Tuesday, May 5, 2009

"How to Win a Cosmic War" by Reza Aslan

On an impulse, I purchased this book two weeks ago and could not put it down, especially after reading "Journey Into Islam". It wasn't a complete impulse-buy, because I had read his previous book "No god but God" and knew that his writing style appealed to me along with the depth of his scholarship.

This current book has as it's subtitle "God, Globalization, and the End of the War on Terror". Throughout the book Aslan provides both the history of how we have gotten to this point in global history as well as the way through the current rhetoric that would leave us at best at a permanent stall and at worst living in fear of the other for generations to come. At the heart of his argument is that both "sides" have raised the level of rhetoric beyond the earthly into the cosmic realm of good versus evil along spiritual and religious lines. But as he does so he points out that both Christian and Muslim adherents of such philosophy are a rather small percentage of those engaged in the conflict. That, as the book "Journey Into Islam" pointed out, the extremists in America and the extremists in the Muslim world are a rather small part of the picture and we (those not taken by the cosmic lines of battle) are letting the extremists frame the story.

And so it is to those of us in the middle, who may not completely trust the other, but who recognize that our enemy may be children of God as much as we are to whom Reza Aslan makes an appeal. He quite capably argues that democracy is compatible with Islam, but for democracy to succeed those who promote it must actually stand by the results of elections, even if we don't like those who are elected. Along with democracy as a tonic, Aslan points out that if we leave the War on Terror at the cosmic level the only way to win it is through means other than military.

This may not be the most politically expedient message to be promoting, but I believe that most Americans don't want to see a long, drawn-out, hot/cold war with an amorphos group of people who are never going to surrender. But Americans have historically shown that lifting others up through democracy and common interests is something we are willing to pursue. So if you are not drawn into the hyperbole that all Muslims are out to get us and if you believe that God desires for his children to get along, then I encourage you to take a look at Reza Aslan's latest book, "How to Win a Cosmic War".

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