Book Review: The Islamist
By Charles Rein 4/25/2020
The 12 most humorous words in English are: “Hi, I’m Habeeb. I’m from the Islamic state. I’m here to help”.
Don’t worry. Seriously I don’t know anyone named Habeeb. I just know my neighbor, Mohammed, and he’s an altogether good guy. He’s considerate, he’s safe, he’s a United Airlines pilot.
If you think you have a good sense of humor, try walking through a TSA security checkpoint with a giant banana stuffed down the front of your pants. I haven’t tried this yet, but I did once walk through a TSA airport security checkpoint with a gun in my coat pocket. Full disclosure, it was an accident; it was a toy gun. I strongly emphasize it was NOT loaded and I was 11 years old. This was the same age that the author Ed Husain starts describing his childhood memories. I’ll describe young Ed as a M.I.B. – Muslim in Britain.
The first half of Ed Husain’s book, “The Islamist” (Why I joined radical Islam in Britain, what I saw inside and why I left) follows Ed’s story through his teen years. His belief system changes from a spiritual Islam to a political Islam.
After his younger years of attending a fun, diverse British school (Christmas parties, helping out the Catholic nuns who lived across the street from his childhood home, etc.) problems begin to appear when he is transferred to ‘the worst school in Britain (gee thanks mom and dad). There ‘everyone was Bangladeshi, Muslim and male’.
If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a political activist shouting (think Bernie Sanders activist) you can relate to young Ed. This native-born Brit was radicalized “’faster than a one-legged man in a butt-kicking competition” into a radical Islamic mentality. He was encouraged by separate school assemblies, propaganda books and activists pushing an ideology that “sought political power.”
These were all new subjects for Ed. Whatever happened to the educational basics: reading, writing and arithmetic? His new subjects – spoiler alert – were in direct opposition to the moderate Muslim mindset.
Just as most Christians don’t handle venomous snakes in church (Appalachia Pentecostal churches excluded) most Muslim people are not radical and marching with ISIS. Most moderate Muslims are content to follow the five pillars of their faith: a profession of faith, daily prayers, almsgiving, fasting during Ramadan and pilgrimage. Even Ed’s parents were believers of a spiritual Islam. His father after discovering a pile of leaflets his son had secretly been handing out, shouted: “If you want to stay under my roof, then you will be a normal Muslim, none of this politics in the name of religion.”
A good reason for home school anyone?
Ed started secretly attending a political mosque where he learned of historical activist authors. One ideological influencer of Islamic thought was Sayyid Qutb. Qutb was the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and his readings were effective enough to make Ed bitter towards non-Muslims. Then there was Abul A’la Mawdudi (journalist and activist) who rebranded spiritual Islam into a highly politicized, anti-western ideology.
Adding fuel to the fire of pushing a propaganda film of ethnic cleansing and then showing that film to other students to create an environment of hatred and fear. Ed, by then a teen, succeeded in holding a presidential position in Young Muslim Organization (YMO) at college and pushed more propaganda, invited radical speakers and recruited more students to join the YMO.
The first half of Ed’s book was entertaining and captivating. However, what was frightening was that some readers might miss the extremist warnings, not just for Ed but for themselves as well.
While Ed’s book was about Islam, people in this country could become radicalized themselves — radicalized liberals, radicalized conservatives or radicalized Christians.
What could also lead us down the rabbit hole of extremism? The same experiences Ed encountered: being separated from mainstream western thinking; living in an echo chamber; belief that our views are superior to all others; calling other religions or other political parties un-American, stereotyping others and then failing to treat human beings as real people.
We need to beware of extremism ideology in all forms-radical Islam, radical Christianity, tribal political parties, and the like. Ed might have saved himself grief had he been aware of this quote by the Prophet Muhammad, “Beware of extremism in religion; for it was extremism in religion that destroyed those who went before you.”
It may be easy to point fingers at young Ed but isn’t it more difficult to look in the mirror and find these same attributes reflected in ourselves?