nonfiction


The Islamist – Why I joined radical Islam in Britain, what I saw inside and why I left
Ed Husain

I’ve recently read this book and I really liked it.
It is sort of protest against politic Islam, based on personal experience. This is for the first time that we have opportunity to read about Islamic fundamentalism and life within radical Islamic organizations from an ex-member.

Namely Mr. Husain, British Muslim has become Muslim fundamentalist in sixteen an then years after he saw how wrong is that path. What has awaken his criticism (and opened his eyes) was personal experience with devastating Islamic ideas planted in the minds of Muslim teenagers in Britain that encourage them to be confronted with others in the name of religion.

Time Mr. Husain has spent in Saudi Arabia firmed his beliefs that rigid, old form of Islam: wahhabism joined with political Islam: islamism is causing only suffering all around the globe: Baghdad, Tel Aviv, Madrid, London, New York, Istanbul, etc he realized how that ideology is filled with anger, ideology that he once belonged to is not only a threat to primeval Islam and Muslims but to entire civilized world.
After he finished this road Mr. Husain thought it is his humane duty to speak against something that is presented in Britain as a “true Islam”, because the Koran orders to all Muslims to speak the truth, even if the truth is against them.

First part of the book is little slow I must admit and that maybe because I wasn’t familiar with things related with British society. Everything was new for me but there are so many information that are more/less familiar to someone who lives in Britain I guess. However, for me it from time to time it was little hard to follow.

What surprised me the most was part about Saudi Arabia. Namely, I didn’t have a clue that to love a Prophet is actually forbidden and is considered as idolatry. I was in shock what treatment believers are receiving on Prophet’s grave.

Mr. Husain has done amazing job in introducing us to creation of Wahhabi stream in Islam and I didn’t know that precisely Wahhabism is official form of Islam in Saudi Arabia! That was really surprising. Thinking about peninsula and how huge amounts of money are coming from there to help all Islamic actions all around the world (including erecting mosques in Bosnia but also financing war and sending mujahideen and Al Qaeda forces in the same Bosnia) I would never thought that Saudi Arabia is such a racist society towards Muslims (!). It’s extremely segregated and indeed the title of the chapter about it Saudi Arabia: Where is Islam?” is perfectly chosen.

I really enjoyed in this book (enjoyed in sense I’ve learned a lot) but the main readers would (and should) be (young) Muslims in the Western world. This book is showing how enormously wrong picture about “true Islam” and the life in the cradle of Islam they have. Almost everything is wrong and artificially created completely ignoring the Holly Book. But the worst thing is that young Muslims in the west are accepting this radicalism thinking it’s how Prophet and the Koran is telling them they should believe, think and act.
And moreover Mr. Hosain has explained entire genesis of radicalism with the names that stands behind it and the books that can be purchased in regular bookshop in London. Now comes the old question (I wrote about this in my post about “Infidel” by Ayaan Hirsi Ali) Why intolerance should be tolerated? In the name of religious freedom? That’s a nonsense, very expensive one! Not only because of innocent victims of radicalism but also because it produces even bigger segregation between cultures, between religions and we are all victims, on both sides of the gorge while in reality we are in our own cultures and religion much more closer then we know.

I’ll finish with two quotes which are unknown to, I’m sure many Muslims and non Muslims and that are reflects how same we are:

“Beware of extremism in religion, for it was extremism in religion that destroyed those who went before you” – The Prophet Mohammed (570-632)
“Whoever kills an innocent person, it is as though he has killed entire humanity” – The Koran

A Long Way Gone – memoirs of a boy soldier
Ishmael Beah

A Long Way GoneNew York City, 1998
My high school friends have begun to suspect I haven’t told them the full story of my life.
– “Why did you leave Sierra Leone?”
– “Because there is a war.”
– “Did you witness some of the fighting?”
– “Everyone in the country did.”
– “You mean you saw people running around with guns and shooting each other?”
– “Yes, all the time.”
– “
Cool.
I smile a little.
– “You should tell us about it sometime.”
– “Yes, sometime.”

 

This is how begins this vivid, heartbreaking testimony of a boy soldier in Sierra Leone.

Ishmeal Beah was born 1980 in the village in Sierra Leone and lived life common for boy of his age, was in loved in rap music, have his own “bend” who imitated famous rap performers, he recited monologues of Macbeth and Julius Caesar at the gatherings of elder people in the village (did I say common for boy of his age? I guess I should add “more/less common”), and knowing that there is a war “somewhere”. The only war he was familiar about was from the movies like “Rambo”.

Sadly he will find out very soon what the war is. On one common day war came into his life; when he was 11 Sierra Leone swept into chaotic civil war between Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and the official (and corrupted) Action People Congress (APC). Of course there is no good war but while reading this testimony I was so confused with the extreme confusion (sounds stupid). Namely, as if there were numerous fractions that have fought against each other. Everyone who is not in your group is potential enemy (and the best/safest way to find out is to shoot before question is asked). Beah with his friends was running away from the RUF through the country and in every singe village people were so frightened by them and have leaved the village. They were trapped more than once and they had to explain that they are running away from the war so they can’t be soldiers!

