- STAFF PICKS
- GIFTS + GIFT CARDS
- SELL BOOKS
- FIND A STORE
Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy, and the Westby Benazir Bhutto
Synopses & Reviews
Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan in October 2007, after eight years of exile, hopeful that she could be a catalyst for change. Upon a tumultuous reception, she survived a suicide-bomb attack that killed nearly two hundred of her countrymen. But she continued to forge ahead, with more courage and conviction than ever, since she knew that time was running out — for the future of her nation, and for her life.
In Reconciliation, Bhutto recounts in gripping detail her final months in Pakistan and offers a bold new agenda for how to stem the tide of Islamic radicalism and to rediscover the values of tolerance and justice that lie at the heart of her religion. With extremist Islam on the rise throughout the world, the peaceful, pluralistic message of Islam has been exploited and manipulated by fanatics. Bhutto persuasively argues that America and Britain are fueling this turn toward radicalization by supporting groups that serve only short-term interests. She believed that by enabling dictators, the West was actually contributing to the frustration and extremism that lead to terrorism. With her experience governing Pakistan and living and studying in the West, Benazir Bhutto was versed in the complexities of the conflict from both sides. She was a renaissance woman who offered a way out.
In this riveting and deeply insightful book, Bhutto explores the complicated history between the Middle East and the West. She traces the roots of international terrorism across the world, including American support for Pakistani general Zia-ul-Haq, who destroyed political parties, eliminated an independent judiciary, marginalized NGOs, suspended the protection of human rights, and aligned Pakistani intelligence agencies with the most radical elements of the Afghan mujahideen. She speaks out not just to the West, but to the Muslims across the globe who are at a crossroads between the past and the future, between education and ignorance, between peace and terrorism, and between dictatorship and democracy. Democracy and Islam are not incompatible, and the clash between Islam and the West is not inevitable.
Bhutto presents an image of modern Islam that defies the negative caricatures often seen in the West. After reading this book, it will become even clearer what the world has lost by her assassination.
"There are some things only the dead can get away with saying, and some deaths speak more powerfully than anything the living can write. This book, finished just before its author was assassinated in Pakistan in December, sends out an urgent warning to her fellow Muslims and to Western democratic powers — a warning one hopes may now find greater resonance with both audiences. Benazir... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) Bhutto, the elegant former Pakistani prime minister, hoped to return democratic rule to her native country and knew she stood a good chance of being killed in the process. She was rushing to complete 'Reconciliation' when she was slain at a political rally, her death transforming this manifesto into a cry from the grave to save her faith, her homeland and East-West relations from looming catastrophe. Her book argues that Islam is not incompatible with democracy, but that its credo of tolerance and freedom has been hijacked by purveyors of terror. The real 'clash of civilizations' lies within Islam, she asserted, and the West should seek to bolster its moderate center as the best means of countering the radical extremes. A poised public figure given to flowery speeches and cagey ambiguity, Bhutto wrote the book with uncharacteristic bluntness, suggesting an awareness that both she and her country had little time left. Pointing fingers and naming names — especially those of several chiefs of Pakistan's powerful intelligence service — she blamed a combination of autocratic rulers, manipulative religious leaders and meddling Western governments for sabotaging democracy's chances in Pakistan and other parts of the Muslim world, and for pushing Islam in ever more radical directions. 'Islam was sent as a message of liberation. The challenge for modern-day Muslims is to rescue this message from the fanatics, the bigots, and the forces of dictatorship,' she wrote. Describing Pakistan as 'ground zero' in the battle for the soul of Islam, she warned that unless religious extremism there is curbed, the consequences of having 'the only nuclear-armed Muslim nation fall into chaos would be catastrophic.' At the same time, she called on international forces, especially the United States, to play a more constructive and consistent role in the Muslim world and to learn from their Cold War errors. She wrote with disgust that Pakistani dictators always 'play the West like a fiddle,' while fueling Islamic militancy through repression or opportunism. By arming radical Afghan Islamic militias against the U.S.S.R. in the 1980s, she charged, Washington helped create an Islamic 'Frankenstein' that today threatens to destroy the region in a surge of anti-Western hysteria and suicide bombings. Throughout the book, Bhutto sought to bolster her case that Islam is not antithetical to democracy, with academic and historic references: dozens of verses from the Koran, meandering asides on long-ago military coups and copious quotations from scholarly articles, particularly those that challenged Samuel Huntington's idea of a coming 'clash of civilizations.' But far more interesting are the personal glimpses of Bhutto as she saw herself: some airbrushed by self-justification, others chilling in hindsight. She evoked the carefree student hardened by the 1979 execution of her father, Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, and burdened by the mantle of his legacy for the next three decades. 'On the day my father was arrested, I changed from a girl to a woman,' she wrote in an especially gripping passage. 