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The Place of Tolerance in Islam Paperback – November 8, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This brief book is elegant and surprising. It opens with an essay by the incomparable El Fadl, an Islamic law professor at UCLA, about tolerance in Islamic theology and among Muslims. He effectively disposes of the terrorists' intolerant interpretations of Qur'anic passages by arguing that a more accurate interpretation would acknowledge the verses' historical contexts and note that they contradict other passages in the Qur'an that are both more tolerant and more central to Islamic practice. The book's second section consists of 11 responses to El Fadl's essay by such notable figures as professors Amina Wadud and John Esposito. The book closes with a follow-up response by El Fadl, reflecting on the opinions of his co-authors. The overall effect of the three sections is quite unexpected; the reader becomes engaged in a dialogue with each writer, realizing with each essay the complexity of the problems facing modern Muslims. The major point that emerges is that while Islam is theologically tolerant of non-Muslims, individual Muslims themselves may harbor intolerant views that they unjustifiably read into the Qur'an, which El Fadl condemns as eisegesis. In two astonishing essays, respondents Tariq Ali and Abid Ullah Jan persuasively argue that the West is actually sometimes intolerant and has taken "advantage of Islamic tolerance to force Muslims into greater subservience." Most of the responses are very innovative and represent a step forward in Islamic theological analysis. This lively debate makes for a quick and informative read.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

To Islamic legal expert Abou El Fadl's argument that the Qur'an favors a conception of Islam as pacific and tolerant, especially when viewed with contemporary eyes rather than a gaze frozen in earlier times and circumstances, 11 well-qualified respondents reply with varying degrees of skepticism. One, a resident American academic like Abou El Fadl, says such liberal interpretation may be attractive in the West, but it doesn't fly in Islam's Middle East heartland. The harshest two suggest, one more strongly than the other, that Western intolerance of Islam is a much greater problem than Islamic intolerance. A warmer critic insists that stable democracy in Islamic nations must precede Islamic tolerance. Tariq Ali cogently argues that secular political change, not liberal theology, is what the Islamic world needs. Altogether the book is an excellent place to start grappling with the problems of contemporary Islam vis-a-vis the West, though its leftist orientation begs for good right-wing complementation: try Serge Trifkovic's Sword of Islam [BKL O 1 02]. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press (November 8, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807002291
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807002292
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.3 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #668,325 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 47 people found the following review helpful By W. Rashed on January 2, 2003
Format: Paperback
Is Islam a religion of peace and tolerance or an evil intolerant religion? Are Muslims the oppressors or the oppressed? Does Osama bin Laden and his likes represent a minority or a majority of Muslims? Who created Osama bin Laden and who is really responsible for terrorism: Qura'nic verses, Saudi Wahabbi teachings, the impoverishment of the Islamic educational system and the growing religious illiteracy of the Muslim masses, American politics, Western double standards, the economic and political failure of corrupt regimens ruling the Muslim countries and relying on their military forces to stay in power, the Arab -Israeli conflict, or what? What can be done to avoid further terror? Is Bush's"War on terror" the solution? Who needs to change their ways, America or the Arab Muslim world or both? What kind of reform is needed, theological, political, economic or social?
This post-9/11 book is a feast for the mind. In a mostly unbiased approach 12 authors freely and constructively debate the reasons behind 9/11 AND solutions to avoid future mayhem. What makes this book very interesting and uniquely insightful is that the authors come from different backgrounds: Americans, Arabs, Asians, Muslims and non-Muslims, conservatives and liberals, professors (Islamic studies, Islamic law, humanities, history, philosophy), writers, editors, journalists, a political analyst and a social anthropologist. They naturally offer quite differing points of view and so the reader is given a chance to expand his/her vision, to analyze and conclude. This book deserves to be widely read because it is an honest attempt to clarify a very complex situation and to search for the real culprits of 9/11.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Bold on August 25, 2005
Format: Paperback
More popular books on Islam like to prattle on and copy each other about the _lack_ of tolerance in Islam, but that's like focusing on the most intolerant Christian sect and using incidents of their intolerance as proof that Christianity is uniformly intolerant.

This book was written, in part, to counteract books such as _Islam Unveiled_, _The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam_, and _The Sword and the Prophet_. These screeds are as misleading as they are popular. The sad fact about this book is that the people who need to read it the most never will -- at least not with an open mind.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By C. Notess on November 10, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book includes a well thoughtout statement, by El Fadl, about Islamic responses to impacts of colonial and neocolonial exploits in the Middle East and South Asia. Responses to El Fadl's statement provide a dialogue that helps clarify the range of perspectives from puritanical responses on the one hand and to reinterpreting Islamic sacred writings in the context of today's world, on the other hand. The major economic, political and religious forces involved in this struggle are discussed. I would like to have seen a discussion of how the systems of honor and shame relate to the scale of systems of justice that range from tribal and patriarchal scales to global scales. The cultural system of honor contributes to energizing the conflict, as personal identities and group identities are affected in these struggles. I discuss this latter point in my E-Book - Depolarizing a Hostile World.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Robert Orion on January 20, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent short volume. The best thing about the book is that various viewpoints are presented. Fadl writes his opinion on how classical Islam is tolerant, and that it has only recently been perverted. In response we get to read other opinions ranging from those who feel that Islam is naturally anti-tolerant, to those who feel that Fadl is a "sell-out" for lack of a better word, for trying to fit Islam into a Western ideaology.
Excellent reading.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By JKH on June 11, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent read for those who are interested in exploring different ways to think and speak of the question of peace and tolerance within the context of Islam. This book (written post-9/11) is an anthology of Muslim writers (one of which is a woman) responding to Khaled Abou El Fadl's piece (the first writing in this book) on his own view of the peace question.

For example, Abou El Fadl states, "... the Qur'anic text assumes that readers will bring a preexisting, innate moral sense to the text. Hence, the text will morally enrich the reader, but only if the reader will morally enrich the text," (pg. 15); "Consequently, the meaning of the text is often only as moral as its reader. If the reader is intolerant, hateful, or oppressive, so will be the interpretation of the text," (pg. 22-23). Therefore, the "burden and blessing" of moral action within Islam is the responsibility of contemporary Muslims (pg. 23).

Some of the writers of this book responding to Abou El Fadl agree with his statements, but many disagree and/or bring differing perspectives to the table. Undoubtedly, all the writers believe their religion is very peaceful, though some argue this is not the proper question to ask in grand scheme of things. For example, R. Scott Appleby says that, "... the impoverishment of the Islamic educational system and the growing illiteracy of the Muslim masses," is largely the problem in regards to those Muslims who are intolerant (pg. 86-87). Tariq Ali believes, "The answer (regarding peace & tolerance in Islam) has very little to do with religion, but a great deal to do with history and politics," (pg.
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