While returning a few books to the public library last week I happened to spot a copy of Islam: Opposing Viewpoints from Greenhaven Press’s Opposing Viewpoints Series. After having pretty good luck with other books in their series like China: Opposing Viewpoints and Iran: Opposing Viewpoints, I decided to give Islam: Opposing Viewpoints a try. After finishing it the other day I’m very happy I did. While many anthologies tend to be uneven collections containing material that “works” and some that, well “doesn’t”, every essay included this collection, whether I agreed or disagreed with the points raised by the respective authors I still found to be an interesting, persuasive and well-reasoned piece of writing. This collection, produced primarily for the upper-division high school academic market, I nonetheless found pleasantly surprising.
Just like other books in Greenhaven’s Opposing Viewpoints series, this particular offering is divided into four chapters, each representing a controversial question associated with the main topic of discussion. In this case, the four chapters are:
- Are the values of Islam and the West in conflict ?
- Does Islam promote violence ?
- What is the status of women under Islam ?
- What is the future of Islam ?
In turn each one of these four chapters contains four to six essays which addresses the question posed by the chapter’s title. While a few of these opinion pieces were originally published in publications such as Journal of Democracy, Turkish Daily News and National Interest, the bulk of them are from online sources, (which for good, bad or otherwise shows the continued growth and influence of digital media, perhaps at the expense of the traditional print sources). Supplementing all of this are frequent sidebar essays, usually brief exerts from longer articles or opinion pieces, included to provide additional insight into the debated topics. The end product is a lively and intelligent discussion of the problems and challenges facing the Islamic world.
While I thought all the selected opinion pieces delivered the goods, I was particularly pleased those included in the chapter dealing with the future of Islam. Despite being less than pleased with John Esposito’s fairly recent book, Who Speaks for Islam: What A Billion Muslims Really Think I thought the good professor redeemed himself with his essay, co-authored with M. A. Muqtedar Khan, “Western Muslims Must Oppose Islamic Terrorism”. Two other essays included in this particular chapter, “Islam Will Fall and Be Forgotten” and “Both Islam and the West Will Fall” I thought presented well-reasoned and intriguing arguments which I enjoyed despite my considerable skepticism.
Like I mentioned at the start, this is a very good anthology I’d highly recommend it as supplementary material to any serious reading, personal or academic on Islam. While marketed mainly to high school students, this is a very good collection of opinion pieces. I was not disappointed.