Book Review: Letters to a Young Muslim by Omar Saif Ghobash
I was over the moon when I found this book at the library. "How apt!" I thought, just the thing I needed for my teenage boys in this confusing world where their identities are being put down due to their beliefs. However, after the first few chapters, I wanted to return the book to the library and forget about it. Not because it was poorly written, in fact, it was quite a novel idea of a father writing to his son letters about being Muslim in this post-modern world.
When I read about the author's experience growing up in the Middle East and England, I also felt that we came from different worlds and that this book is not relevant to us here. A case in point, the majority of Muslims here are of the same ethnicity and we are all Sunnis, as far as I knew, growing up. There were no questions then of belonging to different sects, having alternative interpretations of Islamic law (even among respected imams, what more interpreting laws yourself!) and even my non-Muslim schoolmates shared traditional values with me.
I wanted to forget about it because it made me feel uncomfortable.
I thought that maybe if I kept quiet about it and moved on, I would soon forget it; like many other things I wish I could sweep under the sofa. How uncanny that towards the end, the writer spoke about religious silence, where you don't question or speak of something because it is unheard of .
The reality is, however, incidents that reflect negatively on Muslims seem to now occur over regular periods of time that makes Islam and in turn, Muslims, look bad, no thanks to certain biased media. Despite the fact that there are more than a billion Muslims in the world, the media chooses to put us all together regardless of nationality and culture for the actions of a group of people we don't even know of. The reality is, we are more connected now than we have ever been that issues that were remote or taboo in the past, turns up on our front door. If I don't reach out to my sons and in future, my daughters, about the crisis Muslims are in now, someone else or the internet will.
I do not agree with some of the author's opinions, but who says you need to agree with everything an author says to read his book? Certain issues that he spoke about needs to be urgently addressed; such as the need for our young to have their own opinions so they won't be empty drums anyone can fill, the education of women and the need to stop being busy with waging a war of isms and taking responsibility for ourselves. To quote the author, "The only way we can raise the status of the Muslim world is by doing what all other peoples in the world do: educate ourselves, work hard, and find the answers to life's difficult questions." I would like to add, make dua.
I give this book a 3.5/5 rating and recommend it for teens 16 or older who have grounding in Islamic knowledge and someone qualified to ask questions about.