HERETIC : Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

(Harper Collins, 288 pp., $27.99)

Part of a review by Katherine Ernst

Heretic carefully separates Muslims into three categories. “Medina Muslims,” as Ali calls them, are the jihadists and their supporters, who intertwine the faith with seventh-century political and martial order, as Muhammad did during his time in that city. A low-ball estimate puts this population at 48 million, a tiny fraction of the world’s Muslims—but, considering that it took only 19 men armed with box cutters and the “Medina” ideology to bring us 9/11, it’s a number to be concerned about.
In the second group are the apostates and heretics, like Ali herself, who have left the faith altogether or are so critical of it that they can no longer be considered ‘true’ Muslims. This population is tiny but growing.
What Ali terms the “Mecca Muslims” comprise the majority of Islam’s adherents. These are the hearts and minds to whom she preaches reform: devout Muslims who desire access to Western thought, education, technology, and civil law, but who find that ‘pure’ Islamic scripture and discipline (or their government’s adoption of sharia law) renders accommodation all but impossible. Torn by this conflict, many of these Muslims find themselves ripe for jihadist plucking: better to side with the devil you kinda know (Medina Islam) than the one you don’t (hell-bound apostasy).
The author dedicates whole chapters to diagnosing what she takes to be the five root problems in Islam that manifest themselves in violence and oppression:
1) The Qur’an’s status as the immutable word of God and the infallibility of Muhammad as the last divine messenger;
2) an emphasis on the afterlife over the here and now;
3) sharia’s claims to be a comprehensive system of law governing the spiritual and temporal realms;
4) the obligation of ordinary Muslims to command right and forbid wrong;
5) the concept of jihad, or holy war.



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