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Islam without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty Hardcover – July 18, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


"Informative at every turn, the author lifts the veil on the beautiful truths and harsh realities of a faith at war with itself, and ever-evolving in its interpretations and executions." -- Kirkus Book Reviews

"A delightfully original take on Turkey and on the prospects for liberal democracy in the broader Islamic Middle East." -- Wall Street Journal  

"Akyol clarifies the complexities and contradictions of Islam in this indispensable book. He demonstrates how the harsh tribal cultures of the Arabian desert shaped Islam for centuries often at odds with the Qur'an... This even-handed scholarly work... makes Islam accessible to Western readers." -- Publishers Weekly

Akyol is doing important work that should have an impact well beyond his native Turkey. — Doug Bandow (American Spectator)

Starred Review. Informative at every turn. — Kirkus Reviews

From the Author

Beyond the two extremes that haunted the Muslim world,
secular authoritarianism versus Islamic authoritarianism
there is a third, and promising, way: Islamic liberalism.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; First Edition edition (July 18, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393070867
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393070866
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.2 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #983,697 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mustafa Akyol is a columnist for Turkish newspaper Hürriyet Daily News, the website Al-Monitor: The Pulse of the Middle East, and a monthly opinion writer for The International New York Times.

His articles have also appeared in Foreign Affairs, Newsweek, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, The Guardian and many other publications. He studied political science and history at the Boğaziçi University in Istanbul, where he still lives. 

His book, Islam without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty, an argument for "Muslim liberalism," was published by W.W. Norton in July 2011. The book was long-listed for the 2012 Lioner Gelber Prize literary prize, along with other titles by Henry Kissinger, Francis Fukuyama and Niall Ferguson.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 46 people found the following review helpful By David Miller on July 25, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Among the central questions of our time is whether or not democracy -- or, in the larger sense, free societies -- are possible for non-Western cultures. Here in America, many ask if our understanding of "liberty" will translate to other, non-western cultures that do not share our Judeo-Christian legacy.

This question is all the more important now, as we observe the fallout from the Arab Spring of 2011. It is not rare to hear someone ask if there is something inherently authoritarian in Islam. Is democracy even worth trying? Should we be concerned, for example, that an Islamist regime will be elected in Egypt, replacing one kind of authoritarianism with another?

This excellent book by Mustafa Akyol, apparently written before the Arab Spring, speaks to these questions. It is an useful aide to those of us trying to understand these exciting and challenging times.

Akyol first traces the history of Islam, a survey which alone is incredibly helpful to this American reader.

Next Akyol points to a problem that should not surprise western Christians or western readers at large: the confusion of tradition/culture with scripture. By separating these two things, he argues, we can see seeds of liberalism within the scripture. Sharia -- which many fear and some for good reason -- is not scripture, and, Akyol reminds us, is written by men. Therefore it can be amended by men.

With such bold statements, one wonders if Akyol is nailing theses to doors. Only he is, apparently, not the first to do so. Others have come before him and, he says, it is worth taking a look at their work... as well as at the historical events that crushed it.

Finally looking to his home country, Akyol reports exciting news from Turkey.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Riaz Syed on August 16, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am in the middle of the book right now - but I had to share this.

This is way better than 'Destiny Disrupted'.

Must read for all Muslims !

Promise to come back and update this review after I complete the book....

OK, finished the book and as promised have come back to update my review.

Although 'Destiny Disrupted' is a much detailed account of Islamic history, Akyol's account provides a historical perspective on what led to Islam's decline, stagnation and ultimately extremism and despotism.

I strongly suggest all Muslims to read this to better understand themselves, their roots and traditions they take for granted.

And for someone curious about where extremism took its ugly roots in Islam, this book provides a detailed explanation.
Further, it dares to provide a solution to the problem of extremism.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Jasmine on July 26, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was looking forward for Mustafa Akyol's new book since I had seen his Tedtalk. [...] Definetly it was well worth the wait.

I think this book is not only important to clear up the minds from Islamophobia but also inspiring for muslim world and societies struggling for their freedom and seeking new ways to shape their future with the Arab Spring. Both muslims and nonmuslims would gain a dinamic, inspiring and convincing new perspective from this reading.

Also his command of English as a non native speaker is incredible. Akyol expresses his arguments with an extensive but still quite easy reading way.

Thanks and congratulations Akyol both as an author and as being an idealist intellectual seeking the truth!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By NervanaM on September 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is challenging to write a book based on religion and history with a convincing case relevant to modern time. I think the Turkish Journalist Mustafa Akyol has successfully met this challenge and present an exceedingly compelling and convincing case for Liberal Islam.
I loved the way he described Abu Hanifa the pioneer of the juristic side of the rationalist school, the Mutazilite philosophy and the war of ideas between the Traditionalists and Rationalists throughout the history of Islam.
Akyol highlighted the link between economic prosperity and freedom of religious ideas, illustrating how the School of Tradition cut off the young Islamic community from the economic mainstream. By isolating Muslims from doing trade with nonbelievers, it severly affects every aspect of life from economy to art, language, science and many resources.
He also addresses a particularly tricky issue; "the rise of hadith" and the theory of abrogation in what is described as the "Post Quar'anic ideology". In fact, if anyone wants a medical diagnosis of what went wrong in Islam, then look within some aspects of this ideology, for example, the distaste of some toward "innovation".
Throughout the book, Akyol incorporates lessons from Turkey (Both Ottomans & kemalist). Akyol described the Ottoman Empire as a pluralist state (a description that I struggle to agree with). Yes, the state was tolerant to non-Muslims, but reforms and modernization only took place in the later period of the Ottoman rule. During the early period, the empire was strong and powerful but many of its subject particularly non-Turks were oppressed and lost their national identity without gaining equal rights.
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