Shattering the Myth: Islam beyond Violence (Princeton Studies in Muslim Politics) Hardcover – 5 Apr 1998
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"Bruce Lawrence's excellent analysis of Islam today brings together socioeconomic, historical, political, and religious elements, and sets these against the backdrop of global capitalism and high technology . . . . Shattering the Myth is an extremely well argued, well developed and well documented book that serves as a basis for further studies of Islam and the images held about it."--Middle East Journal
"In this thought provoking and informative work, the author ... seeks to dispel the misconceptions and fears about Islam which are too often held by those with an incomplete understanding of what Islam is and what its followers believe and seek.... Anyone wishing to develop an accurate understanding of the subject should read this book."--Virginia Quarterly Review
"In Shattering the Myth, Bruce Lawrence takes us beyond the headlines and CNN broadcasts and shows us an Islam that is not quite as neat and tidy as popularly presented."--Ethnic Conflict
"The book makes the commonsense yet often overlooked argument that Islam must be understood, in its variety, as a complex and developing religious system not separated from the everyday and global concerns of Muslims.... Insightful analysis."--Religious Studies Review
"Shattering the Myth is an important book. . . . It is a brilliant example of applied religious studies."--History of Religions
"A timely contribution to an ongoing debate on the relationship between Islam and violence, a debate that has shed more heat than light. It cannot afford to be ignored by anyone interested in the relations between Muslims and people of other faiths."--Islamic Studies
From the Back Cover
Islam, Bruce Lawrence argues, is a complex, international religious system that cannot be reduced to stereotypes. As Lawrence demonstrates, Islam is a religion shaped as much by its own postulates and ethical demands as by the specific circumstances of Muslim people in the modern world. It is time, Lawrence believes, to replace inaccurate images of Islam with a recognition of the multifaceted character of this global religion and of its widely diverse adherents. Shattering the Myth provides significant insights into the history of Islam and a greater understanding of the varied experiences of Muslims today. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.See all Product Description
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I began by reading the introduction; that was almost a fatal mistake. The writing style was difficult to follow, and the language was arcane, sprinkled with words like "postmodern," "metanarrative" and "perspectivist." After bogging down in the introduction for several days, I moved on to the first chapter. Fortunately, the book became somewhat easier to follow at that point, but the author continued to use uncommon words where common ones would suffice and to use common words in uncommon ways. He also had a tendency to begin sentences with "If." The clause that followed the "If" typically referred to an argument that was not spelled out, but which the reader needed to infer from the context. The author also made frequent use of qualifying phrases that contributed to the difficulty of the reading without adding much to the meaning.
In the book, Bruce Lawrence surveyed the Muslim world, focusing on the role of fundamentalism in various Muslim countries, then turning to the role of women in parts of that world. He ended with a consideration of Jihad and corporate culture in Malaysia. His sections on fundamentalism and Muslim women were the clearest sections. In the last section, he tended to lapse into a more arcane use of language again.
I cannot criticize the content of the book, because I have been quite ignorant of the Muslim world until very recently, but I have the sense that the author had a comprehensive and subtle understanding of the material he covered. Though it certainly wasn't easy, I believe I learned a good deal from this book. In the current world context, I think many educated readers would appreciate and benefit from the author's knowledge. Alas, I doubt that most people will do so unless he can write something that is clearer and more accessible.
This book was reviewed alongside Paul Fregosi's Jihad.
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