No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of

No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of

No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam [Reading] ➷ No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam ➭ Reza Aslan – A fascinating, accessible introduction to Islam from the author of the New York Times bestseller Zealot

INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER • A finalist for the Guardian First Book Award

I A fascinating, accessible introduction to but God: Epub Ü Islam from the author of theNew York Times bestseller ZealotINTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER • A finalist for the Guardian First Book Award In No god but God, internationally acclaimed scholar Reza Aslan explains Islam—the origins and evolution of the faith—in all its beauty and complexity This No god Kindle - updated edition addresses the events of the past decade, analyzing how they have influenced Islam’s position in modern culture Aslan explores what the popular demonstrations pushing for democracy in the Middle East mean for the future of Islam in the region, how the Internet and social media have affected god but God: eBook ↠ Islam’s evolution, and how the war on terror has altered the geopolitical balance of power in the Middle East He also provides an update on the contemporary Muslim women’s movement, a discussion of the controversy over veiling in Europe, an indepth history of Jihadism, and a look at how Muslims living in North America and Europe are changing the face of Islam Timely and persuasive, No god but God is an elegantly written account that explains this magnificent yet misunderstood faith.

10 thoughts on “No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam

  1. Susan Johnson Susan Johnson says:

    Our Bible study class decided we wanted to learn something about Muslims. We were woefully ignorant on the subject and needed to learn something about the religion. Someone recommended this book and it turned out to be a great choice. I have to be up front that I knew nothing about Muhammad and so it was great place to begin. One thing that came as a surprise to me was that Muhammad, like Jesus, did appreciate women and their contributions. It was the followers who came after both of them that twisted their message. Muhammad married an older woman, Khadija, a wealthy and respected businesswoman. He was in a monogamous relationship with her until she died. He valued her and she was his advisor, advocate, lover and friend.
    The book goes into the many sects of Islam. It's very much like Christianity that varies from Catholics to Mormons to Jehovah's Witnesses to Evangicals.It seems like we have many similarities but there are also cultural differences. I really learned a great deal and don't feel as ignorant as I did before. It's a great jumping off place to expand your horizons.

  2. Will Byrnes Will Byrnes says:

    Reza Aslan - from The Guardian

    Aslan has produced what should be required reading for anyone with an interest in things Islamic, whether that interest be religious or geopolitical. He makes clear that there are several types of Islam, and that fanatical, fundamentalist Wahabism is not the only brand on the market. I found the book eye-opening. The only reason I did not go for that 5th star is that the text can get quite dry, and in the early going was a sure cure for consciousness. But it was well worth the effort to stick with it. It is not only important to know one's enemy, but also one's potential and even current friends.

    =============================EXTRA STUFF

    Links to the author’s personal, Twitter and FB pages

    His latest book is God: A Human History, published in 2017

  3. Conrad Conrad says:

    An astounding work. This book really took the top of my head off. Aslan is an excellent writer, and the book isn't too academic, but his command of Arabic and, at the same time, comprehensive familiarity with not one but at least three or four different English translations of the Quran (and the misunderstandings that result therefrom) makes this well worth reading.

    Aslan makes a strong case for the Hijaz as a place of prelapsarian cultural intermingling for Jews, Christians, and Muslims; his portrait of Muhammad makes the Prophet both a divinely inspired revolutionary and a reformer with secular concerns and family problems of his own for whom it would be impossible not to feel sympathy. Aslan also touches on the liberalizing effect of the spread of Islam, which allowed adherents of the three monotheistic religions to live peaceably in Spain for a time, introduced strict laws limiting legal retribution and encouraging forgiveness, redistributed wealth with an eye to enriching the impoverished, and spurred reforms in the way women were treated in inheritance laws.

    The book also discusses the Iranian revolution, and the vexed relations between Iran and the United States. Aslan seems to think that the aims of Iran's revolutionaries and those of American liberals were/are more alike than either group bothers to recognize now. This is a perspective that I would imagine is unlikely to make Aslan many friends in either country, both of which are now run by cynical men. How unfortunate.

    My only objection to the book, and it is a minor one, is that Aslan spends a lot of ink criticizing the Ulama (conservative academic interpreters of the Qu'ran) over the past several hundred years, but he does not specify exactly who these people are, saying only that the Ulama did this and the Ulama did that and everything they did was always all wrong. This could use a little more parsing; I find it hard to believe that the Ulama is quite as univocal as that, even if it is as stultifying and traditionalist as he suggests.

