Books Review


By Mark A. Gabriel, Frontline, Lake Mary, Florida ,2006, ISBN: 1591857139 Reviewed by: Mirza Asmer Beg

The first thing that would strike a reader of this book, is the mystery about the identity of the author, who claims to be a Christian convert from Islam and who was a Professor of Islamic History at Al-Azhar University, Cairo. He conceals his erstwhile Muslim identity on the flimsy pretext that his family members would be at the receiving end of the ire of radicals in Egypt. Even if one accepts this, one fails to understand the reasons behind the concealment of his present identity, his present assignment and position. What basis has he to fear the Americans or the West, when he dedicates this book to George Bush, Tony Blair, the coalition forces in Iraq, the CIA and FBI. This leads the reader to wonder whether such a person actually exists or not. His concealment of identity is even more intriguing because a person who claims to be a former Professor of Islamic History cannot be so ignorant about it. How can a person with these self-proclaimed credentials write, as Mark A. Gabriel does, when he says that “In the last recorded sermon before his death, Muhammad confirmed the place of sword in Islam”(p. 100) However, the fact is that the last sermon of Prophet Muhammad which was delivered on the 9th day of Dhul Hijjah 10 A.H. in the Uranah valley of Mount Arafat, finds no mention of the ‘sword’, and it is, in fact, an ideal charter of human rights, for all humanity.

Gabriel gives a call to “liberate the Muslim women” (p. 172) he seems to be oblivious of the fact that Islam gives more rights to women than any other religious system. The last sermon of the Prophet which he refers to, itself says “it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women, but they also have rights over you”.

The message which runs through the book is that Muslims are generally good, but Islam is not, it exhorts Muslims to violence. The author cautions Western Christians from not being misled by the surface similarities between Islam and Christianity. “This is the purpose”, he adds “behind all the books I write”.

He argues that Governments around the world should meet radical groups with such force, that they realize the futility of the use of violence, for the attainment of their goals. He tries to portray America as the ultimate example of freedom and democracy. He proudly says that the appointment of Condeleeza Rice as the Secretary of State in the US is ample proof of the “incredible freedom the West has given to women” (p. 182), little realizing, that the presence of women in the corridors of power in Washington is almost negligible and even today no one can imagine that America can have a women President one day and for her to be African American; the idea is too far-fetched even for Hollywood movies.

The book is full of factual inaccuracies. Some of most glaring ones need a mention. For example, on page 23 he argues that the radical Muslim movement of Mawdudi was responsible for the creation of Pakistan. Anyone, with even a layman’s knowledge of the subject would know that Mawdudi or his movement had nothing to do with the creation of Pakistan.

On page 51, he argues that Al-Qaeda is impossible to appease. He says that “even if the United States makes every political change they demand there is no way that America will implement the Sharia and stop charging interest. So Al-Qaeda will not be satisfied, and the fight will go on”. It is known to all that however irrational may be the demands of Al-Qaeda, but they till date have never demanded implementation of Sharia in America and a ban on charging of interest there.

His enthusiasm to portray Prophet Mohammad as intolerant obscures his reasoning, when he writes that the Prophet while leading a battle near Taif “commanded the army to fire on everyone in the village”, little realizing that there were no guns or canons during those times.

Mark liberally misquotes the Quran. When talking of orthodox Muslims he writes that the Quran says that Muslims can fight jihad in three ways, 1- by physical fighting, 2- by giving money to the terrorist groups, 3- by words, if they cannot fight or give money (p. 182). This explanation is nothing but the figment of the author’s imagination.

Towards the end, he pulls out all stops in singing paeans of the role of American forces in delivering the people of Iraq from the fear of Saddam. He says “the people of Iraq are the most blessed people in the Islamic World because they have already achieved a large amount of human rights and freedom” (p. 186). Going even further, he says “if democracy works in Iraq, then the United States may help other Muslim countries try it” (p. 59). One can just wonder in which world Mark A. Gabriel lives. He is eulogizing those people and institutions who stand totally exposed before the international community today.

In sum, this book appears to have been written with the sole purpose of portraying Islam as an intolerant faith and Islamic history full of wars and bloodshed. It tries to argue that Prophet Muhammad spread Islam with the help of the sword. There is no intellectual rigor discernible in this work, it is at best a work intended at spreading hatred against Islam. Readers, however, are not always all that naïve as Mark assumes.

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