A human rights lawyer scours the global hotspots for stories of Muslim push back to fundamentalism.
Fired with a sense of outrage, Bennoune (Law/Univ. of California, Davis) applies the lessons she learned from her professor and activist father, Mahfoud Bennoune—put on the “kill list” by fundamentalist extremists in Algeria in the early 1990s—in meeting the challenge of today’s fundamentalists. Muslim fundamentalism—which the author defines carefully as an extreme-right movement that achieves political aims by manipulating religion, embracing absolutism, limiting women’s rights and other human rights, denouncing secularism and advocating the imposition of narrowly defined Sharia—actually perpetuates much more violence against Muslims than against Westerners. The fallacy entertained by the Western left, such as her former employer she takes to task, Amnesty International, is that some forms of Islamic fundamentalism can be moderate or appear palatable (skillful as such groups are in “double discourse”), such as the freshly washed face of the Islamic Brotherhood. This is mostly due to the fact that the West desperately needs to believe “someone has to control those Muslims.” However, Bennoune is uncompromising in presenting tales from the trenches of the terror imposed by these ideologically driven governments: arts groups for children in Lahore, Pakistan, targeted for bombing since music was declared haram (shameful); cinemas burned in Herat, Afghanistan; women stoned in Nigeria; polygamy encouraged by Hamas and on the rise in Gaza; journalists killed for speaking out from Algeria to Pakistan. Yet the author’s account brings to light the courageous few who do stand up at the peril of losing their lives—e.g., many women who have had enlightened fathers who supported their education, like the author.
Bennoune, and those she profiles, bravely meets the tide of extremism with a sense of shared community and nonviolent purpose.