Saturday, March 22, 2014

Stranger to History, A Son's Journey Through Islamic Lands

This is a book recommended by Rummuser and written by Aatish Taseer.  Aatish was born as to a Sihk journalist and a Pakistani politician as the result of an affair.  He is somewhat confused about his identity growing up, but has a sense of being a Muslim.  In this book, he writes of his journey through Islamic lands speaking to different people and trying to get a sense of what it means to be Muslim.  I still have a ways to go in the book, but so far have been enjoying it very much.

I am a Western Christian, yet I am fascinated with ideas (beliefs), particularly as they are bundled together into philosophical, religious and cultural identities.  Aatish is trying to tease out what exactly these ideas are that constitute Islam, perhaps with the goal of finding out what his identity should be.  From the updated Introduction, it is clear that he found out what his identity wasn't, but I am not sure he figured out what it is.

One notion that jumps out of this book would seem to parallel Christianity:  A Turkish Muslim explains: "There is a conflict between the world and our ideas, our beliefs, our culture".  This conversation goes on to explain the alienation of true Muslims from just about everything in the world that deviates from a 6th century Arabian Sharia Law context.  And yet technology must be embraced, if only to get this message out.  Christians have a notion that is similar on the surface: "Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul." - 1 Peter 2:11.  The Christian view begins as one of me against myself.  My home is heaven, yet I must live in a world where my desires tempt me.  May these desires pass away.  Technological contexts, cultures and much more can change, but these basic human considerations of temptation never change.  The Muslim view expressed above is strictly us vs. them and morality itself takes a back seat in all this.

There remains much to read in this book and the Muslim voice I quoted above is just one of them, so we will see where this leads.


Rummuser said...

I am delighted that you are reading that book Looney. You will find a great deal to interest you.

Looney said...

Rummuser, there is one question that I need to ask you about him:

Given Aatish's upbringing, he seems to be fairly sophisticated. He went to the American boarding school, studied college in the US (Political Science at Amherst, perhaps the most leftwing location in the universe), and spent time in the UK. He is also a professional writer. Given that, I feel certain that a bit of caution is in order as I consider the stories he has told. So I am wondering to what degree you think he might be embellishing or otherwise playing with his account in order to feed stereotypes and sell books?

The reason for asking that is because a sophisticated Western Leftist intellectual would hurl such an accusation without the slightest hesitation. For me, Aatish is reinforcing much of what I believe and providing some new angles, but I still like to be cautious.