Imagining a 'World Without Islam'

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The recent debate over whether an Islamic cultural center should be allowed to be built near Ground Zero has only gotten hotter since President Obama weighed in last Friday. "As a citizen, and as president," Obama said, "I believe that Muslims have the right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable." Stoked by arguments over this one building, the national discussion about Islam's role in American society has dramatically heated up. That got us thinking about Graham Fuller's new book, "A World Without Islam."

Fuller imagines the geopolitical balance of the world if the religion of Islam never existed. He says that the exercise is not meant to imagine the world without the cultural contributions that Islam has made, but instead to analyze its relationship to East-West power struggles over many centuries. He says the world probably would not be all that different today and that the same geo-political power struggles would have taken place, just under the banner of politics, not religion.