What makes Islam unique?
in Islamic charities and Islamic humanism in troubled times
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This chapter first appeared as the lead article in the Times Literary Supplement on 10 September 2014. It is a review of the historian Michael Cook’s Ancient Religions, Modern Politics: The Islamic case in comparative perspective and Akeel Bilgrami’s Secularism, Identity, and Enchantment. According to Cook, Islam has a greater tendency towards politicization than other religions, whereas Akeel Bilgrami is more disposed to find fault with Western policies than with Islam. Bilgrami underlines the need to listen to reformist voices from within Islam rather than the voices of outside critics. This leads the Chapter into a brief consideration of the prospects for large-scale institutional reform instigated by Muslims themselves, as opposed to sporadic reformist initiatives that do not crystallize into organized movements.

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