    Anyway, this is an excellent book, readable, relevant, profound, subtly ideological but also very persuasive. Prepare to leave this book with a very different perception of what it means to be Muslim than you will ever get from Christiane Amanpour.

  4. BlackOxford BlackOxford says:

    Riding the Tiger

    Various studies of religion over recent decades show a remarkably similar pattern of development that seems to be universal. The start of religious movement is most often sociological and economic. The deficiencies of the prevailing conditions are typically expressed in syncretistic religious terms borrowed from whatever spiritual traditions are available. These social/spiritual insights are progressively codified and formalised as doctrine with only an increasingly vague connection to the original motivating social conditions. As a religious establishment forms to ‘protect’ emerging doctrine, this establishment takes responsibility for interpreting the meaning of religious practice in new circumstances. It is not unusual at this point that differences in interpretation cause schisms among adherents, leading to competing sects.

    Aslan’s story is of Islam, but its main points are exactly these and are equally applicable to Christianity. Muhammad, for example, used precisely the same strategy as St. Paul in creating a ‘super-tribe’ of equal members open to all by simple affirmation of a fundamental tenet. Just as with the medieval papacy in which every doctrinal decision was politically motivated, so in Islam the collection of Hadiths, interpretations of Muslim doctrine, were equally political and used to further political aims by leading Muslims. And just as in Christianity, the initial religious thrust in Islam toward social justice and mutual regard succumbed quickly and persistently to the interests of the religious establishment in maintaining its position of power.

    Islam is syncretistic, just as is Christianity, and both from similar sources. Islam assimilated its strict monotheism and the idea of prophecy from Judaism, much of its ritual from the pagan cults of Arabia, and its cosmology from ancient Zoroastrianism. But arguably, its most important acquisition was the Christian notion of faith, and the related compulsion to proselytisation. Neither of these was present anywhere among the tribal religions of the Arabian peninsula nor among the ancient religions of Mesopotamia and Persia. They were innovations strictly from Christian sources and, as with Christianity, formed the foundation for a doctrinal religion with global ambitions.

    “Religion, it must be understood, is not faith,” says Aslan. He goes on to point out an essential aspect of this fact: “With the exception of a few remarkable men and women, no Jew, Christian, Zoroastrian, or Muslim of this time would have considered his or her religion to be rooted in the personal confessional experiences of individuals. Quite the contrary. Your religion was your ethnicity, your culture, and your social identity.” Religion, in other words, was a fact of human existence, not a set of beliefs about what other people had perceived as divine revelation. And so it has remained ‘with the exception of a few remarkable men and women’ throughout history. Faith is the basis of a new kind of tribalism which is grounded not on genetics or shared cultural background but on the verbal affirmation of an inner conviction.

    But Aslan does not develop the implication of his own observation. Religions of faith are inherently expansive, and, therefore, combative, regardless of their doctrinal content. Both Islam and Christianity have the intention of world-wide conversion. They both have a need to justify themselves as bearers and guardians of truth and to overcome others who claim such truth. The paradox of a Christianity which claims its truth as universal divine love yet feels justified in committing any human horror to prove it, is only rivalled by the paradox of Islam which recognises the gift of human life as divine and is willing to kill in order to ensure others share that recognition. Such is the nature of faith and its doctrines, no matter what such doctrines are. Faith itself, not any particular belief, is the key to understanding these religions of faith.

    Doctrinal faith is also inherently prone to fragmentation. That is to say, it promotes conflict, often intense, where none had previously existed. Claims to orthodoxy, correct beliefs, are as diverse in Islam as they are in Christianity. So, consequently, are the mutual anathemas that are delivered most vehemently against those who are closest but not identical in matters of doctrine. Such fragmentation is not promoted or maintained by the rank and file believer who typically has no idea of the content or complexity of doctrinal pronouncements. Rather, it is the result of religious leaders’ political ambitions justified on the basis of alternative interpretations of foundational texts. Put rather more simply: doctrinal religion is necessarily ideological and essentially divisive.

    It might be argued that all religion is a political activity in the sense that one of its essential functions is to establish the distinction ‘them’ and ‘us’. But with the doctrinal religions of Christianity and Islam this ethnic distinction, which can be merely descriptive, is transformed into a political judgement that leads to alienation and hatred. Small-scale tribal tension becomes global competition. Possibilities for negotiation among conflicting parties are eliminated by opposing claims to absolute truth. In fact the politics of doctrinal truth tends toward the elimination of all other politics as is clear in such apparently different cultures as that of Afghanistan and Alabama, or of Tehran and Washington D.C.

