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on August 29, 2005
I recently heard a man ask at a public forum how he might approach a mosque to learn about Islam -- could he stop in at a service as he might at a church? Should he call the mosque and ask for the imam? He really could use "Meeting Islam" and the inspiration of George Dardess' candid account of approaching the Islamic Center of Rochester, N.Y.

Dardess, a knowledgeable Christian, Catholic deacon and former teacher, thoughtfully and theologically works his way through his encounters with Muslims, their beliefs and practices. His writing is easy to follow, and the personal anecdotes, for example, the trip to a monastery, are memorable. The chapter titles show at a glance which aspects of his Christianity he will reflect upon as he learns certain Islamic teachings.

I haven't known many people who decided to study Arabic decades after graduation. This author's journey began this way and the story is truly admirable and delightful. Plus, we benefit from Dardess' love of languages as he explains the meaning and pronunciations Arabic words.

This book, in the end, can not only help readers learn basic Islam, but also may help ease the discomfort some Christians have about dialogue with Muslims. A friend calls this book a "healing book."
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on December 31, 2005
If you really want to meet Islam this could be one of the books you read but it must be one among many. I give Deacon Dardess two stars for learning Arabic and and two stars for going to an Islamic Center to get a better understanding of his Muslim neighbors. And then sharing the insights he gained from this hard work with his readers. I hold back one star, because the book lacks an index.
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on December 6, 2005
This review is biased and does not cover all the particular elements of the book. What is written is what I took as grist for the deacon's mill.

On one hand Deacon George Dardess takes us on a personal journey of his desire to learn more about the Koran. In another way his new book Meeting Islam: A Guide for Christians is a profound exploration of the common threads that can be seen in the banners of the Islamic and the Christian faiths. To think about these common threads, as George points out, opens up an appreciation for the Islamic faith tradition. At the same time, these reflections add a depth of understanding to our own Catholic Christian traditions. George, a linguist by training, uses key Islamic words as the 12 chapter titles. He then appends a Christian Bible theme to the Arabic to make his point.

Chapter 3 is entitled "Salat andTaqwa and the Ten Virgins" Salat is literally the bending at the waist that is done 5 times each day as part of the required worship ritual by faithful Muslims. Taqwa is translated from the Arabic as attentiveness and refers to the total commitment of body, mind and heart to the praise of the Lord. These elements of Islam resemble the Mathean story of the Ten Virgins but are more broadly reflected in all the gospel writings about faithfulness and watchfulness.

Chapter 4 "Abd and Wali and Martha and Mary" deals with the age old tensions between the active and contemplative life; between the concerns for the self and the community. Abd in Arabic means slave; Wali means patron and they are paired to describe the dual responsibilities that are required of the faithful to look out for members of the community as well as to follow the required individual practices.

Chapter 8 "Jihad and Fighting the Good Fight" brings to mind all the violence that is attributed to the fundamentalist Muslims. In fact "Jihad" has a dictionary definition of being a struggle, to strive in a righteous cause. George says that Jihad "rightly conceived, begins with an examination of conscience and a purging, or at least a candid acknowledging, of the self-interest that afflicts many if not most actions, even those carried out in the name of good causes." This explanation strips away the dread of the word. It is easy to relate this explanation to Paul's passion to spread the word, to build Christian communities, and to bring more people into Christ's family.

Clearly, George presents us with an unabashed effort to present Islam and its local faithful in a very positive light. In the context of 9/11 and what has followed, George has provided a wonderful beginning for Catholics and Muslims to burrow into our commonalities.
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on March 5, 2006
I felt that Mr. Dardess gave a true and acurate portrayal of what the religion is about. This is a book that anyone can read and get an acurate understanding of the religion. As a Muslim I felt for the first time, a non-Muslim truely understands what Islam is all about. What a pleasure to read. What a great book and what a great writer.
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on October 17, 2007
This book provides a practical example of what can be done to improve the relationship between Muslims and Christians at the local level. It also provides a well argued case for the way in which Islam can help a Christian's appreciation of their own faith. Meeting Islam: A Guide For Christians (A Many Mansions Book)
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on November 7, 2006
In a recent interview with Rochester's Catholic Courier, Deacon Dardess explained his approach to ecumenism and dialogue vis a vis Islam by stating that "for now, the discussion itself is more important than the answer."

Yet the point of religion -- any religion -- is truth, i.e., answers. Dialogue and discussion, therefore, must be rooted in the quest for truth. That is why Council fathers at Vatican II taught, "Nothing is so foreign to the spirit of ecumenism as a false conciliatory approach which harms the purity of Catholic doctrine and obscures its assured genuine meaning."

Unfortunately, Deacon Dardess does not share this commitment, and his writings gloss-over profound theological differences between Islam and Christianity. Those who disagree with his pacific, ahistorical version of Islam are labeled as either fear-mongers or benighted ignoramuses.

And given that this book is onstensibly about religion, Dardess's viewpoint is steeped in faddish materialism. Here is how he explains -- and excuses -- Islamic terrorism: "The cause of violence and terrorism has to be found in political and economic injustice. Any religion -- Christianity included -- can be used to justify violent behavior by those who believe they have no other way to redress wrongs done against them."

In any event, Catholics seeking a more balanced guide to the differences and similarities between their faith and Islam are advised to purchase "Inside Islam: A Guide for Catholics" by Daniel Ali and Robert Spencer.
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on February 5, 2014
This book is very informative for a person who knows little to nothing about Islam and I found the information a good start, but in order to have a minimal understanding of the philosophy, I need to keep searching.
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