Friday, January 21, 2011

Confusing Muslim Childhood

Last night I started reading Irfan Yusuf's Once Were Radicals, My years as a teenage Islamo-fascist. I got to page 93. You must read it.

Once you get past the I-am-not-a-terrorist Prologue, Irfan's story gets really funny, really fast. His family is Pakistani Muslim, middle class emigrants to Australia. He gets picked on as a child because he is different. His developing understanding of religion, both Muslim and other, is wonderfully portrayed through the eyes of a six year old, then as he matures.

I can relate, if my experiences were no where near as extreme. Irfan's mother was his main religious influence. Compared to my own mother she seems quite tolerant. I was raised by a mother who had converted to Catholic Christian from old school Baptist/Methodist, in a community (Jacksonville, Florida) where Catholics were still a minority clumped in with Jews and Blacks by the local KKK.

I have not gotten to the point in the book where Irfan goes militant, but in my own youth I did a back flip on that idea. Irfan rebels against Australian society by becoming, for a time, a militant Muslim. I dropped the Catholic Church like a hot potato and was attracted, instead, to Marxists, Anarchists, and even Buddhists.

The great thing is that Once Were Radicals allows you to see the varieties of Islam (it is just as varied as Christianity or atheism) from the inside, with an overlay of being able to have the sharp critical insights that usually come only from outsiders.

Buy this book and circulate it. Americans need to read it, especially those few remaining Americans who are religious intolerants.

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