BooksPath Reviews


Religion And Politics In Muslim Society By Akbar S. Ahmed

Posted in Politics by bookspath on March 13, 2007

Religion And Politics In Muslim SocietyThis analysis of Muslim unrest is based on an extended case study of northwestern Pakistan. Professor Ahmed examines power, authority, and religious status as the critical intermediary level of society: that of the district or Agency, which was the key unit of administration in British India. Amhed has joined his insights as anthropologist with his experience as a political agent in Waziristan to produce an innovative and detailed work. The book focuses on the emergence of a mullah in Waziristan who challenges the state. A religious leader’s challenge of the state is not new; but contemporary Muslim society’s widespread concern over these conflicts reveals that the influence of religion in a traditional society undergoing modernization is greater than many scholars have assumed. The author identifies three types of leaders: traditional leaders, usually elders; representatives of the established state authority; and religious functionaries. From this analysis he constructs an ‘Islamic district paradigm,’ which he uses not only in making sense of contemporary Muslim society, but also in understanding some aspects of the legacy of the colonial encounter.

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Rachid Ghannouchi: A Democrat within Islamism (Religion and Global Politics) By Azzam, S. Tamimi

Posted in Politics,Religious by bookspath on March 11, 2007

A Democrat within Islamism (Religion and Global Politics)Review
“The face of nonviolent Islamic democracy has long been associated with the writings of the Tunisian political philosopher and activist Rachid Ghannouchi. Yet, not until the work of Azzam Tamimi has the Western world been exposed to the complexity of Ghannouchis argumentsintertwined as they are with a subtle appreciation of democracys political imperative and Islams moral authority. Through a careful use of original and secondary sources, Tamimi has provided the most detailed and fair-minded analysis of one of the Muslim worlds most articulatealbeit controversialinterpreters of political Islam and its relationship to modern democracy.” –John Entelis, Professor of Political Science, Fordham University

“This book is a serious contribution to the literature on liberal (and illiberal) trends in contemporary political Islam, and will be a useful reference.” — Middle East Journal

“This brilliant intellectual biography of a very influential Islamist thinker of our times cannot be ignored by anyone interested in the vexed question of the relationship between Islam and democracy.”–The Muslim World Book Review

A Border Passage: From Cairo to America–A Woman’s Journey By Leila Ahmed

Posted in Politics by bookspath on March 11, 2007

From Cairo to America--A Woman's JourneyIn language that vividly evokes the lush summers of Cairo and the stark beauty of the Arabian desert, Leila Ahmed tells a moving tale of her Egyptian childhood growing up in a rich tradition of Islamic women and describes how she eventually came to terms with her identity as a feminist living in America.

As a young woman in Cairo in the 1940s and ’50s, Ahmed witnessed some of the major transformations of this century–the end of British colonialism, the creation of Israel, the rise of Arab nationalism, and the breakdown of Egypt’s once multireligious society. Amid the turmoil, she searched to define herself–and to see how the world defined her–as a woman, a Muslim, an Egyptian, and an Arab. In this memoir, she poignantly reflects upon issues of language, race, and nationality, while unveiling the hidden world of women’s Islam. Ahmed’s story will be an inspiration to anyone who has ever struggled to define their own cultural identity.

An Egyptian woman’s “richly insightful account of the inner conflicts of a generation coming of age during and after the collapse of European imperialism.” —The New York Times Book Review

Palestine:By Joe Sacco, Edward Saed

Posted in Politics by bookspath on March 11, 2007

PalestineFantagraphics Books is pleased to present, for the first time, a single-volume collection of this 288-page landmark of journalism and the artform of comics. Interest in Sacoo has never been higher than with the release of his critically acclaimed book, Safe Area Gorazde.

Based on several months of research and an extended visit to the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the early 1990s (where he conducted over 100 interviews with Palestinians and Jews), Palestine was the first major comics work of political and historical nonfiction by Sacco, who has often been called the first comic book journalist.

