Forces of Fortune

Book Forces of Fortune

The Rise of the New Muslim Middle Class and What It Will Mean for Our World

Free Press,




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Since September 11, 2001, the media has saturated Westerners with information about radical Islam. Many people view Islam as a monolithically fundamentalist creed whose followers hate the West. International politics professor Vali Nasr addresses this misconception, explaining that the members of the expanding Muslim middle class, notably in Iran, Pakistan, Turkey and Dubai (as seen before its economic woes), want many of the same things that Westerners want, but within an Islamic framework. Readers may find this unexpected, but Nasr makes the journey understandable by serving as economist, investigator and tour guide. getAbstract, which recommends books but takes no stand on politics or religion (the opinions in the summary are those of the book's author), suggests his solid analysis particularly to those interested in these four breaking-news countries. While Nasr thinks religious extremism has peaked, he believes Islam is not yet ready for Western-type religious reform, though he sees that as a potential future path. He predicts that religious moderation will slowly evolve to trump fundamentalism, but that change must come from within the Muslim community.


The Force of Fundamentalism

Two milestone dates mark the growth of Islamic fundamentalism: Ayatollah Khomeini’s return to Iran in 1979 and the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981. Since then, Islamic fundamentalism has become a violent, prevalent force in many Muslim nations. In response, many Western nations, especially the U.S., have prioritized the fight against terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism. Terrorism has led to a cold-war mentality, reducing policy analysis to binary decisions asking whether an action promotes or deters the expansion of fundamentalism.

This view, which dominates U.S. policies, ignores events in Muslim societies that point in a different direction. The West doesn’t seem to realize that even if Iran had nuclear capability, it would not become a regional power. Iran’s gross domestic product is about the same as Massachusetts’, its military budget is less than one-third of Saudi Arabia’s and it is very “isolated.” Iran’s nuclear program has two goals, both intended to forestall any attempts to change the current regime. The first is to “improve its military.” The second is to distract Western nations and activist Iranians...

About the Author

Tufts University professor Vali Nasr is an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a senior fellow for the Dubai Initiative at Harvard University. The author of The Shia Revival, Democracy in Iran and Islamic Leviathan, he writes for major U.S. newspapers.

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