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The last great heresyA Fury for GodMalise Ruthven324pp GrantaThe assaults on New York and Washington on September 11 2001 while they seemed at the time to be thunder out of a blue sky were preceded by portents that are now seen to be propheticMalise Ruthven has set himself in the light of those burning towers to examine the remote and proximate reasons why 19 men killed themselves and nearly 3000 strangers that morning A Fury for God burrows deeply into the Koran examines the milieux in Egypt and Saudi Arabia where the killers originated and describes the chaos in Pakistan and Afghanistan where they came of age It is an interesting and forceful bookThe world dominion of western thought forms of organisation technology and military force is not God-given nor eternal nor greatly appreciated by the rest of the world Yet while the civilisations of China say or India seem content to buckle down and try to extract what they can from it while biding their historical opportunity the world of Islam threw up the lurid but objectiveless events of September 11 WhyRuthven begins with jihad The notion that jihad might in some way be an internal or charitable enterprise as argued by some Muslim intellectuals living in Christian countries gets short shrift Islam in its actual history is a belligerent and domineering faith as belligerent if less insinuating as the residue of Christianity now known as western cultureIslam has never treated belief as a matter of privacy nor tolerated the lukewarm or treated other faiths as anything but distortions or sketches of Islam Ruthven deploys a phrase worthy of the Infidel himself David Hume jihad is as essential to Islamic identity and self-definition as the Mass is to Roman Catholicism For Hume the one faith is fanatical and the other is superstitious and a plague on both their housesThe key for Ruthven is the celebrated Sword Verse in the Koran 95 When the
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