Book Review: ‘The Islamist’ by Ed Hussein


Ed is short for Mohammed. He is a British National who describes his involvement in radical Islam, including association with people who were later arrested for terrorism. The book was a Christmas gift from my wife.

His parents immigrated from Bangladesh. They were devout Moslems, and openly critical of extremist factions that were becoming more vocal in the mosques 15 years ago. Ed had a ‘godfather’ of sorts who was a very respected Imam who visited often and tought him how to recite the Koran in Arabic. Not that he understood what he was saying. That is the interesting thing about the Koran for Moslems, it is more meaningful to them to recite the Suras (chapters) in Arabic than it is to read translations in their native toungues. The translation somehow contanimates words that they believe came literally from God out of the prophet Mohammed’s mouth. It is not until very late in his story that he actually decides to see what the Koran actually means in a language he understands. As sensible as his parents and ‘godfather’ were, they never encouraged him to actually think for himself regarding the Koran.

I think this makes young Moslems in the West like Ed very susceptible to cults and extremist movements within Islam. Groups vie to be the ‘real Moslems’ .  Their only defense is what they have been told by someone else such as their parents or a teacher. It is all up for debate and the winners are not always the ‘good guys’.

Ed grew up feeling like he didn’t quite fit in with other Brits, though he had good experiences with  certain teachers. This sense that he didn’t fit in, and the promise of Islamists to show him that not only was his difference with other Brits a mark of his superiority, but a means to power and significance, really left him susceptible to their manipulation.

England has its 9/11 on 7/7/07, and they have become more wary of these cults. They are indeed cults. They view themselves as superior and want total power. Western notions of religious tolerance allowed them to thrive in England , and influence people like Ed Hussein. He got out after the violence they teach resulted in the death of some fellow students. He began to take responsibility to understand, and not take anyone’s word for it.  He also met a woman who became his wife around the time that he started to pull out of these extreme groups. She didn’t push him, she just loved him, and he started to wake up. But even years later, his indoctrinattion still snuck in to his mind. He admitted he initially  bought into blaming the Jews for 9/11 in NYC.  It has taken him a lot of effort over time to really confront the indoctrination. It clearly requires him to be humble, and he earned my respect.   And he knows he is not finished.

We can learn from him, and be wary of ways of thinking that gives us subtle airs of inferiority and/or superiority. They leave us very vulnerable.

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