Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy, and the West by Benazir Bhutto was probably one of the best book choices I have ever made. Other than for the unique historical significance of the woman, factors of my own certainly contributed a great deal to the personal import of reading Bhutto’s work. Without a doubt, Reconciliation has instilled in me a strong conviction that opportunities for democratic growth in the Islamic world must be more creatively and universally supported by both American civil society and American foreign policy.
Reconciliation is not only a good book for those who have spent too much time reading article after article about the Islamic world and following the debate on civilizational and ideological conflict. It is also a prime spot for beginners. The book presents, essentially, two stories. First, the book shows Bhutto’s theory; the argument that the essential obstacles to democracy in Muslim nations (particularly in Pakistan) are the conflicts between democracy and dictatorship and between moderation and extremism – not the religion of Islam itself. Second, the book recounts Benazir Bhutto’s own struggle for democratization in Pakistan.
In her analysis of the obstacles facing Muslim democracies, Bhutto’s argument traces many perspectives on Islam, democracy, and the Western role in the Muslim world. She assesses the history of democracy in Muslim nations from one end of Ummah to the other. In her assessment of the compatibility of Islam and democracy, she draws heavily on the text of the Quran, differentiates between religion and tradition, and identifies the conflicts within the Muslim community that bar its achievement of democratic momentum. Building her argument from the ground up, this historical overview allows Bhutto to access all readers on all levels of understanding.
Bhutto’s personal experiences are none other than inspiring. The corrupt political environment in Pakistan clearly forced her to adopt aggressively creative tactics to promote the Pakistan People’s Party and fight for democratic principles and enable equitable economic development. In Reconciliation, she employs this creative critical thinking to problem solving in the greater context of democratic development in the Muslim world – resulting an identification of the key target areas (education, gender equality, women’s economic empowerment, civil society, etc.) as well as a series of innovative proposals.
Enlightening and inspiring.