Rock the Casbah
Rage and Rebellion across the Islamic World
By Robin Wright
Simon & Schuster, $26.99, 307 pp.
Music serves as a metaphor for change in Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion across the Islamic World. Rap and hip-hop challenge religious taboos and provide “the rhythm of resistance” in Muslim societies, journalist Robin Wright contends in her wide-ranging study of the culture and politics of modern Islam. Can the same music provide a rhythm for moderation and reform?
Wright reports on a new spirit sweeping the Muslim world: extremism is dead, and a counter-jihad is underway, with Muslims pushing back against radical ideologies that have left death and destruction in their wake. The desire to join the twenty-first century is the strongest force now animating Muslims. It’s evident in both the political rebellions spreading across the Middle East and the larger rejection of violence within Muslim societies globally.
The two phenomena get equal billing in Rock the Casbah. The first chapter begins with an account of the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia, which started in December 2010; Wright then segues to the revolution in Egypt, and then more briefly describes the other uprisings of the Arab Spring. Chapter 2 focuses on Wright’s other theme, the struggle Muslims are waging to rescue their religion’s core values from a small minority of religious extremists. The jihad against the jihad is a new phase in the Islamic resurgence that began in the late 1920s with...