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PostPosted: Tue Jan 04, 2011 11:52 pm 
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I downloaded this book to my kindle, and it happens to be the first book of 2011 for me. Since Ian recommended it, I thought I might post some of my thoughts about it here.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 07, 2011 8:53 pm 
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So what do you think? Apparently it's not the best refutation out there, and I can't remember the one that Ahmed recommended. Not that either of us need more reasons not to convert to Islam.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 08, 2011 5:16 am 
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Ok, I've finished the first chapter.

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So what do you think? Apparently it's not the best refutation out there, and I can't remember the one that Ahmed recommended. Not that either of us need more reasons not to convert to Islam.


I don't have anything to compare it to. Up until now the information I've gleaned about Islam and the people associated with it have come from historical or autobiographical accounts, and our discussions here. So this is my first true polemic against Islam. Ayaan Hirsi Ali's personal story was devastating, but it was not an all-out attack on her former religion.

Incidentally, it turns out Ibn Warraq also wrote "Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said's Orientalism," so I may put that on my reading list. Said wrote a book titled 'Covering Islam,' which was a critique of the media for putting Islam in a bad light. I've read it, and it led well into Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson. Mortenson has a sequel to 3 cups which brings us through his actions in Afghanistan. We picked that up today, so I'll be reading that as well. Islam seems to be a frequent guest in my reading life this year. My wife's even getting in on the game: she downloaded "I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced." The title speaks for itself, a drop in a bucket swamped in an ocean of inequity.

The first half of the chapter was a bit of a muddled affair. Either the editor needs to be fired, or the person who formatted it for the kindle. I'm inclined to blame the latter, because I can tell where the paragraphs are supposed to begin and end, but it's not showing that way on the 'page.'

It's clear that Warraq's defining moment, the one event that made him want to write this book, was the Fatwa declared against Salmon Rushdie after the publication of 'The Satanic Verses.' Furious with Islamic figures for yet another attempted assassination, and fed up to his ears with the establishment elite, he lets loose. The entire thing screams "I say this because I can," and it's clear that while in the United States, he can (and Islamic countries are another matter entirely). He forthrightly admits that he's not very original, and relies heavily on other authors' materials. Admirable honesty.

The first half of the first chapter trots out anecdote after anecdote of people who criticized Islam, and paid for it, one way or another. They either died, were forced into exile, or spent a great deal of time in prison. It's clear for anyone who had any doubts that the Rushdie affair was not an oddity, but rather the norm (except that it spilled over into our own country).

The second half is spent lambasting the intellectuals who blamed Rushdie and defended the Islamic outrage. He names names. He brutalizes intellectual infatuation with primitive cultures, something that he shows goes as far back as written history. Yet he leaves the elite no shelter there, because intellectuals have not always viewed Islam favorably. Gibbons, Dante (the only two whose quotes I was familiar with), Hume, Voltaire, and Hobbes (among others) are quoted for all the wonderfully snide and condescending things they ever said about Islam. Intellectual after intellectual, prized by the elite, and yet these very same ivory tower types today seem blind to Islam's problems.

And yet the problem goes deeper. Because Gibbons, Voltaire and Co. (and most intellectuals following in their footsteps) believed that Islam was more tolerant than the Christianity they were so familiar with. For this he blames Thomas Carlyle, a crotchety Victorian Scottish satirist who wrote what appears to be the first favorable account of Islam, and someone who influenced Gibbons and Co most directly. While Dante's contemporaries viewed Islam as a bastardized Christianity, Carlyle expressed it as a more 'pure' form of Christianity, purged of inanities.

Christianity shares a target here with Islam. Warraq also takes to task the Christian scholars who leap to defend Islam, for fear of Christian doctrine taking a hit. I've read elsewhere that this book is the last we'll see of this. Like AHA, Ibn Warraq seems to have found allies among Christians, and has all but ceased criticizing anything but Islam.

Finally, Warraq comes around to detailing how and why Islam and Christianity have diverged along such completely different paths. He lays it squarely at the feet of religious authority. Islam never had its Reformation. Luther was able to retreat to friendly territory, make powerful allies, and his crusade was adopted by those allies to their own ends. Islam never had a successful Luther, though many have tried. Their efforts (and often their lives) in the Islamic world have been crushed at every turn.

