UK Christian Bookshops Directory: Christian Book Reviews: Islam in Conflict
Islam in Conflict Islam in Conflict
Past, Present and Future

Peter G Riddell and Peter Cotterell
ISBN 9780851119984 (0851119980)
IVP, 2003

Category: Islamic Studies

In the USA, where it was first published, this book was released under the title Islam in Context. For the UK it became Islam in Conflict. But more fitting than either, perhaps, would have been Islam at the Crossroads — throughout the book this is the authors' favoured metaphor: Islam is at a historical and cultural crossroads and only the Muslim community itself can decide which direction to take.

Irrespective of which edition you lay your hands on, however, if you're looking for a good, all-round introduction to Islam and Muslim-Christian relations then look no further: this is the book. Between them, Riddell and Cotterell — both of whom work for the Centre for Islamic Studies at London School of Theology — have massive experience of working with Muslims, both in the UK and elsewhere. Their combined knowledge of Islamic history and and its present reality puts them in a unique position to assess trends and analyse possible future developments.

The book has three stated aims:
1) To help readers understand Islam, wherever possible from a Muslim point of view.
2) To set current conflicts between Islam and the rest of the world in their historical context.
3) To identify a viable way forward that might help resolve these conflicts.

It's ambitious, and to successfully present all this in an accessible way without compromising academic standards — there are extensive footnotes, seven pages of select bibliography and an index — is a remarkable achievement.

If you're a Christian you'll leave this book informed, enlightened and better equpped to understand your Muslim neighbours. If you're a Muslim, you'll leave it reassured that some Christians, at least, are evidently more interested in understanding you than converting you. No doubt Cotterell and Riddell would be delighted to see you embrace Christianity — as you'd be delighted to see them submit to Islam — but that's not on the agenda for this book. And for something emerging from two distinctively Evangelical publishing houses that's a massive step forward.

And the way forward for Islam? As Christians are learning (and for many it remains a steep learning curve) to interpret the Bible in its historical context, so too Muslims need to develop a way of reading the Qur'an and the Hadith at a widespread, personal level "that will allow their meaning... to be interpreted for the modern world by identifying the present significance." (p.214).

In this way a new age might dawn for Islam, not an age in which it would be absorbed into other religions, but an age in which it could move among other religions without threat either to them or from them. (p.215)

There is hope for the future and this book represents a major contribution to the ongoing dialogue out of which that hope must emerge. Essential reading.

Phil Groom, August 2004

Phil Groom is this site's Webmaster and Reviews Editor. He's a freelance blogger, writer and web developer who spent ten years managing the bookshop at London School of Theology alongside eight years writing web reviews for Christian Marketplace magazine before he came to his senses and went independent. You can find him on facebook or follow him on twitter @notbovvered.


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