Despite President George W. Bush's assurances that Islam is a peaceful religion and that all good Muslims hunger for democracy, confusion persists and far too many Westerners remain convinced that Muslims and terrorists are synonymous. In the aftermath of the attacks of 9/11, the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the recent bombings in London, an unprecedented amount of attention has been directed toward Islam and the Muslim world. Yet, even with this increased scrutiny, most of the public discourse regarding Islam revolves around the actions of extremist factions such as the Wahhabis and al-Qa'ida. But what of the Islam we don't hear about As the second-largest and fastest-growing religion in the world, Islam is deemed by more than a billion Muslims to be a source of serenity and spiritual peace, and a touchstone for moral and ethical guidance. While extremists have an impact upon the religion that is wildly disproportionate to their numbers, moderates constitute the majority of Muslims worldwide.
El Fadl, professor of Islamic law at UCLA and Bush appointee to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, is the academic voice of the world's majority-moderate Muslims. His strong credentials and thoughtful approach set him apart from his peers. Here, he successfully argues that the extremist sects of Islam, mainly Wahhabism, blatantly defy the true values of Islam. He clarifies that Wahhabism was once an unpopular, fringe, cultlike movement, which only grew through a chance partnership with the Saudi Arabian ruling family. The discovery of oil created an unprecedented infusion of petro-dollars into the fledgling, conservative belief system. The point of the book, El Fadl writes, is to define "the reality of Muslim thought as it currently exists." He focuses on the extremists' "puritan" view, exposing the hypocrisies and inconsistencies inherent in their "imagined Islam." He doesn't offer specific solutions, but he raises the issues carefully and well. Though the writing can be dry and portions read like a law school lecture, overall El Fadl's book is a fulfilling read for moderate Muslims concerned about conservative leadership and any non-Muslims who want to inform themselves about the extremists' misuse of Islam. (Oct.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
Showing 1-1 of the 1 most recent reviews
1 . Excellent book from moderate academic Muslim
Posted December 08, 2008 by Vaclav Haken , Cork, IrelandThis is an excellent book if you want to understand moderate point of view on Qu'ran from someone who actually devoted his life to understand it and contrast it with radical twisting of the Book. I approached it with great interest and was rewarder with much deeper understanding of the issue, both from historical and theoretical perspective (with many references to actual Qu'ran so it gives you more mental food for later). I am not a Muslim myself but I certainly want to understand the foundation of the second largest religion and this book was very helpful.
October 04, 2005
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from The Great Theft by Khaled M. Abou El Fadl
Islam Torn Between Extremism and Moderation
Not too long ago, at the end of an invited lecture, I was asked to name the most emphatic moral values taught by Islam. The answer was easy enough it would have to be mercy, compassion, and peace. After all, these are the values that each practicing Muslim affirms in prayer at least five times a day. Imagine my surprise and chagrin when some members in the audience chuckled as if to say: "Come on, get real!" In a similar experience, after President Bush appointed me to serve on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, mingled with the messages of congratulations from well-wishers were messages from people I did not know asking: What could a Muslim possibly have to contribute to the cause of religious freedom and tolerance in the world
These personal experiences are not anomalies: every Muslim will have her or his own stories to tell about how Islam is poorly perceived. Confronted with such negative perceptions of their religion, Muslims have a choice. They could complain and cry about it and grow old in silent bitterness. Alternatively, they could decide to teach others about their faith, but this assumes they are sufficiently educated and well-informed about their own religion. The problem, however, is that many Muslims are woefully ignorant about their own religion. This forces Muslims to consider a third relevant option, and that is to engage in study and thought not just to better understand the Islamic religion but also to try to understand how and why so many non-Muslims have come to have such a negative impression of Islam. Before trying to educate others about Islam we must first reflect upon the sources and reasons for the pervasive misunderstandings and misinformation.
For a believing Muslim, asking what if anything went wrong with the Islamic faith is an uncomfortable question. A Muslim cannot help but feel that he or she is somehow playing into the hands of Islam's enemies. All religions at one time or another have played a role in inspiring intolerance and violence, so why should Islam be singled out for special scrutiny It is tempting for the faithful to absolve the Islamic faith of any possible fault and instead blame Muslims. In fact, many Muslims argue that Islam, as a set of beliefs and ideals, should not be blamed for the malfeasance of its followers. The fact that certain people who call themselves Muslims commit acts of ugliness is due, this argument says, to economic, political, and sociocultural factors that breed violence and intolerance, not to Islam. From this perspective, it is a mistake to attempt to critically examine Islamic doctrines, beliefs, or history when evaluating the contemporary problems that plague Muslims. Instead, one ought to ask what, if anything, went wrong with Muslims.
Although this argument does have some merit, as a general approach it is not a satisfying way of addressing the challenges that confront Muslims in the modern age. There are several reasons why this approach is both dishonest and dangerous. It is understandable that out of love and care for their religion some Muslims would be eager to defend their faith by pointing the finger away from Islam. A call for critical introspection, in the view of these Muslims, is tantamount to accusing Islam of being deficient or flawed, and understandably they take great offense at such an insinuation.