Sunday, May 10, 2009

My Hope for Peace by Jehan Sadat

My Hope for Peace

My Hope for Peace
by Jehan Sadat

Hardback: 208 pages
Publisher: Free Press
First Released: 2009

Author Website
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Source: review copy from publisher

Back Cover Description:
From the distinguished educator, international crusader for humanitarian causes, and widow of the Nobel Peace Prize-winner President Anwar Sadat comes a foolproof plan for peace in the Middle East.

In 1979, the Camp David Accords, brokered by Jimmy Carter between Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, culminated in the signing of the historic Israeli- Egyptian peace treaty, the first agreement in which an Arab country recognized Israel and an agreement that has held up to this day.

Jehan Sadat was there, and on the thirtieth anniversary of this historic event, she brings us a polemic for peace like no other. My Hope for Peace answers a set of three challenges: challenges to Sadat's faith, challenges to the role women play in that faith, and, most of all, challenges to the idea that peace in the Middle East is an unattainable dream. In the heart of the book, Mrs. Sadat lays out not only the fundamental issues dividing the Middle East, but also a tried-and-true series of steps that will lead to their resolution.

With a wit and charm developed over fifty years in the public eye, Mrs. Sadat draws on her personal experiences, from her career as first lady of Egypt to her further and yet greater commitments to peace in her widowhood, to explain plainly and frankly the historical, political, and religious underpinnings of the peace process, which many in the West have yet to understand. Along the way, she outlines the origins of modern Islamic terrorism, something she has confronted both politically and personally; she addresses the attendant misconceptions about her faith; and she debunks many of the myths of Muslim womanhood, not least by displaying the clear-eyed passion and political acumen that have earned her worldwide admiration.

Though this book contains information about Jehan Sadat's life and her husband, it's focus is more on the political than the personal. Jehan grew up in a middle class family in Egypt, and her father was Muslim while her mother was a Christian. I found it very interesting to see her view (as an educated Muslim woman) of events in the Middle East, on Islam, and on women's rights.

She discusses the history of Egypt (from about 1928 through 2008), of the modern idea of political Islam, and of the beginnings of modern terrorism (i.e. suicide bombings and such). She also discusses the recent history (1917 to 2008) of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. She lays out what she believes needs to be done in order to achieve peace in the Middle East and stop terrorism.

She also describes the basic beliefs of Islam as well as some of it's history. She quotes statistics to support her statement that most Muslims do not support terrorist actions even if the terrorists defend those actions using verses from the Qu'ran.

In this section, she respectfully compares the teachings of the Qur'an with those of Christianity (rather than with the Bible--a good number of the practices and teachings she points out are Catholic doctrines rather than verses from the Bible or teachings also shared by Protestants).

Finally, she discusses what the Qur'an has to say about the rights of women versus what various modern societies have imposed on women. Jehan is a feminist and is clearly very passionate about women's rights. She describes her work to improve women's rights in Egypt.

Obviously, she describes the history she gives from an Arab viewpoint. She is generally level-headed, fair, and doesn't jump to conclusions about her subjects. She doesn't hide the mistakes that were made, but she does paint her husband and Egypt in the best possible light. Though I don't agree with all her views, she makes a lot of important points.

Overall, this book was very informative while still being easy to read and understand. I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in recent history or word affairs, especially those interested in the Middle East.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Chapter One
When terrorists attacked the United States on September 11, 2001, I was in my home in northern Virginia, having returned from Egypt only a few days before. I had slept late that Tuesday morning, still jet-legged from my travels, and switched on CNN. My plans were modest, and in keeping with years of habit, I would sort through the mail that had accumulated in my absence, make a trip to the grocery store to pick up a few supplies, and slowly readjust to the rhythms of my American schedule. The flashing red alert that scrolled across the television screen, however, signaled that this was not to be a day engaged in comforting routine. Like so many other people across the country, and indeed, around the world, I could not believe what had taken place and what was taking place before my eyes: people trapped and dying in the twin towers, a section of the Pentagon smoldering, and later, in the fields of Pennsylvania, a fourth plane crashing to the earth, killing all on board.

As the horror unfolded, the enormity of it all sank in. Militant fundamentalists purporting to be Muslims had perpetrated an unthinkable crime. The twin towers had fallen, the rescue efforts had ended before they were begun, the number of dead was still uncertain. Like every other resident of the United States, I was in a state of profound shock. And yet, scarcely believable as the flickering images on the television seemed to me--to everyone--I remembered another autumn day in which zealots had shattered lives, sown confusion, and plunged a nation into turmoil: October 6, 1981. The day my husband, Anwar Sadat, the president of Egypt, was assassinated.

He was killed because he had done the unimaginable, and for some angry few, the unforgivable: he had negotiated peace with Israel. It was his life's work, and indeed he gave his life for it. Radical Islamists branded him a traitor, a kafir, or unbeliever, and an apostate, and on a brilliant, blue0skied day that gave no presentiment of the horror to come, he was gunned down in full view of his family, his nation, and the world.

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