We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Summer Reading (ii)

Before his biography of Jesus stirred the waters a bit, Reza Aslan's introduction to Islam, No god but God (updated ed., Random House, 2011) has been his best know work.  Itself somewhat controversial among a smaller audience, the book seeks to introduce Aslan's readers to an Islam that is diverse, vibrant, and beautiful.  Written in the shadow of 9/11, he also wants his Western audience to understand that the Islam of the Prophet was far more tolerant and accepting of others than its fundamentalist versions of today.  The problems of Islam began with Muhammad's successors.  Aslan captures both the spirituality and the politics of Islam as seen from a moderate (read "progressive") perspective, and he is honest about the issues facing Muslims and the darker side of their religion while remaining positive and upbeat about Islam itself.  The book is well-written, well-researched, and it moves along at a good pace.  If you are interested in world faiths in general and/or Islam in particular, this is a book well worth reading.  It provides something of an antidote to the mindless anti-Islamic, anti-Arab prejudices of many in the West today.

As a footnote, one thing I found interesting is that the State of Israel is hardly mentioned at all and nothing is said about its part in radicalizing  certain segments of the Muslim Arab peoples.  One wonders why.