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The Challenge of Modernizing Islam: Reformers Speak Out and the Obstacles They Face

Publisher: Encounter • July 18, 2017 • 296 pages

The entire foreign policy and much of the domestic policy of the United States and other Western governments are based on the proposition that the vast majority of Muslims are moderate and peaceful, including those who are emigrating in large numbers to Europe and North America. But as Islamist groups and many mosques radicalize peaceful Muslims and appeal to the teachings of the Koran, Hadith, and Sunnah, it is imperative for moderates and reformists to articulate a vision of Islam and an exegesis of Islamic texts that can withstand the challenge of Islamists and the ulema who have declared the sanctity and immutability of the text. Instead, they must re-establish a firm foundation of Islam that is modernized, genuinely peaceful, tolerant, pluralistic, and compatible with secular governance, the freedom of speech, human rights, and equality.

The Challenge of Modernizing Islam is the first major effort to provide that foundation. Veteran journalist Christine Douglass-Williams interviews foremost moderate and reformist Muslims in the Western world. She asks them tough questions about how they deal with problematic Koran passages, how they intend to get their message across to the Muslim world, and more.

Their answers are revelatory, even in the ways in which they disagree with one another. Douglass-Williams has captured the Islamic Reformist movement in its full intellectual ferment, laying bare the tensions and triumphs of the Reformers. In the book’s second half, she adds a crucial series of searingly honest and illuminating reflections on the challenges the reformers face, the chances they have of succeeding, and the implications of their struggle for the future of the Western world and of all free people.

Illuminating, engaging, and thought-provoking, The Challenge of Modernizing Islam is an essential text for understanding the future of the United States and the West, and the implications of Muslim moderates’ struggle for the free world.

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