Taking Back Islam American Muslims Reclaim Their Faith by Michael Wolfe, ed and the Producers of beliefnet (USA: Rodale Inc. and Beliefnet, Inc., 2002. 240 pages.)

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Jay Willoughby



This book is divided into nine sections: an opening section with intro ductory
essays, followed by eight chapters that discuss the writers' views
on certain issues. Each section contains several essays of anywhere from
between three to six pages. Given the number of authors, I will mention
only some of the points made in each section.
In his introduction, Michael Wolfe lays out the book's general
premise: Maybe it is time to stop looking to the "motherland" for our
understandings of Islam and Islamic tradition. Maybe it is time to grow
up. This call is sure to find a resonance among the many Muslims who
are tired of imported imams and imported books that are so far removed
from our own reality in the West. Farid Esack brings up an interesting
point: Historically, Muslims have known only two paradigms: oppression
(Makkah) and governing (Madinah). However, given current realities,
they must adopt a third kind: peaceful coexistence in a state of equality,
as done by those Muslims who emigrated to Abyssinia.
In "Violence," Khaled Abou El Fadl notes that Islam is concerned
with building and creating, and that ruining and destroying life is "an ultimate
act of blasphemy against God." He writes that war is defensive and
a last resort, that trade and technology are preferred, and that political discourses
have displaced moral discourses. Aasma Khan discusses her
small group (Muslims against Terrorism), which was set up in the days
following 9/11 to educate people "about the incompatibility oflslam with
terrorist activities, hatred, and violence."
In "Democracy," Karen Armstrong reminds us of several important
facts: modernity/democracy is a process; that in the Muslim world, modernity
was imposed from above and has close ties with colonial subjugation/
dependence, instead of independence; and that is imitation and not inno­
vation. Religion, she asserts, can help people through the transition to
modernity. Alex Kronemer states that "the greatest obstacle to democracy
in the Muslim world is not 'Islam,' it is poverty, the lack of education, and
corrupt and repressive regimes, many of which - and this is the important
point - are supported by the democracies of the West." This raises the
question of whether the West really wants democracy in the Muslim world ...

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