitation - not confrontation - is an additional gift.Per FTC guidelines, be advised that I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

    3. Mohamed al-Jamri on said:

      هل يمكن اعتبار تاريخ الإسلام إعادة بشكل مختلف لتاريخ النموذج الأوروبي عن العلاقة بين الدين والعلمانية، أم أن الإسلام ظاهرة استثنائية مختلفة؟ هذا هو السؤال الكبير الذي يطرحه شادي حميد من «مؤسسة بروكينغز» العريقة في كتابه «الاستثناء الإسلامي: كيف يعيد الصراع على الإسلام تشك [...]

    4. Emma Sea on said:

      The topic is important, and I definitely learned some interesting things, but Hamid's writing is uninspiring and bland. I think because he knows his topic so well, he doesn't add the details that would have made this both interesting, and easier to understand. For example, Hamid writes:External shocks helped bring about the transformation, and ultimately the demise, of the Ottoman caliphate. The most basic assumptions of religion and state – the order of things as they had been for the better [...]

    5. Arvind on said:

      First things first - The title should contain "struggle over Islamism" which is the book's subject and not Islam. The author is one of a no of commentators who believe that any two values r equivalent - freedom of speech/punishment for blasphemy, freedom of religion/punishment for apostasy, human rights/theocracy and so on. Unfortunately their thinking is seriously flawed.Why then do I consider this as one of the most important books ? Because with his approach of moral equivalence, he takes us [...]

    6. Sue on said:

      I won this book from Good Reads.I'm very interested in the politics surrounding ISIS and Islam. This book was interesting to me because it attempted to explain to the Western Mind how Islam started, its divides and nuances between its many sects. The book also explains how the Middle East has descended into violence because of religion.After reading this book, I found it even MORE important for the US to strive towards total separation of Church and State. So called "Christianity" is slowly cree [...]

    7. Anant Mittal on said:

      Too dense. Boring. And a very biased view of the Muslim activities and actions. Seems almost like the author is trying to explain the Islamist activities and give them rationale.

    8. Frumenty on said:

      I'm going to revisit this book in the near future for a closer reading and to take some notes. I found it very instructive. I'm still not sure exactly what is meant by "exceptionalism", but basically the book is a study of Islamism, a.k.a. political Islam, as exemplified in four case studies : Egypt, Turkey, Tunisia, and ISIS. Islamism is a modern phenomenon, a response to the historically recent ascendence of the secular West.The Muslim Brotherhood is the one of the oldest, and probably the lar [...]

    9. Chris on said:

      I received this book as part of Good Reads First Reads give away.My favorite quote from this book is "We aren't all the same and why should we be (p242)?" That pretty much sums up the overall thesis of the book. That Islam interacts with politics in a way fundamentally different from Christians, agnostics and atheists in the West.Mr Hamid starts out by laying out why Islam and Christianity aren't the same and won't relate to politics in the same way. He references the different early years of th [...]

    10. Jacob on said:

      I received this book for free through Giveaways. In the very current Islamic Exceptionalism presents Shadi Hamid's argument of how Islam can be reconciled with democracy and liberalism. As the title makes quiet clear, and Hamid reiterates many times throughout the book, Islam is different from Christianity and Judaism and will therefore have a unique interpretation of democracy. Hamid offers a brief history of Islam with a focus on how Islamic governments have worked. Four case studies are pres [...]

    11. Dave on said:

      Do not be fooled by the title, this book does not attempt to make the case that Islam is "better" than other religions. What it does is show how Islam is different in the way it interacts with politics and social policy. The idea of "Islamism" as a backlash against forced secularism seemed particularly insightful. The return of ancient traditions creates a jarring contrast with liberal societies, but Hamid makes the case that outside policymakers -- and the United States in particular -- must ac [...]

    12. Lars on said:

      Pretty disappointed by this so far (40 %). Or rather: I feel like I'm not getting the book I was promised. Way too much detail about interviews with random Muslim Brotherhood members, sipping tea somewhere in Turkey, reminiscing. Way too many repetitions (How many times must we hear that the Rabaa massacre cost 800 lives?). Reads more like an overlong magazine article in need of an editor, and it's no surprise that most quotes are from recent New York Times articles. Also agree with other commen [...]

    13. Jelan on said:

      Reading this book was challenging and rewarding. I often felt like I was prepping for a college class. And I definitely struggled through some of Hamid's logic, largely because I am woefully ignorant about both Islam and political history in the Middle East. But ultimately, reading Islamic Exceptionalism was absolutely worth the effort. It increased my understanding (but unfortunately not my optimism). It underscores the complexity of issues in that part of the world and the fundamental differen [...]

    14. Nathaniel Horadam on said:

      As someone previously in the camp arguing the need to foment an Islamic "reformation," I found myself mostly persuaded by Hamid's argument that Islam's fundamental differences with Christianity made such a movement unlikely. One can always wish for additional historical references and modern case studies (I'd contend Cromwellian Britain and puritanical Sunni governments close to the Arab orbit like Somalia and Afghanistan offer useful context for ISIS), but Hamid strikes a nice balance between a [...]

    15. Dayna on said:

      I tried reading his book Temptations of Power and didn't get far at all, but this one grabbed my attention. I am not sure if it's the writing as the subject matter is only slightly different. For that matter, the author is the same so is he writing really any different?A great fellow up to this would be listening to his podcast/conversation with Sam Harris at samharris.