    If Aslan’s analysis is broadly correct, and I think it is, there seems to be an almost instinctive turn to religion in order to justify radical social action. His narrative of Muhammad’s striving against the inequities of contemporary life in Mecca, for example, is parallel to that of St. Paul in his struggle against the inequities of the Roman Empire. In addition, in order to establish their divine credentials for questioning the existing order of things, both men attacked those religious practices closest to them - Paul his native Judaism, and Muhammad his native veneration of the Ka’ba. Similar narratives could easily be developed for Hinduism and Buddhism among other religious movements

    Having fulfilled its function in mobilising support for such social change, however, religion quickly develops its own self-serving agenda. The politics of religion then become conservative and, when required, oppressive in order to further its own claims to power. Doctrinal religions based on texts (and therefore interpretations) are most prone to such political cooptation. Whatever spiritual ‘luminosity’ might be present in such texts is inevitably overcome by political expediency. The social objectives riding the tiger of doctrinal religion always winds up inside.

    Postscript: For more on doctrinal religion and its alternatives, see:

  5. Kelly Kelly says:

    Don't like the question? Don't accept the premise. Then change the conversation.

    This quote (from West Wing- yeahyeahyeah) kept coming to mind while I was reading this book. Reza Aslan has done this to absolutely brilliant effect. This book, which functions both as an introduction to the religion of Islam and a political statement on current affairs, frames Islam and its history in terms meant to make it sympathetic and understandable to an audience raised in Judeo-Christian based, secularized Western societies. As a Muslim scholar of religions who was born in Iran, but who left as a child due to the Islamic Revolution to be raised and educated in America, Aslan is perfectly placed to understand exactly what it is that needs to be talked about and how.

    Aslan begins his book with a discussion on the climate in which Islam came into being- he shows us 7th century pagan Arabia, with its nomadic tribes of all different faiths- including Christians and Jews and polytheists of all sorts. He shows us evolution of Mecca and the culture into which the Prophet Muhammad was born. We see how all of these things affected the formation of Muhammad's initial community of followers (who Aslan presents as egalitarian, socialist reformers with fair minded justice in mind), the development of Islam, the Recitation of those things contained within the Qu'ran. We are shown a religion without a leader after the Prophet dies, struggling to understand the way it should go, how his words should be understood, what to do with the power they have as the Islamic empire increases in size and power. The religion breaks off into various family groups, ideologies, and radical small sects. Various people use the religion for their own gain, as a distraction, to claim legitimacy. Powerful, traditionalist scholars of the Qu'ran who believe in a literal interpretation of the text take control for a very long time- the Ulama. Everything is twisted by this group, by political leaders, by imams etc, and all in the name of supposedly the same ideal, to get back to some mythical, perfect paradise. As Aslan points out again and again in his book:

    Muhammad in Medina became the paradigm for the Muslim empires that expanded throughout the Middle East after the Prophet's death, and the standard that every Arab kingdom struggled to meet during the Middle Ages...Regardless of whether one is labeled a Modernist or a Traditionalist, a reformist or a fundamentalist, a feminist or a male chauvanist, all Muslims regard Medina as the model of Islamic perfection. Put simply, Medina is what Islam was meant to be.

    And the argument goes on and on as to what this ideal of perfection means. Does this sound familiar? That's because it should. Aslan weaves another major plot thread throughout this book, which is the idea that we are presently living in the age of the Islamic Reformation, and all the violence that we see is an internal struggle, not a clash of civilizations. He brings up the many similiarities he sees to the Christian Reformation throughout the book, arguing for understanding and hope for the future:

    What is taking place now in the Muslim world is an internal conflict between Muslims, not an external battle between Islam and the West... All great religions grapple with these issues, some more fiercely than others. One need only recall Europe's massively destructive Thirty Years' War between the forces of the Protestant Union and those of the Catholic League to recognize the ferocity with which interreligious conflicts have been fought in Christian history. In many ways, the Thirty Years' War signaled the end of the Reformation: perhaps the classic argument over who gets to decide the future of a faith. What followed that awful war was a gradual progression in Christian theology from the doctrinal absolutism of the pre-Reformation era to the doctrinal relativism of the Enlightenment. This remarkable evolution in Christianity from its inception to its Reformation took fifteen vicious, bloody and occasionally apocalyptic centuries.