Sacco’s insightful reportage takes place at the front lines, where busy marketplaces are spoiled by shootings and tear gas, soldiers beat civilians with reckless abandon, and roadblocks go up before reporters can leave. Sacco interviewed and encountered prisoners, refugees, protesters, wounded children, farmers who had lost their land, and families who had been torn apart by the Palestinian conflict.

In 1996, the Before Columbus Foundation awarded Palestine the seventeenth annual American Book Award, stating that the author should be recognized for his “outstanding contribution to American literature,” while his publisher, Fantagraphics, is “to be honored for their commitment to quality and their willingness to take risks that accompany publishing outstanding books and authors that may not prove ‘cost-effective’ in the short run.”

This new edition of Palestine also features a new introduction from renowned author, critic, and historian Edward Said, author of Peace and Its Discontents and The Question of Palestine and one of the world’s most respected authorities on the Middle Eastern conflict.

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When Victims Become Killers

Posted in Politics by bookspath on March 11, 2007

Colonialism, Nativism, and the Genocide in Rwanda

When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and the Genocide in Rwanda
By Mahmood Mamdani

“When we captured Kigali, we thought we would face criminals in the state; instead, we faced a criminal population.” So a political commissar in the Rwanda Patriotic Front reflected after the 1994 massacre of as many as one million Tutsis in Rwanda. Underlying his statement is the realization that, though ordered by a minority of state functionaries, the slaughter was performed by hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens, including even judges, human rights activists, and doctors, nurses, priests, friends, and spouses of the victims. Indeed, it is its very popularity that makes the Rwandan genocide so unthinkable. This book makes it thinkable.

Rejecting easy explanations of the genocide as a mysterious evil force that was bizarrely unleashed, one of Africa’s best-known intellectuals situates the tragedy in its proper context. He coaxes to the surface the historical, geographical, and political forces that made it possible for so many Hutu to turn so brutally on their neighbors. He finds answers in the nature of political identities generated during colonialism, in the failures of the nationalist revolution to transcend these identities, and in regional demographic and political currents that reach well beyond Rwanda. In so doing, Mahmood Mamdani usefully broadens understandings of citizenship and political identity in postcolonial Africa.

There have been few attempts to explain the Rwandan horror, and none has succeeded so well as this one. Mamdani’s analysis provides a solid foundation for future studies of the massacre. Even more important, his answers point a way out of crisis: a direction for reforming political identity in central Africa and preventing future tragedies.

From Secularism to Jihad: Sayyid Qutb and the Foundations of Radical Islamism

Posted in Politics by bookspath on March 9, 2007

Sayyid Qutb and the Foundations of Radical IslamismThe modern political idea of “jihad”–a violent struggle against corrupt or anti-Islamic regimes–is essentially the brainchild of one man who turned traditional Islamic precepts inside out and created radical political Islam. Using the evolution of Sayyid Qutb’s life and writings, Musallam traces and analyzes Qutb’s alienation and subsequent emergence as an independent Islamist within the context of his society and the problems that it faced. Radicalized following his stay in the United States in the late 1940s and during his imprisonment from 1954 to 1964, Qutb would pen controversial writings which would have a significant impact on young Islamists in Egypt for decades following his death and on global jihadist Islamists for the past quarter century. Since September 11, 2001, the West has dubbed Qutb “the philosopher of Islamic terror and godfather ideologue of al-Qaeda.” This is the first book to examine his life and thought in the wake of the events that ignited the War on Terrorism. A secular man of letters in the 1930s and 1940s, Qutb’s outlook and focus on Qur’anic studies underwent drastic changes during World War II. The Qur’an became a refuge for his personal needs and for answers to the ills of his society. As a result, he forsook literature permanently for the Islamic cause and way of life. His stay in the United States from 1948 to 1950 reinforced his deeply held belief that Islam is man’s only salvation from the abyss of Godless materialism he believed to be manifest in both capitalism and communism. Qutb’s active opposition to the secular policies of Egyptian President Nasser led to his imprisonment from 1954 to 1964, during which his writings called for the overthrow of Jahili (pagan) governments and their replacement with a true and just Islamic society. A later arrest and trial resulted in his execution in August 1966.

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