Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Book Review - Islam and the future of tolerance: a dialogue - Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz

Islam and the future of tolerance: a dialogue by Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz

Cambridge, Mass.; Harvard University Press, 2015      ISBN 9780674088702

This short book takes the form of a dialogue between Sam Harris, author of books such as The end of faith and Maajid Nawaz, former member of Hizb ut-Tahrir and author of the book Radical, and co-founder of the Quilliam Foundation.

The book is a timely discussion about Islamic extremism, or Islamism, and how it can be tackled. What comes out of this discussion is the urgent need for other voices than those radical jihadists to get out into the World and be heard. It's clear that the Islamists dominate discussion around the Qu'ran and what it means, and Nawaz in particular is keen to get the alternative, more peaceful and tolerant, interpretations of Islam more into the mainstream, both to quell the West's hostility, and to show potential radicals that God is not on the side of the Islamists.

While for Muslims the Qu'ran is the word of God, Nawaz points out that the interpretation of those words is all too human. As is the case with the Bible, there is much that is seemingly contradictory in the Qu'ran, as well as obscure. Add to that the difficulty of translating the old Arabic in which it is written, and there is a mass of interpretation that has to go into even a basic reading. As (Sunni) Islam has no structured priesthood, guidance on how to interpret the text can and does come from everywhere.

Islamism, as Nawaz styles it, is more a political ideology than a truly religious movement, but it is the religious aspect that enables the likes of ISIS to brainwash people to die for the "cause". Both Harris and Nawaz are clear that this false view of religion needs to be tackled front on, and that it is Muslims that need to be seen to be doing it. At the same time, they are both agreed that the political and military structure of ISIS needs to be destroyed utterly. Such destruction will have the effect of showing would-be radicals that God does not smile on their jihad, and that in fact the deluded views of ISIS leadership in no way correspond with God's.

There is in the book also some discussion of the tendency for the West to hold minorities and Middle Eastern countries to a lower standard of human rights and freedom than that which they demand for themselves. Both authors call this out as mindless and actually fuelling the ends of the terrorists.

This book will take an hour or two to read, and is well worth the time invested.

Cheers for now, from
A View Over the Bell

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