Whenever I stop reading a book before it’s finished, I always think of Alice in Wonderland when the Mad Hatter yells, “Clean cup! Move down!” in the middle of the tea party.
I’ve put aside the book “What is Islam?” by Shahab Ahmed. I’ve only read about half way through and I’ve got some good insight from the first half, but it’s just too academic for me right now. I have no other experience with Islam besides this book and what I’ve heard. I need something more basic to get a better understanding of what he’s talking about. 90% of the book is going right over my head.
What I did get was pretty interesting. He says he is trying to reconcile inconsistencies in what we perceive as “Islamic” in the world, things like Islamic art, the drinking of wine by some, and other things.
Here are some things I found interesting. “There are at least three hundred ethnic groups in the world today whose populations are wholly or partly Muslim.” Islam has been practiced differently across time and cultures, much like Christianity. I didn’t know there were sects of Islam like denominations of Christians. I learned that there are Islam philosophers. I learned that before the Western Enlightenment period, we didn’t separate religion and secular as we do today and that the Islamic world doesn’t separate it at all like we do. If we describe their practices in our terms, it doesn’t make sense. I couldn’t tell if the author is a Muslim in the sense that Middle Eastern people are. I didn’t read into the authors background at all. Are Western Muslims different than Eastern ones? Are Muslims in our country different than the ones over there? Would devout Eastern Muslim’s roll their eyes at this explanation as a Born Again Christian would at someone’s explanation of the Bible? And then there is this quote, “if we set upon our noses the conceptual premise that Islam is a complex cultural synthesis “like Christianity”, then we are peering forth dimly through the wrong glass.” Can I ever really understand Islam? Or can I learn enough to not be afraid of another culture and encourage others to leave them be?
I’m reading this because I want to understand more about what our people seem to be so afraid of. There are few people I’ve met that don’t want to just kill all the Muslims because it would make the world safer. What really bothers me is how many Christians I know that are happy to help the government destroy a group of people. Everyone thinks we are fighting some kind of evil in the middle east, some devil instead of a human group or other government. Do we do that for all our enemies? Why are they the enemy? What makes them so different that we can’t get along? Or is there something else hidden? I’m on the side of the idea of something hidden. I think Islam is just the excuse, the thing that the government is trying to set up as our enemy instead of what is really happening. If THEY told you what they were really fighting over, I believe fewer people would be so gung ho about joining up or sending their children to fight.