Sheik and Araby.

Next up are two books dealing in way or another with Islam. Carl W. Ernst's 2003 book Following Muhammad: Rethinking Islam in the Contemporary World is an attempt to show the rich and multidimensional world of Islam. Ernst, a Professor of Religious Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill, tries to break the stereotype of Islam as being a terrorist-promoting faith practiced by puritanical Arabs by showing the reader that in fact, with the largest Muslim countries being Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Turkey, Iran and Nigeria, most Muslims aren't even Arabs. Egypt, with about 60 million is the only Arab county with a significant Muslim population. According to Ernst, "Saudi Arabia, despite its economic and political prominence, has only about 15 million people." Ernst goes on to give the reader a brief outline of Islamic history in hopes of proving that today's Bin Ladens are the exception. Moreover, they dream of an early period of Islamic purity that quite frankly, never really existed.
    I found Ernst's book an OK book at best. He came across a bit dry at times. And to be honest, I wonder if he needs to be a bit more critical in assessing the tensions that arise when those who adhere to pre-Enlightment/secularist viewpoints encounter our "Western" world. With some reservations, I might possibly recommend this book as a introductory text, but only in a supporting role.
    The other book would be Samir Kassir's brief 2006 book Being Arab. And yes, it was yet another one
of those books I saw languishing unread at the public library that
caught my eye. Kassir was a respected Lebanese journalist who was
assassinated by a car bomb in 2005. His short book could be considered
a manifesto looking at why the Arab world lags behind the West in
political freedom and economic potency. It too could be considered an
extended op-ed piece. Will Hobson must have done a great job
translating the book from Arabic into English because I enjoyed reading
Kassir's book. On the whole, I found it pretty good.

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