The first chapter of Ibn Warraq's first book took up the first 10% of the pages. There is alot of information to digest in a not-entirely-short span, and I've had to research over a dozen names to put things into their proper perspective.

Ibn Warraq (a pen name which actually means son of a papermaker) is no Hitchens, Sam Harris, or Richard Dawkins. He was a courier right up until the Rushdie Affair. Never really indoctrinated religiously, he started writing for a secular humanist rag. His research while working for Free Inquiry eventually led to this book, his first, in 1995. He's been living in seclusion and travelling under moderate security ever since.

I don't really understand Ahmed's beef with Ibn Warraq (which also happens to be a common pseudonym taken by previous dissidents of Islam), or this book in particular. It lacks the venom of most political polemics I've read, and there's none of the acerbic wit of Hitchens. Warraq is essentially using others' writings to condemn Islam as a religion and a system of government. So far, he's doing a very capable job of it.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 09, 2011 7:52 pm 
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Finally, Warraq comes around to detailing how and why Islam and Christianity have diverged along such completely different paths. He lays it squarely at the feet of religious authority. Islam never had its Reformation. Luther was able to retreat to friendly territory, make powerful allies, and his crusade was adopted by those allies to their own ends. Islam never had a successful Luther, though many have tried. Their efforts (and often their lives) in the Islamic world have been crushed at every turn.


Another problem may be the availability of readable korans. Back during the Reformation, the Bible was produced in other languages than Latin, so more people could actually read what was in it for themselves. In reading Mortenson's Three Cups it becomes obvious that the Muslim religious authorities have a deathgrip on interpretation of the koran. Everybody has one, but few can read them, because they're all in Arabic.

This is a problem for people living in tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. They memorize a few sutras they've heard, and stare at it repeating the sutras they know by heart. All without really knowing what it is they're looking at. It's highly doubtful this would lead to a mass exodus, but, just like in Europe, perhaps it might lead to more introspection, examination, and give people more willingness to take on the religious authorities when they screw over the populace (Mortenson related more than one instance in which a religious authority forced a village to hand over property so they would leave the village's new school alone. If the villages refused, the school was burned down or attacked).

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 18, 2011 7:37 pm 
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Jason Rees wrote:
Quote:
Finally, Warraq comes around to detailing how and why Islam and Christianity have diverged along such completely different paths. He lays it squarely at the feet of religious authority. Islam never had its Reformation. Luther was able to retreat to friendly territory, make powerful allies, and his crusade was adopted by those allies to their own ends. Islam never had a successful Luther, though many have tried. Their efforts (and often their lives) in the Islamic world have been crushed at every turn.





Technically, Mohammed Wahhab was the islamic Martin Luther, and that the islamic world is actually going through it's own evolution right now.

Thing is though, often ignored was that Luther, alot like Wahab, isn't what we would call someone who had the intent to bring actually modernity. Not in intention, neither was it wahabs. Infact, it can be argued that the church was more moderate in certain aspects then luther.

Luther we know however, JUMP STARTED modernization simply because of cause and effect. For all we know, this can happen to the islamic world. Lets hope it ends the same way.


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Another problem may be the availability of readable korans. Back during the Reformation, the Bible was produced in other languages than Latin, so more people could actually read what was in it for themselves. In reading Mortenson's Three Cups it becomes obvious that the Muslim religious authorities have a deathgrip on interpretation of the koran. Everybody has one, but few can read them, because they're all in Arabic.

This is a problem for people living in tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. They memorize a few sutras they've heard, and stare at it repeating the sutras they know by heart. All without really knowing what it is they're looking at. It's highly doubtful this would lead to a mass exodus, but, just like in Europe, perhaps it might lead to more introspection, examination, and give people more willingness to take on the religious authorities when they screw over the populace (Mortenson related more than one instance in which a religious authority forced a village to hand over property so they would leave the village's new school alone. If the villages refused, the school was burned down or attacked).


