Monday, July 19, 2010

Booknote: Warrant for Terror

This is the review as I posted it on my GoodReads profile. I did find myself making a few more notes and comments about the book as I read it, which I jotted down in my personal journal but did not include in the review. As I said in the review, I think a lot of people need to be reading this book. The book is well-documented in terms of footnotes (many of the fatwas that the author is analyzing can be found online. In fact, the Internet has been a boon to radicals since they can now get fatwas that legalize their actions, so to speak, online), and it also has a bibliography for further reading.

Warrant for Terror: The Fatwas of Radical Islam and the Duty to JihadWarrant for Terror: The Fatwas of Radical Islam and the Duty to Jihad by Shmuel Bar

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book's conclusion is basically something I have been saying for a while: until the moderates in the religion (Islam in this case, but a lot of what is in the book could apply to a lot of Christians in the U.S.) not only condemn, but flat out reject, denounce, and kick out of their groups the radical elements, things are not going to change. Pure and simple. A lot of radical extremism in religion thrives because of the silent majority that either says nothing (because they do not want to create dissension within the religion) or approves tacitly of what the radicals do in the first place.

I gave the book three stars, but it is not because it is a bad book. It is not a riveting book, but it is an important book that more people should be reading. Personally, I read it to further my understanding of Islam, the Islamist movement, and so on. The book works in that regard. The book looks at fatwas in Islam and the role of those documents in promoting and encouraging terrorism using Islam as the basis for said terrorism. In the end, if those who claim to be pious and decent (I am sure there are some of those folk out there) do not act, then they are as bad as the extremists. Read this book to understand how they think. To understand what motivates them. But not all may be hopeless. There is a small minority trying to use fatwas as a tool to condemn terrorism. True, they have not entered the Islamic mainstream (Islam is extremely resistant to any kind of change from within, another reason that allows terrorists to thrive), but those trying to change may be the only real way to defeat the radicals.

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Other notes I made, not included in the review:

  • Up front, I already see the problem with the religion's embrace of Islamic Law (shari'ah), which clearly does not make the concept of the separation of church and state possible. Not to mention it severely curtails individual privacy and liberty. The author writes:
". . .in practice, Islamic law tends to view the entire scope of human behavior--private and public, morality and immorality--as matters to be regulated by the precepts of shari'ah. . . ." (1-2).

  • In regards to the quote above, the last thing I want is a religion (any religion) trying to regulate my private life for openers, or impose itself on society. Yet if we look at it more broadly, we see that this aspect of Islam shares an awful lot in common with fundamentalist Christians who also want to impose their will and beliefs on the rest of us. And it seems the tendency is growing given how many so-called moderates fail to denounce the extremists, let alone counter them. It seems that the more I learn about these religions, the more clear it becomes that the extremes are not just the fringe. The extremes are a key part of the religions, and they are irrational and oppressive. As such, they need to be repudiated. If those in the religions who are pious and decent (I know they are out there) do not act, then they are as bad as the extremists. You are one of the decent ones, and you do not like me lumping you with the extremists, too bad. If you are silent, if you tolerate extremism, and do no more than just some token condemnation, you are as bad as they are. Work towards getting those extremists expelled from your religion, excommunicate them, condemn them to hell. If it makes dissension in your religion, so be it. Join the fight and purge the radicals.
  • I think the next quote makes a pretty good example of the arrogance of religion, presuming they are the only valid answer and damn everyone else. Islam and Christianity in particular share that arrogance and clear disregard for others. Bar writes,
"Indeed, Islam, like Christianity, sees itself as destined to be the only faith in the entire world, and can interpret the conversion of others as part of an obligation to implement a manifest destiny. Furthermore, because pagans are doomed to hell, converting them by force is an act of grace, saving them from eternal punishment" (22).

  • And let's not even add the fact that Mormons baptize dead people to covert them after death. Here we have another bit of evidence showing the dangers of religion to reason and decent civilization. They think they can just take over the world. Given that view, what exactly makes them any different than Nazis, Stalinists, Communists and other dictators and oppressors? (If you are planning on flaming me for saying it, don't bother. The evidence is pretty clear, and your sky fairy's book is not going to change it. In fact, your sky fairy's book might give me more ammunition to make the comparison).

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