The end of the Cold War brought with it a temporary euphoria about prospects for a worldwide "third wave" of democratization to sweep the globe. If civil society had triumphed in the former Soviet bloc, perhaps political liberalism would spread elsewhere. No sooner had the sweet taste of victory over communism subsided, however, than Western observers turned their attention to another, allegedly uniquely, antidemocratic current- Islam-whose civilizational values seem to clash with Western liberalism even more fundamentally than Marxism. Whereas people in other parts of the world crave civil society, so the argument goes, political openings in the Muslim world have only fanned the flames of religious extremism. This argument finds much support in Orientalist literature, scholarship, and journalism.

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Copyright © 1996 University of California Press. This chapter first appeared in Political Islam: Essays from Middle East Report.

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