About the quran, i myself don't speak arabic, but memorized many surahs. Thing is though, i am literate in english and somewhat can read transliterations of urdu. So i can get background on surahs.

Thing with alot of muslims, especially in villiages, is that not only do they not know how to read arabic, but they cannot READ in general. They rely on the opinions and thoguhts of single men to look at religious text. This is a big difference in the west and the east.

Lots of Urdu translations of the quran, lots of english ones right in pakistan. Just that, the folks that buy them can read them, often these are available in Urban areas rather then rural. All the crazy stuff you probably noticed, often occurs in rural pakistan instead of Urban.

Back when your typical europian could not read, you guys had similar cultural problems. Not europians are very literate, hence the more open ended view on religion in europe, less interperative monopoly.

Even in the arab world this is a problem. They may speak or read arabic, but certainly not old arabic, and not something with the linguistic complexity of the quran. Ive met many educatd Arabs who have a hard time understanding the quran. Now compound this with translations. Actually, one thing i respect about catholism is the examination of texts in Greek trumping english bibles, the attempt to get as close to the original language as possible. I know protestants do the same when they go to Divinity school/seminaries, but you still see preachers with no real training.

This may sound cliche, but education is actually the key, religious education.

Also worth pointing out, there never was a clergy class in islam, yet after the 4 mathabs, an unofficial form of clergy has formed. A priesthood. This is

Quote:
The second half is spent lambasting the intellectuals who blamed Rushdie and defended the Islamic outrage. He names names. He brutalizes intellectual infatuation with primitive cultures, something that he shows goes as far back as written history. Yet he leaves the elite no shelter there, because intellectuals have not always viewed Islam favorably. Gibbons, Dante (the only two whose quotes I was familiar with), Hume, Voltaire, and Hobbes (among others) are quoted for all the wonderfully snide and condescending things they ever said about Islam. Intellectual after intellectual, prized by the elite, and yet these very same ivory tower types today seem blind to Islam's problems.


Thing is, alot of these guys were also very anti-semetic, some of the stuff volaire says about jews for instance. We cannot blame voltaire for instance, for saying such things...because well...look at the times in which he lived in?

Thomas Carylyle i think is given a very bad rap by Warraq, as Thomas simply recorded his observations, most of what he wrote often dealt with muslim spain, a different sort of dynasty from many others.

Remember though, Warraq is a psychologist, not an islamic historian like Bernard Lewis or Daniel pipes(both highly critical of islamic practice) but both have vastly different points of view of Islam then Warraq.

Warraq however, to his credit, is a bit more honest then someone like spencer. Though i greatly disagree with alot of his scholarship, some of it he really really just makes big stretches.

He seems to have an axe to grind, but atleast he doesn't go as far as Tarring every single muslim, such as his respect for Sufism or (unlike spencer) doesn't use the taqqiya cop-out.

Still, i don't consider him NEARLY scholarly as other critics. I find he often does alot of historical revision, leaves out important details in early islamic history, and really has his own interrpretation of islamic theology that even is different from the salafi/wahabi.
At the time it was written, it was considered one of the most vicious critiques around(Watt and others were vicious toward islam, but still would state context), but by todays standards, it's actually well....standard. For instance, Warraq to his credit doesn't even bring up Taqqiya(though he would not considering he hangs around with Spencer/geller) because he knows from personal experience it isn't really an issue at all, or even central to islam, not even in shiitism(which is where the concept comes from) and until he started hanging around spencer and geller, he never even talked about abrogation as it wasn't relevent(until he started hanging around with geller and spencer) this book pre-dates the popularity of those folks, so it is obvious it takes a picture of Warraqs stance at the time compared to now.

