Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Recommended - Malise Ruthven's NYRB review essay on books on Islam

I finished reading today Malise Ruthven's excellent review essay in the New York Review of Books on books on Islam, particularly Islam and war and just war. Very fine essay. I have read one of the books in his review, Olivier Roy's new book, Secularism Confronts Islam, and thought it also well worth reading, although I think Roy uses "multiculturalism" in a way that is not exactly what it means in American or UK ideology (more on that later). I look forward especially to reading the books on Islam and war. The review essay itself is elegant as Ruthven's essays always are. Highly recommended. Here at the NYRB.

(Update. How to embarrass yourself! I've been reading Ruthven's essays in the TLS for years and never realized Malise is a man's name. Thank you Scott in the comments, and I've corrected it above.)


Scott Lahti said...

Veteran TLS contributor Malise Ruthven, newly tapped by the NYRoB, is a chap not a lass, as my Googling confirmed; quoth Wikipedia in its colorful thumbnail -

''Dr. Malise Ruthven (born 1942) is a Scottish writer and historian on religion, fundamentalism, and especially Islamic affairs. He is one of the best known writers on Islamist terrorism and the jihadis currently writing. He appears to have been the first writer to use the term 'Islamofascism' in The Independent on 8 September 1990.

Ruthven is the younger son of Major Hon. Alexander Hardinge Patrick Hore-Ruthven and Pamela Margaret Fletcher (who later married Major Derek Cooper, OBE, MC). His elder brother, Grey Ruthven, is 2nd Earl of Gowrie. Ruthven is the godson of Freya Stark, whom his parents knew in Cairo in 1942, and has published several collections of her photographs.

Ruthven has taught at the University of Aberdeen, the University of California, San Diego, and Dartmouth College.

He has also contributed an afterword to the most recent edition of Albert Hourani's History of the Arab Peoples, bringing that work up to date following Hourani's death.''

Scott Lahti said...

Glad to do what I can to help the blog keep its sparkling polish - and no one, be assured, will find reason to convict you of, er, *Malise Aforethought*. Veterans of the TLS Letters page alone will smile in recalling that unwitting drive-by gender-bending by reviewers - trailed by authorial
*youa culpas* beginning ''Sir, -'' - is a hallowed tradition - and that's not even including the 1920s TLS reviewer whose nod to the early work of a ''Miss Waugh'' found snap correction from Evelyn himself [see, e.g., Derwent May's official centenary history of the TLS from 2001, Critical Times].

The Scottish noble family from which today's Ruthvens descend is ''believed to trace its ancestry to Thor, a Saxon or Dane, who settled in Scotland in the reign of David I. The name is derived from lands in Perthshire held by the family.'' The family's C16 backstory, thick with plots, intrigue, and mayhem, is vintage Tudor Grand Guignol which will have your jaw dropping and your corn popping, via the Columbia Encyclopedia's thumbnail -


Malise's big brother Grey Gowrie is a Tory, er, Grey eminence -
''Gowrie resigned as Minister for the Arts in 1985 stating it was impossible for him to live in London on the £33,000 salary provided for the post. After leaving government, he became Chairman of Sotheby's and later of the Arts Council of England - described as the appointment of a Scot, born in Ireland and living in Wales.''


Scott Lahti said...

See Ruthven's latest, in the NYRoB for July 2, 2009:

Divided Iran on the Eve:

As Iranians go to the polls to elect their next president on Friday, world leaders are increasingly concerned about the Islamic Republic and its pursuit of nuclear energy. Yet the Iranian regime's embrace of messianic Shi'ism has long contended with a highly-educated and secularized society. Despite the revolutionary rhetoric, its leaders may be less concerned with obscure scriptural dictates than with a rational pursuit of power.