Book Review: Standing tall, the rise of the mighty minaret

“The Minaret” is Jonathan Bloom’s superb study of the lofty tower that epitomizes Islamic architecture. (Shutterstock)
Updated 19 January 2019
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Book Review: Standing tall, the rise of the mighty minaret

BEIRUT: “The Minaret,” Jonathan Bloom’s superb study of the lofty tower that epitomizes Islamic architecture, was republished in 2018, confirming the book’s importance almost three decades after its original release.

Tracing the origin and development of the minaret, which first appeared toward the end of the 8th century, Bloom reveals that the original structures had little to do with the call to prayer but were designed to be what they are today — a symbol of Islam.

This beautifully illustrated book not only explains when and why Muslims decided to attach towers to mosques but also looks at the evolution of the minaret from Turkey, Egypt, and India to West and East Africa, Yemen, Central Asia and Southeast Asia.

The 2018 edition has been revised and expanded, providing a sweeping tour of the tower’s prominent position in Islamic architecture.

Despite claims that Islamic architecture has stagnated, Bloom uses this book to outline his belief that it is alive and well, telling readers that in the past few decades “Muslims in Islamic countries have built ever taller and more monumental minarets … while Muslims in the West have sought to build mosques and Islamic centers using such traditional architectural forms as domes and minarets.”

The author brings the architectural form to life by detailing the types of minarets found around the world. A number of contemporary minarets are still built in the Ottoman or Mamluk style, but there are notable exceptions such as the futuristic mosque designed by Japanese architect Kenzo Tange for the King Faisal Foundation in Riyadh.

Bloom also explores the political dimensions of the Islamic symbol. He describes growing opposition to new mosques in Europe, particularly in Switzerland, where a 2009 poster circulated by the far-right Swiss People’s Party showed Ottoman-style minarets piercing the Swiss flag like missiles. This book sheds light on the campaign, and others like it, which have used the symbol of a minaret to oppose immigration.

From the aesthetic charm of the minaret, to its sociopolitical implications, this book is a must-read for those seeking to understand the powerful impact that bricks and mortar can have on society.


What We Are Reading Today: Blind Spots

Updated 19 February 2019
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What We Are Reading Today: Blind Spots

Authors: Max H. Bazerman & Ann E. Tenbrunsel

When confronted with an ethical dilemma, most of us like to think we would stand up for our principles. But we are not as ethical as we think we are. In Blind Spots, leading business ethicists Max Bazerman and Ann Tenbrunsel examine the ways we overestimate our ability to do what is right and how we act unethically without meaning to.
From the collapse of Enron and corruption in the tobacco industry, to sales of the defective Ford Pinto, the downfall of Bernard Madoff, and the Challenger space shuttle disaster, the authors investigate the nature of ethical failures in the business world and beyond, and illustrate how we can become more ethical, bridging the gap between who we are and who we want to be.
Explaining why traditional approaches to ethics do not work, the book considers how blind spots like ethical fading — the removal of ethics from the decision-making process — have led to tragedies and scandals such as the Challenger space shuttle disaster, steroid use in Major League Baseball, and the crash in the financial markets.
, and the energy crisis. The authors demonstrate how ethical standards shift, how we neglect to notice and act on the unethical behavior of others, and how compliance initiatives can actually promote unethical behavior. They argue that scandals will continue to emerge unless such approaches take into account the psychology of individuals faced with ethical dilemmas.