That said, unlike critics of islam like pipes or Lewis, Warraq doesn't even TRY to appear objective, it's obvious what he is gunning for. Infact, one of the reasons Warraq blasts professors of islamic studies is because most(not all) view his work as unscholarly, and full of polemec, even guys muslims really dislike or the students of such men. Look at what happened between spencer and Danial pipes. They used to be very supportive of one another, but Daniel pipes distanced himself from Spencer due to what he percieved as intellectual dishonesty and outright bigotry...and Pipes does not like islam.
Spencer and Warraq used to love Bernard Lewis, until Lewis disagreed with them on many key points(even though he is one of the foremost experts on islamic culture and history(even Edward Said gave him props in this regard, and Said and Lewis really don't like eachother)

But Warraq is highly supportive and supported by those folks, and now has recently absorbed their arguements into his own, arguements at one time he never even bothered mentioning(because they were not worth mentioning)


He certainly is right about the social situation in the muslim world. Look at blasphemy laws in pakistan.


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 24, 2011 8:50 am 
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My apologies for the delay in my response. Sometimes, it seems I have all the time in the world for weeks to buzz around these forums, and other times, very little at all but for a tiny peek.

I've put my study of this particular volume on hold until I completely finish The White Man's Burden, by William Easterly. Meanwhile, I'm also studying for my promotion test in March.

AAAhmed46 wrote:
Technically, Mohammed Wahhab was the islamic Martin Luther, and that the islamic world is actually going through it's own evolution right now.

Thing is though, often ignored was that Luther, alot like Wahab, isn't what we would call someone who had the intent to bring actually modernity. Not in intention, neither was it wahabs. Infact, it can be argued that the church was more moderate in certain aspects then Luther.


Try telling the Anabaptists, and others that both sides tried their damnedest to wipe out, how one side was more moderate than the other. I was hardly ascribing some humanitarian scheme to Luther. Rather, I was simply stating that he broke the Church's stranglehold on Europe. And he did. No one, to date, has crushed the stranglehold of religious authorities among the major sects of Islam.

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Thing with alot of muslims, especially in villiages, is that not only do they not know how to read arabic, but they cannot READ in general. They rely on the opinions and thoguhts of single men to look at religious text. This is a big difference in the west and the east.


This is being addressed. Within two generations, a huge portion of backwater Pakistan and Afghanistan will be literate.

Quote:
Back when your typical europian could not read, you guys had similar cultural problems. Not europians are very literate, hence the more open ended view on religion in europe, less interperative monopoly.


Having the Bible available in the Vulgate (local language) changed everything, with the advent of the printing press, as I said earlier.

Quote:
Even in the arab world this is a problem. They may speak or read arabic, but certainly not old arabic, and not something with the linguistic complexity of the quran.


The quran isn't linguistically complex. It's a frigging hodgepodge. I'll get to that soon, I promise. :twisted:

Quote:
This may sound cliche, but education is actually the key, religious education.


No, I think Madrassahs have already screwed things up royally enough, thank you very much. The key is secular education, so that the average person can read this gibberish for themselves.

Quote:
Remember though, Warraq is a psychologist, not an islamic historian like Bernard Lewis or Daniel pipes(both highly critical of islamic practice) but both have vastly different points of view of Islam then Warraq.

Quote:
Warraq however, to his credit, is a bit more honest then someone like spencer. Though i greatly disagree with alot of his scholarship, some of it he really really just makes big stretches.


Perhaps you'd care to qualify which 'big stretches' he makes?

Quote:
He seems to have an axe to grind, but at least he doesn't go as far as Tarring every single muslim, such as his respect for Sufism or (unlike spencer) doesn't use the taqqiya cop-out.


At this point you've lost me. I have no idea what you're talking about when you refer to his respect for Sufism (he doesn't seem to have respect for any religion), or Spencer's 'taqqiya cop-out.'

Quote:
Still, i don't consider him NEARLY scholarly as other critics. I find he often does alot of historical revision, leaves out important details in early islamic history, and really has his own interpretation of islamic theology that even is different from the salafi/wahabi.


Since he doesn't claim to be a scholar, I think this point is moot.


Quote:
That said, unlike critics of islam like pipes or Lewis, Warraq doesn't even TRY to appear objective, it's obvious what he is gunning for.


To even pretend to appear objective would seem to derail the intent of this book.

