The Crisis Of Islam: Holy War And Unholy Terror, by Bernard Lewis
This is precisely the sort of book about Islam that it is vital for Westerners to read, for it is easy for people to take the claims of Wahabbis and others who support them at face value that terrorists are true followers of Islam and that their violence is representative of the religion of the Koran. That is not to say that the Koran is perfect, much less the somewhat dodgy hadiths , but this book does a great job at helping the Western reader understand that the contemporary problem with terror is not only a problem for the West but is also a crisis of faith within Islam itself. After all, contrary to the image of suicide bombers as being heroes of the Muslim faith who are destined for a glorious ticket to paradise with large amounts of virgins, the traditional view of suicides is that they have a one way to ticket instead to torment and find their way to paradise barred, something that this author makes a point of mentioning, so that readers understand that the traditions of the umma have typically held a dim view of attacks against civilians as well as against self-destruction done in the cause of Islam, something not well or often understood.
This particular large print book was a bit more than 200 pages, and it began with a series of maps that shows the world of Islam in the Middle East through time, starting with the age of the Caliphs through the period of the Ottoman Empire, the age of Imperialism, and today. After that there is an introduction followed by nine chapters. First, the author defines Islam (1) and discusses the house of war (2), namely those territories that are not under the rule of Islamic rulers. After that the author talks about the shift of Westerners from crusaders to imperialists (3) and the discovery of America by the Muslim world (4). The author talks about the view of America as the great Satan and the Muslim view of the Soviet Union during the Cold War (5) as well as the double standards that exist between the view of the Muslim street on the United States and other nations, including their own regimes (6). The author talks about life in the Middle East as having a failure of modernity (7), discusses the fateful marriage between Wahabbi teaching and Saudi power (8), and discusses the rise of terrorism within contemporary history (9), closing with a brief afterword.
It is easy to see why a book like this is something which will cheer on a fair-minded Western audience while anger those who have a biased view in favor of the Arab street. Those who want to identify with the anger of the contemporary Arab world find it necessary to demonize the United States and Israel in particular, and this cannot be done if one has a proper view of the failure of many Muslim regimes as well as the failure within contemporary Islam itself to recognize the limitations on holy war that were understood historically. If one claims to honor tradition and the old ways, one cannot turn aside those old ways because they are less violent than one would prefer, not in a world where there are people who take a great deal of effort in understanding history and tradition. It is little surprise that the failure of the Arab world to modernize and to address the tensions and contradictions within their societies would amount to a crisis within Islam, but it is rather striking that so little has been done by so many leaders within the Muslim community to own up to the moral bankruptcy of suicide bombing and terror from within the body of Islamic legal jurisprudence itself, not merely the opinion of the civilized world.
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