From Publishers Weekly
To enhance mutual understanding between Jews and Muslims, Firestone, a rabbi and professor of medieval Judaism and Islam at Hebrew Union College, discusses the theological and moral similarities between the religions, underscores the gap between religion and politics, and emphasizes issues of concern to Muslims. He divides his introduction into three parts: a survey of Jewish history from biblical through modern times; God, Torah and Israel; and Jewish practice, including prayer, the calendar and the life cycle. Many of his explanations tiptoe around Arab sensibilities. "In Jewish tradition," he writes, "the term Israel does not refer to a land or a modern nation-state but to a people. The official name of the modern Jewish state is the state of Israel, meaning the state of the people of Israel...." The concept of the chosen people, he notes, was a survival tactic designed to preserve monotheism among idolatrous neighbors, not to promote elitism. Living in Israel is not simply an emotional desire, but a deeply religious and legal issue based on the substantial number of biblical commandments that cannot be fulfilled outside the land. Firestone explains the origins of Zionism, touches on the "vexed question" of who owns the land of Israel and concludes, unsatisfactorily, that the multifaceted conflict between Jew and Muslim is too complicated to discuss in detail here. This circumspect, middle-of-the-road approach presents a sensitive view that tries its best not to offend.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Most American readers will welcome the venture in interreligious dialog undertaken by these two books, copublished with the Harriet and Robert Heilbrunn Institute for International Interreligious Understanding of the American Jewish Committee. Written in a clear manner for a popular audience, both are arranged by key topics that address some of the great controversial issues of our times. Firestone (Jihad: The Origin of Holy War in Islam), a professor and the director of the Graduate School of Jewish Studies, Hebrew Union-College Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles, offers a thoughtful introduction to Jewish religion, history, and thought. He stresses how both Jews and Muslims have greatly benefited from peaceful relationships through the ages. Dur n, the author of five books on Islam and the editor of TransIslam, a journal devoted to an analysis of Islamic developments, has the more difficult task, as few would argue that Islam is viewed in a distorted way by Americans. He presents a critical, historical, and religious overview, devoting much of his book to the tensions and challenges found today, such as how Islam is perceived by different national leaders. He also writes about the role of women, for whom he believes "a change for the better is underway." Even before publication, Dur n's book has raised a firestorm among scholars. Many feel that he does not offer a balanced view of his subject, pointing out, for instance, that Dur n equates fundamentalism with fanaticism. The book does read like a polemic in many ways and is far less suitable as a basic introduction than Firestone's. As a result of the controversy, readers will ask for these books, and Dur n's will certainly stimulate discussion. Ultimately, however, American readers are likely to come away from these books with a more positive view of both religions. Libraries should make sure to consult "Bridging the Gap: Islam in America" (LJ 10/1/98) when building a collection. Paul Kaplan, Lake Villa Dist. Lib., IL
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.