Islam: Opposing Viewpoints

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.

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17 Comments

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17 responses to “Islam: Opposing Viewpoints

  1. You didn’t include a date of publication, and my library has TWO copies of Islam: Opposing Viewpoints, both published by Greenhaven: the 1995 version has 311 pages (320.55 Isl ), and the 2004 version has 203 pages and is apparently for youth (Y 297.27 Isl). I think it’s interesting that the Dewey decimal numbers are different. I put both versions on hold and will decide whether I prefer to read the longer version or not.

  2. Actually the version I read was published in 2009. If you click on the book’s link it will take you to Amazon where it lists not only its publication date but also the book’s ISBN number, in case you might need it.
    It’s a pretty good book. I hope you can find it at your library or through inter-library loan.

  3. This sounds like a great book to have in libraries right now given the state of the world and all that is going on in north Africa and the Middle East. Thank you for pointing out this book!

    • You are most welcome, Helen. I agree, with all the recent developments unfolding in the Arab world, a book like this is a welcome addition to any library.

  4. It’s great that so much of this collection was good — uneven essay collections can be frustrating. Even though it’s geared towards high schoolers, it seems like this one might be a good primer for people not familiar with Islam.

    • I agree. Even though it looks like it was marketed to upper-division high school students, I believe older folks like us could profit much from this book. I would be happy to include it as supplementary material to any introductory Islam reading list.

  5. I’ll admit that this is a subject where I am sorely lacking in my reading. However, I did read a fascinating history of Islam called “No God But God” by Reza Aslan. It sounds like this book would make a great supplement to reading that one. Good review, thanks!

    • Ah, I rather enjoyed Aslan’s No God But God. Omid Safi’s Memories of Muhammad: Why the Prophet Matters as well as Tamim Ansary’s Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes are great companion books to No God But God.
      If you are interested, email me using the address at the top of this book blog and I can email you a reading list on Islam.

  6. Sounds really interesting. This Opposing Viewpoints series seems to be pretty good overall – I must remember to check for them in my new library. Sounds like some really thought-provoking essays in this collection especially.

    • I would agree, the Opposing Viewpoints series overall has been a pleasant surprise. I hope your new library has them in its collection. If so, I would encourage you to explore the series !

  7. I really like these Greenhaven books and have always found them to be nice introductions to various subjects. I was always sorry when I worked in a library that they looked too “homeworky” to put on displays, and the high schoolers who needed them for actual homework didn’t want them either (“uh, can’t you just print something off the Internet for me?”).

    • I like them too ! I think they are very underrated. I’m reading one on Iran right now and I have two more sitting on my desk waiting to be read.
      By the way, loved your quote from the typical high school student !!!

  8. Oh, I’ve got tons of typical high school student quotes. “I’ve got to read a biography of MLKJr, and the book has to be 200 pages long. Where are your 200-page long books?” Sigh.
    Yeah, the Greenhaven books. I’m going to read one this next month, that’s my goal.

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