Friday, June 23, 2006

Reading Karen Armstrong

I’ve almost finished reading Karen Armstrong’s ISLAM: A SHORT HISTORY. I read it mainly as a refresher, since I did my master’s degree in Middle Eastern history. As a history I found it a bit too “short.” The centuries whizzed past at a dizzy pace, despite the fact I was already familiar with the material. But her analysis of the religion itself is fascinating, particularly when one considers that the author spent seven years as a nun.

I’ve always had tremendous respect for Islam, a respect that Armstrong obviously shares. Judging Islam by its modern fundamentalist lunatic fringe is about as fair as judging Christianity by Jim Jones and the Inquisition. Unfortunately, it has become expedient for everyone from Hollywood players to Washington, D.C., politicians to demonize the religion. Given that Islam is the world’s fastest growing faith, the kind of insight Armstrong provides is badly needed.

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