Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Nonviolence and Peace Building in Islam: Theory and Practice

Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Nonviolence and Peace Building in Islam: Theory and Practice

Article excerpt

PEACE AND CONFLICT RESOLUTION Nonviolence and Peace Building in Islam: Theory and Practice, by Mohammed Abu-Nimer. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2003. ix + 186 pages. Notes to p. 211. Index top. 233. $55.

In the wake of 9/11 and the invasion and occupation of Iraq by the United States and Great Britain, and the often flippant, cursory, and dangerous way in which Islam and Muslims are portrayed in the United States and much of the West, with "bookstores in the US [__] filled with screeds bearing screaming headlines about Islam and terror," this book provides a reasoned and well explained counter-discourse, which pushes out the suffocatingly closed parameters of debate, to create a space for voices which have so far been marginalized or altogether silenced in the West.1 As such, Nonviolence and Peace Building in Islam: Theory and Practice is a welcome and very timely book that seeks to challenge "the stereotype of a bellicose and intolerant Islamic worldview, so widely purveyed in the Western media, [and which] has wide currency among Western policymakers as well" (pp. 1-2).

In the first section, Abu-Nimer provides a tour de force of Islamic theology, drawing out key passages in both the Qur'an and the Hadith to support his hypothesis that Islamic religion and culture are far from "inimical to the principles of peace building and conflict resolution" (p. 1), and that "Islam is a lived religion and tradition that promotes peacebuilding and the non-violent settlement of conflicts" (p. 3). This rich and stimulating section would be useful not only to those interested in peacebuilding, but to those simply wishing to deepen their knowledge of Islam. The second section provides practical examples of how these religious teachings have been applied in Muslim communities. The last section, a case study of the Palestinian intifada, is replete with insights into the uprising as it is perceived by Palestinians who lived through that turbulent period. Curiously, however, none of the leaders of the intifada were interviewed. Furthermore, the main argument put forth, that Palestinians exercised restraint during the intifada (i.e., limited their use of violence) because of Islamic principles of non-violence, is problematic. That the leadership was operating within an Arab culture and religion is clear; however, it is left unclear whether the leadership was consciously drawing on Islamic teachings in order to limit the use of violence during the intifada. This otherwise important point, left unsubstantiated, renders the claim that "the Intifada's non-violent campaign was as Muslim as the Civil Rights Movement was Christian and Gandhi's movement was Hindu" (pp. 179-80) tendentious and unconvincing.

The fact that Islamic scriptures are of central importance to Islamic Jihad and Hamas in advocating a violent response to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and in "undercutting] nonviolent resistance" (p. …

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