Now the question is Why on earth the whole village is so afraid of one group of 7 boys? And indeed, question sounds quite reasonable but then, the main characteristic of the Sierra Leone civil war (as well as the civil war in neighboring Liberia) were precisely groups of boys (child) – soldiers. I was finding myself numerous times speechless toward the brutality they were capable to commit! I was often observing smiling face of Ishmael on the back cover in disbelief that he (and his friends) have took part in those events described in the book. It was really hard to believe.

In the same time it is very positive that we have a chance to read chronicle of the brutal life of child soldier because this is something that is happening in this moment as well and I’m not sure how much we are aware of that. There are more than 300.000 child soldiers around the world (according to UN) and huge majority is from the conflict region in sub-Saharan Africa (where Sierra Leone is) so this book is actually the voice of those 300.000+ children and is trying to break the wall of deafness of the western world.

You could ask yourself how come such an enormous brutality in the mind of one child (I was wondering the same) and this book is describing so perfectly process of brain washing. Of course children are quite easy material for manipulation.

Ishmael tried to avoid all this. As I said he was running away from the war with his friends, he was separated from his brother and later from the friends, he was living alone in the forest, sleeping on the tree but eventually government corps have found him and offered “sanctuary” in one village under their protection.

But as I said, mind of a kid is easy to be washed, especially mind that longing for its happy days from the past which will never be back and in the same time the main culpable have been presented to it. In order to help there is always sufficient amount of drugs, memory of their killed families, films with “Rambo” and his powerful fist of revenge. And of course on the other side are (imagine this!) vengeance seeking groups of children soldier! And that is the never ending circle.

Life in Rehabilitation Centre and the process itself was everything but not easy. He was drug addict, brain washed, full of hatred toward “civilians”, tormented by nightmares and of course sadness. But workers in the centre were constantly repeated mantra: “This isn’t your fault” and that was the hardest thing to adopt. Children in the camp were completely lost, they were taken from the forest, from the war and settled into the place were there is no need to be constantly careful, where there is no killings, shooting, and there is no drugs! We can see how slow but constant progress of the method is but sadly we’re seeing how little is necessary to destroy the whole process when the war reappears.

Ishmael lives in New York and is a member of Human Rights Watch and some other international organizations and considering this is the well known fact (as well as the topic of this book) I wrote liberally this review and therefore you might think there are some spoilers. I think whatever I wrote here will not spoil your impression (meaning, will not decrease shock while you reading quite graphic descriptions from Ishmael’s childhood).

And don’t object his writing style, it would be ridiculous (sometime I was forgetting what I’m holding and was analyzing construction but then I asked myself “What are you doing???”)

You can visit his site here: A Long Way Gone and check my Beats of No Nation review, novel written by Uzodinma Iweala with very similar topic.
This is the page of the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers.

Infidel
Ayaan Hirsi Ali

InfidelIf I ever decide to make a list of the most important books I’ve read “Infidel” by Ayaan Hirsi Ali would surely find its place on it.

First time I’ve heard about Miss Hirsi Ali it was after murder of Theo Van Gogh because of his film “Submission-part one” which he made in collaboration with Hirsi Ali. Theo has been shoot and slaughtered in the middle of the day and the letter for Hirsi Ali (in which assassin is promising the same to her) was staked with knife in Theo’s chest. It was really a huge shock with big impact across the Europe.
Later “Submission-part one” was in the program of the Free Zone Film Festival here in Belgrade and among the guests was Belgrade’s Imam and the conversation after projection was very interesting (I wrote about that evening HERE). Sadly I would have much more and much better question now after reading this book.

Anyhow Infidel was one of the most wanted books on my wish list and you can’t imagine my thrill-ness when I saw in Belgrade’s bookstores that it has been translated in Serbian. I’ve read book in one swallow and then reread it slowly but it raised the same emotional reaction.

It starts with the life of her grandmother and later mother in Somalia with such a vivid description of very strict life in Muslim community. Her grandmother was an incredibly strong woman capable to accept the destiny and justify it as an Allah’s wish. You might think that her actions might be quite brutal with her granddaughters (and also comparing with the treatment with her grandson) but she was following tradition and was believe that she’s doing right.

There in first part we are introduced how important is to know who your ancestors are. It is actually fundamental to be familiar with entire family tree hundreds of years ago because in Somalia first question when you meet someone will be “Who are you?” and then they are starting to recite all ancestors until they find a mutual one. That can save your life (it saved Ayaan’s) because the whole population of Somalia is divided in several clans and everything there is based precisely on that. Any kind of help: health care, shelter, financial helps … etc. It’s horribly tight bond between them (and horribly huge risk if you disgrace your clan).

