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This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Red, White, and Muslim: My Story of Belief

And Also:  I read this book along with The Riddle of the Labyrinth, a linguistic mystery (one of the leading players was herself a fan of detective novels) about the meaning of Linear B.  That is, an ancient script used in Crete and elsewhere over three thousand years ago.  Did not quite catch all of the linguistic niceties, but it is geared to the general reader and focuses on three personalities while providing enough specifics to explain things. Brisk enjoyable read, helped by a large font! 
For Hasan, being a Muslim is not merely a matter of birth, but it is a matter of choice. In seven chapters, she presents seven reasons why she is committed to Islam and why it is a viable spiritual option for anyone. 1. Because I was born Muslim. 2. Because Islam gives me a direct relationship with God. 3. Because Islam has a rich mystical tradition in Sufism. 4. Because Islam allows and expects me to make mistakes. 5. Because Islam is ethnically diverse. 6. Because Islam is a woman's religion. 7. Because being Muslim makes me a better American (and being American makes me a better Muslim).
This is how Amazon describes her first book on "Why I Am A Muslim: An American Odyssey," and this volume is apparently a type of reworking of the same basic material. It is a very positive, upbeat volume that is appropriate for the general reader but would likely appeal to teenagers as well.  The author is well educated and is a lawyer, but is not particularly an expert in the field.  The book was vetted though and writers in the field like Reza Aslan (his book on Islam is on my list) provide praise. 

The teenager bit is probably a mild dig -- it is a bit too gung ho, a bit too positive, a bit too lacking in nuance. Truly good things are imperfect.  Islam here seems to be promoted as perfect if carried out by the imperfect. The author promotes a liberal brand of Islam, one where the individual chooses his or her way, but this is helped by that fact that apparently all is hunky-dory -- Allah provided for all here and even if something looks a bit off (some rules of women), it isn't really if we look more closely. Also, as noted earlier, things like what the Koran said are taken a bit too much at face value. Like the Bible and other religious works, you have to take it with a grain of salt.  It is after all the product of man, 7th Century at that.

Still, as an apologia (using the term in its traditional sense), it works fairly well.  It sets forth her personal beliefs and love for the religion in down to earth style and helps explain how we should not have a stereotypical view of what a typical Muslim believes or what the religion stands for.  It also is a strong brief for a liberal interpretation, there perhaps helped by her acceptance of the Koran and basic Muslim doctrine on face value.  On that level, it was a good read.  Still, would not have minded a bit more salt.

The author was born in the U.S., but her parents are from South Asia, Pakistan, her sister also a naturalized citizen.  She blogged the 2008 election; apparently, Obama was reading.  You can read her take on Sufism here to get a taste of that chapter of the book. Overall, again, would recommend the book, even if it seemed a tad Pollyanna to me.  Wonder if there are a collection of books like this -- liberal friendly accounts of religious belief. 

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