    Fourteen hundred years of rabid debate over what it means to be a Muslim; of passionate arguments over the interpretation of the Qu'ran and the application of Islamic law; of tribal feuds, crusades and world wars- and Islam has finally begun its fifteenth century.

    If this seems like a superficial parallel on some levels, that's true. There are a lot of differences in the form this Reformation has taken and how it has taken shape, but to get bogged down in that would certainly miss the point- that Islam and its followers are no different from any other major religion, no more backward or primitive, just at a different stage in their process than the rest of the world. This is especially remarkable given that some radical, fundamentalist sects have gained control of large sections of Islam due to historical circumstance, use of force and financial might (yeah this means Saudi Arabia), and due to colonialism, Christianizing missions, financial incentives and internal struggles, there is a large sympathetic audience to some parts of this theology and its ultimate consequences.

    Aslan showed me a glitteringly complicated, sophisticated faith, with its brilliant and dark places, like any powerful religion has. He showed me the evolution of the Sunnis, Shi'ites (Shi'ah) and the Sufis, the small radical sects that have had an effect on the future, and the long line of intellectuals and their historical circumstances (affected by them just like Muhammad was) and how faith was bent and twisted and shaped to suit current needs- showing Islam is by no means an inflexible faith. He ends in arguing that there is hope for an Islamic democracy, but an indigenous one, not one forced on it from the outside. A tolerant Islamic state is possible, it just hasn't succeeded yet, but it absolutely could.

    It is true, Aslan does construct his own Muhammad in Medina from the evidence available, just as everyone else does. But it fits beautifully with his argument that interpretation is up for debate and everyone should be allowed to bring their various ideas on the topic to the table. His ideal is beautiful and passionate and earnest. Moral and upright, liberal and full of optimism. Naive? Perhaps. But nevertheless, what he presents is a possibility, and one that I think everyone would do well to hope comes about.

    The only possible weaknesses I see here are: Some may find his arguments apologist. He addresses this issue himself at the beginning of the book, basically saying that he's okay with that as there is no higher calling than to defend one's faith. I admire that he was so upfront about what he was doing, but I will say that it did make a few of his arguments a little hard to buy. It is easy to see him discarding evidence that doesn't fit his vision of Islam by the wayside, and a few times directly contradicting himself in the service of making it work. For example, I found the part of his book on women in Islam and how Muhammad was actually this super liberal guy who was just affected by the times he lived in somewhat spotty. Just saying that everything is the fault of the Muslim men who followed Muhammad and controlled everything, while a nice sop to the feminist part of me, isn't entirely convincing. I also found his end chapters on the way that a non secular, tolerant, but officially Islamic state could grow up, fairly unconvincing as well. I liked the ideas, but its clear that practical application is not his forte, which is fine, it just weakened his final argument that everything is going to be all right. He has a tendancy to go off into misty, dreamlike prose when he gets to an argument that is hard to defend. I understand that partially- it is hard to talk about faith in general, but it can get a little silly and distracting sometimes.

    However, if you just keep those few things in mind, I couldn't imagine a better introduction to the faith than this book. He opened up a whole new world of perspective for me and gave me the language to articulate a lot of what I hate about those dumb clash of civilizations people without resorting to lefty talking points. He left me curious, engaged, much more careful to judge, and absolutely wanting to know more.

    I don't know what better recommendation I can give than that.

  6. Cecilia Nelson Cecilia Nelson says:

    I have extremely mixed feelings about this book.

    On the one hand:

    There are multiple cases of seemingly intentional skews. One particular example is Aslan's analysis of the practice of stoning adulterers: He says it was instituted by Umar, the second successor of Muhammad. Umar apparently lied about it being a part of original Revelation that was somehow accidentally left out of the authorized text. Aslan then refers to the hadith collections of Muhammad al-Bukhari and Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj as the most respected and reliable canons. Well, sorry, but Bukhari and Muslim both contain multiple incidences of the Prophet commanding and overseeing the stoning of adulterers, meaning it was NOT introduced by Umar and has its basis in hadith/sunna, Quran notwithstanding (this punishment is prescribed by the Tawrat/Torah/Old Testament, which is why Muhammad did it). There is absolutely no way that a Muslim and scholar on Islam like Aslan is not aware of this, making it feel like more of deception than a mistake. In my opinion, this is just one of many instances where Aslan scapegoats Umar and other prominent figures in Islam's history to exonerate Muhammad himself (and by proxy Islam) of violence and/or misogyny and other morally reprehensible practices.

