A welcome introduction to a faith too little understood by those outside of it.

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THE HOUSE OF ISLAM

A GLOBAL HISTORY

An adherent’s view of Islam, a religion too easily hijacked for ill political purposes.

London-based Husain (The Islamist: Why I Became an Islamic Fundamentalist, What I Saw Inside, and Why I Left, 2009, etc.), a former member of radical Islam who co-founded Quilliam, a counter-extremism think tank in Britain, has lived and studied in Muslim communities in Syria and Saudi Arabia, where he was stunned to meet young people who “actually celebrated the misfortunes of the West.” This book is a response of sorts. The author writes, sometimes insistently, on what Islam is: a religion that recognizes one God and one prophet—along with holy people common to the Judeo-Christian Bible—while prescribing and proscribing many kinds of behaviors in daily life. All but one book of the Quran, he writes, begin with the formula “In the name of God, the most compassionate, the most merciful,” which, he holds, “is intended to reflect in the behavior of the believer.” Shias and Sunnis, he adds, disagree on many things but hold one Quran to be sacred. Husain offers a careful explication of Sharia justice, which, he holds, “is far more complex and constructive than mere binary prohibitions and permissions”; followed in good faith, it is a systematizing program for ethical behavior. Against those who would take the Quran and Sharia to legitimate violence against non-Muslim people, Husain claims that they have no doctrinal justification. He rails against the kind of fundamentalism that allowed Saudi schoolgirls to burn to death in a fire because they were not wearing headscarves and robes, an act, he holds, that means that the first tenet of Sharia, “preservation of life,” had been violated. The author argues that mainstream Islam must isolate and denounce its enemies from within if it is to successfully resist outside accusations that it is inherently a religion of violence and terrorism.

A welcome introduction to a faith too little understood by those outside of it.

Pub Date: July 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63286-639-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

ECONOMIC DIGNITY

Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

FRONT ROW AT THE TRUMP SHOW

The chief White House and Washington correspondent for ABC provides a ringside seat to a disaster-ridden Oval Office.

It is Karl to whom we owe the current popularity of a learned Latin term. Questioning chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, he followed up a perhaps inadvertently honest response on the matter of Ukrainian intervention in the electoral campaign by saying, “What you just described is a quid pro quo.” Mulvaney’s reply: “Get over it.” Karl, who has been covering Trump for decades and knows which buttons to push and which to avoid, is not inclined to get over it: He rightly points out that a reporter today “faces a president who seems to have no appreciation or understanding of the First Amendment and the role of a free press in American democracy.” Yet even against a bellicose, untruthful leader, he adds, the press “is not the opposition party.” The author, who keeps his eye on the subject and not in the mirror, writes of Trump’s ability to stage situations, as when he once called Trump out, at an event, for misrepresenting poll results and Trump waited until the camera was off before exploding, “Fucking nasty guy!”—then finished up the interview as if nothing had happened. Trump and his inner circle are also, by Karl’s account, masters of timing, matching negative news such as the revelation that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election with distractions away from Trump—in this case, by pushing hard on the WikiLeaks emails from the Democratic campaign, news of which arrived at the same time. That isn’t to say that they manage people or the nation well; one of the more damning stories in a book full of them concerns former Homeland Security head Kirstjen Nielsen, cut off at the knees even while trying to do Trump’s bidding.

No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4562-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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