“I could have used a book like this, written about Britain, when I was in charge of the U.K. government’s outreach to Muslims from 2001 to 2003. British Muslims are a diverse enough grouping, but in the United States they are even more so — including rich and poor, Republicans and Democrats, of over eighty different ethnicities and lacking any single religious hierarchy that is universally respected. Some are not religious at all; some resent being defined by their religion.
The whole idea of governments engaging with people on the basis of their religion is an uncomfortable one. Done crudely, it reinforces (ironically enough) the very rhetoric it is designed to counter. Islamic militants want religious identity to trump all others; when attempts to reach its citizens through religious leaders rather than democratically elected representatives, it risks promoting this same agenda.
There are two quite different reasons, though, why Dr. Ahmed’s book is welcome. Parts of this book are particularly good in portraying Islamic religious leaders who have a genuine following, and can credibly promote non-violence and tolerance. This is something the government and media should register.” Read the full review here.
Gerard Russell reviews Journey into America in Foreign Policy’s AFPAK Channel. Russell was in charge of the British government’s outreach to the Muslim world in 2001-2003. He is now an Afghanistan/Pakistan Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Carr Center for Human Rights.