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Customer Review

on 22 March 2009
I bought this book because I simply wanted more information after having read the Quran.
An expatriate New Yorker, I ordered two translations of the Quran (one English, one German) after the attacks of 9/11 in order to find out what it really teaches as well as to find arguments supporting my view that Islam was a religion of peace. To my surprise, I was disappointed as to the latter! Also, I found the text, with few exceptions, to be nearly incomprehensible, not to say muddled: no logical progression, very little context. I am familiar with both Old and New Testaments of the Bible, and although certain things appear strange and sometimes barbaric to modern sensibilities, the texts can be understood. Spencer tells us why this is not the case with the Quran.
What struck me most was the repeated stressing of the inferiority of non-Muslims; the constant harping on the punishments awaiting them, prohibitions against forming friendships with them, and above all, the overriding importance of waging war to spread Islam.
Spencer addresses these and many other issues that influence Muslims today. He makes very clear why jihadists can quote the Quran or cite Muhammad's example when planning acts of terrorism. We must remember that from the seventh century onward, Islam was spread by fire and sword through previously Christian countries and that the much-maligned Crusades were a reaction to this threat.
Muhammad accomplished a number of positive things; he forbade female infanticide; enjoined Muslims to support one another, be honest in their dealings and help the poor. But all of this fairness and justice applied only to brother Muslims, and of course women were second-class citizens. Fourteen hundred years ago this may have been the case nearly everywhere, but the countries proceeding from the Judao-Christian tradition have moved forward and no longer insist on living exactly as in biblical times. Not even the most virulent Christian fundamentalist would advocate the more egregious actions mentioned in the Old Testament.
Islam is in dire need of a historical- critical system of exegesis to bring it into the 21st century.
Spencer does concentrate on the negative, but uses only the Quran itself and other Muslim sources to support his arguments.
I find the title a bit unfortunate; it might lead one to expect a wild-eyed rant, but the book is well-researched and seriously written.
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