About my interest in Islam: I have devoted a substantial part of the past thirty years to studying Islam and politics, beginning with the Arabic language, Muslim history, and related subjects in college. I then spent three years at university-level institutions in Cairo, traveled through much of the Muslim world, received a Ph.D. in Middle Eastern history at Harvard University, taught this subject at the University of Chicago and at Harvard, worked on it in the State and Defense Departments, wrote three books on it, published on it in such newspapers as The New York Times and The Washington Post, spoke about it on ABC, CBS, NBC, and CNN, testified before House and Senate Committees, counseled foreign heads of state, and so forth.
In other words, I am recognized as an authority on Islam and Muslims; indeed, even my critics acknowledge this. For example, when the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which has issued many press releases challenging my understanding of Islam, sought an authority to judge the credentials of a staff member of the House Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare in its press release of March 17, 1998, whom did it quote? Me.
As a non-Muslim, I write primarily for fellow non-Muslims, helping them understand what is often a remote subject. My role is primarily one of explanation and interpretation, though I also try to help formulate correct policies. This is what some call “applied scholarship”: taking academic knowledge and using it in practical ways.
Second, about my views of Islam and Islamism: Not being a Muslim, I by definition do not believe in the mission of the Prophet Muhammad; but I have enormous respect for the faith of those who do. I note how deeply rewarding Muslims find Islam as well as the extraordinary inner strength it imbues them with. Having studied the history and civilization of the classical period, I am vividly aware of the most current Read the rest of this entry »