More books to read about Islam
by Marvin Olasky
Posted on Wednesday, May 15, 2013, at 5:28 pm
On Friday, WORLD will publish an article showing how the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is using taxpayer funds to send books promoting Islam to 953 libraries and humanities councils throughout the United States. On Monday we posted a bibliography of 20 books that scholar Daniel Pipes says promote a far more accurate picture of Islam than the NEH’s choices offer. And yesterday we added 11 more book recommendations from author and retired college professor Alvin Schmidt, who said it’s important for the general public, and particularly Christians, to not be misled about the actual teachings of Islam.
In Friday’s article I’ll critique some of the NEH choices and suggest some alternatives, based on my own reading and my experience teaching about Islam at The University of Texas. I’ll note in this post some books I’ve reviewed over the years in WORLD and didn’t have room to write about in the article.
First, three provocative books about Islam’s beginning: The Hidden Origins of Islam: New Research into Its Early History (Prometheus Books, 2009) edited by Karl-Heinz Ohlig and Gerd R. Puin asks whether linguistic analysis supports the Quran’s revelation saga, and whether Islam began as a Christian heresy. Crossroads to Islam: The Origins of the Arab Religion and the Arab States by Yehuda Nevo and Judith Koren (Prometheus Books, 2003) also gives useful insights into Muslim origins. Since hadith—works about how Muhammad supposedly dressed, ate, and so forth—are second in importance only to the Quran within Islam, Ram Swarup’s Understanding the Hadith: The Sacred Traditions of Islam (Prometheus Books, 2002) is significant.
Second, three books from Christian publishers provide important information. Chawkat Moucarry’s The Prophet & the Messiah: An Arab Christian’s Perspective on Islam & Christianity (InterVarsity Press, 2002) goes right at one of Islam’s many weak points: the reliability of the Quran. Given that its earliest known fragments date from the second century of the Islamic era, textual critics would long ago have taken it apart if the Muslim world had any intellectual freedom. The Truth about Islam: The Noble Qur’an’s Teachings in Light of the Holy Bible by Anees Zaka and Diane Coleman (P&R Publishing, 2004) and Rick Richter’s Comparing the Qur’an and the Bible: What They Really Say about Jesus, Jihad, and More (Baker Books, 2011) are also useful. For example, Richter notes that Allah “does not give ‘rebirth.’ Rebirth is not necessary, since human beings are not basically sinful.”
Third, Paul Marshall has written, co-authored, or edited useful books about Islam’s effects, including Radical Islam’s Rules: The Worldwide Spread of Extreme Sharia Law (Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2005), Silenced: How Apostasy & Blasphemy Codes Are Choking Freedom Worldwide with Nina Shea (Oxford University Press USA, 2011), and Islam at the Crossroads: Understanding Its Beliefs, History, and Conflicts with Roberta Green and Lela Gilbert (Baker Books, 2002).
Fourth, Robert Reilly’s The Closing of the Muslim Mind: How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamist Crisis (Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2010) shows that a millennium ago Muslims debated whether minds should be free to explore the world—and freedom lost. The intellectual history Reilly offers helps to explain why Muslim countries fell behind Christian-based ones in scientific inquiry, economic development, and technology. He provides astonishing statistics such as this one: Spain translates more books in a single year than the entire Arab world has in the past 1,000.
Fifth, three books on the interaction of Islam and Christianity, starting with Giles Milton’s Paradise Lost, Smyrna, 1922: The Destruction of a Christian City in the Islamic World (Basic Books, 2008), the gripping tale of ethnic struggle in Turkey that led to the death of 100,000 people of Greek ancestry, with millions left homeless. Eliza Griswold’s The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches from the Fault Line Between Christianity and Islam (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2010) is a ground-level examination of skirmishes in Africa and eastern Asia. Raymond Ibrahim’s Crucified Again (Regnery Publishing, 2013) comes through on the promise of its subtitle: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians.
Sixth, Daniel Pipes’ books, such as Militant Islam Reaches America (W.W. Norton & Company, 2002), are good, as are Robert Spencer’s. I note their work in the article to be published Friday, and also that of Ibn Warraq, who left Islam after coming to believe the Muhammad story was a sham: Warraq’s critiques of the world’s most imperialistic religion, from someone who grew up in it, include Why I Am Not a Muslim and Virgins? What Virgins? And Other Essays (both Prometheus Books, 2003 and 2010, respectively).
Seventh, other good books I’ve read on Islam include Patrick Sookhdeo’s Islam in Our Midst: The Challenge to Our Christian Heritage (Isaac Publishing, 2011), Andrew McCarthy’s The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America (Encounter Books, 2010), Iraqi leader Ali Allawi’s scholarly The Crisis of Islamic Civilization (Yale University Press, 2009), and Amir Taheri’s The Persian Night: Iran under the Khomeinist Revolution (Encounter Books, 2009). David G. Dalin and John F. Rothmann’s Icon of Evil: Hitler’s Mufti and the Rise of Radical Islam (Transaction Publishers, 2008) meticulously documents the career and views of Haj Amin al-Husseini (1895-1974), a Jerusalem Arab leader from the 1920s through mid-century who worked closely with top Nazi leaders and encouraged them to be more efficient in their extermination of Jews.
Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD and dean of World Journalism Institute. He joined WORLD in 1992 and has also been a university professor and provost. He has written more than 20 books, including Reforming Journalism. Marvin resides with his wife, Susan, in Austin, Texas. Follow him on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.