Benazir Bhutto’s Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy, and the West is a thought-provoking book. Written just before her tragic death in 2007, here, Bhutto makes a compelling case: Islam is compatible with democracy (despite popular notions to the contrary); Al-Qaida and other “terrorists groups” misrepresent Islamic doctrine and teachings; and that the West (particularly the United States) has done much to create discord in the Middle East, a fact that is virtually ignored in the West, particularly by the western media. Given this year’s Open Gates lecture series on global problems, particularly conflict, poverty and hunger, a discussion of Bhutto’s book makes sense. Understanding her perspective (one that most Americans seldom encounter) could shed new light on the causes of friction between the United States and the Islamic world. For example, she dismisses the idea that Islamic teachings condone terrorism:
“I think it’s pretty clear,” Bhutto wrote, ” that you have to go a long way, and deliberately exclude quranic text and Muslim history, to try to make an intellectual case that Islam and democracy are mutually exclusive and can’t coexist. Indeed, it is dictatorship that is abhorrent and prohibited under Islam. But an even harder stretch of theology is required to justify or rationalize terrorism, suicide bombings, or any violence directed at the innocent within the Islamic tradition or within the divine word of the Holy Book,” (74).
Bhutto quotes extensively from the Quran, stressing the peaceful tenets of the religion:
“For this reason did We prescribe to the children of Israel that whoever slays a soul, unless it be manslaughter or for mischief in the land, it is as though he slew all men; and whoever keeps it alive, it is as though he kept all mankind alive . . .”
According to Bhutto, ” preserving life is a central moral value,” woven throughout the Quran. Moreover, she says that Osama “bin Laden is not representative of Islam, or any civilization, for that matter. Of course, this problem of religious fanatics hijacking religious values to serve their won violent interest is not a problem limited to Islam,” (29). Again, terrorism and Islam are not compatible.
In short, this book is worth careful consideration; it addresses some of the most pressing issues of peace and justice in the world today. The following book reviews give more details.
I’d be interested to see comments from members of the WA community, particularly from the folks who attended the first lecture on October 14th re: Global Terrorism. Thank you.