'On the day he was murdered, I understood that my life was to be Pakistan.' In an equally striking image, she conveyed what it was to be a populist leader coming home from exile, addicted to the roar of adoring crowds despite her fears of assassination. When her husband begged her to take cover behind bulletproof glass, 'I said no,' she wrote. ' ... I felt safe in the enormous sea of love and support.' Although 'Reconciliation' invokes lofty values and strives for an analytical tone, it reveals Bhutto's deep bitterness toward the military establishment that hanged her father and thwarted her at every turn. The book also glosses over her own controversial history during two terms in office, dismissing myriad corruption charges as part of the military's plot, failing to mention her initial support for the Afghan Taliban regime, and painting all attacks on her top-down political dynasty as assaults on democracy in general. Most ominously and sensationally, she recounted the suicide bomb attack that almost killed her last October, pointing out details that led her to suspect official collusion — street lamps mysteriously going dark, promised security measures missing — some of which were repeated in the bombing that took her life 10 weeks later. The echo of her father's last days, during which he penned a memoir called 'If I Am Assassinated,' is almost too ironic to bear. Despite its flaws of self-indulgence and omission, this book contains a larger truth. Islam does need to find its place as a moderate guiding force for millions of followers in the modern world, instead of being stolen by jihadists and written off as the religion of suicide bombers. The West does need to build bridges to Muslims around the world and counter fears of hegemonic crusade, instead of girding for a cataclysmic clash of civilizations. Had she lived to lead her country again, it is doubtful that Bhutto would have been able to unite its fractured populace or curb the rising tide of Islamic militancy. She was too divisive and secular a figure, and too tainted by her past failures. Even her posthumous polemic offers only a few minor prescriptions for long-term policies at a time when Pakistan's stability is being violently challenged on a daily basis. Perhaps, however, Bhutto's destiny was not to rule Pakistan, but to die for the cause of its unfulfilled, fast-dimming promise as a Muslim democracy." Reviewed by Pamela Constable, a Washington Post staff writer who has reported periodically from Pakistan since 1998, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
(hide most of this review)
"If Ms. Bhutto's own life reads like a Greek tragedy, she was nonetheless a very modern politician, and the book she has written is part manifesto, part spin job, part selective history and part term-paper analysis." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"[T]he book is — like the woman — alternately fascinating, frustrating and opaque in a dodgy sort of way." The Los Angeles Times
"Despite its flaws of self-indulgence and omission, this book contains a larger truth. Islam does need to find its place as a moderate guiding force for millions of followers in the modern world, instead of being stolen by jihadists and written off as the religion of suicide bombers." The Washington Post Book World
"This is a courageous and powerful answer to hatred and intolerance, written by an extraordinary woman. Reading Benazir Bhutto's Reconciliation shows just how much we lost with her death. You'll finish it and mourn for what might have been." Arianna Huffington
"It is impossible to understand today's world without knowing Pakistan; and impossible to understand Pakistan without reading this book. A courageous woman — tragically killed — speaks to us of reconciliation. We owe it to her — and to ourselves — to listen, comprehend, and act." Madeleine Albright
"Benazir Bhutto's book is a powerful and insightful analysis of the formidable challenges that confronted an extraordinary woman who paid the ultimate price for daring to attempt to bring democracy to Pakistan. President Kennedy would have called her a Profile in Courage." Ted Kennedy
"This book is an eloquent reflection of traits which defined the life of Benazir Bhutto — an unshakable optimism about the future, a firm belief in the power of dialogue, and a commitment to democracy. The strength of her message of hope underscores how much was lost in her tragic death." Nancy Pelosi
Book News Annotation:
Apparently finished in the days just prior to her assassination, not to mention in anticipation of her US-sponsored return to power in Pakistan, this book by former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto addresses Western audiences in an effort to dispel misconceptions about Islam, the role of Islam in politics and its compatibility with democracy, and the strategies of the US "War on Terror." She discusses the history and practice of democracy around the Islamic world, particularly noting Western policies that have undermined democracy, such as the overthrow of Iranian Prime Minister Mossadegh in 1953, or US support for the Pakistani military dictatorship of Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq (who had her father executed in 1979). In the end, she denies that a "clash of civilizations" is inevitable and calls for a host of policy changes designed to preclude that possibility. Annotation ©2008 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Before her untimely death, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan wrote of the rapidly growing tension between Islam and the West. Reconciliation offers a realistic overview of ways to bridge the cultural, political, and economic chasms that separate these differing cultures.
About the Author
Benazir Bhutto was the prime minister of Pakistan from 1988 to 1990 and from 1993 to 1996, and the chairperson of the Pakistan Peoples Party. Born in 1953 in Karachi, Bhutto was the first woman ever to lead a Muslim state. She lived in exile since 1999 and had returned to Pakistan in October 2007, two months before her assassination.
What Our Readers Are Saying
Average customer rating based on 3 comments:
Other books you might like