When I was offered The Islamist by Ed Husain for review, I was hesitant to accept. Without knowing what it was about, the title put me off. Not knowing better, I thought that “Islamist” was an offensive word for “Muslim”, but after researching I discovered that these words refer to different groups. Without being too complicated, I’ll give my simple understanding.
A Muslim means “one who submits to God”, and is used to refer to a person who follows the religion of Islam.
An Islamist is a Muslim fundamentalist who does not follow Islam as a religion but uses it for politics.
We can argue semantics and such but this is a widely accepted interpretation.
So now that I understood what an “Islamist” was, I was ready to learn more. I wanted to be sure before investing my time in reading this book that it wouldn’t disparage Islam or Muslims. I was wary of the possibility that this book would perpetuate the myth that Islam is a violent religion and that all Muslims are terrorists, but in the end, I was pleased to find that it was not the case. On the contrary, this book should encourage all Muslims to stand up and recclaim their religion from extremists. (In fact, followers of all religions could and should take lessons away from this book about how religion can and is used for non-spiritual pursuits.)
The author, Ed Husain could have been considered an ordinary boy growing up as a first generation South Asian in London. The eldest of four children with a father from British India and mother from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), Ed was raised Muslim, but as a teenager, his fanatiscism began to worry his parents. With a curious mind and a naive heart, he was easy prey for the various Islamist organizations. He soon found himself part of a world where the words “jihad” and “martyr” were part of every day conversations.
Eventually, Ed finds his way out and lives to tell about it. While some stretches of the book give so much detail that it gets a little dry, in the end his spiritual realizations make it well worth the journey.
The Islamist is a reminder to followers of all religions to be true to themselves, a warning to society of what can happen when youth struggle with a sense of belonging, and a much needed voice of truth amongst a world of lies and prejudice.
“Beware of extremism in religion; for it was extremism in religion that destroyed those that went before you.”
– The Prophet Mohammed (570-632) /The Islamist by Ed Husain