February 01, 2011

Two Book-length Alternatives to the Nonsense

The continued willingness of pundits with no previous experience in or expertise on Egypt to opine about what is taking place there continues to impress. As CNN's Ben Wedeman tweeted from Cairo, "If I had a dollar for every silly statement made by instant-Egypt experts in newspapers, TV, I could retire tomorrow."

If, however, you are an intellectually curious American looking to make sense of either Egypt or currents in Political Islam, here are two great books to get you started. The first is Max Rodenbeck's Cairo: The City Victorious. Rodenbeck is the Economist's longtime Middle East correspondent and grew up in Egypt. His book on Cairo is really just lovely. The second -- an antidote to all the ill-informed ravings about Islam and the Muslim Brotherhood -- is Albert Hourani's Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age 1798-1939, probably the best single-volume introduction to the main currents of thought in the Arabic-speaking world since Napoleon routed the Mamluks at the Pyramids.  

Or you could just watch Glenn Beck explain all of this, as I did while stuck in the airport in Jacksonville, NC yesterday. Beck was, needless to say, akin to the love child of Leszek Kołakowski and William Montgomery Watt in explaining how political Islam and Marxism will combine to create a Muslim caliphate in Europe. (If, you know, that love child was high as a kite on PCP.) Having successfully scared his viewers s***less, he predictably broke for a commercial for one of those gold funds he endorses. Success!

Update: Yes! Thanks to the YouTube, you can now watch Glenn Beck's lecture yesterday. This is amazing. I watched this with 20 other people, and you could see the way in which we were collectively growing dumber as this went on.