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Opposites: Side by Side by Sanar Yurdatapan (Editor), Abdurrahman Dilipak (Editor)

Jacket: Hardcover
Pages: 220 pages
Publisher: George Braziller; 1st edition (September 2003)
Genre: Religion & Philosophy
ISBN: 080761520X

Comments about the authors: In Opposites: Side by Side, Turkish authors Sanar Yurdatapan and Abdurrahman Dilipak-one an atheist and the other a devout Islamic theologian-present their opposing views side by side in the spirit of freedom of expression. Rather than allowing themselves to be isolated by their fundamental disagreement, they've achieved a genuine respect for each other's differing views: "We wanted to show that we could live together with our differences, holding onto them."

Review: Opposites: Side By Side is a collection of thought-provoking essays from Turkish authors Sanar Yurdatapan, a secular atheist, and Abdurrahman Dilipak, a devout Muslim, which contains opposing views on a wide variety of topics relevant not only to Turkish society, but to modern society as a whole. In corresponding passages, the authors discuss their opposing views on topics such as freedom of thought and speech, human rights, ethnic conflict, war, religion and its various beliefs, gender roles, East/West, etc.

The underlying theme of Opposites: Side By Side, however, is that Yurdatapan and Dilipak have acknowledged that we all breathe the same air, and '[w]hy should anyone who has confidence in his views be worried if the opposing idea gets an airing?' Good question. Moreover, the authors begin their work by subscribing to Voltaire's words of: 'I do not share your beliefs. Nor do I share yours! But I'll struggle to the last to defend your freedom to express your views. And I yours.' With this opening primer, when disagreeing with views put forth by either author, the reader cannot help to be reminded of the authors' belief in the other's right to express those very views.

Although somewhat rambling in its presentation (i.e., the essays read like a stream of consciousness and, from an organizational standpoint, the corresponding essays would have been better arranged if placed exactly 'side by side,' instead of in two separate halves), in Opposites: Side By Side, Yurdatapan and Dilipak have succeeded in letting us in on two very different views on a wide variety of topics relevant to modern-day society, including a greater understanding of how certain devout Muslims view the world. Yurdatapan's essays in particular might also be useful as a modern-day parenting work: when tackling political issues such as the right of his daughter to wear a headscarf, or issues of faith such as whether to believe in God, Yurdatapan uniquely views his role as a parent being to provide his children with the capability to make their own, well informed decisions, rather than to enforce his beliefs on them (or, for that matter, on others).

Although originally written in 1995, and updated in 2001 prior to its publication (the book implies that its original publication may have been shelved for political reasons), many of the topics covered by Yurdatapan and Dilipak are timeless, just as likely to be relevant many years from now as they are today. In fact, given current East/West dynamics, one cannot help but wonder whether two intellectuals in another Muslim country, such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Pakistan, Iran, etc. - questions of freedom of thought and speech aside - would even be able to contemplate undertaking such an exercise, or whether the growing ranks of Islamists would practice the same tolerance for the views of a secular atheist as has Dilipak, a devout Muslim. In fact, one wonders whether two Americans from different religions or political parties could demonstrate this type of tolerance, attempting to understand (or even listen to) the opposing view. Indeed, particularly poignant is the authors' statement that 'unless we listen to and understand the opposing viewpoints voiced by those that defend them, dialogue is impossible. All we will get is cacophony, with everyone talking at once. And isn't that exactly what we have today?'

— Reviewed by: Craig A. Stoehr


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