(Reprinted with permission from the journal Foreign Affairs, written by L. Carl Brown.)
In The Challenge of Fundamentalism, Bassam Tibi sees Islamic fundamentalism as a dangerous totalitarian tendency that neither represents the Islamic faith nor appreciates Islamic history. At the same time, he distances himself from those who would paint Islam as the new post-Cold War menace to the West. Instead, he expresses empathy for those Muslims struggling against despotic states at home and against western hegemony from abroad. Tibi presents his case while conducting a very personal discussion (and debate) with contemporary Western scholars, ranging from Jurgen Habermas to Samuel Huntington to specialists on Islam. He also weaves into his account the ideas of diverse Muslim thinkers, past and present. His discursive style is most easily followed by specialists, but all should relish chapters seven through nine, where he introduces the ideas of representative Muslim fundamentalists and exposes in cogent critiques their ahistorical and often tautological approaches. A liberal Muslim scholar teaching in Germany, Tibi radiates the mindset of Western Enlightenment.