Introduction: A Land Outside Time As the world bursts into a nightmare that rekindles threats of ancient apocalyptic confl icts, conversations about religion in general and Islam in particular have acquired a crushing urgency. The ostensible polarisation between East and West, Islam and the rest seems to require us to believe that the travel of ideas, ideologies and ideological emphases is clear — modern liberalism or radical secular progressivism come from the West and by contrast, the yet recuperable ‘authentic’ East provides religion in more or less socially traditionalist guises. Stated so, the proposition seems absurdly infl ated. Yet that is increasingly the position of the new imperialists and of a range of their Islamist opponents. Academic liberals, too, seem to have been pulled into endorsing some version of this dichotomy.