Abu-Rabi' finds the origins of fundamentalist Islam lying as much in European colonialism as in Islam. The latter "is as strong a component-sometimes negative, sometimes positive-in modern Arab societies as the Qur'anic impact on the Arab mind." To prove his point, the author devotes half his book to the analysis of what he calls the "grandiose exegesis" of Sayyid Qutb, the vituperative Egyptian thinker who helped establish so many of modern fundamentalism's main features, including its hatred of moderate Muslims and its anti-Semitism.
To say that Abu-Rabi' is sympathetic to Qutb (and several other fundamentalist authors) would be an understatement. In fact, he serves as their apostle to an English-speaking audience. For example, he explains Qutb's concept of intellectual imperialism, segues into his own elaboration of this topic, then returns to Qutb. Author and subject meld into a nearly seamless whole.
The sharp-eyed reader will not be surprised that Abu-Rabi' sanitizes a hateful brand of fundamentalism: in the book's acknowledgments, he thanks Ramadan 'Abdallah (of the University of South Florida in Tampa) for reading his manuscript. In October 1995, as this book was in press, Ramadan 'Abdallah surfaced in Damascus as Ramadan 'Abdallah Shalah, the head of Islamic Jihad, the most murderous anti-Israel outfit anywhere in existence. As The New York Times headline about this story put it, "Professor Talked of Understanding But Now Reveals Ties to Terrorists." No, the surprise is not that Abu-Rabi' apologizes for killers; but that the State University of New York Press should print such propagandistic rubbish.