Bangura, Abdul Karim. Keyboard Jihad: Attempts to Rectify Misperceptions and Misrepresentations of Islam.
Abdul Karim Bangura's goal is to rectify misperceptions and misrepresentations of Islam and Muslims that have proliferated on the Internet since the terrorist attacks of 9/11. According to the multi-lingual author, defending Islam is not the purpose of this book. Rather, Bangura avers: "Allah or God always defended Islam and will continue to do so" (p. 1). The author begins his study by documenting prejudice, racism, intolerance, and violence against Americans of Arab, South Asian, and African American descent since 9/11. In the second chapter, Bangura identifies and defines eight major Islamic concepts [Allah, Islam, Quran, Sunna, Sharia, Jihad, Hijab, and Wahhabism] that are often distorted or misunderstood in Western media. Included in the discussion is an explanation of the five "Pillars of Islam." Bangura believes his "precise and concise" descriptions of these eight major Islamic concepts that are distorted "either intentionally or unintentionally" will help facilitate peace-building and interfaith dialogue (p. 17).
Subsequent chapters examine these and other intriguing topics. Media distortions are cited and refuted with Quranic verses in a scholarly manner. Terrorists who masquerade as Muslims are exposed as having violated God's Word and this disqualifies them from any association with Islam. Bangura believes that the "spiraling violence" between Islam and the West is "significantly due to the lack of educated discourse on religious legality of using war as a tool of conflict resolution" (p. 30). This is an example of what the Aga Khan, the 49th hereditary Shia Ismaili Imam has coined the Clash of Ignorance. Bangura is optimistic that many Muslim advocates of non-violence and pacifism will be able to "advance their message in contention with that of the militants" (pp. 31-2).
The fourth chapter is devoted to correcting Eurocentric gender theories about the status of Muslim women. Once again, Bangura uses verses from the Quran to demonstrate that "Allah does not favor one gender over the other" and that "it is important to remember that Allah is neither male nor female" (p. 46). The author laments that current practices in many Muslim societies go against what Islam has ordained, societies in which women are treated as property, are not educated, and are forbidden their economic rights. The fifth chapter shows the wide chasm between honorable Islamic principles versus some gross violations of human rights of Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Human rights championed in the Quran include religious and cultural pluralism, respect for and the protection of the "People of the Book," and tolerance and accommodation of a broad range of views, attitudes and interpretations. In the seventh chapter, Bangura examines five websites that are important sources of information on Islam. His study of websites, however, would have been more valuable if he had expanded it to include the websites from the Universal Muslim Association of America and the Aga Khan Development Network.
As evidenced in previous chapters, the author's wishfulness is evident in otherwise sound research and analysis. Can and should the old practice of female circumcision be eradicated? Bangura traces the origin and development of what has become, in some parts of Muslim and non-Muslim African societies, a cherished tradition among women. Therefore, only women who engage in such practices can stop them. According to the author, any attempts by non-Africans to interfere will be resented as "Western cultural imperialism" (pp. 204-5). Another increasingly daunting and seemingly intractable challenge for American society is the integration of its Muslim immigrants from diverse foreign countries and cultures. Negative images of Muslims as "mysterious" and "dangerous" people fostered by the media have further exacerbated an already unhealthy post 9/11 situation (p. 262). Bangura is hopeful that time and effort will eventually enable Muslims to be an integral part of the United States. However, there are high hurdles to navigate: ignorant or malicious rants of teleMullahs, radioSheikhs, and paperPundits on both sides of the religious divide in a clash of ignorance. And periodic terrorist attacks and threats by self-styled jihadists only harden such views. The penultimate essay explores the possible roles of theocracy and democracy in Iraq. According to the author, both forms of government have inherent flaws. The final essay tackles the debate on Arab racism against Africans. Bangura claims that racist acts by some Arabs are not motivated by Islam.
The disconnection between pure Islam and the un-Islamic words and deeds of some who profess to be Muslims is a major concern throughout the book. The author regrets the absence of bold, enlightened Muslim leaders who choose to interpret the Quran and the Hadith according to "space and time" (pp. 232-3). Bangura's book is a timely and relevant study that should be of interest to everyone.
Nizar A Motani
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|Author:||Motani, Nizar A.|
|Publication:||Journal of Third World Studies|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2015|
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