    On the other hand:

    Most sources of information on Islam originating in the West (that I have seen, at least) are slanted in the other direction: emphasizing incidents of violence and misogyny in the Quran, sunna, hadith, and history of Islam. This intentionally produces a decidedly ignorant, oversimplified/out-of-context and ethnocentric perception of the religion. Anyone with any proximity to Islam knows that here in America, viciously discriminatory attitudes against Muslims are horrifyingly common. These ideas are not benign: hate-crimes against Muslims and people perceived to be Muslim are well-documented and it would be ignorant to not deem Islamophobia a potential contributor when considering the litany of atrocities and human rights abuses committed by the American government and Armed Forces in the so-called War on Terror and prior. This considered, is it really so wrong or inexcusable for a Muslim to intentionally present only the most cuddly, friendly face of his faith?

    In short, despite my personal discomfort with its biases, if a person said to me I'd like to learn something/more about Islam, this is the book I'd hand them because if I'm going to influence someone's perception of 1/5 of the world's population, I'd rather bias them towards positivity than hatred and fear. Hence the 4 stars.

  7. Joe Joe says:

    Oh man. What a conflicting review to have to write. On one hand, we have a wealth of easy-to-read historical and cultural information about Islam in a great, readable format for Western audiences. On the other, we have an author so blinded by personal bias that I routinely had to put the book down and walk away.

    The author, Reza Aslan, clearly knows his history as a scholar of Islamic culture and a personal believer, himself. It makes sense that the book is at its best when Aslan focuses objectively on the history and culture of Islam and presents the facts. He's a great writer who really does a nice job of making history sound like fiction (a rare trait), and these passages are a joy to read. If the entire book were presented in this manner, this would be an easy five stars.

    Unfortunately, his aforementioned bias compromises the entire integrity of his work. At times, Aslan is drawn into argument regarding common criticism of Islam and its system of beliefs; it almost seems as though he feels compelled to personally defend its honor. Whether he's defending jihad as just slander the Christians started during the Crusades, or explaining how Muhammad's slaying of 400-700 Jews in early Medina can't really be classified as genocide since he only killed one percent of the Jewish population, you get the distinct impression he's defensively and emotionally reacting to scholastic criticism.

    This happens often with regard to the prophet himself, Muhammad. In the first hundred pages alone, Aslan defends the following:
    - Muhammad's marriage to a six year old girl (But everyone back then was doing this! And he waited to consummate until she was nine!)
    - Muhammad's polygamy in general to nine wives in ten years (He had to hold the kingdom together with political alliances! Hard to see how marrying a slave girl helps in that regard.)
    - The Ummah's penchant for caravan raiding (It's not stealing, it's redistributing wealth!)
    - Perhaps most egregiously, he defends dhimma not as an example of Islam's subjugation of other religions, but actually of its religious tolerance? A quick internet search provides plenty of Muslim sources who believe quite the opposite.

    Historical context is often important, especially when looking at religious history. Islam is certainly not the only faith to commit these kinds of acts, but sugarcoating it with baseless excuses just comes off as pandering to critics. This wouldn't be so bad if Aslan spent any time citing other sources who could verify his claims, but there's usually no substantiation whatsoever with regard to these claims; often, I'd be disappointed when Googling just about any of the claims when I suspected he was being overly subjective.

    It's a shame No god but God suffers from these issues, because when Aslan sticks to the facts, he's an immensely talented storyteller that really could have created something special. I don't have a dog in his fight when it comes to what I think of Islam, but unfortunately, the defensive attitude in which he confronts fair criticism leads me to believe I need to do further reading before I make any sort of judgment. And isn't the point of a book like this to settle some of those feelings, not create more?

  8. Zayn Gregory Zayn Gregory says:

    Tight composition, fast pacing, authoritative tone: it's no surprise it was a bestseller. Of politics and history it is a good introduction for the non-muslim. But if the intent was to present a vision of how muslims should understand their faith under the challenge of modernity, it falls way short. Even presuming the raft of hostile orientalists he draws from represented the most neutral and authoritative of western scholarship on Islam, the author's own tone and framing make it needlessly more odious. We are informed the Prophet was indecisive, an empty vessel, a hooked nose Arab, that the Quran *was dictated by* its environment, that the 5 daily prayers are apocryphal, and for that matter the entire hadith corpus should be thrown out the window, etc. I'm not reverse FoxNewsing him and saying he must be a staunch muslim to write a book on Islam. I'm just saying this book is speaking to and from a position so far removed from the Islamic scholarly tradition that I can make no use of it.

