As people start to read "Being Muslim and Working for Peace", first reviews come in. The very first appeared in The Statesman, one of India's oldest English newspapers particularly read in West Bengal:

This book is a rare collection of brave accounts of the people, asserting different identities, marked by the author. It may inspire people in various capacity to engage with the society and work for peace. The author tries to elucidate a thin line between the "religious" and the "secular" in many aspects of daily life, and how it gets blurred when people with different confessions work for same cause, as was done in Gujarat. This work by Raphael Susewind definitely opens a window through which Muslim society and peace-builders can be seen with a nuanced perspective. (read the whole review online)

A first academic opinion appeared in the LSE Review of books, written by Kalathmika Natarajan, who particularly liked the chapter on emancipating women and discusses it in more detail here:

While his work on Faith-Based Actors, Secular Technocrats and Doubting Professionals make for interesting reading, they reiterate existing academic knowledge of the diversity and multiplicity of identities within Indian Islam. However, it is in analysing ‘Emancipating Women’ and their narratives of belonging, identity and agency after the 2002 riots that Susewind breaks new ground by providing important insights for studying the experiences of women who are victims of conflict. (read the whole review online)

Jack David Eller in turn, writing for the Anthropology Review Database, nicely summarizes my book and reiterates its emphasis on diversity:

We can only hope that the message of Muslim diversity and ambivalence reaches the ears of the public and of policy-makers and that more anthropologists will be inspired to explore and describe how religion actually moves, or does not move, particular Islamic - and other religions' - individual members, groups, and parties. (read the whole review online)

I knew it would happen one day, and indeed: Sohail Hashmi, writing for The Book Review in Delhi, thoroughly disliked my work. Some of his points are well taken, but overall I feel misrepresented - an experience from which I shall try to learn how to convey my position clearer and in a write-up that would have convinced Sohail, whose opinions I otherwise hold dear:

In conclusion, a book, written with good intentions, fails to come up to its potential [...]. Trying to find explanations for actions of individuals while trying to fit them into little cubby holes created by ill-informed scholarship is an enterprise that is sure to flounder on the rocky terrain of reality and does. (read the whole review online)

Sohail's review triggered a small debate within Delhi Muslim circles, though, and Vikhar Ahmed Sayed, writing for Frontline took the opposite stand:

By constantly highlighting the micro level of his research unit, the author has attempted to broaden the ambit of research on religion, conflict and peace. Susewind’s study is important for social scientists interested in understanding the ambivalence and ambiguity of Islamic praxis, peace activism and communalism (particularly the 2002 Gujarat riots). (read the whole review online)

Another outcome of the abovementioned debate is a very positive review by Mahtab Alab, writing for Biblio, India's largest literary magazine:

Susewind's engagement with Muslims is [...] incredibly nuanced - going beyond the stereotypical representation of violent terrorists that saturate our public discourse, but more importantly, even overcoming the stereotypical portrayal of Muslims in academic tracts and NGO reports as backward, deeply religious and lacking agency. [...] Being Muslim and Workinf for Peace is a must-read [...] (read the whole review online / alternative link)

Meanwhile, Nadja-Christina Schneider wrote the first academic review (and excellent summary) in German, published in ASIEN (my translation):

In the context of social and political conflict in South Asia, religion and religiosity is usually seen as a catalyst of violence rather than a potential for peace. This is especially true in the case of essentialising representations of Islam and allegedly violent Muslims. Susewind counters such tendencies with his study [...] The book is not only relevant for those interested in South Asia, but also recommended to first-time fieldworkers grappling with methodological questions, which Susewind discusses in depth. (read the whole review online)

Roughly two years after the book's publication, another Indian activist (Dr. Ali Khwaja) chimes in with his comments, published in the magazine Freedom First; I am happy that it continues to attract new readers, especially in India itself:

In an era when everyone is pointing fingers at others, and there is so much interest in violence, aggression, terrorists etc, it was a pleasant surprise to read a book entirely dedicated to the peace workers who helped bring Gujarat back to normalcy after the unfortunate riots of 2002. [...] It is an absolutely refreshing treatise on the positive aspects of human behaviour, the people who are pro-active and believe in moving forward without malice or anger. (read the whole review online)

The conversation in India continues, for instance in a piece for the bulletin of the Indian Sociological Society (Vol 63, No 2) written by Leela D'Souza, who concludes her review by stating:

This book is both relevant and interesting, for it challenges the popular argument that post the terror attack of September 11, 2001, not only is religion coming back, but it brings with it a violence we thought we had overcome. However, the experience of peace activism complicates such a discursive emphasis of violence. The dynamics of religion in conflict and the 'ambivalence of the sacred' needs to be reassessed [... in order to ...] understand the growing power and capacity of religion as a basis of identity in this globalizing world. (the whole review will be on JSTOR in 2017)

If you are a journal editor or a colleague interesting in writing a review, please contact me or the marketing staff at SAGE to arrange for a review copy. In case you just want to leave an informal comment, please do so on Amazon so that others can benefit from it. I am looking forward to your critique!