A provocative and spirited critique of Islam undermined by overstatements.

FIRST COMES THE MOSQUE

A wide-ranging critique examines Islam, its dominance in Iran, and the threat it poses to the world.

Debut author Hassan grew up in Iran in a Shiite family and has experienced what he considers its despotic indoctrination firsthand. The principal point of his intriguing study is that Islam only disingenuously presents itself as a religion in the traditional sense of the word, and is better understood as a “a set of harsh and punitive laws made by Arabs solely to crush others.” Hassan traverses an impressively broad stretch of historical and theological terrain in order to demonstrate this, beginning with the very genesis of the Muslim faith, the life and times of Muhammad, limning his transition from a “street preacher in Mecca to the emperor of the sword.” The author contends that Islam is “inherently violent,” prone to the tyrannical domination of its members from its inception. He argues for more bellicose interpretations of the meanings of Islam—he prefers “surrender” to “peace”—and jihad. Hassan also dissects the catastrophe of the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, and the unfortunate shift from Reza Shah’s modernist reforms to Sharia law’s blinkered prohibitions. The book concludes with a somber warning regarding the imperialist aspirations of Islam, whose advocates wish to export its authoritarian agenda to the Western world: “Once Shari’a, the core of Arab totalitarianism, is put into practice in any nation, its rules and regulations bind that nation to a caliphate system of government that takes away individual freedom and independence and replaces it with a powerful and often tyrannical Arab cleric as ‘caliph for all.’ ” Hassan’s command of the historical and theological materials is notable; his nuanced disentanglement of the Shiite and Sunni Muslim traditions is especially illuminating. In addition, he’s finely attuned to religious hypocrisy, the ostentatious expression of virtue that conceals the practice of vice. The author meticulously exposes the duplicity of the corrupt ruling clerical class in Iran. For example, he destroys the view some have of Mohammad Khatami as a “liberal-minded reformist,” making a persuasive case for his “political belligerence.” But the author too frequently indulges in unrestrained rhetorical hyperbole so intemperate it undercuts his claim to a “rigorous tone and pragmatic style.” For example, surely this is an overstatement: “The world acknowledges that it is next to impossible for a writer or historian to tell the truth in the Islamic world and not literally lose his or her life.” Even the use of “literally” is overkill. Often, the adjective-laden descriptions he employs seethe with anger—he refers to Khatami’s “undefinable barbaric tribal capacity for murder.” Despite the book’s many virtues, it often reads like a rant screamed at readers, which is neither a pleasant nor confidence-inspiring experience; fury and lucidity are rarely fellow travelers. 

A provocative and spirited critique of Islam undermined by overstatements.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 241

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

Did you like this book?

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

Did you like this book?

more