Friday, January 23, 2009

The Great Theft or Rites of Peace

The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam from the Extremists

Author: Khaled M Abou El Fadl

Despite President George W. Bush's assurances that Islam is a peaceful religion and that all good Muslims hunger for democracy, confusion persists and far too many Westerners remain convinced that Muslims and terrorists are synonymous. In the aftermath of the attacks of 9/11, the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the recent bombings in London, an unprecedented amount of attention has been directed toward Islam and the Muslim world. Yet, even with this increased scrutiny, most of the public discourse regarding Islam revolves around the actions of extremist factions such as the Wahhabis and al-Qa'ida. But what of the Islam we don't hear about?

As the second-largest and fastest-growing religion in the world, Islam is deemed by more than a billion Muslims to be a source of serenity and spiritual peace, and a touchstone for moral and ethical guidance. While extremists have an impact upon the religion that is wildly disproportionate to their numbers, moderates constitute the majority of Muslims worldwide. It is this rift between the quiet voice of the moderates and the deafening statements of the extremists that threatens the future of the faith.

In The Great Theft, Khaled Abou El Fadl, one of the world's preeminent Islamic scholars, argues that Islam is currently passing through a transformative period no less dramatic than the movements that swept through Europe during the Reformation. At this critical juncture there are two completely opposed worldviews within Islam competing to define this great world religion. The stakes have never been higher, and the future of the Muslim world hangs in the balance.

Drawing on the rich tradition of Islamichistory and law, The Great Theft is an impassioned defense of Islam against the encroaching power of the extremists. As an accomplished Islamic jurist, Abou El Fadl roots his arguments in long-standing historical legal debates and delineates point by point the beliefs and practices of moderate Muslims, distinguishing these tenets from the corrupting influences of the extremists. From the role of women in Islam to the nature of jihad, from democracy and human rights to terrorism and warfare, Abou El Fadl builds a vital vision for a moderate Islam. At long last, the great majority of Muslims who oppose extremism have a desperately needed voice to help reclaim Islam's great moral tradition.

Publishers Weekly

El Fadl, professor of Islamic law at UCLA and Bush appointee to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, is the academic voice of the world's majority-moderate Muslims. His strong credentials and thoughtful approach set him apart from his peers. Here, he successfully argues that the extremist sects of Islam, mainly Wahhabism, blatantly defy the true values of Islam. He clarifies that Wahhabism was once an unpopular, fringe, cultlike movement, which only grew through a chance partnership with the Saudi Arabian ruling family. The discovery of oil created an unprecedented infusion of petro-dollars into the fledgling, conservative belief system. The point of the book, El Fadl writes, is to define "the reality of Muslim thought as it currently exists." He focuses on the extremists' "puritan" view, exposing the hypocrisies and inconsistencies inherent in their "imagined Islam." He doesn't offer specific solutions, but he raises the issues carefully and well. Though the writing can be dry and portions read like a law school lecture, overall El Fadl's book is a fulfilling read for moderate Muslims concerned about conservative leadership and any non-Muslims who want to inform themselves about the extremists' misuse of Islam. (Oct.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Foreign Affairs

Is Islam the solution or part of the problem? Abou El Fadl depicts an ongoing struggle between puritans and moderates to define and apply Islam today. Those he labels puritans embrace an absolutist and intolerant orientation. The moderates draw on the more humanistic heritage hammered out by generations of ulama (religious scholars). That heritage has been badly undermined in modern times by the replacement of Islamic legal thought and institutions with Western courts and codes, but most of all by the intolerant doctrines of the Wahhabis, spread with the help of Saudi oil revenues, and of those groups known as Salafis, whose ideology stems in part from Wahhabism. The moderate Muslim outlook that Abou El Fadl champions can, however, build on that battered tradition — through a dynamic process engaged with a changing world, not through restoration of a supposed lost golden age. A scholar trained in both Islamic and Western law, Abou El Fadl presents a brilliant brief for that humanistic Islamic tradition while getting in some well-placed blows against those puritans. He takes on tough issues such as Islam and human rights, the status of women, and jihad. In the process, he serves up one of the more engaging primers on Islam available.

Library Journal

Islamist jurist and Western law scholar El Fadl's (law, UCLA; U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom) objective is to address some of the difficulties currently facing Islam by distinguishing between what he refers to as Muslim "puritans" and "moderates" (i.e., the extremists and the moderate majority), portraying the context in which each group has developed and describing the distinctions on each side. He thereby provides a useful introduction and background on the subject for interested readers. He is especially concerned about whose voice currently represents Islam, believing it is politics that distorts its message and gives the West a perspective of a faith filled with violence. Further, he expresses a bias against Islamic purists because he feels they detract from Islam and argues for the moderate majority to engage in a counter-jihad. Since it focuses on Muslim extremists, this book affords readers an opportunity to better evaluate the current situation of Islam to which they are exposed. It will have broad public appeal and is appropriate for libraries where interest exists.-Naomi Hafter, Baltimore Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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Rites of Peace: The Fall of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna

Author: Adam Zamoyski

In the wake of Napoleon's disastrous Russian campaign of 1812, the French emperor's imperious grip on Europe began to weaken, raising the question of how the continent was to be reconstructed after his defeat. While the Treaty of Paris that followed Napoleon's exile in 1814 put an end to a quarter century of revolution and war in Europe, it left the future of the continent hanging in the balance.

