In setting out to explore the ideas and beliefs of modern Muslims, Professor Riaz Hassan gave himself a huge task; it should be no surprise that the result of interviews of 6,300 people in seven countries has produced evidence of complexities and variations that defy the stereotypes of the West.
In his book Inside Muslim Minds, Flinders University sociologist Professor Hassan describes aspects of Islamic practices in some countries as ugly, and says they stem from interpretations of the Koran that are at odds with its central aims.
Islam has at its heart an intellectual notion of great beauty, Professor Hassan said: “the creation of a community that is just and ethically based”. Yet he agrees that practices carried out in the name of the Muslim religion include abuses of Shariah law, cruel punishments and misogyny, extending to the social and physical segregation of women.
Professor Hassan said there are huge inconsistencies in Western perceptions of, and attitudes towards, Islam.
America, for instance, supports some of the most puritanical regimes in the Muslim world, yet it is Iran that has been identified by George W Bush as part of the Axis of Evil. While Iran is admittedly the world’s only theocratic Muslim state, Professor Hassan said it is also in many ways among the most moderate of Muslim nations.
Professor Hassan last year published an analysis of the role of suicide bombings in global terrorism.
Inside Muslim Minds ($45.00) is published by Melbourne University Press.