Thank you to Atlantic Books for sending me an arc in exchange for an honest review. I was tentatively looking forward to reading this but this book was such a disappointment.
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Why are Muslim men portrayed as inherently violent? Does the veil violate women’s rights? Is Islam stopping Muslims from integrating?
Across western societies, Muslims are more misunderstood than any other minority. But what does it mean to believe in Islam today, to have forged your beliefs and identity in the shadow of 9/11 and the War on Terror? Exploding stereotypes from both inside and outside the faith, The Muslim Problem shows that while we may think we know all about Islam we are often wrong about even the most basic facts.
The synopsis sounds like this would be a great read with a nuanced discussion however this was not what this book was. It started with talking about how Muslims celebrate Christmas and just got worse from there. It took me months to get through this book because I had to keep putting it down because it made me so mad.
The only decent thing in this book was discussing the political history which has led to the increase in Islamophobia and violence against Muslims. I actually liked how he wrote about this and truly the only good part of each chapter was this discussion. If you are going to read this book just read these parts.
I for the life of me cannot understand how he so easily insulted scholars and spoke about the companions of the Prophet (pbuh) and repeatedly stated that using common sense is enough to understand the Quran. It really isn’t because this is how people twist the words, they have no real education in any of this and go about deciding for themselves what the Quran says. He also didn’t speak to actual scholars regarding these issues, only speaking to activists isn’t enough. They have not dedicated years to understanding the Quran and the Prophet (pbuh) teachings. Especially as our first language is English we cannot truly understand the Quran unless we can read and understand Arabic which I don’t think a lot of us are. Honestly by the end of the book I was so incredibly mad about all the misinformation about Islam and the way the author dismissed and belittled over a thousand year of Islamic scholarship.
Starting the first chapter with the claim that Muslims integrate because they celebrate Christmas left me with a sense of dread as to what the rest of the book will hold because I shouldn’t have to celebrate another religions, religious festival to be considered as integrated into society. This is assimilation, the irony is that he actually discusses assimilation in a later chapter yet doesn’t see how this is also assimilation. Also saying that he laughed at scholars who have explained why we don’t celebrate Christmas, and called it inane remarks is not the progressive thinking that you think it is.
I completely lost all faith in this book when he started to say how hadith are unreliable and came after the companions of the Prophet (pbuh) saying that they were oppressive and unreliable. Truly I don’t know where he found this because the ones he specifically mentioned are known for their reliability and standing up for justice.
There was also an undertone that is incredibly problematic which was regarding “conservative Muslims” and how they were an issue. He even grouped Islamophobes and them together as if they are the same. Just because someone chooses to practice Islam in a way that you aren’t comfortable with that doesn’t make them wrong or bad. There are parts of Islam that aren’t completely compatible with the western culture and you know what that is okay. You can’t change or water down Islam and claim that this is the correct thing and look down on others. There was several instances of humble bragging that had me rolling my eyes too and I just…it’s safe to say that I did not enjoy this book, at all.
I am tired of books being published that have so much misinformation or written in a way that makes Islam palatable to non-Muslims because what is even the point of these books. If you are going to write about Islamic beliefs and integral parts of the faith then at least go speak to the actual scholars about it.
This book is called the Muslim problem and yet all it does is create more problems. People reading this will look at me and say why am I not celebrating Christmas and that I am not integrating. It’s awkward enough as it is to explain why I don’t want to take part in Christmas celebrations without other Muslims claiming it is absolutely fine. The fact that the reviews I’ve seen so far that praise this book is all from non-Muslims and the reviews from Muslims are all discussing the issues in this book and how it is not a great book to deal with these issues should tell you all you need to know about how reliable the information about Islam really is.