Paul Garrett is a retired guy and writer who enjoys offering interesting points of view for consideration. Have fun!

fatwa (2)Your Fatwa does not Apply Here

by Karima Bennoune

Viewing frequent headlines fraught with images of Islamic terrorism, it may be easy to assume that it all started on 9-11, or to paint all Muslims as murderers. After all, where is the anti-Islamist backlash among the Muslims?  In this masterfully written book, Karima Bennoune, an Algerian-American Muslim, human rights lawyer and  frequent Ted talker, attempts to set the record straight:  Peaceful and steadfast Muslims have been resisting the onslaught of Fundamentalism for decades, mostly unnoticed by the larger world.

The book opens in Algeria’s “Dark Decade” of the 90’s when over 200,000 Algerians fell victim to Islamist violence. Even her father, a college professor, was attacked for the “sin” of teaching Darwinism.

She points out that as many as 85% of the victims of Islamist violence are themselves Muslims. Nor is Islamism monolithic. It includes a wide spectrum of disparate groups. She dislikes the approach of the American Right, which often opines that violence is endemic in Islam, but also that of the Left, which makes excuses for Muslim violence or blames the West.

Through over 30 visits to countries around the world, and interviews with over 300 Muslims, she chronicles the activities of defenders of the faith, who, despite threats, torture and even the death of family members, remain resolute in their opposition to Fundamentalism in a world wherein simple persistence is often a heroic act.

Perhaps the most poignant image in the book is that of a watch. It is stopped at three seconds before 5:18 on January 26th, 1997, the moment its wearer, Amal Zaawani was dragged from a bus and killed for the “crime” of attending the university.  Later, Amal’s younger sister Lamia defiantly attended the same university and received the law degree that was so brutally denied her sister.

These are two heroes of the resistance, along with others like Aziza Yousef, who led the successful attempt to earn women the right to drive cars in Saudi Arabia, and, Malala Yousafsai, who survived being shot by the Taliban and eventually won the Nobel Peace Prize for her fight for women’s rights.

As we fret over images of Islamist violence, we may question who will win this war for the hearts and minds of Muslims. So long as there are people like Lamia, Aziza, Malala, and writers like Bennoune to chronicle their efforts, there is at least a fighting chance.