Later we see first “rebellion” in the actions of Ayaan’s mother but still she was women who followed the rule and also was able to accept her destiny because that was Allah’s will. Ayaan’s family was a kind of nomadic ones because due to her father’s political activism they had to hide and run away from one place to another. Therefore she lived during her childhood in Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Kenya.

While reading those pages it was as if I’m reading some fictional story from another dimension. Of course accent was on the women in Islam. Obligation to be covered, obligation to not leave the house without a man, obligation to accept (everything), obligation to not argue, obligation to bear, obligation to be sexually available to her husband whenever he wants to “plough his field”, obligation to be obedient, obligation to submit. Because word “Islam” means “submission”. Moreover she was unfortunate enough to belong to the Muslim community where girls must be circumcised (I wrote about Female Genital Mutilation HERE). So indeed that part was like something from another world.

We can see how she was growing up physically and religiously. How she wanted so badly to be a good Muslim woman who follows all the rules but in the same time she has had many questions in spite the fact that questions are forbidden. It is one breathtaking image of immense mental struggle between her believes, what she has been taught it’s the only truth and the life facts which were quite opposite. It was literally painful to read, emotion was quite similar to claustrophobia.

Eventually she started to talk with criticism about her own religion, she was loud in her statement against position of women (that especially refers in Muslim communities in European countries i.e. Holland) and naturally pile up the anger of Muslim world on herself.
It is a breathtaking story of a woman who (in her own words) was lucky. Once she was a child from the desert with extremely limited possibilities but who became elected member of a Dutch Parliament.

But what has the biggest impact on me is that I “found” myself in the book. Namely I realized that I belong to the huge majority of European (say) Christians (I guess) who are trying to avoid speaking with criticism about other religions because that might be connected very easily with racism (nationalism, fascism, etc). Since I lived in the country that has fallen apart in undoubtedly religious war (it was civilian war of course but in first place it was religious one) I’m trying to be very tolerant and to understand the point of views of the “opposite” side.
I realized that I do have very (say again) “Christian” look on Islam and religions in general. I honestly believed that all religions (therefore Islam as well) are good, are love, peace, tolerance etc. Right? Wrong!

Ayaan Hirsi Ali in this book is telling us that Islam is love and tolerance (in very limited sense) but ONLY inside the Muslim world. For all others who aren’t belonging to that world it is a threat because it gives a strict order to all believers to convert or kill the rest of us who are considered as nonbelievers. Another amazing thing is that many inside the Muslim population are not aware of that because the Holly Koran is written in Arabic, language they don’t understand. What a paradox!

What is written in Koran is not only religious message but an absolute constant that is defying every singe aspect in believer’s life. It is quite unbelievable that it is expected from nowadays believers to strictly follow the rule (and apply sanctions) of desert tribes of Saudi Arabia in the 7th century! But still if they’re not following those rules (or even if they think of theirs reasons) they’re not good believers and deserve to be punished. And those things about unbelievers are written in Koran.

Now I really don’t know what to think? That’s why I’d love if I could have another opportunity to speak again with Belgrade’s Imam who is a very dear man, but I’m wondering if he’s not aggressive toward Christians and doesn’t call his believers to be aggressive; if he doesn’t think that he lives in the country of nonbelievers; if he preaches love, peace and tolerance he must be considered as a bad Muslim from the point of view of the followers of traditional Islam about whom Hirsi Ali is writing because that is not what Koran demands.

This book, her entire life is a monument of freedom of speech. Her criticism has arguments. Europe is also criticized with every right. Remember Danish cartoon scandal? A cancellation of theater plays which has the theme Prophet or even include Prophet together with representatives from other religions etc? That culture of self-censorship will completely ruin European values. That is not our heritage; that is not heritage of modern world! Allowing speech of hatred which is targeting people who are not Muslims (that can be heard in the mosques across the Europe) we here are accepting and justifying it with freedom of speech; When Muslim communities in the Europe are practicing traditional Islam that violates numerous human rights, we here are justifying that with religious freedom! Is female genital mutilation performed on young girls on the kitchen table in the middle of Europe religious freedom?

As I said I’m quite confused (this book is so enormously thought provoking); I’m not paranoid person, on the contrary. Moreover my contact with Islam is not nearly like this. I studied Farsi for several years and have many Iranian friends and I adore their cultural heritage; I know members of Muslim communities here and they aren’t nearly fanatics, they are my friends and I can unquestionably rely on them. I guess we [Serbia] are not rich enough to be interesting for refugees from much more rigid and traditional environments.

Hirsi Ali speaks with arguments and with statistic data of (mainly) women victims of Islamic fanatics inside their own families here in Europe. Many are victims of self combustion with gasoline (because they had sex before marriage) in a front of their fathers and brothers. If she refuse to kill herself they [father or brother] would kill her. That’s not, that can’t be religious freedom!

It’s high time for us to realize that tolerance of intolerance is cowardice.