My Isl@m: How Fundamentalism Stole My Mind --- and Doubt Freed My Soul
International blogger Amir Ahmad Nasr has come full circle --- from fearing yet embracing, to spurning and rejecting, to coldly analyzing, to leaving, and to returning, in a new way, to the great love of his life: Islam.
Cleverly titled MY ISL@M with the “at” sign in place of the “a,” Nasr’s book contains the information that many non-Muslims have wanted to find but have been afraid to even ask about. Is there such a thing as a “moderate Muslim”? How do Muslims feel about non-Muslims --- and why? And what can any of us do about it?
Born in Khartoum and raised in a secure enclave in Qatar, his father a well-paid professional, Nasr recalls that his childhood was pervaded by boredom. His activities were proscribed by the dictates of Islamic schools and government. Even among the intelligentsia, grown-ups were only able to watch state-sponsored news, unwilling to discuss anything that was not included in that news. He was constantly preached at by teachers and fierce imams. The greatest emotion that Islam inspired, despite the rather liberal views of the boy’s father, was fear --- fear of Satan and eternal hell. Fortunately, the family moved to multicultural Malaysia where views were far more open-minded; this, in turn, led to Nasr’s travels to the West, his education in IT, and his entry into the worldwide blogosphere.
"Cleverly titled MY ISL@M with the “at” sign in place of the “a,” Nasr’s book contains the information that many non-Muslims have wanted to find but have been afraid to even ask about."
Already troubled by the contrast between Western values and his rigid schooling, Nasr began to contact other Muslims, intellectual bloggers who have a wide range of opinions, from hating all Jews to recognizing, as he does, that murderous intentions demean us no matter at whom they are directed. He also encountered the American “rightosphere,” seeing that there are Christians “who are just as bigoted as their Muslim counterparts.” He came to understand the meaning of “cognitive dissonance” and the power that fear of Satan had held over him. By this time he had launched his own blog, “The Sudanese Thinker,” using the pseudonym Drima. He communicated with fellow pseudonymous entities like Sandmonkey and The Big Pharaoh. Without a doubt, the worldwide web was Nasr’s path to revelation and outreach. He continued his on-again, off-again dysfunctional relationship with Islam as he observed the world scene, the war on terror, and the triumphs and nightmares of the several Arab uprisings against tyrannical governments.
Ultimately, Nasr revealed his real name to his fellow bloggers, became a noted spokesperson for Islamic issues, and embraced Sufism, an ancient esoteric strain of Islam that allows him to love God as The Beloved with no fear of damnation.
In 2011, Nasr delivered a speech at the Oslo Freedom Forum’s panel “Dawn of a New Arab World.” He has come a long way and sees hopeful signs: more women participating in the process of liberation, more blogging, more outspoken, thoughtful young Muslims in general getting involved. He poses the question “Can we steer the future of Islam in the age of digital media in a favorable democratic direction?” and answers, hopefully, “fingers crossed.”
Reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott on June 28, 2013