Saturday, November 14, 2015

Book Review: It Is About Islam

It is bitterly ironic that I finished Glenn Beck's book It Is About Islam last night amid the worldwide coverage of the coordinated terrorist attacks that struck Paris on November 13th, 2015. If there is ever a time since 9/11 when the Western world needs to understand the massive cultural struggle taking place, it is right now.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I pretty much loathe Glenn Beck. As a Christian I freely place him in the category of a wolf among the sheep, a popular false teacher who wiggles his way into a place of trust with Christians because of alleged common values we share. I say alleged because for all his emotional ranting on a slew of issues that changes with the cultural winds, Beck admitted in an interview with Forbes in 2010 that he is first and foremost an entertainer:

"With a deadpan, Beck insists that he is not political: “I could give a flying crap about the political process.” Making money, on the other hand, is to be taken very seriously, and controversy is its own coinage. “We’re an entertainment company,” Beck says. He has managed to monetize virtually everything that comes out of his mouth."

So basically his whole shtick is just a means to make money.  I am all in favor of people making money, I just want to remind any Christian or conservative reading this that Beck is not "one of us". He is out for himself. Nevertheless the book was an interesting premise and I was able to get it for free from library because I refuse to financially support Beck in any way.

On to the book. On the positive end it is very accessible and a light read. Reading about Islam can be daunting because of the unfamiliar terminology and confusing names that make it easy to lose track of who you are talking about. Beck quotes a scattering of Muslim leaders that espouse jihad and sharia but it doesn't bog the book down. He does a decent job of laying out the landscape between Sunni and Shia, something that is often confusing for Westerners. If anything the book encouraged me to do more studying on my own to understand the culture of Islam that is at enmity with the culture of the West. I don't see this as a clash between Islam and Christianity but rather a clash between Islam and the culture of the West because very little in Western culture is reflective of Christianity

The negatives largely outweigh the positives.  Right at the outset Beck does not properly cite the works he references. In place of numbers or letters in the text, the lumps what he is referencing into a jumbled mess sorted by chapter in the back. There is no bibliography. In his epilogue he writes: "I want you to be among the righteous too, You may not know what to do but just sharing his book and doing your own research to verify the truth of it will help you do your part." I agree with that and mention it as a strength but he makes it very difficult for someone to independently research his book. I get that this is in no way an academic book but if you are going to ask readers to research what he writes for themselves and you base your book in large part on the quotes you provide, it behooves you to take the time to properly document it. Beck makes millions a year, he could afford to pay a lackey to footnote the book.

Further Beck's entire book is a polemic designed to reinforce and provide ammo for those who are already sold out to the "War On Terror" narrative. He regularly slips into hopping on a soapbox and does an admirable job of finding combinations of invectives that leave no doubt that Beck doesn't much like Islam. After the first few chapters I was saying to myself "OK I get it, Islam is bad." It would have served the reader far better to dig a little deeper instead of ranting about Muslims. Most of the book is barely scratching the surface of what motivates radicalized Muslims like those who slaughtered over 100 people in Paris last night. Instead of formulating a cogent explanation Beck relies on out of context quotes of Muslim scripture and teachers. It struck me as being very similar to the methods of those who critique Christianity by yanking Old Testament quotes out of context and lumping all Christians in with the anti-Christian kooks like Westboro Baptist.

Overall a disappointing treatment of an intriguing concept. I didn't expect much from Beck and he still managed to underwhelm. 

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