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Reconciliation by Benazir Bhutto
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Reconciliation (2008)

by Benazir Bhutto

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This book is something of a slow burner: after fifty pages I almost gave up, after a hundred, I was gripped. I am not a diplomat, or of any other profession giving me an insight into the Middle East, but this book oozes common sense.

Benazir Bhutto pulls no punches, she lays blame on the West, particularly the UK and America but, she also berates the countries of the region. This would have been a worthwhile read, in its self, but Bhutto offers practical ways forward that should be taken by both sides and, it is hard to see that, were even a small part of her suggested schemes implemented, that relations between the west and the Middle East would not improve immeasurably.

The desperately depressing thing about this book is that I was able to buy it for £1 from Pound Stretchers! A work, such as this, ought to be read by every citizen of the world! We need more understanding, the desire to work together to improve life for all God's children, however they pray to him. ( )
  the.ken.petersen | Oct 12, 2010 |
In this book, Bhutto's thesis is that democracy and Islam are not mutually exclusive. To that end, she quotes the Quran a lot, noting that civil rights are guaranteed for both men and women according to the Quran, but that tribal law has often superseded the Quran itself when official interpretations were set down. Also to prove her point that Islam and democracy are not mutually exclusive, she gives a brief history of a number of Muslim countries, noting that their ups and downs with the democratic experience are often the result of colonialism and/or Western meddling. As a counterweight, she also includes a brief history of a number of non-Muslim countries that had similar problems as a result of colonialism or other interference from large Western powers, most notably Great Britain and the United States. However, despite her many claims of the West's mistreatment of the Muslim world, she also acknowledges that Islamic countries need to take their share of the blame as well. She then moves on to a lengthier history of her home country, Pakistan, and comments some on her own personal journey in Pakistani politics. The following section, the most unrelated to her thesis (in my opinion), discusses the possibility of the inevitable clash between the Western and Islamic worlds (a possibility which she believes can be avoided). She concludes with recommendations for how democracy can be supported through fighting poverty, promoting education, and empowering women and for how reconciliation between the West and Muslim countries can be achieved, with suggestions including a 21st century Marshall plan.

It's an informative work, although you do have to do a bit of work to separate the absolute facts from Bhutto's politics. In terms of writing style, the book suffers somewhat from being a bit rambling and redundant at times. Perhaps Bhutto’s thoughts would have been better suited as a long essay than a book-length work (or two long essays - one on democracy in the Islamic world and one on the so-called clash of civilizations). As it is, it seems as though Bhutto was writing almost stream-of-consciousness at times, without realizing that she had already said something nearly identical or that she moved from one topic to another without transition. Nevertheless, her clear intelligence makes this situation better than it would be in less able hands. For audiophiles, Rita Wolf was a fine choice for narrator in the audio version. However, in hindsight, Bhutto's autobiographical Daughter of Destiny would probably have been a better choice for me. ( )
  sweetiegherkin | Jun 4, 2010 |
published posthumously, this volume purports to be Ms. Bhutto's attempt to explain her actions. While limited by bothe the Pakistani army and the ISI, I feel she is being disingenuous in her explanations regarding Pakistani politics, Afghanistan and the CIA.
  oaechief | Sep 21, 2009 |
Written shortly before her assassination, former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s Reconciliation details the current struggles between Islam and the West and gives her plan for promoting democracy in Islamic nations and fostering goodwill between the two cultures.

The book breaks down into five easily digestible sections. First, Bhutto uses Quranic scripture and the teachings of moderate Muslims to prove that, contrary to popular belief, the religion of Islam is not inherently undemocratic. She effectively argues that equality is a fundamental aspect of mainstream Islam and, only when it is taken out of context, can Islam be used as a tool of oppression. Second, she traces the development of democracy in Islamic countries throughout the world. While she (unfairly I believe) places a lot of fault on the United States, Britain, and other former empire seekers, Bhutto’s main argument is that the primary barrier to democratic development in Muslim nations is the lack of a history of democracy. Those countries where democracy flourished at the beginning of the century were most likely to continue those democratic institutions. The nations where equality and self-government were squelched have had the most trouble transitioning to a free and democratic society.

Following a lengthy and tangential history of Pakistan, Bhutto concludes by taking on the “clash of civilizations” theory. She contends that the coming battle will not be between Islam and the West, but among Muslim states, with “the forces of moderation and modernity and the competing forces of extremism and fanaticism.” In order for the forces of moderation to win this battle, however, they need support from the West. Gender equality must be created and a functioning civil society (specifically educational and non-governmental organizations) is absolutely crucial to the creation and extension of a democratic Muslim world.

Bhutto’s ideas are solid. I think she goes a bit far in blaming the western world for the current state of affairs in the Muslim world but, overall, I would recommend this book to anyone hoping to understand the current state of democracy in Islamic nations and to understand the steps that will be necessary in order to create stable democratic governments. ( )
  tjwilliams | Oct 15, 2008 |
An excellent look at Islam from a balanced perspective. Also, an in depth review of methods nations can take to encourage friendly relations between Muslim countries and the West. ( )
  dianemb | Aug 13, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061567582, Hardcover)

Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan in October 2007, after eight years of exile, hopeful that she could be a catalyst for change. Upon a tumultuous reception, she survived a suicide-bomb attack that killed nearly two hundred of her countrymen. But she continued to forge ahead, with more courage and conviction than ever, since she knew that time was running out—for the future of her nation, and for her life.

In Reconciliation, Bhutto recounts in gripping detail her final months in Pakistan and offers a bold new agenda for how to stem the tide of Islamic radicalism and to rediscover the values of tolerance and justice that lie at the heart of her religion. With extremist Islam on the rise throughout the world, the peaceful, pluralistic message of Islam has been exploited and manipulated by fanatics. Bhutto persuasively argues that America and Britain are fueling this turn toward radicalization by supporting groups that serve only short-term interests. She believed that by enabling dictators, the West was actually contributing to the frustration and extremism that lead to terrorism. With her experience governing Pakistan and living and studying in the West, Benazir Bhutto was versed in the complexities of the conflict from both sides. She was a renaissance woman who offered a way out.

In this riveting and deeply insightful book, Bhutto explores the complicated history between the Middle East and the West. She traces the roots of international terrorism across the world, including American support for Pakistani general Zia-ul-Haq, who destroyed political parties, eliminated an independent judiciary, marginalized NGOs, suspended the protection of human rights, and aligned Pakistani intelligence agencies with the most radical elements of the Afghan mujahideen. She speaks out not just to the West, but to the Muslims across the globe who are at a crossroads between the past and the future, between education and ignorance, between peace and terrorism, and between dictatorship and democracy. Democracy and Islam are not incompatible, and the clash between Islam and the West is not inevitable. Bhutto presents an image of modern Islam that defies the negative caricatures often seen in the West. After reading this book, it will become even clearer what the world has lost by her assassination.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:05:23 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Writing a few months prior to her assassination, Bhutto explores the complicated history between the Middle East and the West. She traces the roots of international terrorism across the world, including American support for Pakistani general Zia-ul-Haq, who destroyed political parties, eliminated an independent judiciary, marginalized NGOs, suspended the protection of human rights, and aligned Pakistani intelligence agencies with the most radical elements of the Afghan mujahideen. She speaks out not just to the West, but to the Muslims across the globe who are at a crossroads between the past and the future, between education and ignorance, between peace and terrorism, and between dictatorship and democracy. Democracy and Islam are not incompatible, and the clash between Islam and the West is not inevitable.--From publisher description.… (more)

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