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WHY DO THEY HATE US?

MAKING PEACE WITH THE MUSLIM WORLD

A clear, concise, and thoughtful introduction to Islam.

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  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

An exploration of Islamic beliefs and history that aims to challenge American Islamophobia.

Debut author Slocum, a former Christian missionary to Kazakhstan, writes that he was horrified at ignorant depictions of Muslims in American media after the 9/11 attacks. During his years as a missionary, he “never changed anyone’s mind to become a believer in the Bible,” he says, but his newfound Muslim friends left an indelible mark on his own life—particularly, the fact that their culture prized hospitality toward strangers. The book begins by subverting popular American conceptions of Sharia law by rooting it in social justice, centered on protecting the poor and weak. Similarly, Islam’s “greater jihad,” he says, is not a literal holy war (a term first coined by Christian Crusaders) but rather “the internal struggle of living a life that is pleasing to God.” The book’s middle chapters offer a survey of Islamic history from Muhammad through the present day, highlighting both the wonders of the Islamic Golden Age and the horrors of European colonialism. To Slocum, the birth of the “dark blight” of Wahhabism in the 18th century marked a decisive turning point. Although the moderate Muslim majority rejected this absolutist ideology, he says, it gained traction in Saudi Arabia at the same approximate time that the West undergirded a Saudi monarchy linked with Wahhabism. Central to the book’s analysis of radical Islam is the notion that it’s a force of the West’s own making, from their support of the mujahedeen in Afghanistan to their installation of a brutal monarch in Iran. In doing so, Slocum is particularly deft at challenging the tropes that Islamic radicals hate American freedom or that Islam is an inherently violent religion. Although many in the West tend to associate Islam with Arabs, this book highlights not only the faith’s ideological diversity, from Sunnis to Shias to Ahmadis, but also Muslims’ ethnic diversity; only about 10% of the world’s Muslims hail from Arabic nations. Of course, none of this will be new to Islamic scholars or historians of the Middle East, but to many Americans who are unfamiliar with the topic, this is a first-rate primer.

A clear, concise, and thoughtful introduction to Islam.

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9986838-6-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Top Reads Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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

THE ART OF SOLITUDE

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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