An extremely interesting book that sheds light on many aspects of Islam and on the complex country of Pakistan.
Etaraz was brought up in rural Pakistan, where he was given the name Abir ul Islam, meaning perfume of Islam. Despite their lowly status, his parents tell him that his destiny in life is to become a leader and servant of Islam; he was born to spread Islam as if it were a beautiful fragrance. And so his journey begins - taking him from a poor village in Pakistan; to school, college and life in the United States; interspersed with a difficult trip back to his native Pakistan and a sojourn in the Middle East, where he is forced to re-assess his driving ambitions.
It’s not an easy journey for him. Along the way he has to attend a strict madrassa, tries to maintain his strong Islamic principles while living in the United Sates, tries to cope with his parents becoming fundamentalists, becomes a fundamentalist himself, explores anti-Islamic ideas, and becomes an activist seeking to reform Islam. There are various turning points for him, one of the most difficult being a trip back to Pakistan where he finds that much has changed in the country, including the rising influence of the Taliban in the rural villages. Eventually, in common with many Muslims, he is horrified at what terrorists are doing, supposedly in the name of Islam. This helps to drive his reformist zeal, but he remains conflicted on many issues.
I too am a little conflicted about this book. I found many parts of it fascinating, particularly his description of life growing up in Pakistan. Some of it was humorous, especially reading about the conflicts of being a strict Muslim teenager in the liberal United Sates and how he dealt with it. I found much of it educational and I learned a lot about Islam and the competing ideologies within it. Some of the material is important, particularly as it differentiates between truly Muslim ideals and the twisted views of terrorists who abuse and debase Islam. However, this isn’t always the easiest read - Eteraz is a religious scholar, and some of the more intellectual discussions on Islam left me a bit cold.
Nonetheless, this was an interesting book and I’m glad that I read it. I’d rate it 4 stars. I’d highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys finding out about different cultures. I’d also recommend it to anyone seeking a more balanced view of Islam than the one that is all too often found in Western media.
- Children of Dust: A Memoir of Pakistan
- by Ali Eteraz
- 352 pages
- HarperOne (October 13, 2009)
For more information link to Layers of Thought’s preview post of Children of Dust. And for purchasing links for US/UK/Canada.
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