In The Islamic Moses (St. Martin’s Essentials, Sept.), journalist Mustafa Akyol traces the connections between Judaism and Islam.

You describe a Judeo-Islamic tradition. Can you talk about what that means?

The Moses story in the Quran is impressive, and it’s interesting. But that in itself would not make a great book. Moses is the beginning, but I tell a bigger story: how do you deal with religious law in the modern world? How do you deal with the law of Moses and the law of Muhammad? And what you find is there is a kind of a back and forth between these sets of laws; there’s a lot of links. Moses is where the two religions come together.

How might this book speak to the relationship between Jews and Muslims amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war?

The horrific escalation of the conflict in the past eight months really pains me. This is a terrible war, and we have to end it. But the conflict doesn’t come from this cosmic, quintessential war between Islam and the West or Muslims and Jews. In the epilogue, I say that 100 years ago, 150 years ago, nobody could imagine this conflict. In the past, Jews and Muslims were living together peacefully in the Ottoman Empire. Though it wasn’t one of today’s more egalitarian, pluralistic societies, many Jews thought the Ottoman Empire was the best thing they’d seen in centuries. A lot of people cherry-pick points from history that will amplify their prejudices, but we should know that Judaism and Islam have a grander, more colorful history together.

Theologically, they’re even closer historically than Christianity and Judaism. I mean no disrespect to Christianity. But people have been thinking about a Judeo-Christian tradition, and I want to awaken people to a Judeo-Islamic tradition as well. People may find that a little too rosy or romantic. Well, I want to do that. In such a dark, hate-filled, radicalized context, Moses is a symbol of freedom from oppression for both religious traditions.

What other points might surprise readers?

In the chapter on “Good Orientalists,” I question clichés about “Orientalists” who study Islam in the West. Some were saying terrible things about Islam and justifying colonization. But I believe we should not only highlight the troubling aspects of the Western study of Islam but think about the more nuanced approaches. Some of the forerunners of Orientalism in Europe included German Jewish scholars who were actually quite sympathetic to Islam. In it, they found a religion that created a great civilization, with which they could challenge Western hegemony and supremacy.