When former secretary of State Madeleine Albright was fielding questions about Afghanistan recently, one inquirer asked about the role of women in Islam, citing the miserable treatment of females in Afghanistan. Albright’s response was less interesting than the assumptions of the questioner, who was clearly expressing the opinion of many Americans.
September 11 and December 13—to Indians, the events of these days were startlingly similar. On one day, suicide bombers used hijacked planes to destroy the centers of industry; on the other, suicide terrorists used hand grenades and AK47s in an aborted attempt to bring down a nation’s government.
In these litigious days, fast food restaurants warn us of the obvious. Before biting into that deep-fried McDonald’s apple pie, we read, “Caution: Contents may be hot.” What looks like soft, sweet, greasy comfort food could scald your trusting tongue. The familiar treat is not harmless. It may bite you back.
The enormity of the events of September 11 sparked unprecedented demand for books on Islam and the Middle East. For a while in fall 2001, books about Islam, Osama bin Laden and Afghanistan made bestseller lists, as readers played catch-up by devouring university or specialty press titles by scholarly and policy experts.