  9. Paul Paul says:

    Religion, it must be understood, is not faith. Religion is the story of faith. That is the reader's key to this fascinating account of the origins and development of Islam. Faith is a way of moving and being in the world; religion is a body of traditions and practices and institutions that preserve the story of how to move and be in the world that way. In order to speak to new generations, traditions adapt, but faith is eternal. From this perspective, Reza Aslan retells the story of Islam. Written in clear prose and filled with memorable stories both personal and traditional, I found my mind and heart easily staying engaged with this book.

    This book, writes Aslan, is, above all else, an argument for reform. There are those who will call it apostasy, but that is not troubling. No one speaks for God - not even the prophets (who speak about God). There are those who will call it apology, but that is hardly a bad thing. An apology is a defense, and there is no higher calling than to defend one's faith, especially from ignorance and hate... In these words, I perceive at once an acceptance and a desire for dialogue, and a fatalistic attitude. Just as Islam's beginnings took place 600 years after the beginnings of Christianity, Aslan argues, so the Islamic Reformation is taking place now, 600 years after the Protestant one. Just as pre-Reformation Christianity was divided into Orthodox and Roman confessions, so today's Islam is divided into Sunni and Shi'ah. Whirling around early Christianity were ascetics and mystics, as Sufism does around Islam. And as did Christianity during the Reformation, Islam today is finding its way into a more literate citizenry's hands. [T]he Christian Reformation was an argument over the future of the faith - a violent, bloody argument that engulfed Europe in devastation and war for more than a century. Thus far, the Islamic Reformation has proved no different. ... It took many years of violence and devastation to cleanse the Hijaz of its 'false idols.' It will take many more to cleanse Islam of its new false idols - bigotry and fanaticism - worshipped by those who have replaced Muhammad's original vision of tolerance and unity with their own ideals of hatred and discord. But the cleansing is inevitable, and the tide of reform cannot be stopped. The Islamic Reformation is already here. We are all living it.

    The question is, how shall we live it? Are there enough people in today's world who understand the futility of violence and will not charge or be led into it? Are there enough of us who understand that power is only valuable as a means and bankrupt as an end? Can the foundational principles of true faith - tolerance and dialogue - guide us in the ways of peace and toward the spirit of mutual love? Can we peaceably contain the bigots and fanatics? Collaboration, not coercion, is the ideal in every healthy heart. Shall we choose many more years of violence and devastation to achieve any goal, or shall we choose tolerance, dialogue and justice made in the spirit of mutual love? During the Christian Reformation, Socinians in Poland and Unitarians in (now) Romania chose the latter. There weren't enough of them to turn the tide of violence in their day. I have to believe that there are enough people today who would choose and rely upon love rather than power, tolerance rather than force. All it takes is simple human choice.

  10. Justin Evans Justin Evans says:

    I want to write two reviews for this book. In one I say well done, and thank you Reza Aslan, for your clear prose, your sympathetic defense of Islam, the remarkable way you cram so much--religious history, political history, theology, religious practice--into so few pages.
    In the other I say for the sake of all that's holy Reza, will you stop banging on about how Islam is a liberal-democrat's wet dream religion? Because that doesn't sit very well with your endless claims that the Ulama comprises only the spawn of anti-liberal-democratic-demons. And while we're at it, I'm pretty sure clerics have reasons other than sexism for the decisions they make. Tied in to this, will you stop making obviously bad arguments (e.g., People say that Islam is a 'religion of the sword.' But Buddhists and Christians fight all the time! Sure they do. But Jesus and Buddha never commanded armies.)? Will you get off Sufism's jockstrap? I know that's the easiest to paint as the aforementioned L-DWD religion (drink! screw! rock'n'roll! the Gaia thesis! I mean, there must be more to it than that), but it's just possible that that's a sign of weakness rather than strength.

    Instead, I will just say: this is a great, short introduction to the history of Islam. It touches on a few theological/jurisprudential points without knuckling down on them. His idea that Islamic terrorism is caused by a surging conservatism clashing with an equally surging liberalization is a plausible one. But the book's polemic (justified by hysterical Islamophobia, I grant you) distorts its history and argument far too much: if Islam offered only support for liberal-capitalistic governments in the middle east, it wouldn't be as popular as it is.

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