For the last several decades an influential group of Egyptian scholars and public intellectuals has been having a profound effect in the Islamic world. Raymond Baker offers a compelling portrait of these New Islamists--Islamic scholars, lawyers, judges, and journalists who provide the moral and intellectual foundations for a more fully realized Islamic community, open to the world and with full rights of active citizenship for women and non-Muslims.
The New Islamists have a record of constructive engagement in Egyptian public life, balanced by an unequivocal critique of the excesses of Islamist extremists. Baker shows how the New Islamists are translating their thinking into action in education and the arts, economics and social life, and politics and foreign relations despite an authoritarian political environment. For the first time, Baker allows us to hear in context the most important New Islamist voices, including Muhammad al Ghazzaly, Kamal Abul Magd, Muhammad Selim al Awa, Fahmy Huwaidy, Tareq al Bishry, and Yusuf al Qaradawy--regarded by some as the most influential Islamic scholar in the world today. A potentially transformative force in global Islam, the New Islamists define Islam as a civilization that engages others and searches for common ground through shared values such as justice, peace, human rights, and democracy.
Islam without Fear is an impressive achievement that contributes to the understanding of Islam in general and the possibilities of a centrist Islamist politics in particular.
If some people in the aftermath of 9/11 ask if there are moderate Muslims and whether Islam is compatible with modernity, Baker provides an answer. Islam without Fear is important not only for what it tells us about Egypt but also for its implications for the Islamic world in general. It is quite simply one of the best books I have read in a long time. I recommend it enthusiastically.
The central figures of the New Islamist school represent a major intellectual and practical force in transnational, global Islam. Baker's groundbreaking work provides a broad and deep reading of their thought on a whole range of critical issues, from Islam's stance toward the arts and education to a centrist Islamist understanding of democracy and international relations. Islam without Fear gives us a compelling answer to the core questions of whether Islamic moderation on key political and social issues is possible, and what the shape of the future is that they promise. This innovative and original book will be widely influential.
Baker's book...is richly suggestive, opening a window on a vital intellectual debate [among Muslims about Islam's place in modernity] that is virtually unknown in the West but whose resolution is of first importance for the rest of the world.
In Islam Without Fear, the author of critically acclaimed studies of Egypt has written an engaging and thoughtful, even groundbreaking, study of major Egyptian reformers whom he calls the New Islamists and their centrist Islam.
Few Western observers know Egypt as well as does Raymond Baker. In Islam Without Fear, Baker has produced another outstanding study of Egyptian politics and society. The book's relevance goes far beyond Egypt, however, and should be required reading for anyone interested in political Islam.
There is considerable food for thought in this volume and it is important reading...If only the American policy makers who ordered the assault on Iraq had known something about the Egyptian wassatteyya, perhaps they would have hesitated before taking aggressive action; perhaps they may have considered a different strategy in their pursuit of the 'war on terrorism.'
Islam Without Fear is an excellent and groundbreaking exposé of the ideology and discourse of the New Islamists, profound and nonjudgmental. It is an indispensable read for anyone involved with political Islam.
In his book Raymond William Baker throws the extremists of the jihad movement to the margins of debate and puts the 'new Islamists' firmly in the spotlight. Baker weaves a rich observational narrative of contemporary life in Egypt with a sympathetic treatment of the leaders of the 'new Islamists' and the ideas they explore...Baker gives us so much more than an academic study of the foundational ideas of a new Islamist trend. He richly produces insights into the soul of the new Islamists and the fragility of their project.
- 320 pages
- 0-13/16 x 5-11/16 x 8-15/16 inches
- Harvard University Press
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