Quote:
Spencer and Warraq used to love Bernard Lewis, until Lewis disagreed with them on many key points(even though he is one of the foremost experts on islamic culture and history(even Edward Said gave him props in this regard, and Said and Lewis really don't like eachother)


Truly, the politics of these people is fascinating, but I think we've gone fairly far astray of the topic at hand.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 25, 2011 6:33 pm 
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Quote:
My apologies for the delay in my response. Sometimes, it seems I have all the time in the world for weeks to buzz around these forums, and other times, very little at all but for a tiny peek.

I've put my study of this particular volume on hold until I completely finish The White Man's Burden, by William Easterly. Meanwhile, I'm also studying for my promotion test in March.


Me too, ive been busy as well for various reasons.

Quote:
Try telling the Anabaptists, and others that both sides tried their damnedest to wipe out, how one side was more moderate than the other. I was hardly ascribing some humanitarian scheme to Luther. Rather, I was simply stating that he broke the Church's stranglehold on Europe. And he did. No one, to date, has crushed the stranglehold of religious authorities among the major sects of Islam.

Agreed, though Id like to point out that the violent Takfiri Salafi movement may be just that, or it can be argued as the FORMATION of an even more solid organization, that could be troubling.

Quote:
This is being addressed. Within two generations, a huge portion of backwater Pakistan and Afghanistan will be literate.

I had hope for pakistan for a while, but now it's basically failing for too quickly.

Quote:
The quran isn't linguistically complex. It's a frigging hodgepodge. I'll get to that soon, I promise.


I mention the complexity due to the inability of so many folks literate in arabic having a hard time totally breaking it down and understanding it, unless they particularly go into studying classical arabic language. I may not speak the language, but others that have often have a difficult time reading.

Can't make much comment as I myself don't speak arabic, my dad does though. Heard apostate muslims and arab christians comment on it's complexity as well. Although arabic Grammer has now changed alot, the quran was the basis of modern arabic writing and grammer.
This is about as much as i can debate this, particularly since I only have a very limited understanding of what they are talking about, as i still need to learn to read and write the language.

I bring it up only because of why i think it's relevent.

Quote:
No, I think Madrassahs have already screwed things up royally enough, thank you very much. The key is secular education, so that the average person can read this gibberish for themselves.

The problem isn't the maddrasas(though one should not absolve them of guilt) the problem is 'do it yourself islam' that becomes it's own cliche. This is ESPECIALLY true in western jihadists, while the in the middle east violence is more domestic.
Madrassas atleast stress the existence and importance of past scholarship on religion, the 'do it yourself islam' however does not.
Madrassa has become an evil world in the last 15 years. Lots of different kinds of Madrassas, and often some madrassas are not even religious schools. Look at how the word/term is used.


Quote:
Perhaps you'd care to qualify which 'big stretches' he makes?

It's a whole book. Don't think i have the patience to debunk a whole damn book.
Firstly, he was never a scholar. Simply reciting the quran doesn't create a scholar. And in many ways he DOES claim to be a scholar, he is advertised as such and his admirers often call him ''an islamic scholar''
Not to say scholars haven't done any harm in islamic religious history....both muslim and non-muslim.
The dude claims the west has a history of not attacking religion in it's scholarship. If anything, i say the west does an exellent job of critique of religion. Also, I think you probably guessed where i disagree with him, but to make it simple, his oversimplification of teh religious group.


Quote:
At this point you've lost me. I have no idea what you're talking about when you refer to his respect for Sufism (he doesn't seem to have respect for any religion), or Spencer's 'taqqiya cop-out.

According to him, he finds the pacifistic mystical view of religion less harmful(IE like a sam harris) and yes, he seems to dislike all religion)
Think he mentions this outside of his book.

The taqqiya arguement was mostly rooted to Spencer, where he claims that whenever muslims denounce terrorism they are lying to the infidel using a term called Taqqiya(which many muslims are unaware of as well) which ACCORDING TO HIM means muslims can lie to protect islam. But what he fails to mention is that this is mostly a shiite concept about lying about what you believe to protect your life(when shiites were being oppressed) and from a sunni perspective it barely exists as the allowance to denounce your faith under torture. Ignoring the fact most scholars(and terrorists) are sunnis, this concept is almost a non-issue with terrorism or even it's persistence in culture.

