Part one: Critique of Sloppy Thinking
It is fortunate that habit protects us from seeing the utter weirdness of the world around us. If we were not inured to the oddity of our world, the horns of the Persian proverb (shakh) would grow on our heads at the sight of ragtag militant Islamists (whose history goes back only to the 1960s) claiming that their nihilistic rage, blood stained record, and pedantic literalism incarnates the diverse spirit of a global 1400 year old world religion. Our horns would then twist into elaborate antlers at the spectacle of every rabid, anti-immigrant fascist and every illiterate, “Tehrangeles” chauvinist applauding in agreement: “They’ve got it. Yes, by George they have got it: terrorism IS the essence of true Islam, the overwhelming majority of Muslims who disagree be damned.”
When I wrote “From Cordoba to Mumbai” [parts is Professor of Sociology and Anthropology as well as Gorter Chair of Islamic World Studies at Lake Forest College, Chicago.