Help, which book to buy my students (in French)?
Posted: 01 December 2008 04:15 AM   [ Ignore ]
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As part of my job I have to lecture for 24 hours to a masters class for a university in France.  Following the terror attacks in Mumbai, India, my last class transformed into a 4 hour debate on Religion, primarily Islam, started by the students.

I am a skeptic.  More then half the of the students are from North Africa, some are very religious, to point of saying that the Taliban are an acceptable form of government and also they would vote for Sharia law.

The beliefs they have stated have been at times shocking, from Mecca being the center of the universe, to being openly against women’s rights to work, etc.

I have two weeks left with the class, I would to buy them a book (in French) which would make them think.

I planned to buy “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins.  The title of this book in French ensures that anyone mildly religious will not read it.

Can anyone recommend a gentle introduction to skeptical thinking with a focus on Islam?

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Posted: 01 December 2008 05:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Of the recent books, probably Sam Harris’s End of Faith has the most focus on Islam, due to the fact that it was written soon after 9/11. But it is not “gentle” towards Islam. Nor is Hitchens.

Carl Sagan’s new/old book Varieties of Scientific Experience is quite a bit gentler than Harris and Hitchens, with some of the same messages, but doesn’t deal with Islam.

I doubt that you will find much uptake in that group for your message; however I don’t think that choosing a non-Islam-focused book should be any particular problem. It may be far enough removed that you would get some people to read it, while really containing the same messages as Harris.

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Posted: 01 December 2008 05:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Thanks for your fast reply Doug, neither of the two books (Sam Harris and Carl Sagan’s) are available on the Amazon website in French.

Any other ideas?

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Posted: 01 December 2008 05:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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What about Hitchens’s God is Not Great? Again, like Harris, it isn’t gentle. But it is well written.

The problem here is that I have no idea what exists in french. Perhaps you could provide a few options?

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Posted: 01 December 2008 05:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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A more detailed search makes me think they are not available in French for the moment.

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Posted: 01 December 2008 07:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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There is Michel Onfray’s Traité d’athéologie : Physique de la métaphysique translated to English as the Atheist Manifesto: The Case Against Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. I haven’t read it but I know it has been very popular in France.

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Posted: 01 December 2008 09:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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What about something by Ibn Warrag or Taslima Nasreen, or the other woman (something like Hasan Ali) who has gone into hiding to avoid a fatwa?  I don’t know if their books are in French, but they are Muslims (or former Muslims) and may have more “ammunition” against the extremes of the religion from the inside.

I did a preliminary search on Barnes and Noble (I don’t buy from Amazon) but could not discover if these books/authors have been published in French.

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Posted: 01 December 2008 09:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Thanks for all the info. I know the works of Ibn Warraq, Taslima Nasrin and Hirsi Ali, Hirsi Ali is available in French. 

Maybe I am hoping for something which is not possible, a gentle introduction to skeptical thinking for people of Islamic faith!

The books which are available are all seen as too hardcore checking the write up they get in the French media; maybe I am being naive as all books on this nature will be seen as being too hard.

To say to this group quit now as there is no proof of what you believe, would be too much, the seed of doubt has to come at a tangent, something that makes them think and then when in the shower they wonder about the same small point!

I was thinking about The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, but have not finished it myself hence not sure what the conclusion of the end of the book is.

Please keep the ideas coming.

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Posted: 01 December 2008 01:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I would recommend “No God but God” by Reza Aslan it is not so much skeptical of islam as it is skeptical of how Islam is being interpreted and used. I think it would be more wise to give a book the fundamentalists will read and maybe rethink their values.

heres a link to the amazon page (its available in french)NO god but god

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