This book was the 2003 Australian Christian Book of the Year Award Winner.
The terrorist attacks of September 11, as well as other attacks such as the London and Bali bombings, catapulted Islam back into Western consciousness. Were these the opening shots in a new level of conflict between the 'Islamic' East and the 'Christian' West? How much were the attacks bound up with Islam itself? Just what does Islam teach, and how are we in the West to relate to it?
In this unique book—part novel, part essay—Tony Payne explores these questions via a series of conversations with his fictional neighbour, Michael. He goes behind the media stereotypes to examine the beliefs and teachings of Islam, in their essence, and in their diversity, and explains the origins of Islamic radical groups like the Taliban.
More than that, he explores the religious challenge that Islam brings to Western society—not just in relation to terrorism, but in how we should deal with the big questions of 'God' and 'truth' in a multicultural, multi-faith society.
Islam in our Backyard is a fascinating and very readable book.
Review: Evangelicals Now, June 2003
This is an interesting and highly unusual book about Islam post-September 11 by Tony Payne, a well-known Christian author and journalist from Australia.
The book is written in the form of an ongoing discussion between the author and a fictitious neighbour of his (though it has clearly grown out of many real contacts with unbelievers). The neighbour is typical of many Western 'pagans' in that he is troubled by militant Islam, and unsure what attitude ordinary citizens in a Western-style democracy ought to take to Islam.
With this format the author not only manages to outline succinctly the main doctrines and practices of Islam, and explain the main groups within the faith, but seeks to answer honestly some of the pressing but contentious questions about Islam that face us today. These questions include whether militancy and violence are essential and inevitable ingredients of Islam, and (even more basically) can and should religions be critiqued and tested for their truthfulness or otherwise. The answers are refreshingly honest and not fashioned by political correctness.
Though this is a slim volume it is not generally over-simplistic in its approach or conclusions. Its storyline makes it very readable and will challenge Christian readers to think through their attitudes to Islam and also to whether, in the present world climate, there are opportunities for us to engage with anxious pagan Westerners over such questions in a way that will provide thoughtful gospel opportunities.
I think it might also be interesting to lend it to a non-Christian neighbour or perhaps even a Muslim friend, with a view to discussing its conclusions. It is an enjoyable read, and faces real issues in a stimulating way. I shall be commending it to an inter-church reading group as an excellent volume to read and discuss.
Reviewed by Graham Heaps, pastor of Dewsbury Evangelical Church, a Reformed Baptist church in industrial West Yorkshire.