Islam Through Western Eyes

From the Crusades to the War on Terrorism

Jonathan Lyons

Columbia University Press

Islam Through Western Eyes

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Pub Date: January 2014

ISBN: 9780231158954

272 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $30.00£25.00

Pub Date: January 2012

ISBN: 9780231158947

272 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $80.00£67.00

Pub Date: January 2012

ISBN: 9780231528146

272 Pages

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List Price: $29.99£25.00

Islam Through Western Eyes

From the Crusades to the War on Terrorism

Jonathan Lyons

Columbia University Press

Despite the West's growing involvement in Muslim societies, conflicts, and cultures, its inability to understand or analyze the Islamic world threatens any prospect for East–West rapprochement. Impelled by one thousand years of anti-Muslim ideas and images, the West has failed to engage in any meaningful or productive way with the world of Islam. Formulated in the medieval halls of the Roman Curia and courts of the European Crusaders and perfected in the newsrooms of Fox News and CNN, this anti-Islamic discourse determines what can and cannot be said about Muslims and their religion, trapping the West in a dangerous, dead-end politics that it cannot afford.

In Islam Through Western Eyes, Jonathan Lyons unpacks Western habits of thinking and writing about Islam, conducting a careful analysis of the West's grand totalizing narrative across one thousand years of history. He observes the discourse's corrosive effects on the social sciences, including sociology, politics, philosophy, theology, international relations, security studies, and human rights scholarship. He follows its influence on research, speeches, political strategy, and government policy, preventing the West from responding effectively to its most significant twenty-first-century challenges: the rise of Islamic power, the emergence of religious violence, and the growing tension between established social values and multicultural rights among Muslim immigrant populations.

Through the intellectual "archaeology" of Michel Foucault, Lyons reveals the workings of this discourse and its underlying impact on our social, intellectual, and political lives. He then addresses issues of deep concern to Western readers—Islam and modernity, Islam and violence, and Islam and women—and proposes new ways of thinking about the Western relationship to the Islamic world.

This is a first-class book: original, significant, and a very timely contribution. Despite the importance of the topic, especially today, I can think of no other study that offers so comprehensive, persuasive, and engaging an analysis.

John L. Esposito, Georgetown University, author of What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam

Jonathan Lyons joins the wisdom of a scholar with the knowledge of a journalist in a timely and necessary book. A much-needed light unto the gentiles wishing to understand the truth and consequences of the Arab Spring.

Lewis H. Lapham, editor, Lapham's Quarterly

Islam Through Western Eyes is as timely as it is informative, helping us understand the history of understanding—and misunderstanding—between Muslims and non-Muslims over the centuries, patterns that continue today. This is a book that should be read by people of all faiths, not only for edification but also for healing in a religiously fractured world.

Mark Juergensmeyer, author of Global Rebellion: Religious Challenges to the Secular State, from Christian Militias to al Qaeda

A useful corrective to the powerful voices of those who intersperse claims of Islam's innate bloodthirstiness with advocacy for suppression of the rights of Muslims at home and abroad.

Publishers Weekly

Lyons takes a chisel to the ancient and venerable edifice that is the anti-Islam discourse and patiently chips away, hoping to demolish what he considers the chief obstacle obscuring the West's view of real-life Islam and Muslims.

Rayyan Al-Shawaf, Boston Globe

[Islam Through Western Eyes] offers an excellent and engaging opportunity for critical self-reflection.


Lyons has made a very significant contribution to the study of Islam and Muslims in the 21st century across disciplines...A must read for those interested in the subject.


Jonathan Lyons offers a very readable and thought-provoking account of the roots and characteristics of Islamophobia. This book should be added to the reading lists of undergraduate and graduate courses on contemporary world affairs and American foreignpolicy.

Cemil Aydin, H-Diplo
1. War Without End?
2. Foucault's Toolbox
3. The Western Idea of Islam
4. Islam and Science
5. Islam and Violence
6. Islam and Women
7. What's Wrong with Us?
Web Features:

Choice Outstanding Academic Title, 2012

About the Author

Jonathan Lyons spent twenty years as a foreign correspondent and editor for Reuters, much of it in the Islamic world. He holds a Ph.D. in sociology from Monash University and lives in Portland, Oregon. His publications include The House of Wisdom: How the Arabs Transformed Western Civilization and (with Geneive Abdo) Answering Only to God: Faith and Freedom in Twenty-First-Century Iran.