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The third monotheistic religion after Judaism and Christianity.  Originates as revelations to the Prophet Muhammad, recorded in the Qur'an and supplemented with a collection of Islamic traditions and laws, Hadiths.  The religion spread mostly through conversion and military conquests.  Islamic civilization had its Golden Age, but while religious fundamentalists preach return to Sharia law in its purest form in order to restore Islam's past glory, others, including the green quote here, suggest a different basis for the Islamic apogee, namely opening the doors of rational thinking, Ijtihad.  But, as we know, adhering to stifling religious dogma is the way to preserve wealth and power for a few, petro-Wahhabism is eloquent example. 

The Muslims believe that Islam is the best religion, revealed to Muhammad in order to improve upon Judaism and Christianity.  On this basis, inviting into--or, depending on the one's view, imposing--Islam and Sharia law on all people in the world is Muslim's holly duty, sometimes by all means.  This, in my view, goes beyond the missionary reaches of the Christianity. 

Among other religions, I find Islam to be the most self-serving and intolerant one.  Qur'an may say "no compulsion in religion," but Muslims are not open-minded on this.  Leaving Islam or converting to other religion is punishable by death.  All religions belittle women, but in Islamic countries women status is the worst. 

Reading the books listed here (if interested, please, follow the links to go to extensive excerpts), I was looking to see Islam as the tolerant and peaceful religion that all Muslims say it is.  Alas, I do not see this. 

What bothers me most is that moderate Muslims do not have strong voice, they seem silent.  And though explanations are given for this (apparent) silence, including misinformation or even ignorance on Westerners side, still the question remains:  Why Muslims find necessary to come out and protest by thousands against Muhammad cartoons, but do not find necessary to protest the hijacking of their religion by extremists?  By being so passive, moderate Muslims risk the appearance of tacitly sanctioning terror. 

"Science can prosper among Muslims once again, but only with a willingness to accept certain basic philosophical and attitudinal changes--a Weltanschauung that shrugs off the dead hand of tradition, rejects fatalism and absolute belief in authority, accepts the legitimacy of temporal laws, values intellectual rigor and scientific honesty, and respects cultural and personal freedoms."

"...between 750 and 1050, Muslim authors made use of an astounding freedom of thought in their approach to religious belief.  In their analyses...they bowed to primacy of reason, honoring one of the basic principles of the Enlightenment.'

"...the practice of religion must be a matter of choice for the individual, not enforced by the state.  This leaves secular humanism, based on common sense and the principle of logic and reason, as our only reasonable choice for governance and progress."

From "Science and the Islamic world" by Pervez Amirali Hoodbhoy
Physics today, August, 2007

I am not alone in my questioning of Muslims' silence. In connection with the Boston marathon bombing, NYT Thomas Friedman says, "...we must ask a question only Muslims can answer: What is going on in your community that a critical number of your youth believes that every American military action in the Middle East is intolerable and justifies a violent response, and everything Muslim extremists do to other Muslims is ignorable and calls for mostly silence?"

"...our Prophet, who spent most of his time before the age of forty meditating on power and how to obtain it."  
Books about Islam
I like the informative and authoritative books of Bernard Lewis.  But one may say that they reflect the mainstream knowledge and understanding of Islam in the Western cultures.  Fairness requires to hear well what the Middle East writers tell us.  The books below give this additional account. 

ornament... Saudi Arabia, the most conservative regime in the Arab world and the one most contemptuous of human rights, emerged not only stronger but also more than ever the determining power for our future.  Two-thirds of the world’s oil reserves still sleep quietly beneath the soil of Mecca. It is normal that millions of unemployed Arabs dream of a more favorable distribution of this wealth as a solution to their problems.…Saudi Arabia has inundated these millions of unemployed with Islamic propaganda

The role of oil in fundamentalism should never be forgotten. The resistance to progressive ideas, financed in large measure by the Saudi oil money that was simultaneously producing and extravagant, pricey Islamic culture, gave birth to a rigid authoritarianism…A better term for the fundamentalism in Saudi Arabia would be petro-Wahhabism, whose pillar is the veiled woman.

Islam and democracy:  Fear of the modern world (p. 165), Fatima Mernissi 

Islam: Faith and History Mahmoud M. Ayoub, 2004
Islam: Religion, History, and Civilization Seyyed Hossein Nasr, 2003
The heart of Islam: Enduring Values for humanity Seyyed Hossein Nasr, 2002
Jihad:  The trail of political Islam Gilles Kepel, 2002
Answering only to God: Faith and freedom in twenty-first-century Iran Geneive Abdo and Jonathan Lions, 2003
No God but God: Egypt and the triumph of Islam

Geneive Abdo, 2000 

No god but god: The origins, evolution, and future of Islam Reza Aslan, 2006
Reading Lolita in Tehran: A memoir in Books Azar Nafisi, 2004
In the eye of the storm: Women in Post-revolutionary Iran Ed. Mahnaz Afkhami and Erika Friedl, 1994
The Trouble with Islam:  A Muslim's Call For Reform In Her Faith Irshad Manji, 2003
Beyond the veil:  Male-female dynamics in modern Muslim society Fatima Mernissi, 1987
The veil and the male elite:  a feminist interpretation of women's rights in Islam Fatima Mernissi, 1991
Islam and democracy:  Fear of the modern world Fatima Mernissi, 1992
Dreams of trespass: Tales of a harem girlhood Fatima Mernissi, 1994
Scheherazade goes West: different cultures, different harems Fatima Mernissi, 2001

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Updated: 20 November, 2015


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