A copy of this tome is here. The basic thesis is that 9/11 was a complete surprise to American journalists, and they found themselves knowing nothing about Islam. Where were they educated??? Thus, a group of journalists and academics decided to put together a guide book explaining all about Islam. Many claim to have gotten their opinions from having been there witnessing events unfold. Obviously, only journalists and academics who say the correct things have ever been exposed to Islam. After going through a third of the book, it appears to largely track the conventional ivory tower story that pre-dated 9/11. Here are a few gems:
"ONE of the questions that academic specialists of Islam have long explored is: inasmuch as Islam spread over such a vast linguistic and cultural expanse, what held the community of Muslims together? After all, Islam has no pope, and it lacks the centralized ecclesiastical structure (a “church”) that undergirded religious organization in Western and Eastern Christianity. Even with its centralized church structure, Christianity experienced schisms far more regularly than did Islam."
T.E. Lawrence's (yes an exposed academic) comments on the tribal animosity he witnessed should be highlighted here. This isn't any less abated today, and has led to the catastrophe of the "Arab Spring", which the authors ignore. There is much, much more that can be said here, but I will need to stop.
"Women also played a central role in Iran’s Islamic revolution in 1979, as well as the green movement pressing for reform in Iran today. Religious conservatives in many countries sometimes condemn women’s activism as un-Islamic."
Yes, but they were enjoying a last hurrah as they overthrew the Shah, who permitted them to enjoy life.
I will pass over the ignorance about an Islamic Golden Age, since this ignorance has been addressed in many other places.
"POLITICAL Islam is a set of political movements, founded in the 1920s, that seek to establish an Islamic state."
Yes, but let's not forget the context: The centuries old Turkish Empire was destroyed, and the West's enthusiasm for colonialism was on the wane. Thus, this was the first opportunity for any ideology to stake a claim in several centuries. What pops up first?
"ISLAM is a “revealed” religion, in the tradition of the biblical prophets. Muslims believe that the Qur’an was transmitted to the Prophet Mohammed by the Angel Gabriel during meditation sessions in a cave outside Mecca in what is now Saudi Arabia."
Um, no. It is not in the tradition of Biblical prophets, because the word of God came directly to Biblical prophets without an angelic intermediary. Angels were sent to ordinary people at times, but this is to announce what God is doing or to explain a vision. According to the Biblical standards, Muhammed was not a prophet.
"Qur’an literally means “The Work.” It represents the words of Allah as revealed to Mohammed. This is an important distinction from the Bible, which is a gathering of accounts of events. The Qur’an is said to be God’s own words, not the teaching of the Angel Gabriel or Mohammed."
When the authors of this book are done, I recommend that they spend some time and try to learn something correct about the Bible, classical Judaism, and Christianity.
"ISLAM has existed in America since the early days of the colonies. Some evidence suggests that Christopher Columbus was able to make his famous voyage to the U.S. with the help of Muslim navigators. It has been suggested that Muslims had actually arrived in the Americas before Columbus."
I suppose this comes from Washington Irving's secret notes used to prepare his story of Christopher Columbus.
"AS a number of studies have shown, Muslims in the U.S. are no different from any other religious group."
As everyone knows, all religions are alike. They are social institutions, but don't actually believe anything. Or at least they don't believe anything that isn't so utterly overwhelmed by other factors of society and life as to become totally meaningless.
"Fundamentalism. This term comes from an analogy with Christian Fundamentalism, a theological movement that also became widespread in the 1920s. Christian Fundamentalism treats the religion’s holy book as literal revelation; by this criterion, almost all Muslims qualify as fundamentalists, not just supporters of “Political Islam.” In recent years, however, some supporters of “Political Islam” have adopted an Arabic translation of the term “fundamentalism,” Usuliyya, from the word “usul” (foundations or fundamentals)."
This is about as good of a definition of Christian Fundamentalism as a modernist would be capable of, although I should emphasize that Fundamentalists take their scriptures seriously, which is more accurately what distinguishes them from non-Fundamentalists. Of course this begs the question of why there are so many groups calling themselves Christians who reject the Bible, yet claim to honor it nonetheless? And what would reality look like if religions actually did have distinct fundamentals?
"So-called “honor killings” have no basis in Islamic law, but are customary practices of patriarchal societies with a high sensitivity to shame. In effect, “honor killings” are much like the “unwritten law” that for years permitted Texas husbands to shoot adulterous wives and their lovers."
So am I supposed to deduce that Texas is like Islam? Or Islam is like Texas. And when was the last time that a Texas mob rioted and burned down a non-Texan neighborhood over an adulterous wife? And is there no moral distinction between an adulterous wife/husband compared to Romeo and Juliet?
"Existing religious groups (first Jews and Christians, and later Zoroastrians, Hindus, and others) were given the legitimate status of “people of the book.” This recognition stands in contrast to the lack of any legal protection for non-Christian minorities (in particular, Jews) in Europe before the French Revolution."
Ah, the glorious French Revolution. I am not a fan of government imposed sectarian warfare, but should we really rejoice that this was replaced by government imposed class warfare? And what about the all powerful government that sees all sectarianism as pointless given the reality of the totalitarian state? Then there are fundamental differences in the rule of law of Western countries as compared to Eastern countries.
The introduction to this text talks about Edward Murrow, and lauds him as the patron saint of journalism. More accurately, he is the patron saint of "drive-by" journalism, not legitimate journalism. I cannot fault the authors for failing to uphold the standards of their patron saint.