I have section on my bookshelf dedicated to “books-to-read,” however, sometimes I go off plan as was the case when I picked up Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism in the Age of Globalization by Reza Aslan on a whim at my local bookstore. I have heard Reza speak numerous times, and decided to finally pick up one of his books, and specifically chose this because of its relevance to what is happening in the news at the moment.
You can’t pick up a newspaper or watch the news without hearing about ISIS – the terrorist group in Iraq and Syria who have recently beheaded two American journalists and a British aid worker. The group’s name name suggests they carry on in the name (Islamic State) of religion, which of course they don’t, however, Aslan’s book is the perfect read to understanding the origins of something as brutal as this.
It can’t be easy trying to explain the philosophy that drives Islamist terrorism in a fair, balanced, and truthful way, yet Aslan does just that. Beyond Fundamentalism is a very well-constructed look of the rhetoric and ideology of modern religious fundamentalism. It’s definitely academic, yet it reads quite well – almost as a novel. Aslan’s concept of cosmic war and global jihadism is backed by a great amount of historical context, including Jewish and Christian extremist movements. He does a significant job at thoroughly explaining different extremist movements and how they are not all that different from each other.
Beyond Fundamentalism is the perfect book for understanding the basic issues in the Middle East, versus the propaganda and scare-tactic news you’re likely to get on television. This book should be read by all those looking to understand the issues a bit deeper than the headlines. It comes at a perfect time as the United States prepares to fight ISIS; Aslan argues that the Cosmic War that terrorism is, can’t be won, especially not the way the Western world has been going about it. Aslan brings a voice that is sorely lacking in this debate. I can’t stress how important this book is. A definite must-read.