The title derives from the author's presumption that each of his sixty-two essays "was written in the context of an imagined conference of the books that occurs every night" in his study; then, the same self-important theme extends through nearly the whole text. In particular, like many intellectual pipsqueaks on the make, Abou El Fadl tries to establish his own reputation by attacking that of others, whether it be Joseph Schacht, the towering founder of Islamic legal studies, or all of Muslim traditionalists, conservatives, and liberals, whom he lumps together and calls "dishonestly selective." Which honest man does that leave other than our author?

This pompous book does, however, bear note because Abou El Fadl has succeeded in fooling some influential individuals that he is a moderate American Muslim intellectual. (Most notably, Teresa Watanabe of the Los Angeles Times found him "a leading scholarly voice against intolerance among Muslims" and wrote an adulatory sketch of him). [1] These admirers overlook the following unsavory facts about Abou El Fadl:(1) The published essays in this collection (roughly half the total) first appeared in The Minaret, house organ of the Islamic Center of Southern California, a leading militant Islamic institution. (2) Abou El Fadl has acknowledged giving money to the Holy Land Foundation of Richardson, Texas, an organization President Bush subsequently closed down because it raised money for Hamas, called by the president "one of the deadliest terrorist organizations in the world today. " (3) Abou El Fadl speaks for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, alleged recently to be one of Islam's stateside image custodians that are "little more than shills for terrorist organizations. "[2] Abou El Fadl, sad to say, is just another Muslim extremist.

[1] Los Angeles Times, Jan. 2, 2002; see also U. S. News & World Report, Apr. 15, 2002.
[2] Matt Labash, "Islam in the Slammer," The Weekly Standard, Mar. 21, 2002, at http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/001/033xidwz.asp