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Stacking library shelves

"Stacking library shelves" Continued...

Issue: "Surviving Syria," June 1, 2013

The work of Egypt-born British historian Bat Ye’or is also crucial: Either The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians under Islam or Islam and Dhimmitude (both published by the Fairleigh Dickinson University Press) would introduce readers to a key Muslim concept. From Muhammad’s time to the present, dhimmis were and are conquered people who have to pay extra taxes and put up with enormous scorn and abuse in return for not being murdered. Overall, these scholarly books show that “human rights” is a meaningless term within Islam. Readers who want a shorter book could turn to The Myth of Islamic Tolerance: How Islamic Law Treats Non-Muslims, edited by Robert Spencer.

(Emily Whitten asked one of the national scholars, Giancarlo Casale, the NEH’s expert on the “connected histories” of Muslims and non-Muslims, to comment on Bat Ye’or’s work on dhimmitude.  Casale said, “I am not very familiar with the writings of Bat Ye’or.... It is a status that is in some ways troubling to modern notions of tolerance and equality, because it involved systematic legal discrimination against non-Muslims. On the other hand, it also provided a legal framework to protect the lives and livelihoods of non-Muslims under Muslim rule on a permanent basis.” )

To provide an alternative view to Mattson and Brown’s apologetic for the Quran and Muhammad, one of Ibn Warraq’s books—The Origins of the Koran, Which Koran?, or The Quest for the Historical Muhammad—should have been on the NEH’s reading list. Those looking for background on the idea that the Quran emerged long after Muhammad’s death could go to John Wansbrough’s Quranic Studies, or (for an easier read) Robert Spencer’s Did Muhammad Exist?.

(Of course, it would have taken an unconventional scholar to have recommended a critic of Islam like Ibn Warraq—someone like Rice University professor David Cook, who teaches courses in the history of Islam. In Understanding Jihad, another book that the NEH should have promoted, Cook wrote that Ibn Warraq has been “devastating in pinpointing the weaknesses in Muslim orthodoxy” and in academia’s “systematic failure to critique the foundational texts of Islam as those of other faiths have been critiqued.”)

A fifth need is for memoirs to provide an alternative view to the glowing pro-Islamism of Aboulela and Ahmed. Ibn Warraq edited Leaving Islam: Apostates Speak Out, which includes moving testimonies by brave men and women now threatened with death because they saw the inadequacy of Islam and refused to pretend. Those wanting to know more about women under Islam could go to Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Infidel or Wafa Sultan’s A God Who Hates. Sultan told WORLD, though, that her message is not one Americans want to hear: “It’s hard for you to believe that people can be evil.”

Librarians could reassert the tradition of local library control by stocking these and other unconventional works. For more reading suggestions from Daniel Pipes, other scholars, and myself, please go to the Muslim Journeys tab at worldmag.com. You can also download a PDF of the 953 recipients of NEH largesse and other materials.

—with reporting by Emily Whitten

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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