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The Future of Islam

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The Future of Islam

Oxford UP,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

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In this defense of Islam, John Esposito argues against letting the lunatic fringe tarnish a legitimate religion.

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  • Controversial
  • Overview


Georgetown University professor John Esposito – founding director of the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding – makes a plea for understanding: Don’t let the lunatic fringe of Islam tarnish a legitimate religion. He acknowledges the violence committed by militant fundamental Islamists, but he mostly covers other facets of Islam, such as its theological links to Judaism and Christianity. At times, Esposito seems too intent on defense or insufficiently aware of how some of the practices he discusses can seem jarring to non-Muslims in the modern world. For instance, he’s pretty tone-deaf when he outlines a serious debate about whether a man can “lightly” beat a disobedient wife, or whether suicide bombings are morally justified. While his informative primer provides a rich overview, like most commentators of all faiths, he fails to explain why mainstream Islam seems powerless to influence the terrorists. With this caveat, getAbstract suggests Esposito’s study to students, policy makers and those seeking insight into one of the world’s most widespread religions.


A Misunderstood Majority; A Radical Minority

Islam is a flashpoint in global affairs. The world’s 57 Muslim-dominated nations count 1.5 billion followers, and millions more Muslims live in Europe and the United States. The influence of Islam has grown rapidly, particularly since al-Qaeda terrorists perpetrated the September 11, 2001, attacks – a defining event in contemporary history. It is a mistake, however, to view terrorist attacks by radical militant Islamists as a reflection of the teachings of mainstream Islam. The religion does not preach violence. A more accurate view is that mainstream Islam regards terrorist attacks as the metastasis of a lunatic fringe.

The mainstream majority of the world’s Muslims, 93%, believes the Quran expressly forbid terror attacks. Some 7% of Muslims use Islam to justify terrorism or killing civilians. Many adherents in the mainstream majority of Islam are critical of the US, Europe and Israel, but they emphatically condemn violence. Yet many people in the West express the belief that most Muslims are radicals. Much of the blame lies with the media. Western publications rarely address nuances of Islamic culture. Western media distorted...

About the Author

John L. Esposito, founding director of the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, teaches religion and international affairs at Georgetown University. He wrote Unholy War and other books.

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