The Gentle Answer
to the Muslim
By Gordon Nickel
Bruton Gate, 2015.
$39 (e-book $10)
CANADIAN SCHOLAR Gordon Nickel
has written this book to tackle a
among Muslims, namely that the
Old and New Testaments have been
“Dear reader,” he writes, “this
book is an invitation to read and
reason together . . . to invite friendly
conversation between Muslims and
non-Muslims. The accusations of
the Izhar al-Haqq must be answered.”
The Izhar al-Haqq is a polemic
that came out of a debate between a
Shia Muslim and a Christian missionary. The Muslim used 19th
century sceptical German scholarship to thoroughly rout the missionary, and the resulting polemic
against the Bible, first published in
book form in 1864, still circulates
widely in Asia.
Nickel has a PhD in Islamic studies and can read early Muslim commentaries in the original languages.
The Gentle Answer deals with the
Qur’an and what its early commentators believed about the Bible, accusations and judgments about the
Bible, questions asked of the Qur’an,
the view of history in both the Qur’an
and the Bible, contradictions and
alterations, and variant readings.
Working through it all takes
persistence but is worth the effort.
The book ends with a presentation of the New Testament message
in a way that might appeal to
Readers will find their knowledge of Islam greatly expanded and
also gain a much greater appreciation for the gospel of Jesus Christ.
–HAROLD JAN TZ
Armin’s Shorts. Little Fictions
By Armin Wiebe
Turnstone Press, 2015.
290 pages. $19 (e-book $10)
THE FRONT COVER of
Armin’s Shorts features
a variety of underpants,
Some stories are old and vital, such as the
“Subarctic Stories,” retellings of the tales told
by First Nations people. Wiebe’s Mennonite
stories such as “And Besides, God Made Poison
Ivy” are often hilarious and mischievous. Poor
Kjrayel Kehler, plagued by poison ivy in the
most unmentionable of places, wears his wife’s
wedding skirt to work – and even church – for
relief and provocation.
Other stories reveal what is usually hidden
– secret sexual desires, abandoned babies and
gossip among Mennonite families in Manitoba.
Then there are the uncomfortable, itchy stories
– environmental destruction by means of a
giant and ever-growing Hummer in “Olfert Feeds
the Ducks,” and capitalist shenanigans running
roughshod in “Silo W201.”
Yet the naughty knickers on the front cover
do not tell the whole story of Armin’s Shorts.
As impish as most of his tales are, they are also
seriously rooted in a sense of dis/connection to
place, language, church and heritage.
A discerning reader will also find well-crafted
allusions to biblical stories, such as the Samaritan
woman at the well, and to other literary texts like
Ezra Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro.”
More than once Wiebe even debriefs the
nature of reading and listening to stories. “You
covet us, you want to pull us into your stories,”
four surreal women tell the character Olfert in
“Sheet Lightning on a Floor.”
In Armin’s Shorts that coveting is painful,
funny, wistful, melancholy and always endlessly
captivating. –DEANNA SMID
Mount (oil on TerraSkin, nails, pins) by Phil Irish ( www.philirish.com).
“This is a time for change, for transformation. In my paintings mountain peaks meet explosive patterns of
colour that reflect our hunger for speed and fossil-fuelled dynamism. Lush, beautiful painting meets the
ferocity of slicing, extracting and assembling. Out of the shards new possibilities arise.”
Reading THE BES TSELLERS