Ahmad worked on the book for more than five years. “Its origins lay in the concern that, after 9/11, Western, particularly US, discourse was increasingly demonizing Islam — the religion, and Muslims — the people,” he said during his presentation.
“Bernard Lewis’ two books, ‘What Went Wrong?’ and ‘The Crisis of Islam,’ were readily seized upon by the American public and had considerable impact in solidifying the prejudices and animosities of Western readers with regard to Islam and Muslims,” Ahmad said. “Such a broad-brush approach denied all political context or legitimacy to Muslim grievances and did not attempt to take into account the complexity of Islamic history and contemporary politics and culture.”
Veteran Indian statesman and regional expert Ranjit Gupta praised the book for its often-unheard perspective.
“The title of this book reminds one of another book, much celebrated when it first hit the stands — Samuel Huntington’s 'The Clash of Civilizations.' To me it appears that the author of that book had already decided his conclusions before commencing writing and then worked backward to offer rationalizations,” Gupta told an audience of Indian, Saudi and foreign nationals gathered at the Indian Embassy in Riyadh. “It reeked of arrogance, the tendency to see all right on one’s own side and all wrong on the other, the self-assured, conviction that ‘my civilization is superior to yours, yours is narrow minded, bigoted and doomed to be defeated in the looming and inevitable clash of civilizations.’”
Since joining the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) on July 1, 1964, Gupta held several positions such as India's ambassador to Yemen, Oman, Spain, Venezuela and Thailand. He said Ahmad’s work presented a more accurate view of events absent of Western tendencies to vilify Islam and the Arab people.
“Due to the Western domination of the world during the past two centuries, Western parameters and narratives of discourse have set the standard of what is right and what is wrong. Since the West essentially controls the media and the flow and interpretation of information it becomes extremely difficult for a more balanced viewpoint to get traction,” Gupta said.
“In Ahmad’s scholarly and impeccably researched effort, which for additional credibility is based overwhelmingly on Western sources, we see the beginnings of the breaching of these bastions.”
He likened Ahmad to a walking encyclopedia about the Middle East and its many issues. “This is manifested in his learned articles in books and journals, his speeches and presentations at umpteen professional forums,” Gupta said. “He is among India’s top two or three experts on the Gulf region.”
Amid the commendations for the five years of research for the 476-page book was one lament about the duration of the project “I hope it won’t take him five years for another book,” Ahmad’s wife, Sunita Ahmad, said to a smiling audience. “This book kept him away from me for quite awhile.”