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Islam and Terrorism

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Success Stories

by Anwar Shaikh

ISBN 0 9536683 7 1
Principality Publishers, 2004
326pp, paperback
Retail price 15/$30

Anwar Shaikh is a courageous man, and his courage is equalled by that of his publishing company. Their crusade (if I can use such a word) clearly stems from a deeply-rooted belief in the justice of their argument. So certain are they of their ground that they are prepared to make themselves a target for the kind of outcry that is bound to result when Moslems read this book. Having said that, I seriously doubt whether any follower of Islam would be tempted to read it, or even whether they would pick it up after seeing the cover. Nevertheless, they are almost obliged to be offended by it.

Fortunately, as a reviewer, I am under no obligation to judge Mr Shaikh’s work on the strength or rightness of his argument, only on his ability to put it across effectively. In this he does not entirely succeed. There is no question that his knowledge of the Koran and other Islamic writings is encyclopaedic. From the very first page, he brings forth quotation after quotation to support his point. As an explanation of some of the basic tenets of Islam, this is a very good introduction.

Speaking as a Christian, however, I find it easy to put myself into the position of a Moslem reader. Mr Shaikh’s arguments against the truth of Islam are the very same arguments that are so often raised against belief in Christianity, and I could certainly produce Biblical quotations with a similar thrust to those he finds so unacceptable in the Koran. To put it in a nutshell, Mr Shaikh’s quarrel is not really with Islam, but with all religions. He has a right to hold this viewpoint. What doesn’t seem to have occurred to him (or maybe it has, and he is simply hoping for the best) is that, for every quotation he can supply in support of his argument, his opponents can produce another making the opposite point. You can "prove" almost anything with words, and in the end the believer can always resort to pointing out that the holy scripture is merely man’s interpretation of God’s word. Sometimes, inevitably, man gets it wrong.

It did surprise me a little that the author is prepared to be so tolerant towards Christianity that he criticises the attitude and the politically correct actions of Birmingham Council, for example, as being "derogatory to the Christian culture" which, he implies, is or should be prevalent in British society. In this way he hopes to rally Christians to his cause, and no doubt many readers born in the UK will be only too ready to be convinced that Islam is the source of all the trouble in the world today. This is a dangerous path to take. Opposing evil with intolerance can achieve nothing, and pandering to the worst instincts of tenth-generation British nationals will not, in the end, do much to dissipate the climate of violence we now find ourselves in.

Personally, I would like to see a different kind of book from Anwar Shaikh: a book that seeks to bridge the gap between the Moslem and the Christian by pointing out their similarities rather than their differences. But it is not for the reviewer to dictate an alternative course to a writer who, presumably, feels so strongly about the subject that he is motivated to write a book like this. Those who want to reinforce the prejudices they already hold will think this a fine work. Those who want to keep an open mind are not likely to be convinced.

Open Book

Review by Deborah Fisher