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God Has Ninety-Nine Names: A Reporter's Journey Through a Militant Middle East Hardcover – May, 1996
The Amazon Book Review
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A comprehensive survey of militant Islam, or Islamism, from Judith Miller, former bureau chief for The New York Times in Cairo. She covers eight Arab countries, plus Iran and Israel, in providing a complete, if bleak, picture for Western readers: from poverty-stricken Egypt to rich Saudi Arabia, she believes Islamists are threatening Middle Eastern stability. Whether floundering under incompetent government, corruption, and repression, or, as in the case of Jordan, too dependent on one ruler, the states close to the West are weak, and vulnerable to a movement that promises social justice and moral righteousness. Miller is forthright in her condemnation of the intolerance and sexism of Islamic movements she sees as largely antithetical to Western democracy. A provocative and daring book.
From Publishers Weekly
Indispensable for Middle East watchers, Miller's eye-opening, firsthand report begins in Sudan in 1985 with the jubilant public execution of Mahmoud Taha, founder of a nonviolent Islamic reformist group. His conviction for sedition and heresy by a militant Muslim regime that commits appalling crimes, she observes, should serve as a warning to other Middle Eastern states tempted to institute theocratic rule. In virtually every country she visited-Egypt, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc.-Miller, New York Times correspondent and former Cairo bureau chief, found that the appeal of fundamentalist, militant Islam was growing, though it was often brutally suppressed, as in Algeria, where a war raging between the secular government and armed Islamic radicals has claimed an estimated 40,000 lives. In Israel in 1993, she interviewed a terrorist of the Muslim group Hamas and met with members of the largely nonviolent Islamic movement, which was increasingly divided over whether Arabs should integrate into Israeli society or pursue cultural and institutional separatism. Her trenchant observations on Libya, Lebanon, Jordan and Iran round out a compelling odyssey.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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She completely fails when she believes she must choose between the truth and her loyalty for Israel.
Like many blind supporters of Israel, she seems to feel that creating a bias against Islam and Muslims while creating a good impression of Israel is good policy even if truth has to be sacrificed. If one can keep this in mind and carefully study what she says when discussing Islam, it is possible to learn a lot about the different Middle Eastern countries from her...even about Israel.
Miller's book covers Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Algeria, Libya, Lebanon, Syria, Israel and Iran. By and large, I found her details for each country to be very illuminating.
She lost her credibility about her knowledge of Islam right at the start when she begins with an overview of Islam by referring to the Prophet Mohammed as "the founder of the religion" on page 88. Muslims believe Islam was revealed by God to the Prophet Mohammed therefore, he was the Messenger of God through whom Islam was revealed to Humanity...GOD is the founder of the faith. On the next page she states Muslims have a duty of "Holy War or Jihad", completely overlooking the real definitions for Jihad in her promotion of bias and misinformation about Islam.
On page 91, she launches into that much-related and always wrong story about the "massacre of the Jews of Beni Qurayzah" in Medina. Her story is entirely fanciful and looks like a regurgitation of the story helpfully provided by others who also would like to create misinformation about Islam. Some of her "details" are entirely contrived; she skips over the immediate background of the Battle of the Trenches in which the entire Muslim population was in danger of being wiped off the pages of history. Miller does not relate the fact that after the siege was over the Prophet Mohamed and his followers besieged the Beni Qurayzah because that Jewish tribe had plotted an internal attack on the Muslims in Medina in coordination with the invaders. She misses the details that when the Beni Qurayzah surrendered, the Prophet Mohammed allowed the tribe to select a judge of their own choosing (they chose one who they thought was a friend) when actually, the tribe could have been annihilated without any trial and nobody would have complained. When the judge found then guilty, the Beni Qurayzah were given the punishment that was normal for the period and that was execution of all adult males. Miller also did not mention that after this event, there were still some Jewish tribes that remained in Medina and continued to coexist peacefully with the Muslims. She also did not mention the prior two times when two other Jewish tribes tried to plot the annihilation of the Muslims (Beni Nadir and Beni Qaynukah). The first tribe was allowed to leave Medina with all their belongings and they headed North towards Jerusalem. The second was allowed to leave but without their belongings and they went straight out and joined the ranks of the opposing armies... a point not lost on the Muslims who were living in daily danger to their existence.
Normally, when one notes the "massacre of the Jews of Beni Qurayzah" it would be very useful to place it in context so readers may see the event for what it was instead of a passing of judgment on Muslims and the Prophet Mohammed but I have never seen an even-handed treatment of that event; probably because it would not be helpful in the agenda to skewer Muslims.
I also find it intriguing that so many Jewish and Christian writers seem to focus on "murder" by Muslims in order to prove how bloodthirsty Islam and the Prophet Mohammed were, but completely omit the details of entire communities (in fact the whole world...Noah) being wiped out on the orders of the SAME God in the Bible. Once again, I assume objectivity would not be helpful in promoting an anti-Muslim message.
Miller also seems to try hard to pick up on points to show how backward and oppressive Islam is by selecting the strangest of details. For example, she seems to believe that the Quran states that "only a man can decide what sexual positions a woman may submit to"; the choice of words is remarkable and try as I might, I was unable to find such a reference in the Quran.
She was doing fine on her treatment of Lebanon but it appeared that the temptation to become a partisan was too great. She presents Hizbollah as a cowardly but brutal group. She says Hizbollah was fearful of Syria and therefore did things at Syria's bidding but could not explain how Hizbollah managed to oppose Israel which was a MUCH more brutal enemy. She condemned Hizbollah for many things that appeared to be too minor to note but condoned and justified killings by Israel.
In her chapter for Israel, she is clear about her bias in favor of her other country. She is not shy about labeling anti-Israeli activities as "terrorism" and "murder" but (with one exception) never comes close to recognizing the occupation, dispossession and killings of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians at Israel's hands. In her stories, Palestinians were always "killed" by Israelis while Israelis were "murdered" by Palestinians.
To her credit she does note that Palestinians fled the war of 1947-49 and were then prevented form returning by the Jews. She does state that "increasingly, historical record shows that 600,000-760,000 Palestinians were dispossessed" by the Jews.
She notes that Israeli Arabs were under Military rule until 1966 and permission to go for Haj was allowed only to a few.
Her (final) chapter on Iran was good but she could not resist blaming Iran for doing nothing to protect Iraqi Shias. She offers no suggestion as to how Iran could have protected the Shias when the US was sitting in occupation of Northern Iraq, watching every move Iran made. In fact, she makes no mention of the fact that the slaughter of the Iraqi Shias took place while the US watched without doing anything at all...after Bush Senior told the Shias to rise up against Saddam and the US would help them if they did so.
All in all, I would say the book is well worth reading if one can set aside the few (though major) biases presented against Islam.
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