by ZAHEER KAZMI for LOS ANGELES REVIEW OF BOOKS on APRIL 4, 2014:
In his semi-fictional account of Barbary Coast Pirate Utopias, Peter Lamborn Wilson traces the unwritten dissident history of a communion of outsiders — heterodox Muslims and Christian renegades. Unanchored from the conformist dictates of law and organized religion, “temporary autonomous zones” like the Coast flourished for a time between the 16th and 18th centuries, and they were the embodiment of a mode of engagement between Islam and the West detached from interreligious conflict or any dialogue patronized by power. Wilson aims to show how radical forms of religious liberty can be the harbingers of progress and understanding between civilizations, creating the space to experiment with novel forms of cross-cultural exchange. “[O]nly later,” he laments, “do the Orthodox Authorities arrive to straighten everyone out and make them toe the line.” The practice of stamping out the dual sins of radicalism and heterodoxy has continued to color the character of religious practices. Today, it is most evident in the largely state-sponsored strategies of moderate or liberal Muslims in an age of resurgent militancy and sectarianism in the Muslim world.