The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim's Call for Reform in Her Faith
by Irshad Manji (My Review, together with Blood Revenge)
“The trouble with Islam” is written in the form of an open letter, which is very easy reading. It throws ideas at you one after another, though sometimes they seem to contradict each other.
Manji’s main argument is that Arabic “foundamentalism” (ie, founding fundamentalism) is responsible for most evils in Islam today. That is, it is not Islam itself which is bad, but rather the Arabian tribal mentality which existed before Islam and had swept throughout the lands conquered by the Arabs.
The Koran is not one-dimensional. When looking at the relationship between men and women and between Muslims and non-Muslims there are verses in the Koran that point towards equality and verses that point towards male and Muslim domination.
Blood Revenge: Family Honor, Mediation and Outcasting
by Joseph Ginat (My Review, together with The Trouble with Islam)
"Blood Revenge", on the other hand, is a learned study. It studies several practices in Arabic society from an anthropological point of view, bringing many case studies. The author brings up several theories which he tries to prove throughout the book.
In his book, Ginat talks about four issues in Arab tribalism – blood revenge, mediation, outcasting and “honor” murder. Mediation and outcasting seem to be of less interest, especially as mediation is a common practice all over the world, and outcasting is basically only relevant when you deal with the issue of blood revenge.
According to Ginat, who brings Koran quotes to prove his point, blood revenge and “honor” murder are not supported by the Koran.
Ginat tries to explain why sometimes a woman is killed for loose sexual acts and sometimes not. His theory is there is one major requirement for ‘honor’ murder: somebody from the ‘injured’ group must come with a public complaint to the woman’s direct relatives. The ‘injured’ group in this case is the family of the woman, as it is their honor that is being tarnished. If the man who had sex with the woman outside marriage will not marry her, the only remaining “action” is to kill her.
As its name implies, the book reviews various political trends or systems in the Arab world. Starting off with nationalism and going through democracy, Islam, socialism, communism, military takeovers and secularism. Each chapter is dedicated to examining one such political trend and its history in the past century. Though I found this helpful in understanding some points, it was also a weakness, as I felt quite confused by the historical timeline. Political ideas develop concurrently, and though Khadduri does refer to other political streams in each chapter, I felt it got lost among everything else.
The book is divided into two parts. The first part gives an analysis of the laws discrimminating the Dhimmi (ie, Jews and Christians) in the Muslim world, as well as the various safeguards, such as consular protection and then the emancipation forced by the European powers that helped them escape their downtrodden condition. Bat Ye'or then moves on to a discussion of how the Muslims view the Dhimmi today, how they use these terms and what has evolved/changed in the past century. So, for example, we see in the recent past the claims that the Muslims are the real Jews (ie, taking away the Dhimmi's very existence in history) and there are similar claims regarding Christianity.
The 2nd part, which is much more extensive (~250 pages), consists of documents from different time periods and different locations throughout the Arab world showing how the Dhimmi were treated. Bat Ye'or brings documents from Muslim jurists, Dhimmi observations of their own situation as well as documents from travellers who passed through Muslim lands and recorded their impressions.
Updated: July 8th, 2006