Mary Anne's Reviews > Great World Religions: Islam

Great World Religions by John L. Esposito
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review

it was amazing
bookshelves: audio-book, library, non-fiction, spirituality

Of late I've been interested in learning more about other religions, and particularly Islam, because I know so little about them. (Indeed, I could stand to learn a little more about Christianity as well.) I was pleasantly surprised to find this at my library.

I knew very little about Islam before starting this series, and I found the audio files to be extremely engaging and enlightening. As I sometimes do with non-fiction audio books, I occasionally zoned out while driving, but for the most part this collection kept me attentive and curious. The lectures address a lot of key topics that are seemingly popular/taboo/specific to Islam, but the professor addresses them in a really interesting way. A lot of these issues are not specific just to Islam. Indeed, there are many connections to Judaism and Christianity, but people often treat Islam as the culture of difference. I remember learning about Islam at the same time as I learned about Buddhism, Hinduism, etc., and the author calls attention to this. Indeed, we know so little of Islam, and it almost never came up until terrorist attacks and, of course, September 11th, 2001. The suspicion of Islam and Muslims because of the actions of extremist terrorists (or fundamental extremists, but the author defines and describes the difference between fundamentalists and fundamental extremist terrorists) is easy to see. We hardly ever talk about Christian extremists or Jewish extremists, but we all know they exist.

The fact is that Islam is a multidimensional religion, and a Western religion at that. I'm eager to read more about Islam and Muslim culture. This lecture series is very good and ranges across the five pillars of Islam to the history and role of the prophet Mohammad, the true meaning of jihad women in changing Islam (another fascinating lecture), and the future of Islam.

This is just a few of the quotations I want to keep on hand, and they occur in Lecture 11: Islam in the West:

"The problems the growing Muslim community faces in the United States start with the fact that only a few decades ago, Muslims were mostly invisible in the West. Their visibility then emerged by association with the 'militant' Nation of Islam or conflicts (Iranian Revolution, hijackings, hostage taking, and acts of terror in the Middle East and South Asia). Some saw these events as signs of an Islamic threat or a clash of civilizations, Islam versus the West. America's relationship with Muslims was seen in a context of conflict and confrontation. Lime many other immigrants of diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds, Muslims have been challenged to define their place in American and European society. Like Jewish law for Jews, Islamic law is central to a Muslim's life, covering religious requirements, dietary regulations, and family law. Ironically, many of the minorities who preceded them and 'made it in America' do not identify with Muslims and fail to see the similarities between their own past and Muslims' current problems. Often, Muslims fall outside the circle of American pluralism. However, different previous religious and ethnic minorities, the vast majority were Judeo-Christian. Most regard Islam as foreign. Few think of it as an Abrahamic religion, part of a Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition. In the absence of this knowledge and awareness, Islam is often seen through explosive 'headline events,' and thus, the hatred and violence of a minority of religious extremists obscure the faith of the mainstream majority."

"Despite problems, however, Muslims, long regarded as 'other,' are now part of the fabric of our society, as neighbors, coworkers, citizens, and believers. Muslims have increasingly become more integrated into the American political process, both as individuals and organizationally."

"Living as a minority in a dominant culture that is often ignorant about Islam, or even hostile to it, many Muslims experience a sense of marginalization, alienation, and powerlessness. Muslim experiences in Europe and America have been affected significantly by the actions of militants, especially since September 11, 2001, as well as by domestic issues. In France, Islamic terrorism has also led to doubts about Islam's compatibility with French culture and concerns that French Muslims could ever be loyal citizens. One of the most serious effects has been the increasing concern over the erosion of civil liberties for Muslim Americans."

"All are challenged to move beyond stereotypes and established patterns of behavior to a more inclusive and pluralistic vision informed by a multidimensional dialogue, to build a future based on mutual understanding and respect."

And from Lecture 12: The Future of Islam
"At the end of the 20th century, the future of Islam in the 21st century held the hope of a new millennium of globalization and opportunity. For many Muslims, there were dreams of peace in Palestine, increased democratization and greater freedom in Muslim countries, and the growth and empowerment of Muslims in American and Europe, where Islam had emerged as a major religious presence. However, the lives, expectations, and dreams of many were shattered with the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. These attacks reinforced the voices of a clash of civilizations between people with diametrically opposed principles, values, and interests. Within a matter of hours, a handful of terrorists transformed the 21st century from a century of great expectations to a world dominated by an American-led war against global terrorism. It reinforced the image of Islam and Muslims as a religion and a people to be feared and fought. Historically, religion has been and continues to be used and misused. Although religion is a source of transcendence it as also had its dark side. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, all of which teach peace, the value of human life, morals, and accountability, have been used to legitimate holy wars and the slaughter of innocent people, past and present."
3 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Great World Religions.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

June 23, 2012 – Shelved
June 23, 2012 – Shelved as: audio-book
June 23, 2012 – Shelved as: library
June 23, 2012 – Shelved as: non-fiction
June 23, 2012 – Shelved as: spirituality
June 27, 2012 – Started Reading
June 27, 2012 –
June 28, 2012 –
June 30, 2012 –
80.0% "So glad I'm reading this."
July 3, 2012 – Finished Reading

No comments have been added yet.