Book Review: ‘Unveiled’
By Charles Rein – 8/27/21
With the August suicide bombing at the Kabul Airport, I once again decided to dive into exploring radical Islam.
I chose the book, “Unveiled: How Western Liberals Empower Radical Islam” by Yasmine Mohammed. It’s definitely a catchy title, yet several Goodreads reviewers felt, as I did, the title didn’t accurately reflect the thesis of the book. One reviewer wrote, “The title is absolutely a misnomer … this is not the book it was marketed to be. It is very much a personal memoir.”
Reading page after page, I believed the author wasn’t afraid to completely bare her soul and pour out her heart in telling of the abuses she experienced during her childhood. Her heartfelt story was one of survival – an autobiography of escape from religious radicalization.
Surprisingly the abuses occurred not in the Republic of Indonesia (currently the most populous Muslim country) or from Nigeria (believed to bypass the USA’s populous by 2050). The abuses didn’t even occur in Iran called a “theocratic republic” by the CIA World Factbook. This book was set mainly in Canada. How could this happen there?
Unfortunately, the reading experience left me with more questions than answers, for one whether the author’s own brutal abuse (both physical and emotional) blinded her to religion as a whole.
One Goodreads reviewer theorized there might be similarities for some Christian children in a like circumstance, “… The one difference being, Liberals are lots more comfortable condemning one of these two narratives …”
Another wrote, “Yasmine is justifiably angry that … Canadian Social Services failed to remove her from abusive family, but she failed short of establishing that the failure was a result of a cultural relativism in the social service … Her argument that Islam is inherently abusive is to make every family in the West suspect by virtue of their religious affiliation.”
Many reviewers though gave her high scores and several gave five stars because of her courage in writing the book. I myself felt her emotions leapt off the pages and into your heart. Yet, I agree with the Goodreads reviewer who wrote, “It fails to explain how Western Liberals empower radical Islam …” (in the title of the book.)
Since even in Yasmine Mohammed’s emotionally moving work I didn’t find enough logical, concrete answers about radical Islam I kept searching. My desire to understand Afghanistan tribal perspectives specifically led me elsewhere. Serendipitously during the search, on the radio show, Fresh Air, I discovered an interview with future author and chief news correspondent, Clarissa Ward who recently returned to the United States after three weeks in Afghanistan interviewing both city and tribal women and even talking with the Taliban.
While activists in the West consider the importance of women’s rights and education for girls paramount, these issues are not even on the radar in many Afghan tribal communities. The tribal women told Ward the Taliban says “girl’s education is bad” and so “we believe them.” As incredible as this sounds to us in the West, most villagers there saw no incentive or a need to focus on opportunities for girls.
Rather than prepare girls for a future filled with education, international travel or their own career, as we’d do here in the West, those in the tribal Afghan communities were happy to keep the status quo having their daughters bake bread, care for the animals and do those household chores which have always been done. Their simple focus on taking care of what appears important now is like that of the young village girls in their charge who’ve learned not to think about the future, to just simply do household chores and not plan ahead.
Ward often heard from the Afghan people, “We don’t care who is in charge. We just want peace. We just want to be able to leave our homes without fear of airstrikes or gunfire.”
But at what cost? Benjamin Franklin once said:
“Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
Who’s more correct – the author or the villagers? Only time will tell.