Book explaining Islam?
December 10, 2009 5:10 PM   Subscribe

What's the best book for obtaining an overview of Islam (and its attitudes towards 'Western' culture)?

My girlfriend has recently been reading a book about Muslims and the effects of their westward migration. It's sparked some really interesting debates between us, but I do think that the book she's reading is a little one-sided.

The book in question is Hurra, wir kapitulieren! (my girlfriend is German). The main argument of the author seems to be that we in the west compromise our ideals to suit Islamic beliefs (he cites a German orchestra who had to make their women wear burqas for a concert in Iran) but that Muslims would not compromise theirs if put in a similar situation. He also seems to assert that no Muslim leaders have denounced terrorist attacks. I am not posting this here to incite a discussion, rather to give you an idea of what issues the book raises.

For Christmas I would like to give my girlfriend a better, more balanced book, which could act as counterpoint to the above.

Any suggestions? It would be great if the book were in German (as this makes it less stressful for my gf to read) but all suggestions are gratefully received.
posted by edbyford to Religion & Philosophy (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I really love this book: Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate by Leila Ahmed. It's likely more gender focused than you're looking for but it's an engaging history of Islam.
posted by dchrssyr at 5:19 PM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seconding Aslan's book. Great read.

(You know, you can do pretty well just buying every single book whose author shows up on The Daily Show. I swear, that Stewart has great taste in books.)
posted by rokusan at 6:17 PM on December 10, 2009

Who Speaks for Islam?

Based on polls and interviews with tens of thousands of muslims around the world. It's a remarkable book.

And there have been muslim leaders that have spoken out against terrorism. It just doesn't get reported in the west because who wants to hear that?
posted by scrute at 7:26 PM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

I recommend The Crusades through Arab Eyes. It's not about modern Muslim society, but it's an absolutely fascinating book - one of the few non-fiction page-turners I've found, and it seemed very even-handed to me.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 8:20 PM on December 10, 2009

I've heard good things about the above-linked No God But God.
posted by Alt F4 at 6:24 AM on December 11, 2009

Response by poster: Hi guys, thanks for all your suggestions!

I'm going for No God but God, as it seems to tick all the boxes - It's in German, not dealing with a specific issue and not a book which simply argues one idea single-mindedly. Rather tells the story and lets the reader make up their own mind.

thanks again!
posted by edbyford at 3:38 AM on December 13, 2009

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