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A Skeptic’s Guide to Islam

When it comes to religion, there are plenty of people trying to tell us what to think. That isn’t a huge problem, say, here in the U.S. with regards to Catholicism or mainstream Protestant Christianity. Those religions are everywhere, ready to be observed by people with a skeptical eye.

It becomes more of a problem when circumstances separate us somewhat from the practitioners (and former practitioners) of a religion. Didn’t grow up near a Mormon or Jewish population center? Then you’re somewhat dependent on cultural depictions or advocacy organizations, people with an agenda, whether it’s to make a religion look bad or good.

This is particularly problematic for Islam. The U.S. has been using Islam as a political scapegoat for decades. Racist, anti-immigrant forces have highlighted the most dangerous parts of Islam and treated it as the whole. Those fighting the real problems of Islam usually have little interest in talking about its more benign cultural practices. Few people have stood up for Islam, or Muslims apart from their religion, leaving its defense to Muslims themselves, who are highly invested in painting Islam in the best possible terms.

This is the situation Heina Dadabhoy hopes to rectify with her “A Skeptic’s Guide to Islam” Kickstarter project.

I was an American Muslim born-and-raised believer until I left the religion for philosophical, rather than political, reasons. In other words, while I know that not all Muslims are terrorists, I don’t believe that none of them are, either.

The book will mostly cover what non-Muslims who lack an Islamic background need to know about Islam and Muslims from a non-pandering perspective, along with a glossary of terms that aren’t easily Google-able and an annotated bibliography for further informed study.

Fiscal Breakdown 

All funds will cover access to research materials (both online databases and any book purchases I might end up needing to make); proper cover art and graphic design for the digital and print versions; editing, creating and maintaining a website for the book; conference costs to promote the book to skeptics and atheists all over the country and the world; and, of course, writing time. I also currently have free access to lots of obscure Islamic books that only Muslims would bother to buy; quite soon, that access will become limited.

The project is almost half funded, just as it hit its halfway point. Unless its fully funded by August 24, it won’t happen. If this is something you’d like to see, consider supporting the project today.

Comments

  1. Andre says

    “Then you’re somewhat dependent on cultural depictions or advocacy organizations, people with an agenda, whether it’s to make a religion look bad or good.”

    Seeing as I don’t care about religion looking bad or good why would I read this book?

  2. Gregory in Seattle says

    @Andre #1 – Every religion has a lot that can be criticized. But criticizing things that are irrelevant or are flat-out propaganda lies only makes one look like an ignoramous and a fool, and will only harm your argument.

    A book like this would be very useful, I think.

  3. IslandBrewer says

    WooT! Done and done. I lived in a couple Islam-dominant countries for a while, and still have a lot of muslim friends and acquaintances. I’d really like this book in my hands, now.

  4. yaqub says

    if you want to get an idea of what the ‘slam is all about, read the quran, the hadith and sira – all widely available in reliable english translation, or, as i have done, gain a working knowledge of arabic and slog through them. memri is a good source for subtitled satellite broadcasts of latest wacky fataawa to emanate from the “prestigious” schools of the islamic “sciences” in egypt, saudi barbaria and beyond.

  5. MikeN says

    MEMRI?

    Isn’t this about trying find an alternative to”racist, anti-immigrant forces have highlighted the most dangerous parts of Islam and treated it as the whole.”?

    Ah, yes, when I want a reliable guide to Islam I always refer to a right-wing organisation with half the Bush Administration on its board, whose president is a Likudnik former Israeli Intelligence colonel who served as procurator of the West Bank during the “Iron Fist” crackdown that sparked the First Infitada.

  6. M Groesbeck says

    yaqub @ 6 —

    By your logic, I should clearly expect any Christian I encounter of plotting to bash out the brains of any non-Christian child they come across. It’s in their holy book, after all!

    More realistically — why is it that most of us can recognize that Christians are almost universally hypocrites, while Muslims are assumed to be viciously non-hypocritical?

  7. leftwingfox says

    Which actually brings up something I hope the book goes into depth about.

    It’s pretty obvious in Christianity that not every sect interprets the Bible the same way. Even the ones which claim biblical inerrancy often focus on some areas to the exclusion of others, or bring in extra-biblical elements into their teachings. It would be very interesting to know which sects of Islam focus on which parts of the Koran.

  8. Katalina says

    Oooo, I wish I had the book already! My undergrad and 1st Masters degree are in French literature from North Africa, so I have a pretty good familiarity with the classical teachings of Islam and the legal and cultural structures built from it, but I don’t know a lot about how believing Muslims view their own religion. It would be great to have a more introspective view.

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