    16. Rachella Baker on said:

      I couldn't get into this book at all.I have passed it on to others to read just doesn't go with the title it was given.I hope others that have won this can give a much better review than I can.I won this book through free give aways.

    17. Richard Tullberg on said:

      Shadi Hamid's book "Islamic Exceptionalism" is at least in the first half quite apologetic to Islam and the Muslim Brotherhood. He touches on events, doesn't delve to much into them with details, and that is not bad at all it's just that he might not himself realize it but some details are quite valuable for us who are not so well versed in Islam and the Brotherhood. For example, he speaks of the Muslim Brotherhoods and other Islamic political parties policy to reinstate "Sharia" and proclaimed [...]

    18. Richard Lawrence on said:

      While this book is well worth reading if only for familiarizing yourself with aspects of Islamic culture you might not have been aware of and the nuances of internal politics in the Middle East it does not make the case in any way, shape or form for Islamic Exceptionalism. In fact, the picture it paints is of yet another reiteration of, as the subtitle of Christopher Hitchens book ,God Is Not Great so eloquently states, how religion poisons everything. The claim is that Islam will never fall to [...]

    19. Meg on said:

      I won this book in a Giveaway and promised to give an honest review.No spoilers in this review.I won this book some time ago; I struggled to get very far in the book.My reading was slowed by the static structure of the book, but also by the counterproductive style of writing.This is an incredibly important topic today and something I would love to know more about; yet Hamid's writing style lacked any tension or desire to keep reading. For a topic fraught with misunderstanding and misconception, [...]

    20. Daudiam on said:

      The author lays out a clear case for why Islam is different from other world religions in how it incorporates politics within its fundamental structure. When God has laid out everything, from what to wear, how to punish and who is eligible for head of state, it pretty much leaves little room for secular politics. This fundamental contradiction has led to a fierce and bloody conflict in the Islamic world between the secular elite, and popular Islamist movements. The author takes 4 separate exampl [...]

    21. Antony on said:

      This book has provoked a lot of controversy. That's to be expected around this topic. But if you want to understand what is going on in the Muslim world today this would be an excellent place to start, from an author who is easily able to compare and contrast across religious and civilisational divides.

    22. Jon Lapinski on said:

      Hamid definitely makes his point well but is redundant at times. Details popular Arab spring movements in Egypt, Tunisia, and Turkey and the divisions that follow. He foreshadows the current power grab by Erdogan.

    23. Anthony on said:

      should be required reading for anyone in congress or the white house.

    24. Brandon on said:

      This was a good overview of the challenges that the Islamic world is facing adjusting to the modern, secular Westphalian order. The discussions of Tunisia and Turkey were particularly enlightening, and also (I thought) provided more of a hopeful outlook for the future of Islamic countries than the author let on. I wish he would have spent more time discussing potential solutions to the problem, instead of just devoting the final chapter to it. I also don't know if I believe that Islam is as exce [...]

    25. Josh on said:

      A captivating look at the connection between Islam and governing. Worth it just for the chapters on Turkey and ISIS.

    26. Faheem Hussain on said:

      Here's my take:Taking Exception to Shadi Hamid’s Islamic Exceptionalism'It takes a brave person to comment on the Middle East, one never knows when a crisis will erupt that threaten to render one’s judgment obsolete. Since first reading Shadi Hamid’s Islamic Exceptionalism, Turkey’s AK Party have suffered an attempted failed coup orchestrated by parts of Turkey’s military, and Tunisian Islamists rebranded as Muslim Democrats, events dramatic enough to render chapters from the book out [...]

    27. Michael McCluskey on said:

      The premise of this book is that Islam is by nature prone to theocracy. It begins by arguing against using Christianity as a comparison, especially considering the fact that Islam is a younger religion. Of course, the book then goes on to compare itself to Christianity at various points in its history. Instead of illustrating any real exceptionalism, it examines how historical circumstance and context place Islam at a crossroads, whether to accept democratic ideals or use them to justify theocra [...]

    28. Jenny on said:

      Disclaimer: I totally won this in a giveaway.This is an interesting perspective and discussion, particularly on the heels of other books about the Arab Spring, and the tenuously optimistic view of Tunisia's revamp.There are some fairly enlightening points made, and in particular, how one might address the folks who are fond of the "It's a problem with Islam as a religion" bent. Well, it is and it isn't, and a lot of considerations need to be taken before you can flatten the issue in such a simp [...]

    29. Donna Kimball on said:

      I found this insightful book very appropriate for our current time. As a historian, I appreciated Hamid's historic approach to some of these groups ideas and origins, I also found his explanations clear. This book should be read by any one teaching a current events course--or any one who wishes to understand the political movements with in Islam. I do wish(it may have been in the final edition, as I got a proof) that Mr Hamid had a glossary in the back with his notes. His definitions of terms wa [...]

    30. Faith on said:

      I didn't finish this book but not because it was bad. Hamid is a good writer and he makes what could be complex subject easy to digest. I didn't finish because the information in the book wasn't new to me. I encountered much of it either in college or in previous readings. Plus, I already have so many other books to read. So for now, I decided to shelve this title. I do think it's a great book for people looking to understand why Islamism is still (and will likely remain) such a potent force in [...]

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