Eager to negotiate a workable and lasting peace, the major powers—Britain, Austria, Prussia, and Russia—along with a host of lesser nations, began a series of committee sessions in Vienna: an eight-month-long carnival that combined political negotiations with balls, dinners, artistic performances, hunts, tournaments, picnics, and other sundry forms of entertainment for the thousands of aristocrats who had gathered in the Austrian capital. Although the Congress of Vienna resulted in an unprecedented level of stability in Europe, the price of peace would be high. Many of the crucial questions were decided on the battlefield or in squalid roadside cottages amid the vagaries of war. And the proceedings in Vienna itself were not as decorous as is usually represented.

Internationally bestselling author Adam Zamoyski draws on a wide range of original sources, which include not only official documents, private letters, diaries, and firsthand accounts, but also the reports of police spies and informers, to reveal the steamy atmosphere of greed and lust in which the new Europe was forged. Meticulously researched, masterfully told, and featuring a cast of some of the most influential and powerful figures in history, including Tsar Alexander, Metternich, Talleyrand,and the Duke of Wellington, Rites of Peace tells the story of these extraordinary events and their profound historical consequences.

Jim Doyle - Library Journal

Freelance historian Zamoyski (Moscow 1812) offers a penetrating account of Europe's first summit meeting. In September 1814, Austria, Russia, Prussia, England, and many lesser political entities convened in Vienna to restore order to a Europe that had endured 25 years of bloody warfare. Napoléon had been defeated and shipped off to Elba, of course to return during the Hundred Days, but this did not deter the conferees from carving up Europe into compliant properties for the victors. The key players in what amounted to a high-stakes poker game were Metternich (Austria), Hardenberg (Prussia), Castlereagh (Britain), and Alexander I (Russia). But just about every European aristocrat seemed to have congregated in Vienna to advance agendas and to party. Zamoyski stresses that the Congress of Vienna was a bacchanalian extravaganza where affairs of state became entwined with affairs of the heart, and until the 1950s most historians condemned it as nothing more than the restoration of the ancien régime. Then in 1957 Henry Kissinger posited in his published doctoral thesis, A World Restored, that the congress epitomized the virtues of realpolitikand brought a century of peace to Europe. Zamoyski will have none of this revisionist interpretation and maintains that the congress left a negative legacy that haunted Europe well into the 20th century. His book is a superb example of diplomatic history and belongs in every Modern European history collection.

Kirkus Reviews

The allied powers gathered in Vienna to negotiate and celebrate after Napoleon's defeat were self-interested, but they took some tentative steps toward the sort of multilateral negotiations that have characterized international relations in the ensuing centuries. So concludes Zamoyski, whose previous shelf-benders (Moscow 1812, 2004, etc.) have illuminated various aspects of 19th-century Europe's military and political landscape. His newest artfully blends geography, politics, military matters and bedroom manners in a highly readable account. Some of history's most famous men pace the author's stage: Napoleon, Wellington, Castlereagh, Tallyrand, Metternich and the rising martial star from Russia, Tsar Alexander. In Zamoyski's capable hands, these are more than mere names. Motives become more understandable, successes more exciting, failures more wrenching. The narrative opens with Napoleon's bashing by the Russian winter of 1812 and his frantic attempts over the course of 1813 and early 1814 to keep his enemies at bay until he could rebuild the French army. But Alexander, unlike his Prussian, Austrian and British allies, wanted to march into Paris; the tsar saw the struggle in its most primal, good-versus-evil aspect. Still, animated by what he said was a Christian impulse of forgiveness, he made a deal with Napoleon (others wanted him executed) and sent him off to Elba in April 1814. The Congress of Vienna, which began five months later, confronted the victors with some difficult issues: What to do about Poland? Germany? Italy? How and if and why to divide or unite them? What about the Scandinavian countries? And Switzerland? England wanted to abolish the slave trade, but found fewlisteners. Some wanted to punish France severely; others feared that excessive sanctions would do more harm than good. It wasn't all work, though. For months the parties ran late into the night, and the delegates played Musical Bedchambers with various women. Then Napoleon escaped . . . First-rate popular history with obvious contemporary relevance.

Table of Contents:
List of Illustrations     vii
List of Maps     xi
Introduction     xiii
The Lion at Bay     1
The Saviour of Europe     15
The Peacemakers     35
A War for Peace     49
Intimate Congress     64
Farce in Prague     82
The Play for Germany     98
The First Waltzes     118
A Finger in the Pie     137
Battlefield Diplomacy     151
Paris Triumph     169
Peace     185
The London Round     204
Just Settlements     218
Setting the Stage     238
Points of Order     260
Notes and Balls     280
Kings' Holiday     296
A Festival of Peace     314
Guerre de Plume     329
Political Carrousel     341
Explosive Diplomacy     358
Dance of War     371
War and Peace     385
The Saxon Deal     404
Unfinished Business     420
The Flight of the Eagle     442
The Hundred Days     455
The Road to Waterloo     470
Wellington'sVictory     487
The Punishment of France     499
Last Rites     515
Discordant Concert     531
The Arrest of Europe     550
Notes     571
Bibliography     599
Index     619

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