I am currently reading Anne Norton’s 2013 book entitled ‘On The Muslim Question‘ which explores the West’s own view of Islam and it’s perceived threat through a perceptive breakdown of the West’s own ideals. Touching on subjects as broad as the freedom of speech, terror, violence, human right’s women’s dress and sexuality, Norton delivers a powerful thesis on the meaning of democracy, helping to deconstruct the so called clash of civilization’s between the West and Islam. In particular (and I’m starting to sound like the blurb of the book now) it gets to the meat and the bones of what the meaning behind equality, liberty and fraternity is for the Western world by using the political, philosophical and theological to explore the current Western mentality.
This book is not what I thought it was going to be, but it is something that I am glad I am reading, something that I wish a few of my friends would (but never could) read. In particular this passage struck home:
“An honest reading of Qutb would raise difficult questions for people in the West- especially for Americans and for the French who still claim allegiance to liberty, equality, and fraternity. They would be obliged to recognise their abandonment of the ideal of equality. They would be be obliged to listen to Muslim critics like Qutb- and to Western critics like Alain Badiou, Pete Singer, and Stéphane Hessel. They would be obliged to admit that the man without money is something less than a brother. They would be obliged to recognise that inequality is the enemy of liberty.” (Norton 2013: 116).
By posing the title the author recalls ‘the Jewish question’ of the 19th and 20th centuries, but are the two the same for the Western world in this context? I am not sure and I nearly hesitated in picking up this book, and that would have been a mistake. I hope this body of work reaches a wider audience, especially at this crucial time where war is talked about yet again as a means of employing so called stability. The key question on the completion of this book is ‘does this book offer a solution or a means to address the issues that it raises?’, the sad answer would be that no it does not. It is still worth your time however.