In This Review

One Islam, Many Muslim Worlds: Spirituality, Identity, and Resistance Across Islamic Lands
One Islam, Many Muslim Worlds: Spirituality, Identity, and Resistance Across Islamic Lands
By Raymond William Baker
Oxford University Press, 2015, 392 pp

Baker is an old Middle East hand, and this intriguing but exasperating book is built on decades of residence in and reflection on the Islamic world. He argues that the vast majority of the globe’s 1.6 billion Muslims are inspired by “midstream” Islam, which is humanistic and democratic, eschewing violence except in self-defense. Baker asserts the existence of this midstream without providing much empirical evidence. He appears untroubled that its leading clerical figures—such as Alija Izetbegovic in Bosnia, Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah in Lebanon, Yusuf al-Qaradawi in Qatar, and Rachid al-Ghannouchi in Tunisia—are either dead or very old. Moreover, the only book Baker points to that might qualify as a middle-of-the-road manifesto—A Contemporary Islamic Vision: Declaration of Principles, by the moderate Egyptian Islamist attorney Ahmed Kamal Abul Magd—was published in 1991. In Baker’s portrait, most of the world’s Muslims are constantly searching for justice and resisting injustice, whose main source is the United States and its quest for empire. But Baker’s depiction of U.S. policy is a caricature. For Baker, Washington’s thirst for oil, desire for more military bases, and devotion to Israel mean that the United States cannot tolerate an Islam “which embodies the cosmic human struggle for justice in the face of evil.”