After a slow start, Fuller does a very good job at taking down the facile “Islam is the problem” charge when it comes to addressing terrorism. Bringing together history of social and political developments from across the globe was a good strategy to show with evidence how violence and geopolitical struggles can’t be reduced to religious fervour. Fuller’s argument is that while religion can play an important role, it acts more as a backdrop to politics. He supports his arguments very well and this book should challenge those with already-conceived simplified notions about how the world works.
The biggest problem with this book, which made for a slow start, was the narrative Fuller gives to provide an account for the development of Islam. There are numerous inaccuracies in what he presents, which all seem to serve the purpose of placing Islam within an evolutionary development in relation to Christianity and Judaism. The point of this was possibly to give some background to the reader about religious beliefs, but given his overall goal in this book and the lack of relevance to his argument, in addition to the inaccuracies presented, Fuller could’ve easily done without this introductory bit. Only when he cites passages and religious authorities can the reader trust what Fuller is asserting about each religious belief.
By the end of the book, Fuller gives a list of policy recommendations to start addressing the problem of terrorism in the Muslim world, all of which are intuitive and don’t need expertise to come up with. It would’ve served his argument much strength to show how such policy recommendations would affect U.S. foreign interests in the Muslim world. There’s a reason why perfectly sensical policy recommendations that would most likely end much of the unrest and address most grievances Muslims have with the U.S. are not pursued. How would the U.S. economy and living standards change with such policies that grant Muslim true independence and autonomy and the right for self-determination? After all, the current social and economical status quo within the U.S. is actually maintained through its current problematic foreign policy. What will it mean for Israel? What about the risk of the rise of a new Muslim Empire like the Ottoman one if Fuller’s recommendations are actually followed through.
In spite of this, the book is a great history lesson that shows the complexities of world events and gives a solid challenge to those who like to blame everything on religion to the exclusion of anything else. It also brings to the spotlight the all too often ignored surrounding circumstances during violent events that have been popularly considered to be religiously-inspired such as the Crusades and others. It’s a must read and should open some eyes.