.......on the middle East. First "The Lost History of Christianity" by Philip Jenkins. He talks about the Church that has been mostly forgotten. A Church that was larger than the Church of Europe in the early centuries....in Iraq, Syria, even Yemen and Bahrain, to Persia, India across Asia to China. These Christians were mainly Nestorians and to a lesser extent Monophysites. Declared heretics by one of the early Church councils. But for centuries they survived in the East until..... they were largely conquered by Islam. He quotes one of the early Saints, St John Damascene, who considered that early Islam was a Christian heresy. Something that I read Hilaire Belloc as saying. The Mosque as we know it today is a copy of the early Syriac Churches. Even the minaret is a copy of their square Church towers. (He who controls the landscape controls the culture). He quotes one scholar who, writing under a pseudonym, claims that the Koran is a copy of one of the early Syriac Christian liturgical books. The name that they used for their liturgical books is similar to the word Koran. Perhaps that is only in the realm of speculation and we may never know, but he also states that alternative copies of the Koran were burned by one of the early Caliphs, and some have resurfaced today that are being studied in secret by scholars. In secret because such work is dangerous for obvious reasons. The Muslims believe that the Koran is co eternal with God and that there is a Koran in Heaven, that it was not created but has always existed. It's a very interesting book, "The Lost History.." that is, I haven't read the Koran.
The second book was "A woman among the Warlords" by Malalai Joya. She was born in Afghanistan in the late 1970's and spent 16 years in refugee camps in Pakistan and Iran. Her family left the refugee camp in Iran and went to one in Pakistan where she could go to school. At age 20 she taught young children in the camp and later went back to Afghanistan to teach there. She was elected to Parliament but because of her criticism of the Government, many of whom were Warlords guilty of crimes against the Afghan people, she was thrown out. One of the first acts passed by the Parliament, formed with the help of the U.S. Government after the Taliban were forced out after 9/11, was to grant themselves amnesty from prosecution! Many countries are involved in Afghanistan, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Nato and the Americans, but security, human rights and women's rights do not exist, in many parts of the country. She has no good words for NGO's either, whose aid comes with strings attached. One gets the feeling and she says quite plainly that the Afghanis would be better if all foreigners left and allowed the Afghanis to sort the country out for themselves; as it is foreign countries are propping up the warlords, and making them more rich and powerful and above the law. A sobering book.