by John L. Esposito
Synopsis: In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, there has been an overwhelming demand for information about Islam. As a leading expert, John Esposito has found himself called upon to speak to a wide range of audiences, including members of Congress, the Bush administration, government agencies, the military, and the media. Out of this experience, he has identified the most pressing questions people consistently ask about Islam.
In What Everyone Needs to Know about Islam, Esposito presents in question-and-answer format the information that most people want to know. Esposito provides succinct, accessible, sensitive, and even-handed answers to questions that range from the general—“What do Muslims believe?” and “Who was Muhammad?”—to more specific issues like Is Islam compatible with modernization, capitalism and democracy? How do Muslims view Judaism and Christianity? Are women second-class citizens in Islam? What is jihad? Does the Quran condone terrorism? What does Islam say about homosexuality, birth control, abortion, and slavery?
The editor of The Oxford Encyclopedia of Modern Islam and The Oxford History of Islam, and author of Unholy War and many other acclaimed works, John Esposito is one of America’s leading authorities on Islam. This brief and readable book is the first place to look for information on the faith, customs, and political beliefs of the more than one billion people who call themselves Muslims.
Publishers Weekly: Georgetown professor Esposito has written an excellent primer on all aspects of Islam. The question-and-answer format allows readers to skip ahead to areas that interest them, including hot-button issues such as “Why are Muslims so violent?” or “Why do Muslim women wear veils and long garments?” In his answers, which are anywhere from a paragraph to several pages long, Esposito elegantly educates the reader through what the Qur’an says, how Muslims are influenced by their local cultures, and how the unique politics of Islamic countries affects Muslims’ views. All three elements contribute to a fuller understanding of Islam. For instance, in answering the question on veiling, Esposito accurately clarifies that though the Qur’an instructs believers to be modest, it does not require head coverings. He continues by describing how the custom of veiling gained popularity in and after Muhammad’s time as a status symbol. He ends by pointing out how some women who veil today feel they are making a social protest against judgment based on appearance as much as they are fulfilling the modesty requirement. Occasionally Esposito excludes some key information. He says that jihad is sometimes called the “Sixth Pillar” of Islam without pointing out that Western critics propagate the centrality of jihad, not Muslims. In his discussion of Qur’an 4:34, which appears to permit domestic violence in a disciplinary capacity, he omits new translations by feminist scholars that change the meaning and mitigate the controversy. However, overall, this book honestly and clearly answers the questions most non-Muslims have about Islam. (Nov.) Forecast: Esposito has become quite the commentator, airing his opinions regularly on NPR, Nightline and Fox News, and being heralded in publications such as the Wall Street Journal. Such exposure should help this primer do very well, and enjoy a long life as a backlist title. Oxford plans an initial print run of 40,000 copies. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.