From Publishers Weekly
Conventional wisdom says that Christians, Jews and Muslims cannot get along and have never gotten along; the Crusades, the Inquisition and September 11 have all fueled the flames of constant religious intolerance. In a pedantic and frustrating study, journalist Karabell (The Last Campaign) challenges this view by pointing to numerous but little-known periods of peaceful coexistence among the three religions. For example, he points to John of Damascus's condemnation of Islam as a Christian heresy as a powerful indication of the close connection between the two faiths in the early Middle Ages. During the Crusades, Christian rulers often adopted the policies of the Muslim governments they had supplanted, while in the 19th century, some Muslim nations attempted to emulate the progress of Europe and to coexist more peacefully with European nations. Karabell points to Dubai as an area in which such ironic coexistence still occurs and wonders whether Dubai holds the key to the future. Regrettably, the moments of peaceful coexistence are hard to spot in Karabell's narrative, since the largest portions are occupied with the ways that Christians, Jews and Muslims have failed to get along. (Mar. 2)
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*Starred Review* Historians have so often focused on religious conflict--crusades, jihads, pogroms--that Karabell fears many readers have forgotten how often the devout have lived in peace with those of different faiths. To dispel this unfortunate forgetfulness, he develops a wide-ranging narrative highlighting epochs of interfaith toleration and cooperation. Readers visit, for instance, ninth-century Baghdad, where a Muslim caliph invited Christian, Jewish, and Buddhist theologians to compare beliefs; later, the tour moves on to thirteenth-century Toledo, where Muslims, Jews, and Christians collaborated in translating important classical texts; and, still later, Karabell turns to mid-twentieth-century Beirut, where disparate religions hammered out a national pact for sharing governance. Karabell concedes that some regimes have pursued ecumenical harmony merely to secure economic and political advantage, but he insists that such harmony actually reflects peace-fostering doctrines central to all of the Abrahamic faiths. Applying such doctrines, Karabell concedes, has grown more difficult in a modern world transformed by the rise of Islamic Fundamentalism. But he understands that Fundamentalists can pursue their bloody aims only by reducing the past to a litany of grievances crying out for vengeance. A book restoring to that past the complexities of peace and cooperation greatly enhances the prospects for the future. Bryce Christensen
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