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Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Libertyby Mustafa Akyol
Synopses & Reviews
In Rethinking Islam, Katajun Amirpur argues that the West’s impression of Islam as a backward-looking faith, resistant to post-Enlightenment thinking, is misleading and—due to its effects on political discourse—damaging. Introducing readers to key thinkers and activists—such as Abu Zaid, a free-thinking Egyptian Qur’an scholar; Abdolkarim Soroush, an academic and former member of Khomeini’s Cultural Revolution Committee; and Amina Wadud, an American feminist who was the first woman to lead the faithful in Friday Prayer—Amirpur reveals a powerful yet lesser-known tradition of inquiry and dissent within Islam, one that is committed to democracy and human rights. By examining these and many other similar figures’ ideas, she reveals the many ways they reject fundamentalist assertions and instead call for a diversity of opinion, greater freedom, and equality of the sexes.
"A delightfully original take on...the prospects for liberal democracy in the broader Islamic Middle East."--Matthew Kaminski,
In Re-thinking Islam, Katajun Amirpur argues that the impression we have of Islam as a backward-looking faith resistant to the ideas of Enlightenment thinking is false. Amirpur introduces us to the Farsi term nouandishi-ye eslami (New Islamic Thinking) and to influential reformers who are committed to democracy and human rights. The free-thinking Egyptian Quran scholar Abu Zaid, the academic Abdolkarim Soroush, a former member of Khomeinis Cultural Revolution Committee, and the American feminist Amina Wadud, who was the first woman to lead the faithful in Friday Prayer, all refute the idea that there is one true, fundamentalist interpretation of Islam. Instead they call for greater freedom and equality of the sexes. By examining the ideas of these thinkers, Amirpur shows breadth and diversity of Islam as a multi-dimensional faith.
As the Arab Spring threatens to give way to authoritarianism in Egypt and reports from Afghanistan detail widespread violence against U.S. troops and women, news from the Muslim world raises the question: Is Islam incompatible with freedom? In Islam without Extremes, Turkish columnist Mustafa Akyol answers this question by revealing the little-understood roots of political Islam, which originally included both rationalist, flexible strains and more dogmatic, rigid ones. Though the rigid traditionalists won out, Akyol points to a flourishing of liberalism in the nineteenth-century Ottoman Empire and the unique "Islamo-liberal synthesis" in present-day Turkey. As he powerfully asserts, only by accepting a secular state can Islamic societies thrive. offers a desperately needed intellectual basis for the reconcilability of Islam and liberty.
About the Author
Mustafa Akyol lives in Istanbul and is a columnist for the Turkish newspapers Hürriyet Daily News and Star. He has written opinion pieces for the Washington Post, the International Herald Tribune, and Newsweek.
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