Books: Why a Civilization Declined

An eminent scholar looks behind today's terrorism to find the roots of Islam's humiliating fall

Terrorism is the bitter howl of the victimized. For a short course on why so many Muslims feel that rage, Bernard Lewis is the man. He has been going over this ground since he coined the phrase "clash of civilizations" back in 1990. What Went Wrong: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response (Oxford University Press; 180 pages; $23) doesn't directly address terrorism's latest face, as it was written before 9/11. But for newcomers to the subject, Lewis' brisk explication of the tense dynamic between Islam and the West offers a historical case for what he calls the Muslim world's "downward spiral...

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