Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy, and the West
Anyone who knew I was reading Reconciliation, knew that this book was a tough read for me. First, I rarely read works of non-fiction, and second, I didn't know much about the Islamic world/history, though I was vastly curious.
Although I admired her and thought it a bad thing when she lost power and Pakistan descended again into military dictatorship, I did not really know anything about her politics. The lack of power and absence of help from the Pakistani government for security added to her danger as she progressed through the adoring crowds in an armored vehicle. Through extensive theological research, she shows that Islam as a religion and philosophy is perfectly capable of promoting and supporting democracy. Bhutto then sadly acknowledges the fact that much of the Islamic world suffers under tyrannies. The last half of the book attacks the rising philosophy known as the clash of civilizations that says conflict between the West and Islam is inevitable. Bhutto concludes by presenting her many ideas for fostering democracy throughout the world and bringing peace between civilizations. These actions and many more are badly needed in the Islamic world, where studies show that the majority of people desire democratic government and institutions. She supports this assertion with the fact that extremists and terrorists have increased their power substantially within Pakistan since dictatorship took hold again. The loss of Benazir Bhutto leaves the world in that much more jeopardy of suffering a clash of civilizations. Pakistan remains seriously troubled and terrorists increasingly make it a base of operations, but at least I can believe that there are millions of Muslims who want it to be very different.
I loved to hear about her optimism about how Islam is a peaceful religion that has been hijacked by extremists who stray from the real messages of the Quran. Why isn't there the terrorism we see in Judaism and Christianity that we see in Islam? Bhutto says that there is terrorism in Christianity and sites bombings of abortion clinics. (Har har.) I don't want to believe that Islam is inherently less peaceful than Christianity and Judaism. I was hoping to find an answer in Bhutto's book, but instead found stereotypes and falsities about Christianity, and narrowmindedness about being a Muslim. "And if your Lord had pleased He would certainly have made people a single nation, and they shall continue to differ.") and then summarize the text, saying "This means that... That God created diversity and asked believers to be just and to desire justice in the world." Ms. Bhutto, it's nice that this is how you read the text. Another summary of the Quranic text: "And if your Lord had pleased He would certainly have made people a single nation, and they shall continue to differ." This means that God created diversity and asked believers to be just and to desire justice in the world. Islam embraces all humanity under one God, discrediting all other exclusive religions clams to salvation. I don't believe there is anything quite like this in any religion on earth." In Benazir Bhutto's Islam, Islam embraces all humanity under one God. Yay! Ms. Bhutto, if you're going to be liberal with interpreting your sacred text, please let me do the same with mine. She repeatedly called Christians "perfected Jews." There is no parallel concept of exclusion anywhere in Islamic holy texts and doctrine. I don't know a great deal about Middle East politics, so I was impressed with Bhutto's analysis on the democratic growth across the Muslim world, and I really do love her vision of a democratic Muslim World.
I read Benazir Bhutto's daughter of the East first, which was published in 1989. The Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy and the West was published in 2008. The first chapter deals with Benazir Bhutto's return to Pakistan from her political exile and the failed assassination attack on her life. She presents Muslim nations as case studies to highlight the involvement of West (for political and economical agendas) which resulted in the disruption of progress. Staying within the box has set Islam and the West on a dangerous and unnecessary collision course. It is time for reconciliation ." An absolutely must read treatise on Islam, Democracy and the West!
Unfortunately, the author spends most of chapter 2 quoting passages from the Quran in an attempt to prove that Islam is not a violent or mysogynist religion. In what seems like several hundred pages later, the book gets better in chapter 3, when she recounts the often shameful history of the U.S. and Britain's -- especially in the Cold War era -- actions in the Middle East. Bhutto's credibility is not enhanced when she dismisses Ayaan Hirsi Ali for "her attacks on Islam and even on the Prophet himself have I believe put her outside the rational, useful debate over competing cultures" (p.248). They built western high-rise steel frame buildings. They created superhighways and in every way implemented the trappings of western prosperity. Or rather, they paid westerners to create all those things for them.
My coworker essentially said "It's generally thought in Pakistan that Bhutto wanted to be prime minster to get revenge on her father's killers." The editing and stylistic choices were sometimes not conducive to an audiobook setting. Possibly not that big of a deal if I was actually reading the book, but hearing the word "civilization" over and over again grated on my nerves after 10 minutes. Ultimately, I wonder if many of the problems I had with this book might have been fixed if there were proper editing and a little more time for Bhutto herself to bring it together cohesively. I get the sense that this was a semi-finished book thrown together by her family/supporters/publishers quickly so that people could read her thoughts before her name left the front page.
Even if he wasn't, I had no doubt that dippy Islamist control freaks were set on molding the relatively ignorant masses to their way of thinking. Bhutto makes very good points concerning the substantial commonality of Judaism, Christianity and Islam: all have a common father in Abraham. Abraham fathered his first son Ishmael by his wife's handmaid (at her insistence since she was around 90) and then miraculously Isaac by his ancient wife Sara. However, Ishmael, later the traditional father of Islam, is driven away and it is Isaac is nearly sacrificed to God by Abraham. If you think of about 500 years ago when Tyndale was burned at the stake (strangled at the same time oddly enough) for translating the Bible into English, then you have the idea of what it means to have religious control (Henry VIII) over people. She makes very valid points and I agree that these things could happen if only some people would get their collective heads out of their Islamic buttsand the US will continue giving Pakistan money. I just dont think that there is enough goodness left in this world to counter all the evil schmucks that are already here, in Pakistan as well as in the West.
A huge chunk in the middle deals with Pakistan's history and seems almost autobiographical, since the author and her family has played a huge role therein. Though interesting on it's own, it's hard to see the relevance and the connections to the rest of the book, dealing with other Muslim democracies and how to reconcile the East and the West.
Bhutto presents arguments from the Quran favoring the compatibility of Islam and democracy, and she identifies the main center of gravity against terrorism as an intra-Muslim struggle for the future of Islam.
Whether or not you agree with her views, it is 100% worthwhile reading the views of a well-educated muslim woman prime minister of a muslim nation about democracy-a political structure which has very little place in the current muslim world.
Bhutto was the first woman elected to lead a Muslim state, having twice been Prime Minister of Pakistan (19881990; 19931996). In 1993 she was re-elected but was again removed in 1996 on similar charges, this time by President Farooq Leghari.