In this important, myth-shattering book, the West gets its first look at the Daudi Bohras, a unique Muslim denomination who have found the core of their religious beliefs largely compatible with modern ideology. Combining orthodox Muslim prayer, dress, and practice with secular education, relative gender equality, and Internet use, this community serves as a surprising reminder that the central values of "modernity" are hardly limited to the West.
Policy adviser to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and a senior editor at U.S. News and World Report, Blank (Arrow of the Blue-Skinned God) here focuses on the Bohras, a community of Shia Ismaili Muslims from Gujarat numbering upwards of a million worldwide. This is a groundbreaking work for two reasons: it is the first full description of a community never before studied from outside, and it demonstrates that an orthodox Islamic community can also embrace Western ideas and technology by adopting all aspects of modern culture that are not forbidden to it. The Daudi Bohras are both "traditional" and "modern." Blank reviews the community's history, organizational structure, rituals, domestic life, orthopraxy, and maintenance of community boundaries. The Bohra have dramatically improved orthopraxy among members, creating a high level of observance of basics while increasing the educational level and scientific sophistication of the community ("there is no conflict whatsoever between science and faith"). The author demonstrates the extent to which Westerners have adopted a view of Islam distorted by stereotypes, fostered by media reports, and sustained by a triumphalism about values that Westerners believe are exclusively theirs. What the Bohras have done, Blank concludes, is to "break down the false dichotomy between modernity and tradition, to let members of the community revel in both." This brilliant study is both academically rigorous and a welcome introduction to the real success of this Islamic community in the modern world. Highly recommended for all academic libraries and large public libraries. William P. Collins, Library of Congress Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.