The Challenge of Modernizing Islam: Challenges to reformers

Douglass-Williams work is an honest evaluation of Islam in the context of today. It is not intended as a critical summation of Islam, but an explanation of the faith


CHARLOTTE, NC, July 18, 2017 – For those who want to learn about and understand Islam from both a historical and a contemporary point of view there is a new book out which has the potential to define the religion as never before for critics and apologists alike.

“The Challenge of Modernizing Islam: Reformers Speak Out and the Obstacles They Face” published by Encounter Books and written by Christine Douglass-Williams takes a deep look into modern day Islam through the words and documents of numerous Muslim reformers who possess a broad range of backgrounds and historical perspectives.

Primarily through personal interaction, Douglass-Williams explores opinions from all facets of contemporary belief about Islam in an effort to compare and contrast their sensibilities against the more visible, though not necessarily knowledgeable, perceptions created through media, political correctness and other ignorant sources on the subject.

Somali-born[1] Dutch-American activist, feminist, author, and former Dutch politician, Ayaan Hirst Ali writes in the Foreward to the book,

“These courageous men and women (the reformers) should be as well-known as human rights dissidents Solzhenitsyn, Sakharov, and Havel were during the Cold War. Through a series of probing interviews and careful reflection, Douglass-Williams draws out the nature of reformers’ inner struggles and ideals, contrasting them with the beliefs of Islamists.”

Douglass-Williams work is an honest evaluation of Islam in the context of today’s world. It is not intended as a critical summation of Islam, but rather a clear, concise, eye-opening explanation of the faith from the views of those who wish to upgrade its message for the 21st century. Much as Christianity underwent its own enlightenment, the people Douglass-Williams spoke with are, in many ways, on the cutting edge of a religious revolution that has been overdue for 14 centuries.

For the author, many of the responses, though not always congruent, were as revealing to her as they should be to her readers. That by itself makes the manuscript unique from most other definitions of Islam.

“This book is highly recommended for those wishing to learn more about Muslim reformers, and it is a must-read for US policymakers who wish to understand the challenge of Islamism in America and the world today,” continues Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Prolific Islamic analyst Robert Spencer of “Jihad Watch” has written numerous books about the subject of Islam, but, all too often, his knowledge and understanding of the religion is panned by critics for being “Islamophobic” and prejudiced.

As a contributor to the Foreward in the Douglass-Williams book, Spencer’s support could turn away some of the readers who are in the most urgent need of understanding which only serves as another reason for those with opposing opinions to dive headlong into the pages of the book.

In the Koran (5:3) it says “This day I have perfected (emphasis added) for your religion and completed my favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion.”

To which Spencer replies,

“(It is these) words that have vexed Islamic reformers and would-be reformers throughout the history of the religion. Traditional and mainstream Islamic theology holds that Islam is perfect, bestowed from above by the supreme being, and hence not only is reform unnecessary, it is heresy that makes the reformer worthy of death if he departs from anything Islamic authorities believe to be divinely revealed.”

According to several reviewers, it may be that the second half of the book should be read first because it provides a map that guides readers through the opinions expressed in the first.

“One of the cardinal services she (Douglass-Williams) provides here is the drawing of distinctions in numerous areas where crucial differences and delineations have long been obscured, often deliberately. Her discussions of Islam versus Islamism and Islamic moderation versus Islamic reform are a welcome antidote to the sloppy thinking and cant that dominate the public discourse today,” writes Spencer.

Though believed by Muslims that the Prophet Muhammad, though not divine, was perfect, as is the Koran, Islam has always been vexed with problematic texts that directly contradict themselves. One of the strengths of the text by Christine Douglass-Williams is the ability to put these disparities into a context that aids readers in distinguishing between true “Islamic reformers and pretenders.”

That understanding alone is a powerful foundation that should lead an open-minded reader to informed thinking.

Spencer continues,

“For better or worse…(the) chance for Western countries, as well as non-Muslim countries in the Far East and elsewhere, to enjoy a peaceful future now depends, courtesy of a series of decisions our political leaders have made, upon the victory of Islamic reform.”

Perhaps we should begin by sending a free copy to every policymaker in Washington and hope, just hope, they read it.

About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.

Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (

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