Islam, more than ever today, needs dialogue and open discussion as to its role in the social and political lives of its followers. This debate between Maajid Nawaz, a muslim who is trying to de-radicalize Muslims, and Sam Harris, an anti-theist, who openly criticizes Islam for being “Intolerant” and “Not a religion of peace”.
The book is in the form of a constructive debate, as to the origins and future of Tolerance/Intolerance in Islam. The problem is not a simple one. Islam has many narratives, Maajid’s narrative is one of tolerance, peace, interfaith harmony etc and he quotes many scholars who interpreted Islam rather ‘liberally’. But unfortunately, the narrative that goes on in the mosques or Madrassah’s is, in most cases, far from tolerant or inclusive. Maajid’s is an uphill struggle, as when Harris points out, that ‘why the book of GOD open to such extreme and barbaric interpretations ? Could God not have sent down something that was suitable for all times and not just for the tribal Arab culture.’ To this Maajid again tries to find anomalies in certain texts, and doesn’t come up with a coherent answer. Still, the point that he raises, which is that ‘Islamism’ as an idea needs to be countered is very critical. His stand that “ No idea is above scrutiny, and religion more so” is something that I strongly believe in. Although the book doesn’t add anything new to the discussion, it was still a good effort by the two authors.
What Muslims need to do, is to form a strong, coherent counter narrative that upholds tolerance, religious harmony and peace. Islam is in danger, not because of being weak or for not being upheld righteously enough, but because an extreme interpretation of the text has become rather mainstream, and is played upon by everyone, from Jihadis to CIA. The young and educated are either being disenchanted by it, or radicalized. There is a strong need to give it some stability through a narrative that is relevant, peaceful and more inclusive.
I personally believe that, Muslims will have to forego the desire to rule the world and turn the hell bound infidels into Muslims. They will have to content themselves with the fact that faith is a private matter, and that political Islam is not a solution but a hurdle that is stagnating progress and peace.