Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Jeay Bhutto?

Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy, and the West
by Benazir Bhutto

As I read this book, it became increasingly clear to me what a tragedy Benazir Bhutto's assassination is, not just for Pakistan, but for the world. According to the book's forward, Bhutto had the in progress manuscript for her book in her briefcase when she re-entered Pakistan on October 18, 2007 after eight years in exile. That very night, there was an attempt on her life in which 179 people were killed. She managed to survive another couple of months, but was assassinated the following December 27. With her going, I think we lost one of the world's best hopes for progress towards world peace.

Bhutto is the exact opposite of the Muslim fundamentalist extremists who dominate the news and who planned 9/11. She knows her faith very well - she spends the first chapter of the book outlining the history of the Islamic faith and world, as well as how the differing sects within Islam came to exist. She also lifts out Quranic evidence that so-called "Western" values (such as peace, reconciliation, and tolerance) and systems of government (namely democracy) are not ours alone - the Quran not only permits these values, but actually promotes them. In Bhutto's opinion, the fanatics and extremists have hijacked her faith and twisted it into something that is totally unrecognizable to her and to the majority of the Islamic world. The sad thing is that the reasonable voices get drowned out by the lunatics - as often happens with the widely varied Christian groups here in the United States.

Bhutto builds a strong case that the real battle that the world is facing is not a clash between Islam and the West. Instead it is a battle within the Muslim world for the soul of their faith. If the extremists who have twisted the Islamic faith into an oppressive nightmare win that struggle, then we are all in trouble. Bhutto believes, though, that such a war is far from inevitable. Her words are the most hopeful I have read in a long time about the possibility of reconciliation in our world.

Benazir Bhutto wrote this book with clarity, honesty, and a great deal of passion. She clearly wanted progress and democracy for her own homeland - she devoted and ultimately sacrificed her life for that cause. I am sure she is a cracked vessel, as we all are. I remember reading about corruption in her government both the times that she served as Pakistan's Prime Minister. However, the Pakistani government was so eaten away by corruption already, and the attempts to undermine her personally and destabilize her government were so ceaseless, that in all fairness it was probably hard for her to remain totally clean. My guess is that she did the best she could, and her love for Pakistan and her people is evident. She did not have to go back, but she did, and paid the ultimate price.

This is a valuable book to read for anyone who wants to understand the history of the Muslim world and the Muslim relationship with democracy. She gives brief histories of many of the Muslim countries and the tenuous holds that some of them have on freedom. She argues vehemently against the assumption that Islam and democracy are somehow inherently incompatible. Bhutto is critical of the West, especially the United States and Great Britain, and the ways we have have contributed to creating the chaos that characterizes so much of the Muslim world. She is equally critical of the Muslim countries, though, saying that at some point they must step up and take responsibility for their future. She is gracious throughout her book - one has the sense that she is obeying the Christian command to "speak the truth in love."

In a brief afterword to her book, Bhutto's husband and children write how much they miss their wife and mother, but also how proud they are of her and the way she lived her life. Each of them is determined to continue her mission of building a democracy in Pakistan, and they believe that as long as people everywhere are committed to the ideals that she believed in, then she is never really gone. They close with the Arabic words "Jeay Bhutto" - "Bhutto lives." Does she? We can only hope so.

Reverent Reader


At 7/13/08, 12:52 AM , Blogger LeAnn said...

Thanks for the recommendation. This is one I will definitely check out.


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