New book dives into 'What

Wednesday, 15 November 2017, 02:37:44 PM. Historian Garry Wills shows how some Americans use Muslims as a way to define who they themselves are and what they stand for.
Americans are obsessed with Islam as an idea, as a mystery and as an existential threat to the West. As a result, our debates over Islam and Muslims aren't really about "them" as much as they are about "us" - and the supposed battle between the two. In his new book, "What the Qur'an Meant: And Why It Matters," historian Garry Wills shows how some Americans use Muslims as a way to define who they themselves are and what they stand for, and to sharpen their definition of Western civilization. The 2016 presidential race was a case in point. As Wills writes, "The crowded field of Republican candidates sounded, at times, as if they were running against Islam, not against Democrats." Wills, the author of "Why I Am a Catholic" and "Why Priests?," comes at Islam as a sympathetic outsider or, more precisely, an outsider who wants to be as sympathetic as he's able to be. Like many well-meaning observers, Wills hopes to educate readers about Islam in an effort to defuse Islamophobia. His book is directed at those who know little about the religion beyond what they glean from unsavory headlines. His premise is noble enough: that ignorance can be fought with knowledge. If only more people became more informed about the Koran, they might not believe those who insist that Islam is a dangerous religion. So it's hard to fault Wills for some cliched reassurances. For example, he writes of al-Qaeda and the soldiers of the Islamic State: "The minority fanatics seem to be unaware of their own...Read more
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