Thursday, January 1, 2015

Book Review: ‘Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms,’ on Middle East Religions, by Gerard Russell

By Janine Zacharia
An Iranian Christian at Saint Mary Chaldean-Assyrian Catholic Church in downtown Tehran in 2012. (Vahid Salemi/AP)
IRAQ---The Islamic State’s summer rampage across northern Iraq sent thousands of Christians and members of other non-Muslim religions fleeing for their lives as members of the self-declared caliphate burned and desecrated Christian sites and ordered conversions to Islam. In his part-travelogue, part-history, former British diplomat Gerard Russell argues that even with the repeated oppression of these minorities through the centuries — the book reminds the reader how unremarkable this painful outburst of violence is historically — Islam is fundamentally a tolerant religion and “perfectly capable of valuing diversity.’’ This is not a book about Islam per se, however. And Russell keeps the persecution histories to a minimum while focusing instead on the minorities themselves. [link]

Journeys Into the Disappearing Religions of the Middle East
By Gerard Russell
Basic. 320 pp. $28.99