A wider range of viewpoints might have made this discussion even more valuable, but readers with a knee-jerk opinion of...

ISLAM AND THE FUTURE OF TOLERANCE

A DIALOGUE

Can an American atheist who has said that “the West is at war with Islam” and a secular, former Islamist Muslim find common ground?

This book is written as a “dialogue” rather than a debate between the bestselling Harris (Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion, 2015, etc.) and the activist author Nawaz (Radical: My Journey Out of Islamist Extremism, 2013, etc.), who went from imprisonment for his extremist recruiting to co-founding and directing the London-based Quilliam, “the world’s first counter-extremism organization.” The exchange is civil and marked by mutual respect, more informative (particularly from the latter) than argumentative. The two agree on far more than they don’t, seeing pluralism and secularism as the paths to tolerance and condemning “liberal apologists [who equate] any criticism of Islamic doctrines with bigotry, ‘Islamophobia’ or even ‘racism.’ ” Those are the words of Harris, frequently tagged as such for his criticisms of Islamic violence. Nawaz calls such apologists “regressive leftists” and “reverse racists.” The primary illumination of the exchanges in the book are Nawaz’s clarifications for those who—like Harris, perhaps—tend to paint Islam with too broad a brush, to see the religion as monolithic and bent on war against Western values. “Islam is just a religion,” he explains. “Islamism is the ideology that seeks to impose any version of Islam over society. Islamism is, therefore, theocratic extremism. Jihadism is the use of force to spread Islamism.” He further explains how conservative Muslims may in fact be anti-jihadis while still opposing the liberal freedom of the secular West and how al-Qaida was the result of Islamic extremism, not the cause. Even when Harris offers a surprising semidefense of the Crusades, Nawaz refuses to take the bait, seeming more concerned with promoting understanding than winning points.

A wider range of viewpoints might have made this discussion even more valuable, but readers with a knee-jerk opinion of Islam will learn a lot.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-674-08870-2

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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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

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THE MYTH OF SISYPHUS

AND OTHER ESSAYS

This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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