Book Review: Shadi Hamid: The Islamic Exceptionalism: How the Struggle Over Islam is Reshaping the World
Islamic Exceptionalism has generated considerable discussion since its publication, both because of the bold question it asks (what if Islam is really an exception?) and because of the direct challenge it poses to the established norms. The problem with most books on Islam and politics is the imposition of a Western-secular framework on Islam—something Shadi Hamid casts out by simply stating the obvious: The idea of separation of mosque and state is in contradiction to the very essence of Islam. The topic is explosive and one can easily fall prey to essentialism or pre-cast modes of delineating the theme, but the success of Hamid’s dramatic narrative is in its understatements: For instance, he compares Christianity with Islam or Western democracies with modern Muslim states, but often leaves the conclusion of the comparison unstated. Yet, the fast-moving narrative of the book also makes bold statements: “Muslims are, of course, not bound to Islam’s founding moment, but neither can they fully escape it” (p. 42); “Islam and Christianity couldn’t have been more different” (p. 45).