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44 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A unique and important work, July 25, 2011
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This review is from: Islam without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty (Hardcover)
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. Thriving new economies, new (and old) means of public and private expression, discussions of freedom of religion. All these Turkish experiences, and others, give us means for optimism for the people of the so-called Middle East.

Key to it, Akyol argues, is not to throw away a "backward" religion but instead to embrace it. In fact, Akyol argues, stripping away the religion in Turkey -- just as others have imposed it elsewhere -- has been tried and resulted in disaster. Instead, a marriage of a secular (not "secularist") state and a free people is the recipe for not just the success of the state, the economy, and the nation but also for the faithful and free hearts of the people.

I have recommended this book, already, to many. The subject matter is interesting, as I have said, but in addition, Akyol somehow makes this rather intimidating topic into an enjoyable read. This makes Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty a unique and important work.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 17, 2013 7:37:50 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 17, 2013 10:45:31 AM PDT
An interesting review, but I'm not sure I'll bother reading the book -- I just leafed through a copy in my local library.

Firstly, the distinction between "secular" and "secularist" strikes me as specious, especially considering the political undercurrent in Islam.

More important, the first thing I do when I come across any prolegomena for a future moderate Islam is to check the index and look up the word "apostasy."

Aykol's views on the subject are really incoherent. He overlooks the fact that the inclusion of the death penalty in the sharia can be based on a number of graphic punishments meted out to "the infidels" in the Koran, that the Koran itself is rather incoherent (odd, for a book dictated by God, eh?), that any claims in the Koran to any more liberal attitude may well refer to theological controversies within the umma, or the possibility that Mohammed changed his mind, and that the hadith, which he considers "earthly," are necessary for an understanding of the Koran.

In any case any Muslim should be free to leave at any time he wants, and the question of whether Mohammed would have been magnanimous enough to give him permission is irrelevant. This is a matter of natural human rights, not how "liberal" a dark age theocrat might have been.

No moderate Muslim I've ever read dares take this issue head on, for fear of denying that God gave Mohammed orders to conquer Christians and Jews in the first place. Which would, of course, deny the validity of the Koran.

Irshad Manji's "The Trouble with IslamT gives a pretty good view of what genuinely moderate Muslims are thinking -- even though I have some disagreements with her, too -- and she's just been declared an apostate.

Or better yet, if you're an infidel, read "Why I Am Not a Muslim," by Ibn Warraq, or, if you're a moderate Muslim who's starting to get squeamish, read "Infidel," by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Both are also under death sentences.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 23, 2014 7:54:48 AM PDT
Philip Power says:

The unedited full-text of the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia
Palestinian geographer; born at Flosz, Bavaria, Oct. 22, 1804; died at Jerusalem
Feb. 5, 1865. When he was seventeen years old he graduated as teacher
from the Königliches Schullehrerseminar of Colberg, after which he joined his brother Israel at the University of Würzburg, where for five years he devoted himself to the history and geography of the Holy Land, and published a map of Palestine (1829; republished at Vienna, 1831, and Triest, 1832). It was his ardent desire, however, to study in Palestine itself the physical history and geography of the Holy Land, where his knowledge of Talmudic sources and early Jewish writers would be of more service. Accordingly he decided to settle in Jerusalem, whither he went in 1833. Schwarz then began a series of journeys and explorations in various parts of Palestine, to which he devoted about fifteen years.
The results of his investigations and researches into the history, geography, geology, fauna, and flora of that country have placed him in the front rank of Palestinian explorers and geographers. HE IS THE GREATEST JEWISH AUTHORITY ON PALESTINIAN MATTERS SINCE ESTORI FARHI (1282-1357), the author of "Kaftor wa-Feraḥ."

(Be sure to Google this article)
614-1096 C.E.
From the Accession of the Mahomedans to that of the Europeans.

By Rabbi Joseph Schwarz, 1850


Rabbi Shallum, son of the then Resh Gelutha, in Babel, aka Abu Bachr al Chaliva al Zadik, Abu Bakr, the first Caliph, was in fact: [A JEWISH RABBI] Rabbi Shallum, son of the then Resh Gelutha, in Babel, perceiving this dreadful predicament, went to Mahomed, and offering him his submission, friendship, and services, endeavoured to enter with him into a friendly compact. Mahomed accepted his proposition with pleasure, conceived a great affection for him, and took his daughter, a handsome young girl (A 6 YEAR OLD CHILD), for wife; he made him also a general in his army, and gave him the name of Abu Bachr al Chaliva al Zadik, literally:

The father of the maiden, the descendant of the righteous; this means, that of all his wives, who were either widows or divorced women, this one was the only one who had never been married before, and then she was the granddaughter of the celebrated chief of the captivity; therefore, the descendant of the righteous. This occurrence induced Mahomed to give up his terrible intention to destroy the Jews in his country, and thus did Rabbi Shallum save his people.


[Why Muhammad hated alcohol]

Abu Bachr and Aliman now resolved among themselves to remove the dangerous enemy of the Jews, Bucheran. One evening Mahomed, Bucheran, Aliman, and Abu Bachr, were drinking together; the latter two soon saw that Mahomed and the astrologer were strongly intoxicated, and lay stretched out in a deep and profound sleep. Abu Bachr thereupon drew the sword of Mahomed from its scabbard, cut off therewith Bucharan's head, and put the bloody sword back into its receptacle, and both then lay themselves down quietly near Mahomed to sleep. When Mahomed awoke and saw his friend lying decapitated near him, he cried out in a fury: "This terrible deed has been done by one of us three in our drunkenness!" Abu Bachr thereupon said quite unconcernedly: "Let each one draw his sword, and he whose weapon is stained with blood, must needs be the murderer!" They all drew their swords, and that of Mahomed was completely dyed with fresh blood, which proved thus clearly to his satisfaction that he had murdered his friend. He was greatly grieved at this discovery; cursed and condemned the wine which was the cause of this murder, and swore that he never would drink any more, and that also no one should do so who wishes to enter heaven. This is the cause why wine is prohibited to the Mahomedans.

At a later period, Mahomed learned the whole transaction, and that his father-in-law was the perpetrator of the bloody deed; wherefore, he lost his favour, and he would not permit him to come before him. Abu Bachr went thereupon and conquered sixty places, which had not yet submitted to Mahomed, and presented them to him, through which means he became again reconciled to him, was received in favour, and remained thereafter at court.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 9, 2015 4:30:24 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 10, 2015 4:25:59 AM PDT
Riaz Syed says:
I am a Muslim.
I'll take this issue ( APOSTASY ) head on and answer straight to the point.
A lot of people who write against the Quran are not students of the Quran - they take verses out of context for their purpose.
I am a student of the Quran.

First of all the word Muslim means "submitting your will to God".
Since it is the conscious will that is submitted, there is no ( can't be according to definition of the word Muslim ) force.

The HADITH are man made and therefore have some nonsense in them.
The crazy laws of Apostasy are from there.
Not the Quran.
If you disagree, please quote the verse from the Quran on Apostasy.
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