04 May 2007

Introduction to Islam After Communism Updated

I won't finish a book today so I have to think of something else to write about. The one I was planning on finishing turned out to be rather boring (it looked good- about two professors travelling around Siberia, but they tended to document every single thing they did whether it was interesting or not, so I quit after 40 pages) and I won't finish the next- Islam After Communism- for several days probably.

Khalid's introduction to the book is excellent. In just a few pages he clearly refutes a variety of misconceptions about Islam and the various courses different Muslims are taking today. He begins by explaining why history matters in Islam- particularly the 70 years of Soviet rule in Muslim Central Asia. The Soviet period shaped Islam in Central Asia and cannot be ignored despite the common misperception that "Islam is inherently political and naturally leads to anti-Western militancy" (pg 2).

He also neatly describes the conflicting views today of whether Islam is "bad" or "good." Khalid believes, and I thoroughly agree, that the problem with this division "is that too often, the yardstick for measuring moderation is agreement with US geopolitical goals" (pg 5). Exactly. So Saudi Arabia, whose Wahhabis unquestionably have a rather harsh interpretation of Islam, is "moderate" or "good" and many secular Muslim countries are "bad" because they disagree with US foreign policy.

Khalid then discusses the diversity within Islam; this argument is getting old, but it has to keep being made since it's not sinking in. Islam is not homogeneous, particularly in its approach to law. He also differentiates between the different terms we use for Muslims, such as Islamist and Jihadist- particularly the US' role in the creation of the Jihadists- and discusses the differences between various groups.

This brief 18-page introduction is one of the best explanations of current thinking in Islam and how it is misinterpreted. Required reading.

Update- I forgot to add this quote from David Reeves' review of Islam After Communism on Registan a couple of months ago that nicely sums up the "Islamic threat" in Central Asia (especially worth noting if you've fallen prey to Jihad:

He [Khalid] stated that in Central Asia “the states are a bigger threat to Muslims than Muslims are to the state.” The book says that “Indeed, although Islamic militancy might pose some danger to the regimes, the danger the regimes pose to ordinary pious Muslims is far greater.” (191) Either way, this is the main message of the book.

3 comments:

  1. You have so many wonderful recommendations. I haven't been able to read since I got pregnant (a new one for me), but I hope to get back in the swing of things soon.

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  2. I have to agree with the previous poster: I've just reserved the book at the SOAS library, but it's out til the end of May!

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  3. It's a shame they weren't able to focus the material, because the title of this book is enticing.

    I'm reading Confessions of an Economic Hitman and it's bringing back just how harsh Saud Wahhabism is, and how painful it is to me that the US chose to ally with that family.

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