Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Islam: A Short History by Karen Armstrong

Islam: A Short History by Karen Armstrong is one of the fifteen books I chose to read this year as part of my annual attempt to read or get rid of books that have been sitting on my shelf for longer than necessary.  This book was added eagerly, not because I wanted to get rid of it but because I had read two really good books by Armstrong and was confident I would love this one.

I refuse to finish this book.

On page 18 she says the following.
Anti-semitism is a Christian vice.  Hatred of Jews became marked in the Muslim world only after the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 and the subsequent loss o f Arab Palestine.
It is hard for me to even begin addressing myself to why this passage made me sick to my stomach.  For one thing, to suggest that any Arab is anti-Semitic is ridiculous.  Those who say this clearly don’t understand that the Semitic race includes not only Jews but Arabs as well.  What Armstrong clearly meant and should have said is that Arabs are anti-Zionist or anti-Jewish.

But she places the blame for this anti-Zionist sentiment squarely on British shoulders.  Clearly her research about Islam and the Arab nations didn’t extend to Iraq’s own history and the Farhud, an expulsion from Iraq of the Jewish citizens seven years before the Israeli nation was established.  The fact that Iraq cooperated with the Nazis during World War II was rooted in a history of long-standing anti-Jewish sentiment.

I found this article about the book interesting and wanted to share it here:

It doesn’t take long to discover a lot of articles, most of them by scholars on par with Armstrong’s reputation who criticize her profusely for this apologist perspective on Islamic history.  And I wouldn’t have even looked if I hadn’t read the passage I quoted above and wondered to myself if I was going to read more erroneous “truths” from an author I previously respected.  It's so damned stupid and so blatant that I can't help but assume, reading further, I would continue to find nonsense like this throughout the pages of her version of Islamic history.  No doubt, centuries, in the form of chapters, would go by before I wanted to throw the book across the room again but do I really want to read even a short history of Islam if I already don't trust the author's ability to be balanced, honest, and accurate?

Obviously not since I am not going to finish reading this book.  A huge disappointment.

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