Thriftbooks

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Wrong Kind of Muslim (Book Review and Giveaway!)

by Phoebe Farag Mikhail

Congratulations to Cathy von Hassel-Davies, the winner of my first book giveaway, "So Good They Can’t Ignore You" by Cal Newport! Cathy also blogs at catrambles.com. This month, I will be giving away one free copy of "The Wrong Kind of Muslim: An Untold Story of Persecution and Perseverance" by Qasim Rashid. To enter the giveaway, all you have to do is subscribe to this blog via email by entering your email in the subscription box and verifying your subscription. Current email subscribers can enter the giveaway by emailing me at listenlearnactandreflect (at) gmail (dot) com with the email subject, “Wrong Kind of Muslim.” The winner will be chosen by September 20th and announced soon after. Remember, email subscribers also get a free copy of my time management resource, “The Essential Elements of a Time Management System.”

About 70 years ago, after World War II and the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we thought a book like this would never need to be written. And despite what he writes about in The Wrong Kind of Muslim, Qasim Rashid still believes that one day, his book will be obsolete, relegated to the shelves of libraries in the section about the history of a barbaric, but bygone, age. Qasim believes that one day, it may be possible for people everywhere to practice their religion, or decide not to practice a religion, to believe, or to decide not to believe, without fear.

That day is not today.

Today, freedom of conscience is under attack in almost every part of the world, with billions of people living in fear of discrimination, persecution, or death for practicing their own religion--5.5 billion people, to be exact. A very recent example, and one that hits home for me, is in Egypt, where over 80 (we have lost count) Christian churches and institutions have been attacked or burned as Egypt’s Christian minority gets scapegoated by Islamists for the Muslim Brotherhood’s fall from power (see http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/egypt-government-must-protect-christians-sectarian-violence-2013-08-20 for more information). When the Muslim Brotherhood was in power, Egypt started to see a rise in the accusation of “blasphemy,” with several Christian school teachers, and even some young children, being charged with “defaming Islam.” Egypt had gone so far as to see Shiite Muslims get lynched while the Muslim Brotherhood led government stayed silent. From Qasim’s book I learned that the Muslim Brotherhood’s founder was influenced by extremist, bigoted preachers from Pakistan.

Rashid discusses the danger of blasphemy laws in great depths. He focuses on a country not far from Egypt in many respects – Pakistan, where within a majority-Muslim country, he is part of a community of Muslims that are marginalized, oppressed, persecuted, and sometimes massacred for practicing their faith. He describes the plight of Pakistan’s Ahmadiyya Muslims, a community I knew nothing about until I read this book.

Besides what I learned about this remarkable religious community, I have benefited greatly from Rashid’s generous spirit, which shines through his writing. Even as he describes, in painful detail, the unimaginable and unbearable torture of his cousin by Pakistani police, for being an Ahmadi missionary; even as he chronicles brutal massacre after brutal massacre of Ahmadi Muslims, usually in their mosques during prayer, even as he describes the treacherous betrayal of his community by the Pakistani government, whose politicians used them to win votes only later to declare them “apostates,” he is fully convinced that education, awareness, and nonviolent action can bring peace to the Ahmadis and to other religious minorities in Pakistan, and all over the world.

Qasim comes from a pedigree of this kind of generosity. He starts his story with an incident in grade school, when he and a younger friend were bullied on the school bus, and he retaliated in self-defense and in defense of his friend. He was surprised by his father’s reaction when he told his side of the story:

                “Am I in trouble?”
                My father shook his head no.
                “Then …?”
                My dad took a deep breath. “Listen, Son, I’ll never tell you it is wrong to defend yourself, or your friends. I’m glad you stood up for someone who couldn’t stand up for himself.”
                I knew a “but” was coming.
                “But you need to learn that sometimes people won’t treat you well. That’s part of life.”
                I asked what any ten-year-old kid would ask.
                “Why?”
                “Because people are afraid of what they don’t understand.”
                “Well, why can’t we make them understand?”
                “We can, Son, but not with our fists. Never with our fists.”
                I paused and shook my head. It didn’t make sense.
                “Then how? I told him to stop but he wouldn’t . And he was bullying me for weeks. What was I supposed to do?”
                “You try to win his heart.” (p. xvii)

Throughout the rest of the book, Qasim takes his readers along with him to Pakistan to discover his religious and ethnic identity. With him we become friends with his cousin Danyal, and with him we develop a great admiration for his grandfather and for his wife Ayesha, who also works with Qasim against the repression of their community. We join Qasim in his quest for the answer to the question, Why even bother? Why continue to be an Ahmadi Muslim, or a Christian, or any sort of minority religion in a country that persecutes you, when you could abandon your faith and live freely and happily? Here is what Qasim writes:

I was but fourteen or fifteen, and in the United States, when all this happened to Danyal. In fact, I didn’t even discover any of this until much later. But as I listened to Danyal relate his torture, I couldn’t help but recognize that this was the answer to my burning question after the Mong massacre. Why live a life in the open, but subject to intense persecution, when you could instead live a relaxed life and enjoy your family? The answer was simple. The alternative wasn’t a quiet life “to watch your children grow up.” (p. 157)

I won’t spoil the story by explaining any further – you will have to take this journey with Qasim and read the book yourself (buy it here). You can also hear him talk about it in a radio interview on the Mimi Geerges Show at http://www.mgshow.com/mp3segments/MG_269_20130707_rashid.mp3.

Qasim concludes his book with hope, and with real actions readers can take to fight for freedom of conscience in Pakistan. Those actions can be found on his website at: http://qasimrashid.com/support-educate-win/. I’ve taken action, and I hope, with Qasim, that The Wrong Kind of Muslim will soon be obsolete.