I've been thinking about this book for a while after finishing it and I've come to the conclusion that it has real potential as a new Muslim-specific personality type test. It would work something like this: for each chapter, you choose how much it resonated with you on a spectrum and then at the end you get an overall score about how you deal with the pressure to hate yourself (aka condemn the world's Muslim population).
I joke, but this demonstrates what I feel is the strength of this book: the variety of perspectives and wide-ranging responses offered by the different contributors as well as the fact that they all have intimate experience of the topic through their professional life, social work and/or research. For context, this book provides insight into the workings and impact of racism in national security policies and discourse with specific focus on Muslims from the Western world in the context of the "War on Terror". It is divided into four broad sections focusing on the history of these policies and attitudes, and three different areas of impact and resistance: structural, personal and performative. Within these sections, some writers choose to focus more on the detailed workings of the system, others on its psychological and emotional effects and others on the spiritual impacts and response.
I mentioned in a previous post about this book, before I had read it, that one of my expectations was that it would help me to break down my own feelings and experiences around the topic. There were a few chapters that certainly did this for me, but for the most part, it wasn't the cathartic experience that other reviewers have mentioned, but more of an exploration of how others perceive and deal with these challenges in their own contexts, where they have largely faced much more direct, aggressive examples of this than I have. May Allah protect them, their families and everyone in similar situations. Having said that, I suspect that this is one of those books that will keep rolling around in my mind, shining a brighter light on relevant experiences and ideas that pop up every now and then as I go through daily life.
I had hoped that since it was by Muslims for Muslims (in my understanding but maybe I'm mistaken), it might go a bit further in terms of questioning how we can move forward using frameworks rooted more explicitly in a Muslim consciousness and with reference to Islamic thought and history. I do realise that this may be influenced by my own perspective and expectations and perhaps there are elements that I have overlooked.
However, I don't want this to suggest that this book is anything less than a valuable contribution to discussion around the topic at hand: a rigorous and sincere work by the editor Asim Qureshi and the contributors. It is also quite ground-breaking in its particular focus on the Muslim experience of national security policies, which particularly in academic circles is often written about by non-Muslim scholars.
I don't want this to be too long, so I think I will write another post to highlight a few particular quotes and chapters that struck me, in sha Allah. In the meantime, here are a few questions that came to mind as I was reading:
Note: I was provided with an advanced review copy of this book by the publisher with no conditions attached.
Reader. Occasional writer. Muslim.
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