This book provides a deeper understanding of Islam, and is set up in an easy to follow question-and-answer format. It's informative and thought provoking, and I found myself highlighting and engaging with the text throughout. I was expecting a dry, pedantic read, but I encountered a book that was apparently written with a broad audience in mind, a book that covers not only the history and teachings of Islam but also what that means for us today as we try to make sense of and move forward in a climate that is often rife with ignorance, fear, and misunderstanding.
Reading this book has given me a functional understanding of the religious and historical foundations of radical Islam. For groups like ISIS and Boko Haram, jihad is often a violent physical struggle for a much higher spiritual purpose, which is why actions deemed evil by the West are, to their way of thinking, actually divine. We are talking about two very different world views that will probably never be able to peaceably coexist in the long term because they are so incredibly disparate. To radicals, nothing less than strict adherence to sharia law is permissible, and there can be no peace outside of worldwide submission to "pure," fundamental Islam, an Islam that goes back to the religion's roots and is free from any outside influence.
However, three points stand out clearly from the beginning of Answering Jihad: the author understands that not all Muslims believe or practice the same, just as not all Jews or Christians practice the same within their faiths; the author feels that any religion should be defined by the characteristics that set its initial adherents apart from nonbelievers, so an understanding of the history and foundations of Islam are vital; and the author strongly believes that one must love Muslims, even if and while criticizing Islamic teachings. Qureshi isn't calling for war; he's calling for understanding, compassion, and love.
For some Muslims, Islam is a religion of peace, whereas for others, a religion of violence. According to the author, neither the Quran nor the teachings and traditions of Mohammed ever define Islam as a religion of peace, and, in fact, they prove otherwise. Qureshi states that some Muslim scholars actually consider proclamations that Islam is a religion of peace to be an "effort by the West to emasculate Islam." Clearly, peace is in the eye of the beholder.
This is an important book, well written and thoroughly researched, and though it provides some difficult truths, it is a book that must be read by anyone who hopes to understand why radical Muslims believe and behave as they do; it is, in fact, because of the truths presented herein that this book deserves to read, considered, and carefully digested.