Warraq does not mention this at all in his scholarship or writiing...until he started getting friendly with spencer. Never happened before. Basically, everytiem someone tries to textually refute him(spencer) or denounce terrorism, they come out and accuse them of taqqiya and say they are secretly extremists. It's such a cop out, and leaves even many muslims dumbfounded at what this funny word is.

Quote:
To even pretend to appear objective would seem to derail the intent of this book.

It's important because it makes sure people know your trying to honestly get at the truth instead of just forwarding an agenda. You can write a book being sharply critical with that intent but still intending to be honest about it all. Some previous missionary critiques of islam were surprisingly filled with good scholarship, and even debunked misconceptions.




Quote:
Truly, the politics of these people is fascinating, but I think we've gone fairly far astray of the topic at hand.

They, including their hatred of eachother is very relevent to the topic.

Meaning the Phd's and pioneers of islamic studies/islamic history with all the varying opinions, don't give many of these folks more than a glance as they don't take them seriously, even the academics that don't like islam.

Many of these academics all don't like eachother, with vastly different opinions on different things, yet despite being so different from eachother, they are collectivly branded as 'easy on islam' by the polemical writers, rejected by teh polemisists and the polemical writers are rejected by the Academics.


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 31, 2011 8:00 am 
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I finished White Man's Burden. What a sordid mess foreign aid is.

I'll be dropping back into this discussion soon.

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W.M.B. was a real eye opener for me too. Made me wish the entire enterprise was reconsidered down to the last cent, and driven entirely by rewarding locally successful projects and punishing failure with defunding, not double funding. And I realized there's no switch to be thrown; a proper state and economy has to slowly evolve, and can't be dropped into place. Poverty will be around for a while.

Hey, it's a bummer foreign aid is only like, what is it, 1% of the budget?

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So I finished chapter 2 a few weeks ago, and I'm finally getting back to posting here about it:

Chapter two is divided into two parts: a complete description of the required once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage to Mecca; and an in-depth treatment of external influences found in the Quran, including (but not limited to) Arabic superstitions, Christianity, Judaism, Persian Zoroastrianism, and Sabianism.

The description of the pilgrimage blew me away. Something tells me that, like Mormonism, you don't get full disclosure from proselytizers. Warraq shows not only the entire rediculous pilgrimage, but how each part and ceremony originated in pre-Islamic practices. I knew about the black stone, but other than that, this was all new information to me.

I was already aware of the influence of Zoroastrianism and Judaism, but not the extent of Christianity's influence, nor the extent of Mohamed's ignorance of it. Warraq claims (and backs up his claim) that Mohammed believed that Jesus and Moses lived in the same time period, to the extent that he wrote that Mary the mother of Jesus was also Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron. He also notes that Muhammad mixed up an event that occurred in the time of Noah, and placed it in the time of Solomon. Actually written into the Quran (Sura 2.250) is a juxtaposition of Saul and Gideon.

It goes on and on, and the above is just a taste. Thankfully, it only took up 8% of the book. If anyone could take Mohammed, the Quran, and Islam seriously after reading that chapter, they're better at mental gymnastics than I. I'm beginning to lose my enthusiasm for this venture, but I'll continue on, for now.

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Chapter three ripped into the authenticity of the sources used by Islam, right through the Hadith and on to the Koran. Criticisms bit so hard into Islam they cast doubt on whether the Koran was actually written by Mohammed. and whether the Hadith has any relation to the real-life activities and teachings of Mohammed.

So far it's been very dry reading. That's three chapters in two months. Meanwhile, I've found several titles far more interesting this year, including The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi; Violence: A Writer's Guide by Rory Miller; and The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good by William Easterly. I've just started Decision Points, by George W. Bush, and it hasn't disappointed. With classes starting next month, Why I am not a Muslim could end up being a year-long project.

One criticism I have of Why I am not a Muslim is that there's no connection to the author. Why does this information eliminate Islam as a faith in the eyes of the author? What were his experiences? It just seems to be one jab after another, with no heart in the fight.

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