Letters to A Young Muslim

Letters to A Young Muslim

Book - 2017
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"Omar Saif Ghobash was born in 1971 in the United Arab Emirates--the same year the country was founded--to an Arab father and a Russian mother. After a traumatizing experience losing his father to a violent attack in 1977, when he was only six years old, Ghobash began to realize the severe violence that surrounded him in his home country. As he grew older, eventually being appointed as the UAE Ambassador to Russia in 2008, he began to reflect on what it means to be a Muslim, establishing a moral foundation rooted in the belief of the hard grind that is the crux of spiritual and practical living. This book is the result of the personal exploration Ghobash went through in the years after his father's death. The new generation of Muslims is tomorrow's leadership, and yet many are vulnerable to taking the violent shortcut to paradise and ignoring the traditions and foundations of Islam. The burning question, Ghobash argues, is how moderate Muslims will unite and find a voice that is true to Islam while actively and productively engaging in the modern world. Letters to a Young Muslim will explore how Arabs can provide themselves, their children, and their youth with a better chance of prosperity and peace in a globalized world, while attempting to explain the history and complications of the modern-day Arab landscape and how the younger generation can solve problems with extremists internally, contributing to overall world peace."--
Publisher: New York : Picador, 2017
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9781250119841
Branch Call Number: 297.09051 GHO

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milo_63
Mar 29, 2017

Letters, written by Ghobash, to his son, is an attempt to guide young muslims on a different path from the one that appears dominant in the muslim community. That dominant culture is one of islamic fundamentalism that has created what Ghobash describes as an intolerant “binary” view of the world – one of harem and halal, based upon slavish devotion to unbending interpretations of islamic doctrine. Ghobash attempts to describe a grey area inside islamic doctrine that allows values that we in the West enjoy, such as democracy, womens rights, and free speech.

Ghobash actually makes a credible argument for the existence of the grey area and does an admirable job of questioning the legitimacy of the ISIS types, even while acknowledging their appeal amongst muslims – that a return to a more pure islam will bring the blessings of Allah to fruition and re-create islam as the dominant force on the planet.

Ghobash is a devout muslim. Throughout the book he argues that what is not clear from the quran and hadith allow the room for a more modern path for muslims. He is so devout that he even talks about how listening to recordings of recitations of the quran could move him to tears. Evidently, such recitations are form of entertainment for many in the muslim world. However, that is also an inkling of the problem – the doctrine.

A plain reading of the quran, which states that it is plainly stated to be easily understood, along with the hadith, is quite clear and quite ugly. At no point does Ghobash actually tackle that ugly doctrine. Instead we are to believe that somehow it just floats out there as a benevolent force for good. However, Ghobash even admits that, as a 12 year old, he spent a month in summer quranic school to memorize the quran, and emerged falling into the trap of thinking and spouting off just like the intolerant imams and other leaders that he takes to task in this book. In fact, this book does a great job of describing life in a muslim Arab country as one of being steeped in rigid doctrine and rigid social controls that is harshly critical of any and all that is not islamic. He also often mentions how dangerous it can be to speak out against those social or religious norms. He describes what is possibly the perfect self re-enforcing cult.

Ghobash was able to recognize the dark path that he was following and managed to step off. He had the benefit of being partly Russian in his recent ethnicity and being highly intelligent and educated. He notes that a very large portion of the muslim Arab population is uneducated and illiterate. When considering the sad social state of muslims along with the fact that even Ghobash, an educated intelligent and moral man, chose to ignore instead of deal head on with the vast corpus of islamic doctrine that is indeed terrible leaves one with the nagging feeling that the hopeful argument that Ghobash makes will be ignored. That doctrine will always inspire the next generation of fundamentalists and even terrorists as it has now for 14 centuries, even amongst educated and prosperous muslims (consider the backgrounds of the 9/11 terrorists and many others).

So, in closing, the book is a good read. However, to an outsider, the impression left can easily be less than hopeful.

s
Sandra_SMB
Mar 14, 2017

This is a fantastic book. The author is not afraid to take on all the important issues the Islamic world is facing - a) being an individual and thinking for yourself, while also being part of a group b) why you should love books and pursue knowledge from around the world, not just the Islamic word c) the necessity for female equality d) the love/hate relationship with the west e) why freedom (including free speech) is necessary and how to control your choices when given freedom f) how the Prophet Muhamad (PBUH) would make decisions re good/bad if he were living today

The list goes on and on. The authors tone is warm and respectful. He is half Arab and half Russian, and is the UAE ambassador to Russia. He also involved in promoting the writing of Arab literature and the arts.

c
Candaceb108
Jan 30, 2017

This is a WONDERFUL little book. It constitutes letters from a father to a son. More particularly, letters to a father who is half Russian and half Arab (from the UAE). The author Omar Saif Ghobash, ambassador from the UAE to Russia, has two sons, one approximately 16-18 and the other a bit younger. These letters contain such wisdom and love and respect for an emerging adult male, a Muslim one, at this chaotic time in the world. Without insult to the subject, one could substitute the word Islam for any other religions name and it would remain as valuable and precious. But because it is about Islam, from "a man of affairs of State" it represents something Americans should look at. The author asks of his son to INCLUDE the world; he suggests that the Muslim world has a lot of work to do to address its problems and that the answers to those problems and causes of those problems do not rest in the West.

It's a wonderful book. It throws a different light on the peril that rational voices, Muslim voices, express about the condition of the Arab world, their religion and all of our global relationships.

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