- Islamic Perspectives on the New Millennium
Islamic Perspectives on the New Millennium, edited by V. Hooker and A. Saikal, is a compilation of short pieces purposefully standing in contrast to each other to reflect the diversity that is inherent in an Islamic understanding of world affairs and modern life. Highlighting different but equally strong anxieties over the Bush administration, warfare, and state intrusion into the private lives of both non-Muslims and Muslims, the collection is an important contribution that introduces Muslim views to Western audiences that are largely unaware of these views.
Hooker and Saikal begin by discussing the widely-shared concern about the current damaged relations between Muslims and Non-Muslims worldwide. Hooker identifies the problem as a common misperception of Islam by non-Muslims in the West. He maintains that this misperception must be replaced by a dynamic, liberal version of Islam—one that encompasses a wide range of various attitudes, beliefs and orientations. The closing chapter summarises a list of prominent books discussing the characteristic of the new liberal Islam. These books illustrate what an enormous internal challenge liberal Islam means for Muslims. The final emphasis is on the diversity within Islam which has been long perceived as a homogeneous single source of evil by the West, particularly during the Bush administration in the United States which obviously lacks the culture of consensus.
While Saikal is trying to highlight the common features of Western and Muslim cultures, starting from the common roots of Christianity and Islam, Hooker focuses on the diversity within Islam, resembling the diversity we taste in Western societies. The main theme is to show multiple Muslim positions on six essential issues of modern life: new world order, the new age and globalisation, the economy, the nation state, gender and Islam, and the law. By discussing different views on issues in each section from two distinct approaches, the reader is given a lively, conversational opportunity to understand the normality of Islam. The opportunity is created to replace the common misperception of Islam as a monolithic whole comprised of "aliens" and "strangers" with a more dynamic and down to earth understanding. At the bottom line it cries "look, those Muslims are like us; they debate, they disagree, they are normal."
Saikal criticises the policies followed by the US and its Western allies in Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq. He concludes that these policies are worsening relations between the Muslim world and the West. Saikal puts forth five solutions to remedy the situation. First, assistance must be given to help rebuild Afghanistan. Second, a means must be found to enable Pakistan to achieve reforms. Third, a viable solution to the Palestinian problem must surface. Fourth, Iraqi [End Page 80] reconstruction must be successful. And finally, there must be further democratization in the Arab world. Based on similar assumptions, Panggobean also underlines the need for a functioning democracy in Indonesia.
Shboul shifts the focus to the diversity in the Muslim world. He asks "which Islam we are talking about?", as it depends on when, where, and in what context. Is it the Islam of fundamentalists, or of modernized elite, or of a political regime such as Sudan, or of a violent opposition in Algeria, or of a pluralist system in Egypt? This list seems endless. He concludes that unless political and socioeconomic problems in the Arab world are properly addressed, the dangers of isolationism, extremism, disorder and disintegration will remain. He also cautions us to notice rationalist progressive versions of Modern Islam as well as religious extremisms. Madjid aims to provide a Koranic understanding of today's problems in Indonesia which he suggests should be met with a practice based on good ethics.
Lubis revisits the principles of Islamic economy and its applications in Indonesia. He discusses issues rising between Islamic law and Islamic economics. His conclusion puts the burden on Muslim individuals as "Allah shall not change a condition…" Saeed, continuing the Islamic economics debate, focuses on the dilemma of Islamic...