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A Call for Heresy: Why Dissent Is Vital to Islam and America Paperback – March 26, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
The United States and contemporary Islam share far more than partisans on either side admit, Majid provocatively argues, and this “clash of civilizations” is in reality a clash of competing fundamentalisms. Illustrating this point, he draws surprising parallels between the histories and cultures of Islam and the United States and their shortsighted suppression of heresy (zandaqa, in Arabic), from Muslim poets and philosophers like Ibn Rushd (known in the West as Averroës) to the freethinker Thomas Paine, and from Abu Bakr Razi and Al-Farabi to Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. He finds bitter irony in the fact that Islamic culture is now at war with a nation whose ideals are losing ground to the reactionary forces that have long condemned Islam to stagnation.
The solution, Majid concludes, is a long-overdue revival of dissent. Heresy is no longer a contrarian’s luxury, for only through encouraging an engaged and progressive intellectual tradition can the nations reverse their decline and finally work together for global justice and the common good of humanity.
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Top Customer Reviews
Majid believes that the best antidote to fundamentalism in all monotheistic religions: Christianity, Islam and Judaism, is open-minded vigorous dialogue and dissent. Amen !
Hazel Henderson, President of Ethical Markets Media
Ultimately, he sees the slow slide to the institutionalizing of Christianity in politics in the US as destructive of what he sees as the strength of the original idea of the United States. In his view "Freethinking", including heresy and dissent, is what is needed at this time rather than the rigidity of orthodoxy.
Reading at times like a book of quotations from both Islamic and American "freethinkers", he is able to capture the wonder of discourse and point out the ultimate importance of open-mindedness, something that he sees as being lost in this world in which consumption and the accumulation of wealth has become too important and defines the bases for the Islamic condemnation of "modernity". I found the book pastoral, in the sense of one of those wonderfully inspiring Sunday homilies I hear too infrequently today. It is a call to our better selves and the wonder of being free to think and allow our minds to go where our thoughts take us.
The author's comparisons of Christian and Mohammedan fundamentalism are interesting, but he loses me when he approves of Stephen Jay Gould's concept of Non-Overlapping Magisteria, of dividing what we've learned about the physical and biological world in the past few centuries from traditional religious and philosophical ideas and practices. Even the medieval religious heresies the author describes depended on the idea that divine providence imbued humans with transcendently rational minds. But as Freud has pointed out, the human mind is not rational in that way because it evolved from the animal mind, is, in fact, an animal mind. We'll never sort out the vagaries of traditional human behavior unless we begin to approach them through evolutionary and biological perspectives. The author writes admiringly of Thoreau's ethical idealism, for example, but he fails to deal with Thoreau's main concern, the relationship of human and non-human nature.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
1 - The title - A Call for Heresy
Today the Muslim world is in deep turmoil. Islam is in crisis. Terrorism is only one aspect of the crisis. Read more
I am a retired clergyman of the United Methodist Church- 78 years old, with three advanced degrees, and Majid's book, and Karen Armstrong's " A History of God" are the best I have... Read morePublished on June 5, 2010 by Charles Mccullough
Majid's book was required reading in my graduate level class, and we actually had a chance to talk with him over a webcam. Read morePublished on July 9, 2009 by Daniel Hansen
The author's significant thesis tends to get lost due to the author's recurring lack of coherence and focus, leaving the non-specialist reader floundering in the author's heavily... Read morePublished on December 12, 2008 by Shalom Salaam
Hyperlinks and properly formatted Arabic words available from [...]
I first must say that this is the first review I've done of a book by an author who openly questions... Read more