William Polk’s Crusade and Jihad attempts to tell the story of what he calls “the thousand year war between the Muslim World and the Global North. He wisely begins with a quote from Eric Hobsbawm’s essay “The Short 20th Century.” Hobsbawm writes, “the destruction of the past is one of the most characteristic and eerie phenomenon of the late 20th century. More young men and women at the century’s end grow up in a sort of permanent present lacking any organic relation to the public past of the times they live in.” Polk has made an important contribution by reclaiming the relationship between North and South, a story he tells with mastery of the neocolonial analysis of that ongoing encounter but yet avoiding the kind of guilt-ridden worship of the oppressed that often distorts contemporary Western sensibilities. The expansion of Muslim power over most of northern Africa and the Middle East, into Turkey and parts of Eastern Europe is seen not solely as a product of military prowess but also as a result of the attractiveness to many of what Islam had to teach. Conversely the push back through the Crusades, crude and violent as it was, had some staying power because Arab societies were in conflict with each other and so some of them aligned with the Crusaders. To jump forward in his analysis to the present, Polk understands that both the North and South are deeply insecure as “violence has become the norm. The tragic fate of the refugees pouring out of Africa and West Asia, in large part the result of the breakdown of civil order” is caused first by the long history of imperialism.
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Tikkun 2018 Volume 33, Number 3:73