Islam: A Short History (Modern Library Chronicles)

Given America’s problematic relationship with Muslims, I wanted to learn more about Islam. Karen Armstrong’s book filled the bill nicely. It’s a readable and sympathetic view of Islam. Armstrong goes out of her way to correct many of the negative biases that Western readers bring to the topic. She points out that fundamentalism, for example, shows up in every religion, and is almost everywhere violent and a distortion of the basic faith. She also does a good job describing the rise of secular society in the West as a slow and thoroughly disruptive process (think of the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation). Secularism was later forced onto colonies of the West at breakneck speed in a superficial way. Backlash was inevitable… and is obviously still ongoing. I appreciated the altitude she gave to the topic; it’s helped me view current events in a more historical light.