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Why the West is Best: A Muslim Apostate's Defense of Liberal Democracy Hardcover – December 13, 2011

4.6 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Ibn Warraq, Islamic scholar and a leading figure in Koranic criticism, is a visiting fellow at the Center for Law and Counterterrorism, a project of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Warraq's op-ed pieces have appeared in the Wall Street Journal in America and The Guardiann, and he has addressed distinguished governing bodies all over the world, including the United Nations in Geneva, and Members of the Dutch Parliament, at The Hague. Mr. Ibn Warraq completed in 2007, a critical study of the thought of Edward Said, Defending the West, which Paul Berman, author of Terror and Liberalism, described as "a glorious work of scholarship, and it is going to contribute mightily to modernising the way we think about Western civilisation and the rest of the world".
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 286 pages
  • Publisher: Encounter Books; First Printing (Numerals Begin with 1) edition (December 13, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594035768
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594035760
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #722,429 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I am a long-standing fan of Ibn Warraq. I thoroughly enjoyed his ground-breaking book, Why I Am Not a Muslim, and especially liked one of his follow-up books, Virgins? What Virgins?: And Other Essays.

But this may be his best book yet.

I have to say, right off the bat, that it is biased. It seems to have been created as a document to refute anti-American (and anti-Western) leftists. It is quite definitely a reply to the "wets," who can find nothing wrong in the world except for "Western racism, imperialism, and genocide." And Warraq's reply is not antagonistic, in any way. It could be summed up as, "You don't know nothing yet."

The book begins with a surprising, but delightful, hymn to New York City. Warraq has previously written about "how he became an Englishman," but by now he is clearly an Englishman in love with New York. He takes two separate tracks in praising the city: the first is (again, surprisingly) his love affair with Tin Pan Alley and the best of the American musicals, and the second is his visit to a place that might be called "Little India," where every imaginable Indian product is for sale to the crowds which appear every day -- delicious curries and the ingredients which go into them, Indian silks and saris -- and so on: the complete list would consume this entire review!

But Ibn Warraq is most informative on subjects like slavery and imperialism. On slavery, he dispassionately points out the worst offenders in the matter of slavery (the Arabs, and perhaps the Africans themselves) and points out that the end of slavery came from the West.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is hard to know whether it is sad or encouraging that the West now finds its staunchest defenders from the ranks of non-Westerners (Hirshi Ali, Mangalwadi, D'Souza, etc). Although I have been aware of Warraq for quite some time, it was his publication on this topic along with some impressive pre-release interviews that finally pulled me in to reading him. Warraq is truly a leading intellectual with an incredibly broad learning, and that is what his book uniquely contributes. He brings in information about the rest of the world that makes our American perspective look provincial.

The book opens with a long panegyric to New York City, and especially the music spawned there in the early part of the century as an encapsulation of what is great about the West. This part was interesting, but did not accomplish what I think it was intended to -- it came off as more of an excurses at times than it did a metonym. The pay off, however, comes in the second half of the book, when he gets to his home territory. His expose on Islamic slavery is an absolute embarrassment to the Western elite. He brings together material on Islamic and African slavery that is devastating, as it should be common knowledge instead of obscuranta. He then proceeds into self-criticism and religious freedom.

The subtitle is misleading however. This is not a defense of liberal democracy, it is a defense of Western values as a whole and an appeal for us to believe in them again. It's a full frontal assault on multiculturalism and the Marxist historiography that supports it. In particular he recognizes throughout that human rights are unique to the Western tradition and the building block for everything else.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ibn Warraq has written a tremendously well researched and documented book and makes a persuasive case that what we come to think of as "western values" are really universal values that simply put, are principles that work best in terms of guiding human behavior, governing societies, fostering growth of science and the arts, and helping people reach their full potential,

As a person educated in the Eastern US, and an avid reader of the NYT, I have been amazed several times by the historical facts Mr Warraq documents that were heretofore unknown to me. There are very interesting expositions of Islamic, African, Indian, Japanese and Chinese culture and history, that one seldom reads about.

(I choose not to mention them specifically here because I fear this would lead to an endless steam of comments, defenses and accusations.)

I would also recommend this to anyone who has read "Guns Germs and Steel" because Mr Warraq raises some very interesting counterpoints to Mr Diamond's arguments.

This is a very important work which i'm sure will grow to become a best seller. It will open your eyes to much history that has been sanitized, or overlooked by the American educational system and media.

I highly recommend reading this book - although many may find the facts uncomfortable, and its likely to become controversial, its written in a very thoughtful rational tone and merits serious consideration and debate.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Although not strictly speaking a scholarly book (comments about Noam Chomsky and Michael Moore, for example), Warraq does a good job of demonstrating how Western civilization was a positive force rather than the negative one presented in the "received wisdom" gleaned from so many popular books and movies and swallowed whole by a public possessing little if any knowledge of actual history. I had already read his "Defense of the West", a much-needed corrective to the Orientalism of Edward Said. Some of the material in this book seems to have been taken over verbatim from the older one, which was a bit disappointing, but "Why the West is Best" presents his arguments in a more concise way under various chapter headings, thus making information on many points easily accessible; definitely a plus. (Having grown up in New York, I also appreciated his encomium on the Big Apple!)

Unfortunately he's probably preaching to the choir, since in this day and age political correctness precludes open and honest discussion of facts such as the Arab and African role in the slave trade, for example, or the lack of basic freedoms in what the British euphemistically call "Asian" countries. The Western nations have done enough breast-beating and it's about time this stopped; if we denigrate our own history because of ignorance or false information we will never be in a position to defend our culture, which despite its failings, is worthy of defense. Here this book is invaluable, being very readable (I haven't always cared for Warraq's style in some of his past writings) and well-documented, as always.
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